7 Great Tricep Pushdown Alternatives for Your Workout

  • August 18, 2020
  • / By Tom
tricep pushdown alternatives

Lying tricep extensions with a kettlebell variation. Photo by: Eric Astrauskas

Tricep pushdowns are one the more popular exercises to gain mass and strength for your arm muscles. If you this exercise in your program, but want to mix it up or don’t have access to a cable machine, the tricep pushdown alternatives below can help bolster your next workout. 

By getting creative, you can find many ways to blast your arm muscles. Dumbbells, kettlebells, barbells, and body weight resistance can each be used depending on your gym setup.

Dumbbell Kickbacks

If you are looking at at replacements for tricep pushdowns, dumbbell kickbacks are one of the more obvious choices. Kickbacks have the benefit of using dumbbells, and not needing a special machine to target the muscle group. 

While your body is in a different position in dumbbell kickbacks, kneeling on a bench and leaning forward, it is the exercise that most closely simulates a triceps pushdown. While your body is in a different stance, the extensions from your arm muscles are the same basic technique.  

Because of their limited use of equipment, dumbbell kickbacks can be programmed into just about any triceps routine. While a bench is useful, all you really need is a single dumbbell and ideally something to lean on. This makes it particularly useful for home gym enthusiasts. 

Tricep Dips

Dips are a great option for a bodyweight triceps exercise. All you need is a dip stand and you can get to work on crushing those triceps. This exercise is a great way to test your triceps strength compared to your overall body weight. 

Dips are also flexible enough, because you are able to add resistance. While a single dip may be difficult for beginning athletes, advanced lifters will be able to rep out dozens. Once you have enough strength, you can add a dip belt or used other advanced techniques to make dips harder

Lying Triceps Extensions

Commonly known as skullcrushers, lying triceps extensions are a great way to isolate your triceps muscles. This exercise, like dumbbell kickbacks, also work the muscle similarly to tricep pushdowns, just by again putting your body in a different position. 

Lying tricep extensions also use bars instead of a cable machine. You can mix it up and try a variety of barbells or dumbbells for triceps extensions. EZ curl bars are commonly used and easily allow you to adjust the resistance to overload your arm muscles. 

Close Grip Push Ups

Close grip push ups are perhaps the simplest way to work your triceps, regardless of your gym or equipment setup. Your body weight is all that you need for resistance for these. Moving your hand grip closer together than traditional push ups will target your triceps more than your chest muscles. 

Varying your grip on push ups can make the exercise more challenging and make it feel as though you have added more resistance. In general, the closer your grip is, the more difficult the exercise is. As you build up strength in your triceps muscles, you may be able to even bring your hands together for a “diamond”-style push up. 

If you are newer to close grip push ups, you don’t have to start that close. You can try a shoulder-width base to start. Gradually move in as you can safely to build up the muscles. 

Close Grip Bench Press

The bench press exercise with a close grip is another great way to hit the triceps. The benefit of the bench press is that it is very easy to increase or decrease the resistance for all strength levels. 

While the close grip bench press doesn’t isolate the triceps alone and requires other muscles, like the chest, it is still a great alternative to tricep pushdowns. The tris are still the primary muscle targeted. Like close grip push ups, you can vary the grip to make this an ever more difficult exercise. 

The close grip bench press may be the best of these tricep pushdown alternatives for athletes. Compound lifts are a great, efficient way to hit several muscles groups and add size and strength. Because you can really add heavy weight after building strength, the close grip bench press can be used as a primary exercise on your upper body days. 

Standing Dumbbell Overhead Tricep Extensions

Like lying triceps extensions, these can be done with dumbbells or different types of barbells for variety. They have the benefit of working the triceps muscle in a similar manner to tricep pressdowns. 

Because it is a standing and overhead exercise, it can be a little bit more difficult to specifically hit the triceps. The tris are the main muscle used, but you will also be challenging your core stability and overall isometric strength in your upper body. This can make it a great assistance exercise that can be particularly useful for some athletes. 

You can get creative with triceps extensions. You can vary your choice in resistance – dumbbell, kettlebell, barbell. You can also vary what position you are in – sitting, standing, lying. 

Barbell Floor Press

The barbell floor press is another solid choice on any list of tricep pushdown alternatives. It relies on a more limited range of motion than other exercises above, but still puts sufficient stress on your upper body muscle groups. 

The barbell floor press can be a dangerous exercise if you aren’t experienced and focusing on safety. As usual, have a spotter and have safety precautions in place to remove any chance of the barbell landing on top of you. 

Tricep pushdowns are a classic bodybuilding exercise, but you may not always have access to a cable machine or simply need some variety in your training program. 

Luckily, the triceps can be hit in many different ways based on what equipment you have and what your gym setup looks like. Using any of the above tricep pushdown alternatives can push you past plateaus and into new levels of upper body strength.