The standard pushdown is a very good exercise for the triceps. But if you want to develop truly mind-blowing triceps that expand your shirt sleeves, you need something more powerful.
This exercise is a pushdown, done in a very particular way…lying on an incline bench, facing away from the pulley. This is going to take ALL of the possible cheating out of the exercise and force a monster contraction on the triceps on every rep.
The setup is very straightforward…all you need is a high pulley, a pulley attachment (the straight or cambered bar works best) and an incline bench. Set the incline to about 45 degrees then set the bench in front of the pulley with the bench facing directly away from the pulley.
Lie down on the bench, reach back overhead and grasp the handle with an overhand grip, then bring the bar down until your elbows are at your sides and the bar is at upper chest level. This mimics the start position of the regular pushdown, though your triceps are already under greater tension just trying to keep the bar where it’s at!
From that position, do a full pushdown movement, bringing the bar forward, down and around in an arc, squeezing the triceps hard as you come around and puffing your chest out.
When you get to the bottom and your arms are straight and locked out, try to push your arms even further down towards your feet to maximize the contraction on the triceps. Hold and squeeze the triceps HARD for a few seconds here.
Let the bar up slowly, stopping when the bar is about level with your forehead.
This version of the pushdown is extremely effective because the angle and direction keeps your triceps under constant tension throughout the entire movement. Your triceps NEVER get a break. They will be, almost literally, screaming by the end of the set.
Lying on the incline bench also removes the lower back stress that can occur with the traditional standing pushdown (especially when done using heavier weights). When you do this new version of the pushdown, the weight actually forces you down onto the bench rather than sending torque into your lower back.
In addition, the position your arms and body are in at the bottom of the pushdown results in an extremely powerful contraction of the triceps.
For a unique variation, try pushing the bar away from your body as though doing a press with the bar as you do the pushdown. This adds a very different and beneficial element of tension to the triceps.
The triceps are eye-catching muscles when fully developed…a thick set of well-defined horseshoe triceps command attention. This exercise will carve those out for you. I like to use this exercise either as a finishing movement (after the heavier pressing work is done) or as a pre-exhaust exercise, done immediately before a heavier press.