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Best Way to Do Triceps Pushdowns with the Rope

Updated on July 10, 2019
Lorra Garrick profile image

Former ACE-certified personal trainer Lorra Garrick has trained men & women for fat loss, muscle building, more strength and more fitness.

The triceps pushdown with the rope is one of the most popular exercises at a gym – done by women wanting to tone the back of their arms to male bodybuilders wanting to beef up the back of their arms – and everyone in between.

There are ways you can optimize this exercise and get the most out of it.

Upper Arms

Keep them glued to your sides at all times, no space in between. Keep them vertical and immobile at all times to isolate the triceps. The minute your upper arms shift forward, your shoulders start helping out.


Nearly vertical at all times; a little forward-lean is fine, but don’t hunch or exaggerate it. As you execute reps (explained below), keep your body still. Do not sway or jerk it.

Lower Arms

The start position has them parallel to floor. After pressing down the rope (details follow), return the lower arms back to at least parallel. Do not go more than an inch past parallel. Otherwise, you’ll go into rest mode. You must keep your triceps under constant tension.

His wrists are flaring out somewhat, causing the rope to have a bell shape. For maximal triceps isolation, avoid the wrist-flecking so that the rope stays in the shape of a triangle.
His wrists are flaring out somewhat, causing the rope to have a bell shape. For maximal triceps isolation, avoid the wrist-flecking so that the rope stays in the shape of a triangle.

Hands and Wrists

When people push down the rope, they almost always severely bend their wrists outward or toward their hips, forcing the rope into a bell-shape. (Think “bell curve” on charts).

Or, the rope resembles the shape of a horseshoe. Bending or rotating the wrists makes the person think he or she is fully completing the extension. Not so!

At full extension, the rope should be in a crisp, upside-down V shape, and the wider the V, the better. Wrists should be somewhat flexed. You know you’re doing this right when the rope is in the shape of a V. Ask someone to tell you what shape you have the rope in.

Both sides of the rope should be nearly straight. Make the upside-down V is as wide as possible while keeping upper arms glued to your sides. (Adjust weight as needed.) This hits the long head of the triceps.

Once you’ve obtained this positioning, with the rope in a V-shape, hold that position for three seconds, rather than letting the rope immediately bounce right back up.

Reps and Sets

Set weight so that you can barely do eight reps, while maintaining precise form. A little “loose” form towards the last reps is permissible as you reach failure, but don’t stray too much. (If you can do more than eight reps on the first set, increase weight.)

If you follow the above techniques with passionate loyalty, your triceps should be stinging just after the first set.

After the eighth rep, immediately lower weight by 30 pounds, and without rest, do another eight.

By the time you’re done, your triceps should be smoking. Without rest, drop weight another 30 pounds and do a third set of eight. Your triceps now should feel as though someone put a sledgehammer to them.

Rest 90-120 seconds, and do two more drop-set rounds. Note: It will be difficult to execute the wide V for the last few reps of sets 1 and 2.

But no matter how much your triceps sizzle, keep your upper arms vertical and at your sides, hold the V for three seconds, and do not bend the rope into the shape of a bell or horseshoe!

Note to Women

The protocol calls for weight reductions of 30 pounds for the second and third set. However, the starting weight for some women may be only 40-50 pounds, taking into consideration the new restrictions on form.

Stronger women will be able to do 60-70. If you can only do 50 or less, then the next set should be 20 pounds less, and so on. If you can do 60, the second set should be 35-40, and so on.


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