The Low Down On The Triceps Press Downs

triceps press down

The triceps press down is a popular choice for those wishing to isolate the triceps brachii, with most commercial gyms equipped with a high cable pulley system which enables a trainer to perform this exercise. So you put on the small straight bar attachment and you are ready to go. Do you perform an over hand press down? This is the most common, but what about performing it with an underhand grip? Does this have any significant benefit?

To understand any exercise we must first understand the muscle we are targeting. The triceps brachii, as its name suggests, is a muscle which is composed of three heads. The large long head is attached to the shoulder blade, the outer lateral head attaches to the upper portion of the humerus bone, and the inner medial head is attached to the lower region of the humerus bone (the humerus bone is the bone of the upper arm). All three heads then attach to the bone located in the forearm, therefore being able to cause the forearm to extend upon contraction of the triceps brachii. So to target the triceps brachii (commonly just called the “triceps”) we must perform exercises which execute the movement of extending the forearm from the upper arm. It is therefore plain to see why the triceps press down is a common and popular exercise to target the triceps muscle.

With all three heads being responsible for the extension of the forearm, will switching the grips used from over hand to under hand have any difference? The answer to this is yes, but not to a great degree. It is often stated that the lateral head of the triceps is primarily stimulated during the over hand grip, and the medial head when using the under hand grip. What I feel is of more significance is that the underhand grip often offers a much greater isolation environment to perform the press down to target the triceps. The over hand press down often unwillingly recruits stabilising and aiding muscles, such as the shoulders and chest, when the weight used is increased. The underhand grip, in my experience, often has a much more acute feel to the execution, and although less weight is often lifted, the load and intensity seems to be 100% on the triceps.

As with any exercise, I would personally advise to try both these triceps press down variations to see which you prefer. The under hand variation may be best performed when using a cable bar which has slight bends (similar to an EZ bar), as using a straight bar can be troublesome for those with wrist flexibility or injury issues. If you have no particular preference it may be of benefit to implement both variations at some point in time to benefit from the advantageous points of each variation.

So, what do you guys and girls think? Have any preference or thoughts on the triceps press down variations? Leave a comment below!

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