Known by many names, like the triceps pulldown, triceps rope pushdown, and the cable triceps pushdown, the triceps pushdown is an excellent arm exercise

But more often than not the cable machines are busy, you might not have one in your home gym, or you might want an alternative exercise. If this is the case, then what should you do instead? 

The guide below covers the best  triceps pushdown alternative exercises around and how to perform them. 

Whether you can't perform the tricep pushdown because of lack of equipment or simply wanting a change, the list below reveals the best triceps pushdown variations around.

Read through the list below and add 2-3 to your workout. 

1. Cable Overhead Extension

Man Doing Cable Overhead Extension

The cable overhead extension is an excellent alternative to the tricep pushdown. With the cable overhead extension, you put your upper arms next to your head, allowing for a more extensive range of motion and a significant stretch on your triceps muscle.

Of course, you'll also develop good shoulder flexibility, but the greater range of motion makes this a superior triceps builder.

You can use a low cable machine for the overhead extension, a single dumbbell, a regular barbell, or an EZ bar. You can do it sitting or standing, whichever you prefer. The standing variation will work your core as well.

If you have healthy, flexible shoulders, you'll enjoy this challenging exercise. But if you have tight or sore shoulders, you will need to ease into this movement.


  • Works you triceps using a large range of motion.
  • Improves shoulder flexibility.
  • Isolates the triceps.

How to do it: 

  1. Face away from the cable pulley and stand a half step away. Now plant both feet on the floor slightly further than shoulder-width apart with both hands on the rope with a neutral grip (palms facing inwards). Bend at both the hips and knees and press your glutes into the pole. Extend your elbows to bring the rope in front of your face.
  2. Keep your shoulders as still as possible and bend your elbows to bring the ends of the rope back behind your head.
  3. Extend your elbows and pull the rope forward to return to the starting position. Repeat for the specified number of repetitions.

Tips From A Trainer!

  • If you're struggling to get both arms into the correct position, try training one arm at a time. Doing so can allow you to adjust your body slightly and improve your positioning to allow full tricep extension. 

2. Incline Close Grip Bench Press 

Man Doing Incline Close Grip Bench Press In The Gym

An incline close grip bench press is a very underrated tricep pushdown alternative. An incline close grip bench press effectively emphasizes triceps isolation over the pecs.

This is a compound exercise, so you will be working more than just your triceps.

This should be one of your main movements for building mass in your triceps in my opinion. Pair this with tricep dips and you can't go wrong.


  • Allows you to overload your triceps with a large amount of weight.
  • Develops triceps mass.

How to do it: 

  1. Start with a shoulder-width grip or narrower than a regular bench to perform the move.
  2. Squeeze your shoulder blades together to create a big chest. Unrack the bar, and bring it forward until it is lined up with your upper chest.
  3. Now row the bar down to your upper chest keeping your elbows tucked.  
  4. Once the bar makes contact with your upper chest, drive the weight away until your elbows are completely extended. Repeat for the specified number of repetitions.

Tips From A Trainer!

  • Looking for an additional challenge? Use the safety spotter arms on a power rack to bring the barbell to a dead stop at the bottom of each movement. Your triceps will need to work extra hard to get the barbell moving again, eliminating any momentum. 

3. Skull Crusher

Man Doing Skull Crusher On A Bench

Skull crushers, or supine tricep extensions, are a very effective triceps exercise and a great alternative to triceps pushdowns.

Skull crushers are good for most abilities, from seasoned powerlifters to bodybuilders to general gym-goers who want a solid pump.

However, in the past I suffered a wrist injury and performing this tricep pushdown variation aggravated my joints. So if you have a wrist injury, then you might want to try out skull crusher alternatives.


  • Good for all ability levels.
  • Provides an excellent pump.

How to do it: 

  1. Lie down on a flat bench or the floor, if you don't have a bench, with your feet firmly planted on the ground.  
  2. Hold your dumbbells above your chest with your palms facing each other while engaging your core. 
  3. Keep your elbows in a fixed position, and hinge them slowly to bring the dumbbells down just behind your ears.  
  4. Contract your triceps to extend your arms back into the straight position at the top. Repeat for the specified number of repetitions. 

Tips From A Trainer!

  • Keep your elbows tucked in during this movement and don't let them flare outwards. Keeping your elbows tucked increases your triceps activation. 

4. Diamond Push Up (Tricep Pushdown Alternative For At Home)

Woman Doing Diamond Pushups On A Mat

Diamond push-ups are a very challenging bodyweight exercise. If you aren't comfortable with regular push-ups, you may want to skip these.

This push-up variation is an excellent alternative to the tricep pushdown. It almost perfectly mimics the motion of the pushdown and uses your body weight for the load. This one will hit your triceps hard.

I love supersetting these push-ups with regular push-ups as they give my arms and chest an incredible pump.

Overall, they're a great alternative for the tricep pushdown without a machine.


  • Uses your body weight.
  • You can do them anywhere.
  • Ideal if you're on the move.

How to do it: 

  1. Get into the traditional push-up position, but place your index fingers and thumbs together, making a diamond shape.  
  2. Similar to a standard push-up, lower your chest towards the ground keeping your elbows close to your sides.
  3. Just before your chest touches the ground, hold for a second and then push back up to extended arms. Repeat for the specified number of repetitions. 

Tips From A Trainer!

  • If you're struggling with this exercise you can make it easier by elevating your hands on a step. However, if you want an even greater challenge, you can elevate your feet.  

Related Article - Diamond Push Up Benefits

5. Triceps Kickback (Tricep Pushdown Alternative With Dumbbells)

Man Doing Triceps Kickback

Triceps kickbacks are one of my favorite tricep pushdown variations.

Not only do they isolate your triceps, but they're fairly simple to learn and can be performed with minimal space.

I usually perform tricep kickbacks using dumbbells, but you can also use a cable machine for constant tension on your triceps.


  • Minimal equipment required.
  • You don't need a lot of space.
  • Isolates your triceps.

How to do it: 

  1. Grab a dumbbell with your left hand, holding it with a neutral grip. Next, place your right leg forward and your left leg back and hold onto something with your right hand. 
  2. Bend your knees and lean your torso over while keeping your back straight.  
  3. Bend your left arm to 90-degrees so your upper arm is parallel to the floor and your forearm is perpendicular to the floor.  
  4. Extend your forearm back while flexing your triceps until your arm is parallel to the floor. Finally, bend your left arm again at a 90-degree angle.  
  5. Complete the desired number of reps and then repeat with your right arm, switching your leg position. 

Tips From A Trainer!

  • Keep your elbow high and tucked in to your sides. If you can't get the form right, lower the weight you're using. You don't need a lot of weight to get your triceps burning. 

6. TRX Skull Crusher

Man Doing TRX Skull Crusher In A Gym

The TRX skull crusher is another bodyweight tricep extension alternative similar to a regular skull crusher.

We love this triceps move because it can be done in your home gym, some hotels if you're on the road, and at the gym.  

This move is surprisingly tricky, so don't underestimate it.

Personally, I wouldn't recommend this exercise to beginners, it requires a good level of base strength and is best suited for intermediate and advanced lifters.

However, if you can't wait to do this exercise, you can make it more or less challenging by adjusting the position of your body. The more horizontal to the ground you are, the harder it will be.


  • Great for more advanced gym goers.
  • Builds strong triceps.

How to do it: 

  1. Start this exercise facing away from the anchor point of the TRX setup. Grab the TRX handles with your palms facing away from you. 
  2. Lean forward with the elbows extended. Next, curl your arms towards your forehead in a controlled fashion.  
  3. Finally, extend your elbows away from you while squeezing the triceps. Repeat for the specified number of repetitions. 

Tips From A Trainer!

  • If you're a little worried about standing up, feel free to try this movement on your knees. You'll still get a good triceps pump, but without the fear of falling flat on your face if you fail. 

Related Article - Best TRX Alternatives

7. Lying Triceps Extension

Man Doing Lying Triceps Extensions

The lying triceps extension is a great tricep pushdown alternative. It's a relatively easy move to learn and execute.

However, lying triceps extension can put stress on the elbow joint, and with the weight being directly overhead, you need to show caution, so be mindful during this move. 

This is one of my all time favorite triceps exercises. I've always found it gives me a HUGE pump and I walk away feeling like I could win Mr Olympia... just kidding, but the pump is pretty damn good. 


  • Isolates your triceps.
  • Suitable for small gym spaces.

How to do it: 

  1. Lie down on your back flat on the bench or the floor. Grab two dumbbells and put your hands directly up over your chest with your palms facing inwards and your arms shoulder-width apart.  
  2. Using a slow controlled motion, lower the weight down as far as you can, limiting the movement in the shoulders.  
  3. When the weight is at the bottom of the action, return to the top, but don't lock out the elbow joint. Repeat for the specified number of repetitions.

Tips From A Trainer!

  • If you're struggling to keep your elbow in place during the movement, train one side at a time. By doing so you'll be able to use your non working arm to hold your elbow in place.  

8. Resistance Band Triceps Pushdown (Tricep Cable Pushdown Alternative)

Man Doing Resistance Band Triceps Pushdown in A Room

The resistance band version of the exercise might be even more effective than the original as it requires equal effort from the left and right triceps. This helps you iron out any muscular imbalances. 

With the resistance band pushdown the tension is at its highest point at the end of the movement, similar to the bench press. With the standard cable pushdown, tension is mainly lost at the end of the movement.

This is one of the most popular tricep pushdown variations for people on the go. You can perform it pretty much anywhere so long as you've got a solid anchor point for the resistance band.


  • Helps iron out muscular imbalances.
  • You can do them anywhere.
  • No machines required.

How to do it: 

  1. Grab a resistance band of an appropriate resistance level, and you'll need something to anchor it to, like a power rack or door anchor. Get in the standard tricep pushdown position, with an end of the band in each hand.  
  2. Lean forward ever so slightly at the hips, keeping your elbows by your side. Push the bands down until you have straightened your arms and locked out at the elbows.  
  3. Hold here for a second and slowly return to the starting position. Repeat for the specified number of repetitions. 

Tips From A Trainer!

  • Hold the tension in the band at the bottom of the movement for 2-3 seconds while squeezing your triceps as hard as you can. This will ignite your triceps and give you an excellent pump. 

9. Dips 

Man Doing Low Dips

Dips are another compound movement, so you will be utilizing more than just your triceps for this move. The dip is one of the best replacement exercises on par with other compound movements such as squats and pull-ups.

Dips will improve strength and muscle size, and you can perform them anywhere. They're a bodyweight exercise, so the dip is challenging for all ranges of fitness levels. This makes it an almost perfect triceps pushdown alternative.

It's one of my favorite tricep pushdown variations as you can perform it anywhere, whether you're in a hotel, park, or your home gym.

Related Article - Dips Vs Push Ups


  • Uses your body weight.
  • Develops thick triceps.

How to do it: 

  1. Using a dip bar or a chair or bench, place your hands shoulder length apart and keep your arms straight with a slight bend.
  2. Engage your glutes and core muscles, maintaining a straight upper body. Bend your elbows, lowering yourself to 90 degrees.
  3. Pause for a 2-second count at the bottom, and explode back up. Be sure to maintain a strong core, which will help prevent unnecessary body movement. Repeat for the specified number of repetitions.

Tips From A Trainer!

  • Use a resistance band to assist you during dips. Or if you want to make them tougher, add a dipping belt with weight attached. 

Common Mistakes To Avoid When Doing These Tricep Exercises

  • Your Elbows Flare Out
    When doing a triceps pushdown, be sure not to flare out your elbows on the downward push. This will negate the work on your triceps, placing unwanted stress on your shoulders.
  • You're Not Using Both Sides Equally
    When doing the tricep pushdown, be mindful of the movement and be sure you push down smoothly and evenly with both arms. 
  • You're Using Your Back Too Much
    Don't bend over at the back and shoulders to force the weight down. Instead, ensure your triceps are getting fully worked by leaning forward slightly, allowing your knees to bend slightly as you push down. This will ensure you engage all three parts of the triceps muscle equally. 
  • You Have Excessive Elbow Movement
    It's easy for your elbows to sway back and forward during the movement. You may lift more weight using this momentum, but you are using your lats to complete the exercise. To prioritize your triceps, keep your elbows tucked into your body to feel a superior contraction of your triceps. 
  • You're Curling The Wrist
    You might notice that your wrist is curling at the bottom of each pushdown. This usually happens if you try to do a seemingly more complete repetition. But by curling your wrists, you're removing tension from your triceps and putting unwanted stress on your wrist. So be sure to keep your wrist neutral throughout each rep.[1]

Benefits Of Tricep Pushdowns And Similar Exercises

The triceps brachii muscle is the muscle in the back of your upper arm. It comprises three parts: the long, lateral, and medial heads. If you want big arms, you need to work all three heads of your triceps.

The triceps pushdown does just that. Even if you aren't looking to get huge arms, triceps pushdowns are still important because they benefit your overall strength and endurance by engaging your core, back, and shoulders. 

Anyone can adapt this move to their strength and level, increasing or decreasing weight as needed. However, performing the tricep pushdown requires isolation, a fundamental skill you will need for many other exercises. 

Anyone can do a tricep pushdown, but be cautious with this exercise if you have an elbow injury or develop persistent elbow soreness.

Man Showing His Muscular Triceps

What Muscles Do Tricep Pushdown Exercises Work?

As we mentioned before, tricep pushdowns work your triceps, which is the muscle in the back of your upper arm. The scientific name for your triceps is tricep brachii.[2]

In Latin, this translates to "three-headed muscles of the arm." This is fitting because your triceps is made up of three parts; the lateral head, long head, and medial head. 

The triceps' lateral, medial, and long heads operate together whenever you extend your arm. A tricep pushdown isolates the medial and lateral heads during the pushdown motion.

But the benefits of a triceps pushdown go beyond your triceps. This move also activates secondary muscle groups like your lats, abs, obliques, pecs, and traps. 

The secondary muscles are engaged to support and stabilize the pushdown motion. If you use other muscles, like your back, shoulders, or chest to complete the movement, you put yourself at risk for injury. This obviously negates the key benefits of the triceps pushdown.

Common Tricep Pushdown Questions

What's the best way to train triceps? 

The best way to train triceps is to combine 6 or 7 different tricep moves to complete a full-blown tricep workout. Doing the tricep pushdown plus a few alternatives will build strong, toned triceps.

Are dips the same as tricep pushdowns? 

No, dips aren't the same as tricep pushdowns. Dips are a compound movement and tricep pushdowns are an isolation exercise. While they both work your triceps, they aren't the same.

How do I train my triceps without weights? 

The best way to train your triceps without weights is to perform dips or push-ups. But if bodyweight only isn't enough and you want really monstrous triceps, you can add cheap resistance bands to your workouts.

Which tricep head do skull crushers work?

Skull crushers work all three tricep heads, with a primary focus on your triceps' long and lateral heads. 


The tricep pushdown may be the best exercise you can do to develop and strengthen your triceps.

However, if you don't have access to the equipment necessary to do a triceps pushdown, or want to keep things interesting there are several alternatives.

Now that you've read the list above, choose 2-3 of these triceps busting exercises to your workout and watch your triceps grow.




Lee Kirwin

Lee Kirwin

Lee has worked in the fitness industry for over 15 years. He's trained hundreds of clients and knows his way around the gym, including what you need for your garage gym. When he's not testing products, he loves weightlifting, Ju Jitsu, writing, and gaming.