Tricep Pushdowns at Home: The Best Alternatives without a Machine

a woman doing a tricep pushdowns at home with a chair

The tricep pushdown is one of those exercises that should be included in any exercise program.

If you haven’t seen someone doing the triceps pushdown exercise, let me give a quick overview.

When you enter the gym, find any cable machine with the pulleys at the top and a straight or slightly curved bar or a rope attached. From here, you’ll place your hand on the bar with your palms facing towards the ground.

Keep your elbows tucked at your side right above your hips. Now push down. That’s the tricep pushdown, and it is a fantastic exercise for developing and toning the muscles in your arms.

But how can I do this exercise at home? Today we’re going to be looking at five tricep pushdown alternatives you can do at home!

Why are tricep pushdowns important? 

The triceps are an essential muscle group. Split into three different muscles: the long, lateral, and medial heads, they perform various benefits many people don’t realize.

Your triceps are important for shoulder stabilization and protecting your arms when you’re carrying heavy loads. Your triceps are the main reason you’re able to extend your arm; without them, we would have difficulty pushing things and getting off the ground! It’s vital to keep our triceps healthy and strong, and that’s why tricep pushdowns are such an important exercise.

Tricep pushdowns target all three heads of our triceps. They also aid in keeping your back and core strong. Tricep pushdowns are available for all fitness levels and can be modified if needed.

However, not everyone has access to a high-quality, expensive piece of gym equipment. If you’re someone who workouts mainly at home, you still want the benefits this exercise offers.

If you are someone who likes to work out at home and has a few pieces of exercise equipment, this list of 5 tricep pushdown alternatives will give you the resources necessary to build muscle and tone your arms!

5 Tricep Pushdown Alternatives without a Machine

Close Grip Push-Up

No equipment is necessary! Just use your bodyweight and watch the gains roll in.

In reality, the push-up is already one of the best upper body exercises there is. For one, you can take your bodyweight wherever you need to. The push-up also uses quite a few major muscle groups, including your chest, shoulders, and abs.

This makes it one of the best exercises to do.

To make it more of a tricep focused exercise, all you need to do is bring your hands closer to each other.

By bringing your hands closer, your arms will be parallel to your body, which will incorporate your triceps more than your chest or shoulders.

From this position, do a push-up and feel your arms burn!

A few things to remember

  • Your elbows need to stay tucked to make this a tricep workout! Palms face each other. 
  • There’s no need for your elbows to go past 90° at the bottom of the movement.
  • If your lower back starts to arch, stop, and complete the exercise’s appropriate progression.

Plank Push-Up

The plank push-up is a fantastic exercise that focuses on your triceps and core.

For this exercise, start in an elbow plank. Your feet can be as wide as you’d like; however, the closer they are together, the more challenging the exercise is on your abs.

From here, take your right or left arm and push yourself up into a full plank or push-up position. Now take that same arm and lower yourself back to an elbow plank. That’s one rep on one arm.

For this exercise, I like to program anywhere from 10-15 reps per arm. This will get a nice burn going!

The great thing about this exercise is it’s not a full push up, so don’t worry about that. You can drop to your knees if you must but try to get as many as you can in a normal setup.

This exercise really targets your triceps because of the positioning of your arms and the range of motion. Your arm position is optimal to target your triceps, and the range of motion of the push-up isn’t great enough to fully target your chest. You will get some chest activation in this exercise, but you’ll really feel it in your arms!

A few things to remember

  • Make sure you do an equal number of reps for both arms! If you feel being in a plank is too challenging, place your knees on the ground.- There’s no need for your elbows to go past 90° at the bottom of the movement.
  • When you get into the full plank, ensure your shoulders are stacked over top of your wrists. This will limit any shoulder issues and give you a better workout.

Bodyweight Tricep Extension

Right away, I’ll say this is going to be the most challenging exercise on this list. The bodyweight tricep extension is an arm killer! With it being on the more advanced exercises form is important.

With this exercise, you’ll start in an elbow plank. From this position, you’re going to drive your hands into the floor and extend your arms. This will seem like a push-up, but you’re only using your triceps.

Once your arms are extended, lower yourself back down to your elbows and repeat.

The form is crucial here to get the most out of the exercise and protect your shoulders. With this exercise, we’re looking to extend straight up, so your shoulders are over the top of your wrists. Avoid pushing back and creating an angle between your shoulders and wrists.

Limiting this will remove any discomfort you may find in your shoulders.

A few things to remember

  • Limit the angle between your shoulders and wrists! When you get into the full plank, ensure your shoulders are stacked over top of your wrists.
  • Keep a strong core the entire time. Limit any lower back arching.
a man doing tricep pushdowns alternative with his bed at home

Bodyweight Couch Dip

This is an easy to perform, excellent tricep workout. This exercise is much easier to do than your typical parallel bar tricep dips, and you can do it from anywhere in your home!

Today, however, we’ll be using your couch. Start by sitting on your couch. From here, place your hands on the end of the seat with your fingers gripping the end. Bring your bodyweight off the seat and lower yourself until your elbows are at 90° and then push yourself back up.

Like I said an easy to do exercise. You can also change up the difficulty just by changing the position of your feet. To make it more challenging, straighten your legs all the way out or put your feet on a chair that is in front of you.

To make it easier, bring your feet back closer to you.

The one thing you want to make sure you’re doing is keeping your back close to the couch. The further your upper body is from the couch, the more stress you’ll put on your shoulders and the less effective the exercise will be.

A few things to remember

  • Keep your back close to the couch. Make sure you’re going straight up and down.
  • Limit the range of motion at the bottom of the exercise. You won’t get any additional benefits by going past 90°!

Bonus: Resistance Band or Dumbbell Kickback

So far, we’ve taken a look at only bodyweight exercises. I fully believe you can get a great workout and build muscle with just your bodyweight. Still, if you happen to have a resistance band or dumbbell, this will be a great exercise.

The kickback exercise is a fantastic way to build strong arms with a dumbbell or resistance band.

The exercise will start in a standing position. From here, bend your knees and push your hips backward. This will get your back into a safe position. Bring your arm next to your side, right around your hips and ribcage. Keep your elbow at 90° and then extend your forearm backward so your arm becomes straight.

If you’re using a resistance band, feel free to anchor it to the leg of a couch or a table. I prefer to stand on the resistance band myself, but it shouldn’t change the exercise’s benefits.

The tricep kickback will definitely build muscle and target most of the tricep. Now only do you have the dumbbell or band’s resistance, but you also have to fight against gravity. This will ensure you’re building some serious muscle!

A few things to remember

  • Ensure you’re not standing straight up. The lower your upper body, the more effective the exercise.
  • Choose a weight you know you can do. Going too heavy may put unneeded stress on your lower back, shoulder, and elbow.

Conclusion 

Using the exercises listed above, you’ll be able to sculpt your arms in ways most people dream of!

There’s no need to buy yourself thousands of dollars’ worth of equipment to build your triceps when all you really need is your body weight, a dumbbell, and a resistance band.

Use these exercises a few times a week and watch your arms transform!

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Nick, is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) through the NSCA and a Pn L1 Nutrition Coach. He has over 10 years in the fitness world including training, coaching athletes, and working 1 on 1 with clients in the gym.

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