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Cable Push-Down

This is an excerpt from Delavier's Women's Strength Training Anatomy Workouts by Frederic Delavier & Michael Gundill.

The push-down belongs in the isolating exercise category because only the elbow joint is mobilized. As a result, the push-down does not recruit many muscles except the triceps and the forearm flexors.

How to Do It

Attach a short triceps bar, straight bar, or rope to the upper part of a pulley machine. You can grab the rope with your hands in a neutral position (thumbs pointing up), the triceps bar in a semineutral or pronated position (thumbs facing each other), and the straight bar in a pronated position. Use whichever grip allows you to contract your triceps the most.

Push on the bar or rope so that you bring your hands to your thighs while keeping your elbows close to your sides. Hold the contracted position for one second before returning to the starting position without moving your elbows. You can stand with your feet together, or staggered; the staggered stance shown here is more challenging to your balance.


  • Working the triceps with a pulley is less traumatic for the elbow joints than using your body weight (as in doing push-ups), dumbbells, a barbell, or any other kind of machines. A more complex pulley network reduces the forces and thus is gentler for the joints.


  • Because the triceps is not used on a daily basis, many beginners have trouble feeling this muscle working. At first, do this exercise slowly so that you can learn to feel your triceps contracting.

  1. Excessive weight can force your torso to move up, which will arch your spine as your hands are brought up. Limit this arch as much as possible and avoid any swaying of the torso.
  2. If you feel any pain in your elbows as you extend your forearms, do not completely lock your arms because full extension may be damaging for some women. Instead, use continuous tension by stopping short of complete extension.


  • Lifting your elbows while the bar is moving up is perceived as a mistake. This is true if you are trying to isolate your triceps. However, to work the triceps and the back in synergy as nature intended, you can lift your elbows to your chin or nose level while the bar is rising. Both your hands and your elbows will be pushed down as you press the bar. Many people in the gym are likely to comment that this technique is a mistake, but this only reveals their lack of anatomy knowledge. Do not let these people influence you.


  • You have a choice as to how wide to place your hands on the bar. However, avoid constantly changing your hand position. Find the position that works best for you and stick with it.

Learn more about Delavier's Women's Strength Training Anatomy Workouts.

More Excerpts From Delavier's Women's Strength Training Anatomy Workouts