In a new video on the Athlean-X channel, trainer Jeff Cavaliere C.S.C.S. shares one of his go-to exercises for training triceps—the pushdown—and explains why he favors the underhand grip when he performs this move. While he says that it’s widely accepted that it makes little difference overall to the triceps muscle whether your grip is pronated or supinated (overhand or underhand, respectively), Cavaliere points out that there can still be a couple of benefits to going underhand.
For example, keeping the elbow tucked tight and arm back when doing the pushdown means we’re going to get a fuller contraction on the long head of the triceps, compared to when the arm is out in front of the body and the elbow is drifting. “When you switch to an underhand grip, the elbow is going to get tighter, and when you go down into contraction, the elbow is going to be further back behind the body,” he says.
“If there is a limitation to the underhand pushdown, it’s the fact that it can still be demanding on the wrists with the underhand grip,” he continues. One way to alleviate this, he recommends, is to opt for a pair of handles, grabbing the left in your right hand and vice-versa to perform an X-shaped pulldown variation. (If you don’t have a pulldown machine, the same effect can be achieved with bands on a pullup bar or some other high anchor point.)
Additionally, when we perform the pushdown with an overhand grip, Cavaliere explains, we’re also recruiting muscles in the chest and shoulders to help do some of the work. That’s not exactly the goal, since ideally the goal of the pushdown to to totally isolate the triceps muscle without assistance.
Importantly, Cavaliere is clear that your triceps training needs more than just this one exercise. The pushdown is only one of an arsenal of compound movements to load the muscle. “You all should be doing the tricep close-grip bench press, tricep weighted dips, skullcrushers. That makes the overhand grip redundant,” he says. “If you want to introduce new stress, you go underhand, and account for the things that are lacking from your overhand-dominant, pushdown-based tricep training routine.”
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