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4 cable exercises for developed triceps

Cable exercises are a great way to get stronger triceps in the gym

Man in the gym working out his triceps
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Developing strong arms can be made that much easier by performing certain cable exercises, such as tricep cable workouts. These cable machines allow muscle groups in the arms to be targeted efficiently to ensure a more even arm muscle exercise regime. This can help prevent strength imbalances from developing as certain muscles are not overlooked.

The triceps are an example of muscles that are often ignored because we give the biceps all the attention since they are the muscles that are most on show. However, building strong triceps, which are the muscles at the back of the upper arms, is also vital for good overall arm strength and mobility.

Powerful triceps, along with other muscles in the upper body, help us complete everyday activities, such as lifting and carrying. This is important because we use our arms far more than we are aware of during an average day.  

Triceps on a man
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Anatomy of the triceps

The tricep muscle is a large fleshy muscle, and its main function is to aid in extending the forearm at the elbow joint. However, the triceps also help stabilize the elbow and forearm during more intricate actions such as writing.

The triceps are composed of three segments known as the heads, and these include the long head, medial head, and lateral head. All these heads combine to form the actual tricep, which is almost horseshoe shaped in appearance. 

Man stretching his chest
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3 benefits of having strong triceps

Arm and shoulder stability

Having strong triceps helps stabilize the arms and shoulders both at rest and during certain activities. The support they offer makes specific movements and actions, such as pushing and pulling, easier for the arms to execute. Furthermore, this added stability reduces the risk of arm and shoulder injuries, such as pulls and strains, which can cause inflammation and tightness

Muscle efficiency

Having strong triceps means they are properly activated when needed and that they take most of the strain when they should, especially during pushing and pulling actions. If there is a weakness in the triceps, then other muscles not intended for such movements can be activated instead to compensate for the deficiency in tricep strength. This can lead to uneven muscle development and injuries. 

Upper body development

Strong tricep muscles can aid upper body development simply because they allow us to perform upper body-building exercises with greater ease. For example, a person can complete a greater number of pushups more regularly if they have stronger triceps. Strong triceps can also help those who use bench presses as their exercise of choice to build upper body strength.

Cable machine.
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4 effective tricep cable exercises

1. High overhead extensions

The high overhead extension is a simple but effective exercise that mostly focuses on the triceps, but it can also help keep the elbows flexible and supple, too.

Instructions:

  • Turn with your back facing the cable machine.
  • Grip the rope extensions with both hands with your elbows pointing outward.
  • Lead with whichever leg you prefer and place it forward.
  • Lean slightly forward with your back leg slightly bent at the knee.
  • Keep your gaze on the floor as you pull the rope extensions forward over your head until your arms are fully extended.
  • Bend your arms at the elbows to slowly bring the rope back to the starting position.
  • Perform two to three sets of 10 to 15 reps.

2. Tricep pushdowns

A tricep pushdown is one of the easiest triceps exercises to master, but you do need a cable machine with grip handles to do this exercise properly. As cable workouts go, there are only a few instructions to follow to get those tricep muscles fully engaged.

Instructions:

  • Stand facing the cable machine.
  • Grip the cable handles in front of you with your palms facing each other
  • Push the grips and cable downward to waist height while keeping the back straight and elbows tucked in, then release the tension and bring the cable back to chest height.
  • Perform three sets of 10 to 12 reps.

3. Single-arm tricep pushdowns

If you’re worried that your triceps are not getting the workout they deserve, then single-arm tricep pushdowns ensure that both arms get an even amount of attention. As the name suggests, this is one of the cable tricep workouts that exercises a single arm at a time.

Instructions:

  • Stand facing the cable machine and support yourself by placing one hand against the cable apparatus. You will change hands while doing these, so it doesn’t matter which arm you use as support first.
  • With your free hand, grip the cable handle in a reverse grip and start with your elbow at a 90-degree angle.
  • Use your tricep to fully extend your arm down.
  • Pause at the bottom for a moment before releasing back into the starting position.
  • Perform two to three sets of 8 to 10 reps on each side.

4. Tricep cable kickbacks

Another effective triceps workout using a tricep machine is the tricep cable kickback. This one is a classic, so be sure to include it in your routine!

Instructions:

  • Stand away from the cable machine and bend at the waist. Support yourself by placing one hand on the cable apparatus.
  • Slightly bend your knees, and with the opposite hand, grip the cable handle.
  • Pull the cable toward you until your elbow almost straightens, then push back toward the cable machine.
  • Perform three sets of 10 to 12 reps on each side.

Final thoughts

Triceps are often overlooked as most of the focus is on building biceps instead. However, having strong tricep muscles is important as well because they help stabilize the elbows and forearms. 

The triceps are used during pulling and pushing actions, and therefore, can aid in upper body development. One of the easiest ways of building these muscles or developing them further still is with simple cable exercises. The four cable exercises we covered can also decrease your chances of muscle injuries, such as strains and pulls, which can occur during workouts.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Are cable machines good for the triceps?

Yes, cable machines are good for tricep muscles because they allow you to work them evenly and safely with minimal risk of injury.

How do you hit all tricep heads with cables?

The best way to hit all tricep heads with cables is to vary the tricep exercises that you do. Even variations on the same exercise, such as a single arm tricep pushdown, can work different tricep muscle heads.

Is a dumbbell or cable better for tricep kickbacks?

Cables are better for tricep kickbacks because the weight is more evenly distributed; therefore, injury is far less likely. There is also more control over each kickback when using a cable with better and safer balance, too. Of course, dumbbells are effective in their own right.

How many tricep exercises should I do?

Do as many different tricep exercises as you feel comfortable with, but always remember to give yourself plenty of recovery time in between each workout. Take at least one rest day between the days you work your triceps, and follow a high-protein diet to aid recovery.

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Christine VanDoren
Christine is a certified personal trainer and nutritionist with an undergraduate degree from Missouri State University. Her…
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