I am willing to bet my pitiful 401k that anyone who has set foot into a gym has done triceps press down. Girls and boys, young and old, hordes of people have slaved away in front of it, praying to the mighty cable. And yet, well-developed triceps are rare but blown out elbows are not.
Why? Most people use too much weight and lean over the bar, which leads to an overemphasis on the shoulder and elbows joints while diminishing the actual muscle recruitment in the triceps.
Here are a few pointers that will help you get the most out of this exercise.
TIP #1: Stand upright – this will minimize the deltoids involvement.
TIP #2: Tuck the elbows behind the body so you can stretch the triceps all the way.
TIP #3: Lower the weight instead and slow down the negative. You are a bodybuilder, not a weightlifter. Time under tension matters, inertia does not.
TIP #4: Double up on rope length The regular rope is simply too short to allow your arms to move in a biomechanically correct manner. The easiest way to fix is to hook two ropes, this way you can truly go past your torso at the bottom part of the motion.
TIP #5: Take several steps back This is where high school physics comes in big and I truly wish I had paid more attention. You only have resistance against your triceps if the cable is at 90 degrees to your forearm and very little when the rope runs parallel to your forearm. That means when you stand close to the machine, the main resistance occurs at the 90-degree bend of the elbow where the joint is vulnerable and very little resistance occurs at the contracted position.
Instead, start your press down three big steps away from the machine; your should feel the lower part of the motion most. As you fatigue, take a step forward, the stress will shift toward the mid range. Lastly, step close to the cable in order to fatigue the top range of the exercise.