If you want to build bigger triceps then surely you are doing triceps pushdowns right now. But do you know which version of the tricep pushdown is best for building up the size of the back of your arms? In this video, I’m going to answer the popular question of whether the overhand or underhand grip on the straight bar is better for building up the size of the triceps when training this sizable arm muscle.
Now, there are many more variations of pushdowns and exercises for triceps than just those that can be done with the straight bar. There are different shape handles that are made specifically to attempt to improve the biomechanics of the triceps exercise, there are rope pushdowns and there are even single armed versions. Here we are limiting the discussion to the grip difference of overhand or underhand when using the common straight bar.
Well, you’ve likely read or heard somewhere (maybe even on this channel), that the act of supination and pronation at the forearm have no influence on the contraction of the triceps. This is one hundred percent true. With the attachment of the common triceps tendon occurring on the olecranon rather than the radius, it is not influenced at all by movement of the forearm. At least not directly.
That is the big caveat and why you need to pay close attention to the content of this video.
Because the body operates as one kinetic chain, there does turn out to be an impact on the function and performance of the triceps and the overall recruitment of the muscle depending on whether you are in supination or pronation at the forearm.
How does this happen?
First, with an overhand or palms down grip, you are going to get some drifting of the elbow away from the body. This happens for two reasons. Most importantly, due to a limitation in the amount of pronation range of motion we have and the inability to get pronated so much as to flatten the wrist and reach a position parallel to the bar you’re grabbing, you will have to flare the elbow out and internally rotate the shoulder to adapt the hand to better grip the bar.
Second, because the shoulder and elbow are connected, movement of the arm at one joint is going to impact the position of the arm at a different point (in this case the elbow). Hence, the flaring of the elbow is unavoidable since the shoulder internal rotation is determining what is happening at the elbow.
To see just how impactful this is on the triceps you need to understand the anatomy of the muscle group. The triceps is comprised of three heads. The medial, lateral and long head. The medial and lateral do not cross the shoulder and only are influenced by extension (or lack thereof) at the elbow. The long head however is influenced by the position of the arm in relation to the torso.
The further back behind the body you can get your arm and the tighter to your side you can keep it, the more fully contracted you are going to be able to make the long head of the triceps.
With hypertrophy and peak tension the goal of deciding the better version of the triceps pushdown here it should be very clear that the one that maximizes the tension on all three heads of the triceps the best is going to be the winner.
This is where the underhand pushdown shines.
Flipping to an underhand grip adducts the elbow into the side and allows for more extension of the arm at the shoulder when in the bottom or fully contracted portion of the exercise. This is why you feel a stronger squeeze in the triceps muscle when doing this underhand rather than overhand.
Now if you are simply just looking to build more strength in your triceps than you would be better served to not even look at the pushdown as your best option. Instead, focus on the close grip bench press, skullcrusher and weighted dips. If all three of these are in your triceps workout plan already then the overhand pushdown becomes even more redundant. Instead, flip the grip and include the underhand pushdown as the perfect compliment to the tricep exercise selection you’re already doing to build bigger triceps.
If you’re wanting to build bigger triceps and want a workout plan that you can follow step by step, be sure to head to athleanx.com via the link below and use the program selector to find the program that matches your specific training goals. Put the science back in strength today and build ripped athletic muscle with ATHLEAN-X.
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