The Best Cable Exercises For Your Triceps

The Best Cable Exercises For Your Triceps

The triceps are truly a masterpiece muscle. The three heads of the triceps carve a chiseled horseshoe on your upper arms as they develop. If you don’t see something like that on your arms, then the chances are that your triceps are underdeveloped, and you need some serious work. Let’s take a look at how to get your triceps to hit puberty, but first, let’s go to class for a second. To get bigger, you’ll have to get smarter. Non-negotiable.

Triceps Overview

The triceps are comprised of 3 heads, the lateral, the long, and the medial head. Together they wrap around a large part of your upper arm, forming that horseshoe shape. Grow your triceps and your arms will appear bigger for the same time invested in training your biceps. Cool hack huh? Anyways, all 3 heads contribute to the primary function of elbow extension which is fancy word for straightening your arm, and that contributes directly to other lifts.

A lot of pushing movements, such as the bench press, overhead press, push ups, and dips all rely on the triceps. That being said, strengthening your triceps can help transfer over to other crucial lifts, whether you are a bodybuilder, powerlifter, or regular gym goer. Strong triceps can make your workouts a lot more enjoyable!

Unfortunately, your triceps lose leverage as it gets closer to the straightened position, so you want movements that keep tension on the target muscle group. Dumbbell kickbacks don’t match this resistance profile well because the weight only resists downwards. Bands are better because you can aim the line of pull closer with your triceps by tying it at various angles.

tricep rope extensionHowever, using tools such as resistance bands helps to stretch and add more resistance which means there’s more load where your triceps are weakest. Unfortunately, resistance bands typically do not do the trick in terms of overloading the triceps and really breaking down the muscle fibers.

The solution to getting in some good tricep work is cables. Cables are a tricep muscle’s best friend. Getting in some cable work allows you to position the line of resistance with the fibers of all 3 heads without increasing the resistance curve where your triceps are already mechanically weakest. In addition, cables are generally more joint friendly especially the exercises I’m about to show you.

To make a long intro short, if you’re not using cables to build your triceps, your triceps training is remedial at best.

The Top 3 Tricep Building Exercises

So here are 3 triceps exercise to include in your training as soon as possible.

Overhead Rope Extension

First exercise is an overhead rope extension. The overhead position also allows the long head to stretch, getting a full range of motion and really breaking down the muscle, helping to get additional muscle growing affects. Notice how the arms go out and apart instead of forward. This forces more stress on your triceps instead of aggravating your elbow joint.

In fact, the traditional way of doing overhead rope extensions, many advanced lifters report joint pain. Don’t do that anymore, as it just makes other lifts, such as the bench press and overhead press a lot more difficult.

Another thing to note is that the pulley is set at a moderate level. Doing this exercise from the bottom pulley which is quite common doesn’t add more resistance and simply makes it harder to setup. In fact, if you’re lifting appreciable weight, you won’t be able to bring the rope up to position.

Hand Supported Tricep Extension

This is what I call the hand supported tricep extension. It’s another joint friendly tricep exercise. It also hits the triceps at a different angle as you extend horizontally, and can help you to feel the burn in different places. The hand support is great because it adds significant stability for force production without hindering the natural motion of cable.

It’s like the benefits of a seated triceps extension machine, but without the drawbacks of being jammed into a linear motion. As for setup, it is good to either set the cable perfectly parallel with the ground or 1-2 notches higher.

Single Arm Angled Triceps Extension

Being closer to the machine loads the lengthened position and allows your arm to provide more stability. The most noteworthy thing about this exercise though is the slight angle. I don’t know who started the whole elbow tucked thing, but personally that is something that feels inefficient for the triceps.

The long head attaches at your shoulder blade. Squeezing your arm by your side essentially jams that insertion point and limits the space and output of the long head which is the hardest head to bias.

The angle changes that. It also unsurprisingly makes the exercise less stressful for the joints. Many lifters that have trained report how much more they feel their triceps and no strain on their elbows with this variation. Line the pulley so the cable runs in line with your upper arm.

Lastly, always do these unilaterally. You can use 2 cables at the same time, but the rubbing of the cables won’t feel as smooth. Not to mention, most people lack unilateral work in their programs, so more is always better.

triceps workout


As far as programming goes, you do not need to do every single exercise listed during each one of your workouts. Instead, you could add 2 or all 3 of these into your program depending on how often you train your triceps. As long as you are maximizing each set, making sure to get the most out of them and leaving the gym with nothing in the tank, then you are on the right path..

3-4 sets per exercise is plenty for a single muscle group. Aim for rep ranges of 8-12 or higher. Keep your wrist straight and your body stable to force the triceps to work.

Wrap Up

Overall, training the triceps does not need to be overly complicated, and it definitely should not be ignored. You do not want to leave the gym with anything left in the tank. Lift with ferocious intensity until the horseshoe appears. As the weeks go on, add more weight. Rinse and repeat and that horseshoe will go from small bump to a masterpiece.

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Calvin Huynh
Calvin Huynh is a trainer, online coach, writer, and joyful ruler behind His content has reached various top sites and he has worked with a variety of clients ranging from top CEOs, hardcore lifters, everyday desk workers, and stay at home moms. When he’s not working, he spends his time going to church, dreaming of unicorns, and eating whole pints of ice cream on a comfortable couch somewhere in Southern California.