The Best Cable Exercises For Your Triceps

The Best Cable Exercises For Your Triceps

The triceps is what I call, a masterpiece muscle. It carves a chiseled horseshoe on your upper arm as it develop. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, your triceps are underdeveloped. Let me show you 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.

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. 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.

Unfortunately, your triceps lose leverage as it gets closer to the straightened position. 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.

However, bands stretch and add more resistance which means there’s more load where your triceps are weakest.

The solution is cables. Cables are a triceps best friend. They allow 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.

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 and get additional muscle growing affects.

Notice how my 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.

Another thing to note is that I put the pulley 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 triceps exercise.

It also hits the triceps at a different angle as you extend horizontally. I like the hand support 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, I like 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 that is 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 I’ve 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.


As far as programming goes, add 2 or all 3 of these into your program depending on how often you train your triceps.

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

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 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.