If you want tremendous triceps, the pushdown is a pretty effective exercise. To perform pushdowns, you need a cable machine -- but this is where your quest for gorgeous guns may hit a snag. Many gyms don't have appropriate cable stations, so you can be stuck and struggling to find a replacement exercise. The good news is that pushdowns aren't the holy grail of triceps exercises -- there are plenty of others you can try instead.
Parallel Bar Dips
Hop on a set of dipping bars to perform parallel bar dips. Position yourself between the bars, with a hand on each, then lift yourself so your legs are off the floor and your arms are straight. Lower yourself slowly, descending as low as you can, then push back up again. Dips are compound exercises that work your chest and shoulders as well as your triceps. Compound exercises give you far more bang for your buck in terms of muscle stimulation and calorie burn, according to coach Rachel Cosgrove of Results Fitness in California. If you struggle with dips, use an assisted dip machine or have a training partner give you a boost by holding your ankles, advises trainer Charles Poliquin of the Poliquin Performance Center.
Perform different variations of extensions to isolate your triceps. Hold a dumbbell in one hand above your head and lower it behind your head by bending your elbow while keeping your upper arm fixed in place. The key is to keep your upper arm still and just move your forearm, squeezing your triceps hard on every rep. Use lighter weights and higher reps with extensions, advises Nora Tobin in "Shape" magazine. You can do your extensions while sitting on a bench, standing up straight or in a lunge position.
The humble pushup is often deemed a beginner exercise, but it can be a highly effective triceps builder. Switch to a close grip with your thumbs and index fingers nearly touching to shift the emphasis from your chest to your triceps. Keep your elbows tucked in and really focus on feeling the burn in your triceps. If this variation is too difficult to start with, try close-grip knee pushups instead and work your way up to full close-grip pushups.
Perform a variety of different triceps exercises so you don't get bogged down doing the same activities. Train your triceps once a week as part of an arms workout, paired with biceps exercises. Start with three sets of eight to 12 reps of each exercise and try to increase your reps or the weight in every workout. Your gym may also have different triceps machines, which you may consider adding to your routine.
Mike Samuels started writing for his own fitness website and local publications in 2008. He graduated from Peter Symonds College in the UK with A Levels in law, business and sports science, and is a fully qualified personal trainer, sports massage therapist and corrective exercise specialist with accreditations from Premier Global International.