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V Bar Pushdown – Overview, Benefits, How-To, Variations, and Mistakes

V bar Triceps Pushdown

Looking to pump up your tricep workout? Or are you just getting bored doing the same exercise again and again? Well, introducing the V bar pushdown. It’s a great exercise to isolate the triceps muscles and go HEAVY with the weights.

Now you may confuse the V bar pushdown with another exercise that carries a similar name – Straight bar pushdown or ropes pushdown. And this can be confusing for some because triceps pushdown is one of the best exercises for your triceps. But which alternative do you go for?

In this article, we will cover everything there is to know about V bar pushdown, including its benefits, targeted muscles, variations, and potential mistakes. We will also go through the differences in the tricep rope, straight bar, and V bar pushdown.

As a bonus, I will also share something with you that I like to call The Great Tricep Attainer! So, stay tuned for that. But firstly, let’s start off with the muscles worked during the V bar pushdown.

V Bar Pushdown Muscles Worked

The V bar pushdown is a great tricep isolation movement and with proper form and technique, this exercise will give you those big arms that you’ve always wanted.

Note that our triceps muscle is made up of three heads:

·         Long head

·         Lateral head

·         Medial head

The good news is that V bar pushdown works on the three muscle heads. In fact, it’s impossible to completely isolate a specific tricep head. However, you could change the angle or position and increase the emphasis of a specific tricep head.

We will talk a little more about this in the bonus part of the article at the end!

Related Reading: Best Medial Head Triceps Exercises, Cable Triceps Kickbacks

How to do the V bar pushdown exercise

Here are the steps to correctly perform V bar pushdown:

  1. Connect a V bar attachment to a high pulley on the cable machine.
  2. Grab the V bar with your palms facing downward.
  3. Make sure your back is straight and your abs contracted.
  4. Push the bar down while keeping your elbows close to your sides.
  5. Keep pushing down until you feel your triceps stretching.
  6. Once you reach your thighs, hold the position for a few seconds, then release.
  7. Repeat this exercise for 8–12 repetitions (2–3 sets).

Pro Tip – During my stance, I like to SLIGHTLY hinge at the waist. If you stand completely upright throughout the motion, your thighs will come in the way and it will restrict your range of motion.

Importance of Training Your Triceps Overall

Your triceps are REALLY important! They help stabilize your shoulder joint and allow for the extension of the elbow.

And if you ant to beef up your triceps, you need to start training your triceps since they make up two thirds of your upper arms.

Our triceps also act as a secondary muscle group in most chest exercises.  So, if you’re struggling to increase your bench press weight, it might be because of weak triceps

What Are the benefits of the V bar pushdown exercise?

Tricep pushdowns, in general, are highly effective for your triceps and it’s probably included in everyone’s tricep workout. However, by simply using the V bar attachment, you will be able to increase he weight and increase the tension on your triceps.

Building strong triceps is indispensable for upper body strength. It also optimizes the movements of your elbows and shoulders, as well as flexibility and range of motion.

Fun fact: researchers found that upper body strength becomes more important as a person becomes older. This will reduce the risk of injury and prevent conditions, such as osteoporosis. In fact, it even helps older people with arthritis. The mechanism? Well, relieving pain, lubricating the joints, dampening inflammation, and preventing muscle loss.

Therefore, make sure to keep a strong build from a young age.

Here are some of the key benefits of the V Bar Triceps Pushdown:

1. Stronger Triceps Equals Bigger Arms!

Let me start with a question. What is the main function of the triceps? Got the answer? That’s right! The main function of our triceps is to extend the forearm at the elbow joint. Hence, to grow our triceps, we need to focus on exercises that primarily focus on extending our elbow.

And if we look at the movement of the tricep pushdown, it primarily focuses on extending the forearms at the elbow joint.  Hence with proper form, technique, and patience, you will notice your triceps and your overall arm size get bigger.

Also note that triceps cover the majority of your upper arm, so training them becomes so important if you want to increase your arm strength and muscle mass.

2. Relieves joint tension

V bar pushdown puts the hands in a semi-pronated position. As a result, your wrists don’t have to handle the tension of the downward motion. Unlike other variations of this exercise, the V bar pushdown is the least likely to cause an injury. In fact, it may produce the opposite effect – Relieve your joint pain.

To reap these benefits, you need to do the exercise in the correct form. Otherwise, you may hurt your wrists, elbows, and shoulders (more on that later).

If you are dealing with a musculoskeletal injury, we recommend speaking with your doctor or personal trainer before doing the V bar pushdown exercise or its alternatives.

3. Enhance Performance in Other Muscle Groups

Your triceps play a key role when you’re benching, doing dips, and push ups. And because V bar pushdowns are a brilliant tricep exercise, it will also improve your pressing strength and any activity that uses the chest and shoulders. After all, your triceps act as a secondary muscle in almost every chest exercise.

V bar pushdown variations

There are several variations of the V bar pushdown. However, the more variations, the harder it is to choose which exercise is best for you, right? Let’s have a look at the three main variations of the V bar pushdown. Also, stay tuned till the end of the article for a bonus in which I will share to you something that will help you grow your triceps!

1. Rope pushdown

Rope Triceps Pushdown

The rope pushdown is a classic. I’ve always used this throughout my tricep workout. This is done to change the position of your wrists and movement angle when doing the pushdown.

Now, you must be thinking. What difference does it make? Well, EMG analysis states that the rope pushdown focuses a little more on the medial head of the triceps.

Also for me, the rope allows me to get a much better range of motion since your thighs don’t come in the way when performing the movement. However, if you do prefer the V bar pushdown because it allows for a better wrist position, then that’s completely fine.

I do recommend trying this variation and the other variations mentioned below just to see which one fits your preference.

2. Bar Pushdown

The bar pushdown is another great variation. Simply use a straight bar instead of a V Bar. But which one is better?

Fitness is such a large topic and sometimes it just goes down to your preference. Well, this is one of those cases.

For me the rope gives me that extra squeeze at the bottom of the movement and I feel my triceps a lot more. However, the V bar or the straight bar push down allows me to push much heavier and lift more weight.

Stay tuned till the end of the article where I will share with you what I like to call “The Great Tricep Attainer”.

3. Single Arm triceps pushdown

Quick gym fact: unilateral training is so important. I remember when I first started going to the gym, my right arm was always stronger than my left.

This made it so much harder for me to progressively overload.

That’s when I started doing unilateral movements. In other words, training one side of the body at a time. This will prevent overtraining the dominant side and correct muscle imbalances.

For single arm pushdowns, I don’t use any attachments. Instead, I use the rubber ball at the end of the cable. However, if you like, you can use a single hand grip. It all comes down to preference.

Who Should Perform V Bar Triceps Pushdowns?

The V bar pushdown improves your upper body mass and lockout strength. It also protects you from prospective injuries due to weak triceps.

Therefore, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that this exercise is ideal for practically EVERYONE!

However, when I first started going to the gym, the majority of my exercises were unilateral. In fact, I recommend including unilateral training for all beginners to make sure you have no muscle imbalances.

Having said that, the V bar pushdown will allow you to go heavy and lift more weight. So, try to include both in your routine on different days.

V bar pushdown Common Mistakes?

People who are new to the V bar pushdown exercise often make mistakes that could precipitate injury.

Below, we will list the most common mistakes to avoid when performing the V bar pushdown:

1. Moving the elbow too much

Excessive elbow movement is one of the most common mistakes that I’ve seen people make at the gym. It’s often caused at the end of your set or because you’re lifting more than you can (ego lifting).

During the exercise, you’ll be tempted to sway your elbows back and forward. This is just a reflex movement that eases up the pushing motion. When lifting heavy weights, swinging your arms may seem like the solution however this just takes tension of the working muscle and will place it on your lats.

Instead, leave your ego at the door and tuck your elbows by your sides and keep them stable throughout the motion.

2. Partial Reps

As we’ve mentioned before, the primary function of our triceps is to extend our forearm at the elbow joint. In other words, straighten your arm.

Hence, if your reps don’t involve fully extending the elbow, you’re reducing the tension placed on your triceps which will lead to less muscle growth. Instead placing constant tension on the triceps and performing reps that are slow, controlled, and with full range of motion will give you the best results.  

And it’s not just the downward motion. You need to make sure that you go all the way up to the starting position and perform the rep again. In other words, the angle at your elbow joint should become less than 90 degrees before you start your rep.

Remember, your form is everything. I would rather see you guys perform the exercise with lighter weights but with proper form then using heavy weights with no form.

Improper form is likely to cause injuries, limit tension placed on your triceps, and hence less gain!

3. Flaring out your elbows

Flaring out the elbows is another common mistake. Once you flare the elbows to the side, you’ll be placing unwanted stress on the shoulders.

In simple terms, you will no longer be doing a V bar pushdown, but instead it will look more like jackhammer motion.

And let’s get one thing clear. The main reason why this would happen in the first place is because you are lifting more weight than you actually can. And if there is one thing I have taught my viewers throughout their journey to success is to leave their ego at the door.

So, ensure that your elbows are close to your sides and fixed in one place throughout the motion.

4. Going too Fast.

I can’t stress this enough. The slower your reps are, the more tension you place on your working muscles.

Yes, you probably can lift more weight if your reps are fast. However, decreasing the weight and slowing down your reps will develop that mind muscle connection and promote muscle growth.

Bonus: The Great Triceps Attainer!

We all want that “horseshoe” triceps look. But how do we get it? Introducing the Great Triceps Attainer!

It involves positioning your arms in different angles to hit all three heads. Here are the exercises that I use currently.

Long Head

– EZ Bar Skull Crusher. 3-5 sets. 8-12 reps.
– Cable Triceps Kickback. 3-5 sets. 8-12 reps.

Lateral Head

– V Bar Pushdown or Straight Bar Pushdown. 3-5 sets. 8-12 reps.
– Close Grip Bench Press. 3-5 Sets. 8-12 reps.

Medial Head

– Dips (Bodyweight For warmup and then added weights) 3-5 sets. 8-12 reps
– Rope Pushdowns 3-5 sets. 8 – 12 reps.

Now don’t do all of these exercises in one workout. Doing more exercises does not lead to more gains. That’s just a myth.

Instead, performing 3-4 exercises with proper form and reps will maximize your triceps growth.

Also, include variation throughout your workout. For example, include rope pushdown the first time in your push day and in the next push day use a straight bar. Variation will allow you to hit all the three heads of the triceps by positioning your arm slightly differently to get the maximum benefits. It also makes your workout fun and more exciting.

I would love to know what triceps workout you guys use.

Takeaway message

The V bar pushdown is an excellent exercise to stimulate the triceps. And if you’ve experienced wrist pain when performing rope or straight bar pushdowns, try these variations since it places your wrists in a semi – pronated position.

With this pushdown variation, you will be able to lift more weight and place constant tension on your triceps.

I hope that this article successfully introduced the V bar pushdown exercise and gave you an insight on how it can help build bigger arms.

As always, stay Fit and Healthy. I’ll see you all next week!

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Hey, I'm Shalin

Welcome to Just Fit & Healthy. From the right nutrition to the best science based workouts, here is the one stop shop for ALL information. Let’s achieve goals together!

Shalin Anam

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