Pronate Your Hands During Pressdowns

Rope pressdowns are a popular isolation move for the triceps, but what happens when you turn your hands down at the bottom of each rep?

November 20, 2012

By Jimmy Peña, MS, CSCS


Make One Change

Pressdowns are a common exercise in your battery of triceps movements. Because you’re working at only one joint — the elbow — and keeping your elbows in tight to your sides, it makes for an excellent isolation move either as a pre-exhaust technique or as a flushing exercise at the end of your workout. The rope allows you to use a neutral grip, making it slightly easier on the wrist and elbow joints than with a standard overhand grip.


Make One Change

Much like the straight bar counterpart, rope pressdowns target the lateral (outer) head. Just make sure you use a rope attachment and cable that are long enough so that you can fully extend your arms out to the sides of your thighs at the bottom of the move. Because you begin with a neutral grip, you’re calling upon more of the medial head to initiate the exercise and there’s less pressure on your joints. However, as you approach the fully extended position, you have the opportunity to pronate your hands — you simply can’t using a bar — for even an even stronger contraction. Similar to supinating your wrists at the top of a biceps dumbbell curl, the pronation of your hands at the bottom will help blister the triceps with a phenomenal burn.

One quick tip: Try not to wrap your thumbs around the rope. This will help you to use less of the forearm muscles and help you focus on pushing the weight down with just your triceps, particularly the lateral head.


The act of pronating your wrists allows for a stronger contraction of the lateral head especially, but as fatigue sets in, turning your hands down on each rep becomes more difficult. Rather than just end your set when you can’t pronate your hands any longer, simply go ahead and do pressdowns without pronation as a way to extend the set, pumping out several more reps. Hence, you can do both variations within a single set.