Barbell Exercises for the Triceps
1) Two Arm Press:
A beginner's triceps exercise.
Undoubtedly the first triceps exercise the beginner in bodybuilding will come in contact with will be some sort of standing pressing movement. In the early stages of training, the two hand press will supply the beginner with satisfactory stimulation. It does more than develop the triceps, for this exercise works the back and shoulders in conjunction with the triceps, and teaches muscle coordination, which all beginners need.
From the starting position with the bar at the shoulders, the weight is pressed to arms' length above the head and an effort is made to maintain a strict body posture at all times, without any bend of the lower back. The weight is lowered from arms' length only as low as the shoulders, the starting position, and it is pressed overhead again.
When the weight is held at the shoulders the palms of the hands are facing to the front, or away from the body. A normal hand spacing, one about shoulder width, should be used at first. However, this can be varied with a close grip and a wide one. A closer grip throws more strain on the triceps and a wider grip makes the shoulders work harder. All variations should be practiced.
Once the bodybuilder advances enough to go into cheating exercises, he starts the weight fast from the shoulders, bending his body a few inches to the front and then snapping it back again to get a drive into the press, and as he presses the weight up it is permissible to bend backward from the lower back. When the bodybuilder lowers the weight to the shoulders again after performing the first repetition, he lowers it rather quickly, and he bounces it slightly off the shoulders for the second repetition and all subsequent ones. If this method is used much heavier weights can be employed, which are needed in advanced training.
2) Press Behind Neck
A slightly more advanced triceps exercise than the regular press.
This exercise is performed very much the same as the regular press, with the one major difference being that the starting position is from behind the head instead of from the front shoulders. From this starting position behind the head the weight is pressed directly upwards to arms' length above the head.
When the bar reaches a point an inch of so above the top of the head it is permissible to permit the bar to ride forward six inches or so, or until it is in front of the body, and to conclude the pressing movement from that position.
At first a strict body position should be maintained. The palms of the hands are, of course, facing to the front. A shoulder width grip of a wide one can be used. It is impossible to use a close grip.
To cheat in this exercise, you snap, of quickly shrug your shoulders up to give the weight a start. Then you press to above the head, and bend back slightly at the lower back to continue to press the weight to arms' length. Do not lower the weight too quickly for you do not have as much control of it behind the neck as in front of the body. You could cause damage if you lowered the weight so quickly that it hit with force against the rear of the neck or the rear shoulders.
3) Bench Press
For triceps power.
While the bench press is admittedly one of the most valuable chest muscle developer that any bodybuilder can perform, it is also an exceptional frontal shoulder and triceps exercise. All outstanding bench pressers possess triceps of excellent shape, size and power. The arm enthusiast should therefore never neglect the bench press in his training.
The most common form of the bench press is the one in which the bodybuilder lies on his back on an exercise bench, and then a training partner lifts a barbell up to his upraised hands. The palms of the hands are facing to the front, and the grip is a wide one, right up to the barbell collars. From this starting position the bar is lowered until it touches the chest, and it is then pressed up again to the starting position.
At first, hold the back flat on the bench and make the arms, shoulders and chest do the work. However, as you advance in the exercise it is permissible to lower the weight rather quickly and to actually bounce it off the chest, and then to raise the body off the bench in an arch to permit the use of heavier weights.
The bench press can also be performed with a narrow and a shoulder width grip, and each of the three hand spacings influence the triceps in a slightly different manner. For triceps bulk and power the bench press is practically unbeatable.
There is still one version of the bench press that I should mention here, and I refer to it as the Brenner Bench Press, since Malcolm Brenner first drew it to my attention. It is performed identically to the regular bench press, except that the palms of the hands face the rear, or towards the bodybuilder's head, instead of away from it. Wide, normal and narrow hand spacings can all be used, and in advanced training a body arch and slight bounce from the chest can also be employed. Not as much weight can be used in this version as in the regular bench press.
4) Power Bench Press
- A short-action triceps movement which builds supporting and ligament power.
Just as there are short-action biceps developer, there are of course similar exercises for the triceps. The power bench press is one of these. To perform the exercise, you first raise the barbell onto two strong stands or boxes, which should stand about 14" off the floor.
2 x 4's nailed together like this can support huge weights and bouncing off them is no problem.
Dirt cheap, too.
The body is positioned under the bar in your normal bench press positioning. The bar is then pressed out to arms' length. Only a pressout of several inches is needed for maximum benefit. Tremendous weights can be used in this movement, and the advanced bodybuilder can work up to 600 or more pounds.
The weight is lowered back to the boxes and then pressed up again, and a wide hand spacing, palms facing front, permits the utilization of the greatest weight. However, a shoulder width grip and a narrow one are also valuable varieties and should not be neglected. You can also perform the exercise with a reverse grip, with the palms facing the head.
While actual cheating is difficult in this exercise due to the tremendous poundage being used, you will be able to squeeze out more repetitions with a heavier weight if, after the first repetition, you lower the weight rather quickly and bounce it off rubber pads attached to the boxes. If you catch the rebound right, you will discover the second and third repetitions are actually easier than the first one was, and you will be able to squeeze out 6 to 8 repetitions with a weight you would have difficulty performing 2 with, if you came to a dead stop at the boxes.
5) Floor Press With Bridge
- A great power builder.
Before the bench press was popularized, bodybuilders performed all their lying presses on the floor. Today, due to the superiority of the bench press, the floor press has become practically obsolete (1956).
However, one style, the floor press with a bridge, remains to this day a valuable triceps builder. To perform this exercise, you lie on the floor, feet pulled back under the thighs. A barbell is held in the hands at the chest, and the elbows are resting on the ground.
Now, raise the body up so that it is supported by the feet and the upper back and shoulder, and while doing so press the barbell to arms' length above the chest. By raising the body high you can exert tremendous pressing force and can work up to very heavy weights. To lower the weight, first lower the body and then return your elbows to the floor.
The palms of the hands are facing the front, and since the object of the exercise is to raise as much weight as possible to arms' length, use whatever hand spacing feels most comfortable. For most bodybuilders a grip slightly wider than shoulder width will prove best.
Since this is already a form of a cheating exercise, to cheat further in it will require a slightly different approach. To do this, you start with feet placed under the thighs and the rest of the body is flat on the floor. The barbell is resting across the lower waist, or belly. You now toss the weight up by raising the belly high and using this momentum to help you, then permit the weight to ride back over the head, pressing it to arms' length while you do so. The common name of this exercise is the "belly toss" and it is self explanatory how the name was coined.
[Note: There's a lot of info on the use of the belly toss bench press by Joe DiMarco and given to Dave Yarnell to compile. DiMarco was on one of the original Culver City Westside Barbell lifters. See Dave's book, "Forgotten Secrets of the Culver City Westside Barbell Club" for more.
6) Lying Triceps Curl
- A flushing exercise which increases triceps size quickly.
To make any muscle grow to a maximum size, the muscle area must be flushed up fully, literally stretched to maximum fullness. One of the great exercises for this purpose as far as the triceps is concerned is the lying triceps curl.
It is a simple exercise to perform. To start the exercise lie on a flat bench, the head about one foot below the edge. Hold a barbell in the hands, palms to the front, using a shoulder width spacing. The weight should be at arms' length above the head, similar to the start of the bench press. The weight is lowered behind the head, but the elbows are not permitted to drop back or to move off to the sides. They must be pointed up when the weight is behind the head. Then, still maintaining the elbows in their fixed position, the weight is raised again to the starting position.
It is impractical to use a wide hand spacing in this exercise. Some bodybuilders prefer a very close grip, others like one about 18 inches apart and still others use a shoulder width grip. Only experience will teach you which is best in your case, and one which permits you to use the heaviest weight is the one I recommend.
To cheat in this exercise place a rubber pad on the bench behind your head, and then lower the weight rather quickly and bounce it off the pad. If you use a hand spacing which clears the width of the bench you can bounce the bar with some force off the pad and work up to very heavy poundages. If you use a very close grip you will have to be careful not to bounce too hard, otherwise you may injure your hands.
This exercise can also be performed with the palms of the hands facing the rear, or toward the head, and both versions belong at various times in your workouts.
7) Standing Triceps Curl
- Another flushing exercise.
The standing triceps curl, or French Press as it is also called, is another triceps exercise which will flush up that muscle tremendously. Certain bodybuilders use tremendous weights. John McWilliams, the giant of power with arms that have measured as much as 21" in hard muscular condition, has used up to 300 pounds. You'll find that hard to believe, for 80 to 100 pounds may prove to be your present limit, even if you've had considerable experience. But -- you'll progress quickly, if you train properly.
To start the exercise clean a barbell to the shoulders and then press it to arms' length above the head, as in the regular press. When the weight is above the head the palms are facing the front. A shoulder width grip should be used.
Now, lower the weight behind the head, but when doing so make certain that the elbows are pointed up, just as in the lying triceps curl. Keeping the elbows pointed up, you raise the weight back to the starting position overhead.
It is impractical to use a wide grip in this exercise. Use a shoulder width grip, or else a narrow one. The exercise can also be performed with the palms of the hands facing the rear when the weight is at arms' length above the head, and from a developmental standpoint both styles are excellent.
To cheat in this exercise lower the weight rather quickly and get a little bounce when the elbows are fully bent. However, use caution if cheating while performing this exercise, the elbow tendons and ligaments can be easily damaged if you become too enthusiastic.
8) Bob Shealy Triceps Shoot-Back
- A severe triceps tightening exercise.
In assigning various names to exercises, such as the Zeller Curl, the Brenner Bench Press, and the Shealy Triceps Shoot-Back, the bodybuilders whose names are used make no claim of being the originators of the exercises. And neither do I. However, in each case the exercise so named was drawn to my attention first by the particular bodybuilder, and to give him the credit he deserves I named the exercise here after him. Actually, it is almost impossible to say just who originated any exercise
. I felt that I have discovered many, and yet, when talking with oldtimers they often told me that some lifter of years ago was seen performing an identical movement. [Note: These last sentences lead me to believe this book was written by an author in the employ of Joe Weider at the time, with Mr. Weider's name being given claim to the work. As does the lack of the term "Weider Principles" tacked on to everything and anything within striking distance of a typewriter.]
The Bob Shealy Triceps Shoot-Back is a real tough exercise. It is strictly for advanced work and not intended for the beginner. It is started the same as the regular lying triceps curl, with a barbell held at arms' length above the face while the bodybuilder is lying on a flat exercise bench. The weight is lowered behind the head as in the regular triceps curl, and then is it shot back with some force to arms' length behind the head. The weight is then pulled back only as far as behind the head and once again is shot back to arms' length.
A shoulder width grip or a close one should be used, and the palms of the hands can be facing either up or down. You will have to work hard on your shoulder and upper back power before you will be able to handle limit weights in this, and it's the one exercise which you really won't be able to cheat in. There's only one style -- the one you can employ the heaviest poundage in, and that's the correct style; beyond that there is no cheating possible.
9) Standing Shoot-Back Triceps Exercise
- For explosive triceps power.
This exercise is similar to the above one insofar as a fast shoot-back of the weight is the main exercise action. To start the exercise, stand in front of a weight that is resting on the ground. Squat down and grasp the barbell behind the body
, with the palms of the hands facing to the front. Use a comfortable, shoulder width grip. Now, stand erect, lifting the weight up with you, arms stiff, bar resting across the buttocks.
Raise the weight up and rest it across your lower back. From there, bend slightly forward, and shoot the weight directly back, straightening the elbows and tensing the triceps while doing so. Hold the weight in that position for a count of two and then return to the lower back position and repeat.
You can also use a narrow and a wide hand spacing, and you can vary the position of the palms, starting with them facing the rear, instead of front.
To cheat in this exercise you bend forward quite a bit, which makes it easier for you to handle heavier weights.
10) Stiff Arm Rear Raise
- For triceps definition.
This exercise is commenced exactly the same way as the last one. You squat down and grasp a barbell behind the body with a palms forward grip. Use a shoulder width grip. Stand erect and lift the barbell up with you, behind the body. Keep the elbows stiff. At no time during the exercise are you to bend the elbows.
Now, bend forward and while doing so raise the weight back and up. Lower the weight and at the same time straighten the body to the starting position and repeat.
Besides the shoulder width grip you can use a wide one and a narrow one. You can also have the palms facing to the rear instead of to the front.
The only way you can cheat in this exercise is to bend forward rather quickly and in this way give the weight a better start.
11) Two Arm Jerk
- For power and bulk of the triceps.
Competitive weightlifters, while not usually possessing triceps of the size and shape of bodybuilders, do generally own triceps of greater all around power. The clean and jerk lift helps them tremendously to reach that goal. The 'clean' part of the lift is of course not beneficial to the triceps, though as brought out previously in this book, it can be used as a great biceps strengthener. The 'jerk' portion of the lift, however, is a great triceps builder.
To perform the exercise, lift a weight to your shoulders in whatever style you can raise the most weight. Bodybuilders who are not too well acquainted with the technique of 'cleaning' will probably find that they will do best merely 'hauling' the weight up in a rather crude style, dipping slightly at the knees to get under the weight as it approaches shoulder height.
Once the weight is caught at the shoulders stand erect with knees stiff, still holding the weight at the shoulders. Now, bend the knees about three inches and then snap them straight again, and while doing so press upward with the arms with all the force at your command. This should raise the weight to well above head height. It will then be easier for you to press the weight the rest of the distance to arms' length above the head.
Hold the weight above the head for a moment or two, then lower to the shoulders, and repeat the jerk.
Of course, if you have practiced and competed in competitive weightlifting and know how to split or squat under the weight for the clean as well as for the jerk, do so, for this will certainly permit the use of heavier poundages. However, if you haven't had any competitive weightlifting experience, then rely on your basic power for both the clean and the jerk. Just as long as you raise more weight above your head in the jerk than you can press, you can be certain that your triceps will receive a tremendous amount of work.
You will only be able to use a grip of about shoulder width in this exercise, for too narrow or too wide a grip will make it impossible to use limit poundages.
In this exercise, the more you perfect your style, the more you will be able to lift. So in a sense, cheating in this lift actually means a better or more perfect style, instead of a lax one.
12) Power Press Out
- For thick, heavily built triceps.
This exercise starts exactly the same as the previous one. You merely bend forward and then clean a heavy weight to the shoulders. After the weight has been cleaned, you jerk it to arms' length above the head. But now, the similarity to the previous exercise ceases.
After you have jerked the weight to over head, assume your most comfortable and secure body position. Lower the weight a few inches only. Don't lower it more than two inches at first. Once the weight has been lowered two inches, press it back up to arms' length again. Now, lower the weight as before. Again press it out to arms' length. Continue practicing this lowering and the pressing back to arms' length, until you have lowered the weight about six inches. fi you can press it back again from that position, then the next workout use a weight 5 to 10 inches heavier.
To cheat in this exercise you have to rely on a back bend to give you a firmer pressing support.
You will find that a shoulder width hand spacing is best, for a really wide or a narrow one will limit your pressing power. You can practice different hand spacings, but bear in mind that the object of this exercise is to lift the heaviest weight possible so use the grip which permits this.
End of Part Two.
Next: Barbell Exercises for the Forearms.