Clearly, triceps are an important muscle to train. They help you fill out the sleeves in your shirt and they are critical to pressing strength. Most of the time with the bench press, the sticking point is usually a few inches off your chest. This is when strong triceps become much more than an accessory to the movement — at this point, they can make or break that rep. Here, we provide a few exercises to help strengthen the tri’s through this critical phase of your bench.
1. Close-Grip Bench Press
You don’t see this exercise a lot anymore. Lie down on the bench and space your hands a little narrower than shoulder-width apart (you do not want your hands touching each other on this exercise). Lift the bar off the rack. As you lower the bar to your chest, concentrate on keeping your elbows pointing straight ahead so that your arms will brush against your body as you lower the bar. Press the bar up explosively, making sure that your elbows point straight ahead. This provides a longer range of motion for the triceps through the press and, because of the contribution from the pecs and delts, allows you to use more weight than you would on an isolated triceps move. Ultimately, this strengthens the triceps through that initial “stick” in a heavy bench.
2. Floor Press
Set up the bar in a squat rack so that it is a few feet off the ground. Lie down on the ground, under the bar so that your eyes are directly under the bar. Grip the bar with the same grip-width that you use on the bench press. Unrack it and lower it towards your chest. Your upper arms will make contact with the floor before the bar reaches your chest. From this position, press the bar up and repeat. Don’t bounce your arms off the ground — control it down and explode the weight upward. Also, keep the movements as close to how you bench press as possible (i.e., still try to lower the bar to the same point on your chest). You can also expect to move more weight here since you’re pressing through a shorter range of motion and because your triceps are closer to full extension. This move is most valuable for improving bench press lockout.
3. Bands and Chains
More common than they used to be, bands are essentially giant rubber bands that connect from the bar to the bench or floor. Chains are long, heavy links of chains that wrap around the bar and hang down. Both are designed to provide more resistance as you push the bar off your chest, which will make your triceps much stronger. In addition to helping your triceps and bench, nothing looks and sounds more hardcore than heavy chains hanging off the bar, clanging together, while you rep out bench presses.
4. Board Bench Press
This is another great way to focus on your triceps. You need several large, wooden boards that you can place on your chest while bench pressing (phone books will work in a pinch). Lower the bar towards your chest. As you do, the boards will limit how far down you can lower the bar. Press the bar up. This move has takeaways similar to the floor press in that it focuses on the lockout — the top portion of the rep.