The Triceps are no pushover…they need serious workload to build substantial mass and strength. They can take a beating and kickbacks just won’t cut it. If you want big, strong arms, you need to press, and you need to press HEAVY.
That’s where this exercise comes into play…it’s a variation of the Close Grip Bench Press, the classic mass-builder for the triceps.
The standard Close Grip Bench Press is normally done with a barbell, taking a shoulder-width grip on the bar while keeping your elbows tucked in beside your body while you press.
One of the problems you might encounter with the Close Grip Barbell Bench Press is shoulder joint pain…the closer-in position can put more stress on the joints, especially when the hands are in the normal pronated grip on the bar. There is also a strong tendency for the elbows to flare out, putting even MORE stress on the shoulders.
We’re going to fix both of those problems with this exercise.
In this version, you’ll be using a pair of heavy dumbbells and performing the close grip press exercise in a very specific way…a way designed to put even GREATER muscle-building tension on the triceps throughout the exercise (more on that below).
First off, by using dumbbells, you’re not locked into a set shoulder position, like you are with a barbell. This helps ease shoulder pain.
As well, by holding the dumbbells in a neutral (palms-facing-in) grip, there is very little tendency for the elbows to flare out…all you have to do is maintain that neutral position and the elbows will stay tucked in, helping to keep the focus on the triceps.
Start by grabbing a pair of dumbbells and sitting on the end of the bench, holding them on end on your upper thighs.
Now lie back on the bench, bringing the dumbbells with you, keeping them in that neutral (palms facing in) position.
Once you’re lying fully back on the bench, the dumbbells will be in the bottom position of the exercise.
You should be in the standard “locked-in” bench press position here…knees bent about 80 degrees in order to facilitate leg drive, core nice and tight, chest puffed out and shoulder blades tucked tight in behind your body.
And HERE is the small adjustment in form to increase the tension on the triceps…note how the dumbbells are tilted slightly down towards my head. This small tilt puts increased stretch-tension on the triceps at the bottom of the movement while shifting focus away from the pecs and more onto the triceps.
Now, press up to the top, focusing pushing with the heels of your hands. KEEP that slight tilt all the way to the top. This will help maintain tension in the triceps even all the way to lockout.
If your goal is tricep mass, aim for a set of 6 to 8 reps. If your goal is strength, work in the 2 to 5 rep range. I generally recommend 3 to 5 sets of this exercise.
Big arms don’t come easy…this is one of the key exercises that will help you get it done.
Nick Nilsson is known in the fitness industry as the “Mad Scientist of Muscle,” and for good reason! For more than 28 years, Nick has been creating unique, new exercises and training techniques and putting together some of the most innovative muscle-building and fat-loss programs available anywhere.