Build a Bigger Bench Press and Better Arms
Building thick triceps is not only the quickest way to increase your arm size, it's also the best way to increase bench press performance and overall pressing strength.
Focusing on your triceps is especially important if your sticking point is close to the lockout in your bench press. The problem is that exercises like rope pressdowns and lying triceps extensions aren't well-suited for heavier work. They might not have a great transfer to pressing performance. To get optimal triceps development, you need to include some heavier exercises.
The modified French press is easy on the shoulders. And you don't have to worry about your pecs taking over the way they often do during weighted dips or close-grip bench presses.
This exercise is somewhere between a traditional French press (an overhead triceps extension) and a close-grip bench press. It allows you to use heavier weight and load the triceps almost exclusively.
Notice I'm using camber attachments because my ceiling is too low to do overhead work with a regular bar. For the exercise, you can use a normal loaded bar. I'm also using a fairly light weight (115 pounds) for demonstration purposes. You'll likely be able to use more.
- Start the bar from safety pins just above your head. You can also military-press the weight up.
- Use a grip that's inside shoulder width. I like to have the outer edge of the pinky finger in line with the outer edge of the deltoid or slightly inside of that.
- Make the concentric action (pushing the bar up) feel like a press, not an extension. The bar path should be straight, not curved backward like a triceps extension.
- The arms are in the scapular plane. The elbows won't be pointing forward, nor will they be pointing directly sideways. It's between those two.
- On the way down (eccentric), let your elbows move out to allow you to keep the bar path straight. They should not move further forward or backward. This will make the exercise look like an extension from the back but like a press from the side.
- When the bar reaches a point close to the top of your head, press it back up in a straight line.
- This exercise can also be done seated in the Smith machine to keep the bar path straight.
You'll probably be able to go heavy without any shoulder issues. Close-grip bench presses and dips performed with heavy weight put a lot of strain on the shoulder joint.
It can also give you a great pump and mind-muscle connection. This isn't a guarantee that it's better than everything else, but the pump certainly indicates it's working.
The modified French press also improves shoulder stability and core strength since you need to maintain a proper upright position.
Finally, it's also less traumatic on the joints than heavy bench press lockouts, which can put a lot more strain on the elbow and shoulder joints because of the heavy weights required.
While you can use this exercise with higher rep ranges like 8-10 and 10-12, it really shines with heavier loads. Try 4-5 sets of 5-6 reps, keeping 1 or 2 reps in the tank.
Do it as your first triceps movement in your workout. Then complement it with a set of 6-10 on a form of triceps extension: pulley, dumbbells, or EZ-bar.
You might also try finishing the workout with 50 reps (unbroken if possible) of band triceps pushdowns. That combination of exercises will give you nasty, thick triceps in no time and the pressing power to go with it.
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