Power Your Tri’s for a Powerful Bench
Building up your triceps gives you more than big arms. You’ll boost your bench press, too.
By Johnnie Jackson, IFBB Pro
[Q] How important can triceps possibly be for pressing power? They’re such a small muscle group!
[A] Small? Perhaps, when you compare them to larger muscle groups like your legs or back. Insignificant? Hardly. The triceps are very important in pressing movements. When I was growing up, guys all bragged about their bench press, and you trained to outdo everyone else in the gym. My brother taught me how to work on my triceps harder, and now they even kind of dominate my biceps! I bench pressed 305 when I was 16, more than most kids my age, all because my triceps were stronger. Don’t underestimate their importance if you want a big bench — or to build up your pecs.
[Q] Do most powerlifters train their triceps regularly?
[A] A lot of powerlifters don’t isolate them in their training. Some guys do different kinds of benches, especially with a close grip, to blow them up. Floor presses with a narrower grip are also popular. These types of lifts allow you to use heavier weight to overload the triceps. Lifters might not do a lot of isolation work for triceps but they’re still working them in other ways. As a bodybuilder and powerlifter, I still isolate each muscle group because having strong supporting muscles is important. It helps push more weight. If your triceps are limiting, you won’t be able to move as much weight. That’s a fact. If your triceps complement your chest in the sense that you’re working them hard, you’ll be able to move more. Makes sense to me!
[Q] What exercises are most important for building triceps strength?
[A] The floor press is one of my favorites because when you come to a rest in the bottom position, your triceps are key in pressing that weight up to full extension. After that I like the close-grip bench press. You can really overload your triceps on that with more weight than you could use on skullcrushers or kickbacks. Dips are good, too.
[Q] Do you have any unique triceps training techniques that you like to use to press more weight?
[A] If you’re doing isolating movements, you don’t want to get too crazy. Stick to basic techniques, heavy weight and a lot of volume. That should be enough.
[Q] Do my triceps get enough work on my other pressing movements?
[A] Definitely not. You use calves all the time — standing, walking, climbing stairs — but you still have to train them directly to build strength and size. If you want to focus on your triceps, you have to hammer them.
Johnnie’s Pre-Powerlifting Triceps Routine
Band Pressdown 3 sets x 20 reps
Straight-Bar Pressdown 4 sets x 20 reps 
Close-Grip Bench Press  4 sets x 10 reps
Overhead Rope Extension 3 sets x 15 reps
Triceps Machine Dip 3 sets x 20 reps
Skullcrusher 3 sets x 15 reps
Close-Grip Push-Up 3 sets x 20 reps
 Johnnie performs a three-phase drop set on the fourth set, doing 15 reps per drop.
 He alternates between the close-grip bench press and the floor press from week to week.