My 5 Favorite Tricep Exercises for Building Up The Overhead Press (2016)
If you want to get big as a drug-free lifter then I’ve mentioned it hundreds of times how you have to take your shoulders to the next level and the most logical way of doing that is by taking your overhead pressing variations to the next level.
In the past I have made one of the biggest overhead pressing mistakes of all and it was the one of not attacking my weaknesses. I was doing a ton of z press variations for building bottom end strength while also doing a lot of partial overhead variations to build my lockout as well. I also incorporated a ton of other overhead pressing variations, but then a few weeks passed by and my press still wasn’t going up as much as I wanted it to.
The progress was decent, but I didn’t just want decent, I wanted optimal. My training partner and I were going at it back and forth, he killed me with his shoulder strength while I would get my revenge with my back strength and our lower body strength was similar.
I thought to myself: “what do I have to do in order to get my overhead pressing up to par?”.
I started looking back at my programming and noticed that I was REALLY slacking off on my tricep work and its a shame because you NEED strong triceps in order to press a lot of weight overhead. The triceps are extremely important for benching, so why wouldn’t they be important for overhead pressing?
In fact, I would argue that the triceps are just as important for overhead pressing because you can’t use the power of your chest as much as you would be able to use it during a horizontal pressing variation. This was why I started doing more Q&A’s with some strongman competitors who had world records and were some of the strongest men to ever live.
For example, I talked to guys like Dimitar Savatinov, Johannes Arsjo, Jordan Steffens and the list goes on. I asked them countless questions about overhead pressing and what they did to improve their press as well which helped me gain a lot of the knowledge that I am going to share with you today.
I always say that if you want to get good at something then you have to learn from the best. You can’t just pull random information out of your ass and think that it is going to be effective.
Luckily for me I learned a lot from these athletes and I have been doing a lot of what they have been saying. My overhead press is nowhere near where I want it to be, but the tricep work is definitely helping and in the long run it will all be worth it.
In this article I am going to give you some of the best tricep exercises that you could do for building your OHP. I am not mentioning partial range top half lockouts because I’ve already discussed the effectiveness of those in another article.
Lets get into it.
1.CLOSEGRIP BENCH PRESS VARIATIONS
If you look at most of the strongman competitors, one thing that you will notice is that they don’t do a lot of wide-grip benching and the reasons are because the close-grip bench helps their tricep strength for overhead pressing and the other reason why is because when you do a lot of vertical pressing like these guys are doing you want to keep the assistance work as shoulder-friendly as possible. The strongman competitors don’t use a super close grip, but about shoulder width or slightly more in because that helps also build the pecs as well and they don’t do too much pec work so it doesn’t hurt to get a little bit more in either to help strengthen and hypertrophy that area as well.
Another thing that you want to take into account is that you can’t always do the same movement if you want to avoid plateaus so this is why you want to make sure that you are rotating closegrip bench pressing variations as well every few weeks.
For example, you might do a closegrip decline bench for 3 weeks followed by a regular closegrip bench for 3 weeks followed by an incline closegrip bench for 3 weeks and then you could go right back to the decline. That is personally how I am doing it right now (which is in the 3 week cycles) and I am working in the 8-12 rep range for the most part.
Another thing that i must mention is that if you are more advanced then you might want to consider using bands in order to accommodate the resistance because that is going to overload the top more and work your triceps a lot more.
So to conclude 1#, make the closegrip benching variations a staple and watch as your overhead press goes through the roof. You don’t need as much widegrip benching as you think to build your overhead press so if you are going through a phase where you are trying to bring up your overhead lifts then I would just make the closegrip bench my main horizontal press.
2.OVERHEAD TRICEP EXTENSION VARIATIONS
Overhead tricep extension variations are also an exercise that should be a staple in your program. They work the long head of the triceps which is obviously important for overhead pressing strength. The reason why it is important is because you want to get your triceps strong in the overhead position, although it is true that you want to strengthen more than just the long head for optimal tricep strength for the overhead press.
As a bonus I just want to mention that Dimitar Savatinov mentioned in the Q&A that I had with him that the closegrip bench press is the tricep exercise that he goes the heaviest on and the other tricep exercises that he does in the form of extensions are done lighter with higher reps in order to pump some blood into that area. So to all of you guys trying to get a stronger overhead press, be careful with the weights that you use on extensions because you don’t want to injure your elbows either.
For example, I would never go under 10 reps on any form of extension, it just isn’t worth it in my opinion. The way that I do my overhead extensions is that I will try to tuck my elbows in a bit while going down until I get a stretch in my triceps and I will pause there for a second then use the power of my triceps to go back up. I don’t like to use momentum and body English on these because I am trying to get the most out of less weight, no point in doing half or quarter reps on extensions.
I use and have used a lot of overhead extension variations, but one that I really like is the overhead EZ bar extension because it is very comfortable for the wrists and you can go a bit heavier too.
The Tate press is another great tricep exercise that allows you to use a decent amount of weight while being a very elbow friendly lift. I like to do these on an incline, flat or decline bench for sets of 10+. If you are trying to improve your bench press or closegrip bench then these are a great lift for that as well.
This is a great exercise that will help build your closegrip bench press which will in turn help build your overhead pressing strength, its a must-have lift.
4.ROLLING DB TRICEP EXTENSIONS
Rolling DB tricep extensions are one of the most elbow friendly tricep exercises that you could do which is good because we aren’t trying to hurt our triceps in the process of getting a stronger overhead press.Just like the tate press, I like to do these on an incline, flat or decline bench for sets of 10+.
5. BAND PUSHDOWNS
Last but not least we have the famous band pushdowns. I personally like ot do these at home because you can easily loop a band over the door and I like to do these for the purpose of building the connective tissue in the elbows by using high reps. I like to do sets of 50-100 and it makes the elbows feel nice and ready for the next sessions ahead of me. I try to make it a point to do atleast 200-500 reps on the band pushdown per week.
So there you have it, these are some of the best tricep exercises that you could do for improving your OHP. Remember that the closegrip bench press is the one that you want to take the most seriously while the other tricep exercises should be done for higher reps with stricter form because you don’t want to injure your elbows in the process of getting a stronger overhead press.
Also remember that you are only strong as your weakest link so if you have a lift that you are trying to improve then hammer your weak links and watch the lift that you sucked at improve before your very eyes.