The triceps pressdown is one of the most classic ways to layer meat onto the back of your arms and really build superhero guns. But it’s also a move that people very often don’t get quite right. The main problem: They lean into every rep, using momentum instead of properly growing muscle, and they never really squeeze their triceps hard.
That’s where this triceps move from Men’s Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S., comes in. Here, you’ll use an incline bench to eliminate all cheating, while a mid-rep pause forces you to squeeze your triceps extra-hard and drive blood into the muscle you’re hoping to build and grow.
“This is all about precision,” says Samuel. “We’re eliminating all the ways you might get the triceps pressdown wrong so that your tris have to drive the motion. They’ll feel exhausted after just a few sets.”
To pull off the two-step incline pressdown, you’ll need an incline bench and a cable machine at your gym. Alternatively, you can use resistance bands anchored to a high anchor point instead of a cable machine. If you need an incline bench for your home gym, check out this unit from Bowflex.
- Set an incline bench to a 45-degree angle and line it up with your resistance band or cable stack. Lie on the bench, tightening your abs and squeezing your glutes, grasp the band or cable handles, and pull down, locking your elbows to your torso. Release tension, letting your elbows bend.
- Keeping your elbows tight, press down until your forearms are at a right angle with your upper arms. Pause, canceling out momentum.
- After the one-second pause, squeeze your triceps, straightening your arms; pause in this position.
- Return to the top. That’s 1 rep; do 3 sets of 10 to 12.
The key to the whole sequence, says Samuel, is that you can’t cheat. “On most triceps pressdowns, people get to lean forward, but you can’t do that on the incline bench,” he says. “At the same time, don’t let the incline bench become a crutch. You’re not lying there. You’re just using it to find a cheat-free angle, then you’re squeezing your abs and glutes into position.”
Add the two-step incline pressdown into your workout on any push day or on an arm blast day. It works best as a second triceps exercise, after you’ve done, say, skullcrushers, or as a move that hammers a little bit of triceps on a chest or full-body day, late in the session.
For more tips and routines from Samuel, check out our full slate of Eb and Swole workouts. If you want to try an even more dedicated routine, consider Eb’s New Rules of Muscle program.
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