Workouts & Exercises

Seated Tricep Press: How To, Muscles Worked, Benefits, and Alternatives

Also referred to as seated dumbbell tricep extension, the seated tricep press is a variation of the dumbbell tricep extension. It’s an exercise that isolates the triceps.

If you’re looking to target the long head of the triceps, overhead extension exercises are usually the way to go. By focusing on the long head of the triceps and jacking it up, your triceps will also look beefy.

Isolation exercises such as the seated tricep press are not only good for making you look good, but they can also be used to improve your strength on other pressing motions as well as for both calisthenics and weight workouts.

What Is the Seated Tricep Press?The seated tricep press is among the most popular arm-building workouts in the fitness space

The seated tricep press is one of the more well-known exercises for arm building. It focuses on the triceps and consists of holding a dumbbell by both hands and extending it up behind your head.

The recommended range of reps for this exercise falls within the range of 8-12 reps or more per set.

If you intend on using a heavy load, then I recommend getting someone to help you set up the weight into position as to not risk being injured.

How to Do the Seated Tricep PressSo, how exactly is the seated tricep press done

If you’re scratching your head over how to go about pulling off the seated tricep press, here’s a breakdown of the whole move –  start to finish.

Step 1

Sit down on a weight bench with back support. Get a dumbbell and hold it overhead at arm’s length while gripping it with both hands. If you have bigger hands it is easier to get the motion started. Smaller hander peeps should start with a lower weight till they get the correct motions and form mastered.

Step 2

Keep your upper arms close to your head and make sure your elbows are pinned throughout the exercise. That way, you’ll get the most out of the exercise.

Step 3

As you take a breath, lower the dumbbell by flexing your elbows until your lower and upper arms form a slightly less than a 90-degree angle.

Step 4

Always keep your arms perpendicular to the floor during the exercise.

Step 5

Breathe out and invert the motion by using your triceps to extend your elbows.

Step 6

Pause for a moment and contract your triceps at the tip of the movement.

Step 7

Rinse and repeat until you finish your set.

Here is a video explaining these steps:

Seated Tricep Press Video Illustration

Seated Tricep Press TipsExert tension in your butt and abs to keep your rib cage down and avoid over-extending the lumbar spine

  • Avoid overextending through the lumbar spine. Make sure your ribcage remains down. This can be done by maintaining tension through your butt and abs.
  • I highly recommend slowing the motion of the lowering part of the exercise. It will help improve tension and mind-muscle coordination.
  • Keep your head in a neutral position; otherwise, you might end up putting too much pressure on the cervical spine.

Muscles WorkedSeated tricep press ussually works both your tricep and shoulders

So, which muscles can I target with the seated tricep press exercise? There are two main muscle groups you can target with this exercise;

TricepsThe tricep, as the name alludes, is a muscle made of three muscle heads; the long, medial and lateral head

As the name of the exercise clearly suggests, the seated tricep press focuses primarily on – you guessed it – the triceps.

On another note, the triceps unlike the biceps muscle is made up of three heads, as you would’ve guessed by the name: the long, medial, and lateral head. The overhead triceps extension focuses on the long head of the triceps, but both the other heads are heavily involved during the exercise.

If you want to target the long head of the biceps though, we have dedicated an article to the techniques and exercises you should use, that way you have a stellar-looking arm.

Related: Should You Train Biceps & Triceps on the Same Day?

ShouldersYour shoulder muscles also become engaged when doing the seated tricep press exercise

In addition to the triceps, your shoulders will also be worked during the motion of the exercise. They play a secondary role. When you reach the top of each rep, your deltoids will shorten and contract as your muscle fibers are engaged.

Other exercises that work the shoulder include, the military press, the Zottman curl, alternating dumbbell presses, regular bench and dumbbell presses, and easier exercises like wall angels which is an exercise suitable for beginners.

Benefits of the Seated Tricep PressThis exercise comes with several benefits that make it worth the effort

Besides working your triceps and shoulders, this exercise still has more benefits that make it a favorite for many fitness freaks out there;

Strength GainsOne of the most obvious benefit you get with doing seated tricep press is the build up of strength and muscle mass

The main goal of this exercise is to increase muscle growth in the triceps if your triceps are not growing. This exercise is unique in that it works the entirety of the tricep, which will mean that it’s among the most efficient exercises for growing beefy and impressive tri’s.

Whether you’re looking for aesthetics or want to become better and stronger in sports, the seated tricep press is an excellent exercise to add to your upper body workout routine.

Minimal Stress on the WristsThe other cool benefit to doing the seated tricep is that it is easy on your wrists

This exercise is an excellent exercise for people who have wrist pain. Since the exercise doesn’t involve any wrist rotation, there’s little to no stress on them throughout the motion.

Common Seated Tricep Press MistakeThe one most common mistake beginners make when doing the seated tricep press is flaring the elbows during the move

To get the most out of this workout, however, there’s one common beginner mistake to avoid when doing the seated tricep press;

Flaring Your ElbowsDoing seated tricep press with your elbows flared out takes the load off your triceps and into your chest

If you’re doing any tricep exercises with your elbows flared out, then you might as well be calling them chest exercises. If you want to grow your triceps, you’ll need to keep your elbows tight to your sides so that you focus on your triceps. Flaring them out will involve your pecs instead of your triceps.

What I always recommend for people who are struggling with this mistake is to press their elbows in as much as they can when they lower and raise the weight.

Seated Tricep Press Alternative ExercisesWhat are the best seated tricep press alternatives

If you’re finding this workout too tough for you, there are several alternative exercises to the seated tricep press that will give you pretty much the same results.

One-Arm Overhead ExtensionThe one-arm overhead extension is by far the easiest alternative exercise to the seated tricep press

This is one of those variations that is so subtle that you might as well have already been doing it without realizing it.

How to Do One-Arm Overhead Dumbbell ExtensionHow is the one-arm overhead dumbbell extension done

  1. Grab the dumbbell of your choice – of course, as long as it’s not one of those gigantic millennium dumbbells – and sit at the end of a flat bench. You can also use a 90-degree backbench. Rest the dumbbell on your thighs.
  2. Grasp the dumbbell with the palm of your left hand, facing your feet, and lift it above your head until your arm is fully extended.
  3. Place your right hand across your stomach or on your knee to brace your right arm.
  4. Slowly lower the dumbbell behind the right side of your head until it reaches your left ear. Make sure to only bend at the elbow.
  5. Pause for a moment and squeeze your tricep. Then, return the dumbbell to the starting position.
  6. Make sure that your elbow is not locked out.
  7. Rinse and repeat until you finish your set. Then repeat with your right arm.

One-Arm Overhead Extension Video Illustration

Close Grip Bench PressThe close grip bench presss is a variation of the bench press that helps to build strength and muscle mass

This exercise is a variation of the bench press. It’s used as a tricep exercise for building strength and muscle. However, it will also work the chest and shoulders.

If you’re looking for an exercise that’s all about jacking up your triceps, then you’ll hardly find anything better than the close grip bench press. With that said, keep in mind that this exercise might cause some elbow and shoulder discomfort for some people. If so then the chest press might be a better option than the bench press.

If you’re able to do the exercise, it’s a must-do for any type of workout that involves triceps, in my opinion.

How to Do Close Grip Bench PressHow should I do the close grip bench press exercise for maximum gains

  1. Lie down on a bench and put your hands at shoulder width.
  2. Pinch your shoulder blades together and drive them into the bench.
  3. Breathe in and let your spotter assist you in the lift-off so you can keep your upper back tight and secure.
  4. Make sure your upper back stays tight after the lift-off as you let the weight settle.
  5. Breathe in as you let the bench press bar descend slowly up, unlocking your elbows.
  6. Ensure that you lower the bar in a straight line until it reaches the breastbone base and touches your chest.
  7. Press yourself onto the bench and push the bar back up. Make sure to follow a straight path when doing so. Drive your feet into the floor and extend your elbows to help you push the bar.
  8. Rinse and repeat until you finish your set.

Close Grip Bench Press Video Illustration

Rope Tricep Extensionhe rope tricep extension is an alternative to the cable tricep extension, and helps build your tricep muscles

An alternative exercise to the cable tricep extension is the rope tricep extension. It’s used for building the muscles of the triceps.

Having strong and well-built triceps will translate to a lot of other exercises that involve pressing movements such as shoulder press variations as well as bench press variations.

This variation is a great addition to any full-body workouts, push workouts, upper body workouts like the planche lean, and especially tricep workouts.

How to Do Rope Tricep ExtensionThis workout is pretty easy to do once you nail the right form

  1. Attach a rope to a cable stack as high as you can and get into a standing position
  2. Hold the rope with a neutral grip and slightly lean forward by hinging at the hips.
  3. Start moving by flexing your triceps and extending your elbows.
  4. Pull down the rope until your elbows are almost locked out. Then slowly allow the rope to get back into the starting position in a controlled motion.
  5. Rinse and repeat until you finish your set.

Rope Tricep Extension Video Illustration

Lying Tricep ExtensionThe lying tricep extension, or the skull crusher, is best done by advanced lifters who can master the right form

Also known as the skull crusher, the lying triceps exercise is aimed at advanced users as it can be pretty tough. So yeah, you should measure your fitness level before taking it on.

If you’ve already got the aforementioned exercise mastered, you can add this one under your belt and truly master the whole upper region of your body. You can even perform this exercise along with a dumbbell chest press in one superset.

How to Do Lying Tricep ExtensionUnlike most other seated tricep press alternatives, this one is done with a barbell and on a flat bench

  1. Position yourself on the end of a flat bench and put a barbell (here is a sneak peek into some cool affordable barbell options) on your thighs.
  2. Hold the barbell and with an overhand grip and have your hands shoulder-width apart.
  3. Bring the bar up to your chest and lie down on your back. Then extend your arms up above your chest.
  4. Keep your elbows in place. Make sure they’re not pointing out as you lower the bar until it’s about an inch from your forehead.
  5. Pause for a moment and slowly get back to the starting position by extending your arms.
  6. Make sure not to lock out your elbows.
  7. Rinse and repeat until you finish your set.

Lying Tricep Extension Video Illustration

Tricep DipsThe tricep dips exercise is also slightly advanced and thus better done by folks who know what they are doing

This is yet another advanced exercise for those who want to master the art of building their triceps. This is a demanding variation that involves one’s entire body weight. If you have weak shoulders, I recommend avoiding this exercise.

Begin with two sets of 8-10 reps each. As you get the hang of the exercise, increase the number of sets and reps.

How to Do Tricep DipsDoing tricep dips doesn't have to be tougher than it should be once you get the form right

  1. Hold the parallel dip bars. Make sure your hands are facing inward (inward grip).
  2. If you’re working with adjustable bars, set them up to be around shoulder-width apart.
  3. Jump up and take your weight to the bars.
  4. The most important part is keeping your body straight. Avoid leaning forward.
  5. Slowly descend while making sure that your eyes keep facing forward.
  6. Descend until your elbows are at the same level as your shoulder, then raise yourself back up without. Do not lock your arms when you reach the top of the motion.
  7. Rinse and repeat until you finish your set.

Tricep Dips Video Illustration

Diamond Push-UpsWith diamond push-ups, you will be doing pretty much push-ups, only with a different palm position

This is a simple yet difficult variation of the traditional push-up that involves your triceps.

How to Do Diamond Push-UpsThe diamon push-ups only requires setting your hands in a diamond-like formation, then do it as you would normal push-ups

  1. Get into the push-up position. Put your hands in a diamond-like formation with your index fingers and thumbs touching.
  2. Lower your chest until it almost touches the floor, all while keeping your back straight.
  3. Rise to the starting position
  4. Rinse and repeat until you finish your set.

Diamond Push-Ups Video Illustration

Dumbbell Tricep KickbackIf you have been doing bicep curls,then the dumbbell tricep kickback is very close to how you do the curls

The dumbbell tricep kickback is pretty similar to a biceps curl. It’s a simple yet effective exercise.

How to Do Dumbbell Tricep KickbackThe dumbbell tricep kickback can be done easily when sitting on a bench provided you know what to do

  1. Sit on the left side of a flat bench with your right knee and right hand resting on it.
  2. Grab a dumbbell with your left hand using a neutral grip. Maintain a straight back and keep looking forward.
  3. Bend at your elbow while keeping your left upper arm close to your torso. Keep your arm at a 90-degree angle with your upper arm and forearm.
  4. Raise the dumbbell behind you by moving only at the elbow until your arm is fully extended.
  5. Pause for a moment. Then lower the dumbbell back into the starting position.
  6. Rinse and repeat until you finish your set and do it again with your right arm.

Dumbbell Tricep Kickback Video Illustration

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