Seated Tricep Press: How To w/ Video Demonstration, Muscles Worked, & Alternative Exercises
This article is going to cover the seated tricep press exercise. I have put together this guide to help you learn:
- How to do this exercise correctly
- What muscles are worked during this exercise
- Variations, and alternative exercises to the seated tricep press
- as well as tips for beginner getting started
What is the Seated Tricep Press?
The seated tricep press is an exercise geared mainly towards arm building by making use of a free weight dumbbell and gravity to make for an effective tricep exercise.
Looking at the positions involved in this exercise it is easy to think it is a low rep exercise that can’t be performed with heavy movements. On the contrary though, typically seated triceps presses usually involve heavy movements and reps as high as 10 or even 15 per set. I actually like to do around 20 reps.
The aim of a seated tricep press is to work the tricep muscles although results usually extend to the arms, and upper-body.
While the exercise is one that can be done conveniently on your own, it is usually a good idea to have someone in position to help load and relieve the weight onto and from your hands if you’re going to be going the heavy route with a higher number of reps.
How To Do The Seated Tricep Press
Here are steps you will need to follow in order to do this exercise correctly
Get into the starting position. You do this by sitting on a short bench with back support. Make sure that your back is leaned straight on the back support. Plant your feet firmly on the floor.
Grab a hold of a light weight dumbbell with both of your hands. As mentioned earlier, it may be a wise decision to have someone hand it over to you. That is if you’re going to be working heavier movements and higher reps.
Related Reading: Best Dumbbells for Women
Hold the dumbbell with both of your hands extended over your head and your palms facing inward. You must ensure the resistance rests on your palms with your thumbs wrapped securely around it. Step 1 to step 3 are still getting you into the starting position before performing the first rep.
Once in the starting position, extend your arms and keep them near your head. The dumbbell and your upperarm must remain perpendicular to the floor.
In a semi-circular motion pull the resistance behind you as you lower it down until your arm begins to touch your biceps. Ensure that your upper arm remains in its stationary position while only your forearms move.
Hold this position for about three to six seconds depending on how much you want to contract and stretch your tricep.
*Helpful Tip: Inhale as you execute these steps above.
Make sure your triceps stretch while you raise the dumbbell back to its initial starting position. Exhale during this step.
Repeat the steps from 1 to 8 for as long as you want to.
Seated Tricep Press Video Illustration
Seated Tricep Press Variation
Here is a variation of the seated tricep press that can allow you to target a different section of your tricep
For those in a hurry and just want to warm up the standing tricep press makes for a great variation exercise that I use quite often.
The seated tricep press is one of the most effective exercises at what it does and quite frankly, there is usually no need to opt in for the standard variation.
Seated Tricep Press with an EZ Bar
Seated tricep press can also be performed with an EZ bar or a barbell in place of a dumbbell. Your arms are closed in a tight grip on the bar with your palms facing forward.
Related Reading: Best Place to Buy Dumbbells & Weight Sets
The main muscles targeted through this exercise are the triceps.
A lot of bodybuilders in the gym are there for the sole purpose of having bigger arms and, quite surprisingly, do this while neglecting exercises like this that target the tricep muscles choosing instead to focus on the biceps.
Which is quite ironic because the triceps are bigger than the biceps and account for nearly 30% more arm mass than the bicep does.
Seated Tricep Press Alternatives
Looking for some better alternative exercises to substitute in for the tricep press? Here are the best ones
Cable Tricep Extensions
The cable tricep extension is an alternative exercise to the seated tricep press which involves the use of a rope and a pulley system for resistance. Like the seated tricep press, the cable tricep extension works the tricep along with the arms and other upper-body muscles.
Steps to do the Cable Tricep Extensions
- Attach a rope to the bottom of a pulley machine
- Grip the ropes tightly with both hands above your head and palms facing each other
- The ideal position for your arms is perpendicular to the floor with your elbow near your head. Your knuckles should point upwards.
- Once in this position, you can hold. This is your starting position.
- Lower the rope while your upper arm remains stationary. Breathe in and stop once you feel your tricep become fully stretched.
- Exhale as you bend your tricep to return to the starting position assumed earlier.
- Repeat the steps above for as many iterations as you deem necessary.
Cable Tricep Extensions Video Illustration
Seated Tricep Pushdown Machine
A seated tricep pushdown machine works the triceps and the biceps which is a welcomed advantage for a number of reasons. First, working with triceps without much work on the biceps may lead to certain injuries as a result of muscle imbalance.
And then there’s the fact that working both simultaneously sort of kills two birds with one stone. You would not for example, have to work the triceps before moving to another workout routine for the biceps alone.
A seated tricep machine also helps work the chest and shoulder muscles and unlike the seated tricep press, are carried out without a bench.
Steps to work a Seated Tricep Pushdown Machine
- Assume an upright position on a bench. Place your hands on the machine with your fingers facing your your butt.
- Shift your position slightly. The aim is to move forward a little so that your elbows move past your back and your knees become slightly bent.
- Place your legs as near to the bench as you like. You may choose to keep it close for a low intensity session or much farther for a high intensity session.
- Press the arms of the machine downward with your arms placed perpendicular to the floor.
- Return to the starting position with your elbows bent backwards.
- Repeat exercise for as many times as you can handle.
Seated Tricep Pushdown Machine Video Illustraion
Lying Single Dumbbell Tricep Press
The difference between a seated tricep press and a lying single dumbbell tricep press lies in the fact that in the former you’re seated while in the latter you’re lying supine on the bench with your face turned upwards.
The steps to do this alternative exercise
- Lie on a flat bench, back resting on the bench, face upwards, and leg in front.
- Hold a single dumbbell above your chest. Just like in the seated tricep press you may have someone load and relieve you of the dumbbell if you choose.
- Slowly lower the dumbbell towards your head. Bend only your elbows and ensure your triceps are squeezed as you carry out this movement.
- Once the dumbbell almost touches your head be sure to hold for a couple of seconds and then return your arms to the starting position.
- Iterate for as many repetitions and as many sets as you feel necessary.
Lying Single Dumbbell Tricep Press Video Illustration
Other exercises you can do as an alternative to the seated tricep press include low rows, the dumbbell floor press, and the T bar row, you can also do renegade rows but it’s a somewhat advanced exercise so it’s better to start with easier alternatives to the renegade row and move your way up from there.
Benefits of Seated Tricep Press
These are the main takeaway benefits of the seated tricep press exercise
Stronger and Bigger Triceps
The obvious first benefit of carrying out a proper seated tricep press is having stronger and bigger triceps. And while this can lead to even more effective results in other areas, having great triceps is a plus in itself as can be attested to by numerous bodybuilders around the world.
Target Particular Area of the Triceps
Another particular advantage of the seated tricep press as opposed to many of its variations and alternatives, is that it is arguably the best, or at least one of the best, ways to target the long head of the triceps which is one of the most obvious and important parts of the triceps.
Ability to Go Heavier
Most tricep isolation workouts usually begin with a high degree of difficulty. This is not the case with a seated tricep press. Thanks to its relative ease at the beginning it is possible to carry out the exercise in its simplest form as a beginner and is more convenient to scale to heavier movements as you progress.
Thanks to the fact that it is performed while in a seated position the question of balance is already solved. Right from the start you would have assumed as stable a position as possible on the bench – thereby eliminating any other complication and injury that may occur due to a lack of balance and stability.
Tips For Effective Tricep Training
When you are performing this exercise for the first time here are some tips to help you get the most out of your workouts and form
For most I would recommend if you have yet to try this exercise than to try and schedule it in as your 2nd exercise. The reason for this is it will allow you to hit one tricep exercise before hitting this one which gives you a nice warm up period and some time for you to pump your triceps with some nutrients as well as get a nice pump going.
Then there’s the question of intensity. How hard are you willing to go for the week? Ultimately, intense workouts bring more results than mild ones every time. Still, you have to be smart about it.
Turning up the intensity to the highest extent at the first go may not be the smartest thing to do. Taking things slow at the beginning, and then increasing the intensity as you go is regarded by many as the ideal path.
Finally, there’s a question of repetition. Again, it’s too easy to do an irregular amount of reps every time but having a uniform, coordinated schedule brings more efficiency all the time.
How to Tell the Right Intensity
It is not uncommon for adrenaline to kick in so much during an exercise that we push ourselves past the breaking point.
In the end it is up to you to understand your body,study the effect of each training session, and adapt accordingly the next time around. Slow and steady wins the race.
Limitations of Seated Tricep Press
Focus on Arm Development
This is not necessarily a limitation of a seated tricep press in itself as it is a limitation of working out the upper body only. Focusing on exercises such as this, which mainly works the biceps and triceps, may cause limitation to the development of the leg and lower body muscles.
Don’t be that guy that skips leg day just so he can have huge arms. On the contrary you also don’t want to be that guy who is squatting every day and has super skinny arms. Keep a balance.
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Hi there! I'm Ben, main author and chief editor at Fitlifefanatics.com. I have been obsessed with Strength Training and Fitness for 16 years now.
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