Last week I talked about the best exercise for biceps. Today, we’re switching to the other side of the upper arm, the triceps. The triceps cover about 2/3 of the upper arm, and in order for proper proportions and symmetry, should not be overpowered by your biceps, or overpower your biceps too much. The best way to work overall mass for muscles is compound movements, which is why deadlifts, squats, bent-over rows, and bench press are always recommended as foundational exercises for those starting out.
On that note, the best exercise for triceps is the close-grip bench press. This exercise allows you to go heavier than other triceps exercises like cable push-downs or triceps dips. This ability to go heavier allows for more muscle fiber tearing, and thus more muscle growth.
The setup for the close-grip bench is just about the same as with regular barbell bench press. With the close-grip bench press, you want your hands to be just about shoulder width apart or just slightly closer. You do not want to go too close or it could hurt or injure your wrists. Retract your scapula and push your shoulders into the push so that you limit the shoulder activation during the movement. Inhale as you lower the bar, and keep your elbows in toward your sides, not flaring out as with a chest bench press. I find that focusing on lowering the bar slowly with just the triceps and then exploding up to a lockout position where I squeeze the triceps leads to the best pump.
The close-grip bench press, while killing those triceps, will also incorporate the chest and shoulders as secondary pushing muscles, which is why having a proper mind-muscle connection is such an important concept for building muscle. Focus on feeling it in the triceps, and on really contracting the triceps. I find that this helps me to get the most out of the exercise and increase the size of my triceps. Of course, there are many other great triceps exercises, but this one may just be the best for building overall triceps mass.