4 Barbell Exercises to Build Better Tricep Strength

Nick Showman
Written By: Nick Showman
April 5th, 2017
Updated: June 13th, 2020
Categories: Articles Training
38K Reads
4 Barbell Exercises to Build Better Tricep Strength
Got a goal to destroy that bench press PR of yours? Some tricep accessory work will help and these 4 barbell tricep exercises are a good place to start!

As we started this series, the goal was to discuss building stronger triceps for a bigger bench press.

The first part of the series discussed four key dumbbell movements that correlate to stronger triceps for bench press strength, and I hope you’ve implemented them into your workouts.

In this section, we will talk about some key exercises for your triceps to really build them for a big bench press utilizing a barbell.

This will give you eight total tricep exercises to choose from, giving you variety and the ability to mix and match, ultimately turning any tricep weaknesses into strengths.

Like I mentioned previously, weak triceps are a glaring hole in a weak bench press and that’s something we’re trying to rectify with this series.

Developing my tricep strength has me on the cusp of a 600-pound bench and these are all movements I’ve done and am currently doing to reach that mark.

Importance of Barbell Training for Tri’s

These four barbell movements are exercises that are generally done after a main movement, but these could also be done as a main movement.

Related: 3 Power Exercises For Tricep & Bench Strength

One thing to point out, I recommend using a straight barbell as it puts more pressure on the tricep muscle near the elbow joint. This is the part you need to strengthen for big presses, an aspect often forgotten about when it comes to building strong triceps as it relates to a bench press.

M&S Female Athlete With a barbell

The EZ curl bar was invented to take pressure off the elbow joint, but what we want to do is to build that area up as much as possible. Keep the EZ-curl bar in your rotation, but use it minimally. These are the movements that have created some of the biggest bench presses in history, so use them correctly and you will have a huge jump in your bench.

WHY- You may be asking why the selection of these movements and why such a heavy concentration on triceps. When you bench correctly, the tricep muscles drive the bench heavily.

The chest is responsible along with the back in the bottom portion of the movement, but not much after that. If the lifter develops the bad habit of letting their elbows flare out when they press up, then more pressure will be placed on the pecs and shoulder, which is what leads to so many lifters having pec tears.

Build your triceps up and you will stay healthier and press stronger than before! Let’s jump into the movements:


This is often a forgotten movement when it comes to working your triceps, in part because the execution takes some practice. Also, it doesn’t feel the most comfortable, but it’s a great mass movement to really build your bench.

To execute, take a grip about thumb length out from the knurling. Wrap the thumb back around the bar before you take it out. Take the bar down like a close-grip bench press, but when you get about 2-3 inches from your chest, roll the bar back to your nose and then reverse the movement.

This lift can build your triceps very fast but they must be done heavy. That’s an important aspect of this lift, as is this: Be sure not to cheat and press straight up using only shoulders.

Load the triceps as much as possible. When you reverse the bar to come up, focus on flexing right at the elbow to move the bar. This will help ensure that you are loading your tricep as much as possible.


This is an exercise that can be done with really heavy weight or for high reps. It’s really diverse and can come as a main movement with low reps (1 to 3-rep max) to a great finisher to completely smoke your triceps. I’ve had success with both and, honestly, I think athletes should rotate sets and reps for the ultimate results.

Our close grip is index finger placed on the beginning of the smooth part on the bar. Some people like to go closer, but when you do, this actually takes pressure off your triceps and puts more onto your shoulders. With the boards, we usually range from 2-4 boards and try to build our volume up each time.

When using higher reps, really focus on just flexing your triceps to move the weight off the board and keeping your elbows under the bar and not kicked out to the side.

On days you have this as a main movement, try a 1 or 3-rep max with any of the board ranges. If this comes after your main movement, you can still go heavy, but try to keep them in the 6-8 rep range for 3-4 sets. Another good rep range to experiment with to really blow out your triceps is 4 sets of 12-15 reps with a 2-, 3- or 4-board.


This is very similar to the JM Press, but the bar doesn't travel down and then over your face. Instead, it comes down more in a straight line to your chin. You will use more weight on this than you would a JM Press.

The big key for these presses is to keep the elbows in a straight line and drive up to the ceiling. These can be done with a close, medium, or wider grip. Try all of the different grips variations and use them all periodically.

For this exercise, we prefer to use this as a supplemental movement and keep the reps around 5-8 per set.


This is the last exercise in the barbell series and it’s my favorite way to do barbell extensions because the tricep has to fire to break the bar off the ground. I’ve seen great results from this and I know when my strength and performance is improving on this, my bench will go up.

Related: 5 Most Effective Exercises For Building Your Triceps

I prefer a closer grip with these and I make sure to have a one to two second pause on the ground. You may have to lower the weight a hair, but it really hammers your triceps this way. Usually we shoot for 4-6 sets of 8-15 reps.

If you want to add a twist, only make small jumps, five to ten pound per side each set, then on your last set do a strip set down to an empty barbell for max reps.

Wrap up

The more powerlifting meets I attend, the more need I see for strong triceps.

So many people miss big benches when they're trying to reach that last bit of extension in their arm.

These exercises will make a heavy bench press seem easier than before, and these are barbell exercises that have helped push the biggest benches of all time.

Use them to your advantage and get over a bench plateau you might be experiencing.