I could feed you the old gimmick of obsessing over bigger arms, and I could acknowledge your desire to impress others with your summer guns, but all that is overrated. Let’s train your triceps because they will turn your arms into functional and beastly pressing machines. Today, I’ll take a deep dive into the importance of the Tate Press and what my clients like to call the Fairbairn Press.
The triceps muscle is divided into three parts: the lateral, long, and medial heads. As such, developing all three of these parts has functional and aesthetic importance. The primary role of the triceps is to extend the forearm and arm, respectively. Secondly, the triceps serve to decelerate the arm during eccentric loading. Lastly, it is responsible for pulling the arms behind the body and stabilizing them during loaded carries.
I’ve been told often that I’m crazy for teaching my clients how to perform a bench press in concert with training for a push-up or loaded carry. However, the triceps are worked maximally this way and the Tate Press is a great way to start.
The Tate Press
The Tate Press named after Dave Tate and is done on an incline bench for proper positioning. Made popular by powerlifters, these presses help to develop thickness along the medial head of the muscle, promoting pressing power deeper in the hole on a bench press.
This, in the bodybuilding world, is often utilized to build a tie-in with the front of the biceps and helps to separate it from the bicep as well. As seen in the video below, my coracobrachialis is also very active, thus building a more quality arm aesthetic.
- Begin with grabbing the dumbbells with a neutral grip on your thighs while seated on an incline bench.
- With a 45 degree to 75-degree angle similar to a standard width push up, place the back of the hand facing you. As you adjust, you should feel the bones and or muscles of the forearm twist. Once settled into position your knuckles should be pointing at you. Imagine giving yourself a double knuckle kiss.
- Place the weights on your chest—this is your starting position, a stretch should be felt in the inner arm.
- Initiate the movement from your elbows, not your shoulders as the chest should remain relatively quiet, and extend for 1 to 2 seconds with a peak contraction at the top locking out similar to what you would do on a bench press. Go from chest to slightly more than shoulder-width apart.
- Reverse the movement by lowering the weight for three seconds, feeling the stretch return on the triceps. If you’re looking in the mirror, the area deep to your bicep should flare up, this is your coracobrachialis. This will feel like a shoulder exercise if your elbows flare from 80 to 90 degrees or if the arms are unconsciously uneven. It is possible to perform this at 80 to 90 degrees, however close proximity to 90 degrees increases the likelihood of irritating the glenohumeral and acromioclavicular joints substantially.
The Fairbairn Press
The Fairbairn Press is named, well, after myself, and is something I came up with during a Grade 2 AC joint separation after a few scrimmages of rugby in undergrad. I desperately wanted to bench press again and work on my weaker of my two arm muscles.
With an unstable shoulder, I couldn’t afford to cause further injury so I looked at the range of motion of the floor press and the standard cable rope triceps extension and jerry-rigged something together.
- Utilize a cable rope, medium straight bar, or a W-bar (as seen in the video). I personally prefer the W-bar because as I rotate around the axis of my elbow so, too, does the bar. Moreover, without risking hyperextension I can get a better peak contraction.
- Choose a full grip if you have the wrist and shoulder flexibility—if not, choose to utilize a thumbs-over grip or unfairly coined “suicide” grip.
- Stand at an angle to the cable machine such that your abs and lats are engaged with bent arms.
- Extend down and away from you. This should bring you to what imitates the lockout of a bench press or a poorly executed tricep pulldown exercise.
- Keep your chest up and scapula retracted as you push your elbows behind the body, thusly bending the arms once again. Your rhomboids and deeper rotator cuff muscles will be at work and should remind you of the lower phase of a bench press. This phase ends as you’ll feel a stretch along the medial head of the tricep and a portion of the long head.
- Push your arms straight forward to return to the previous position. End by bending your arms once again to mimic the starting position.
- Note: this can be modified to be a kneeling exercise (lighter weights must be used, especially if thoracic extension or core stability is not considered strong). This exercise can be further modified by taking a reverse grip similar to a one-armed reverse grip tricep pressdown/extension exercise.
- This is technically more taxing because it requires a two-step approach, but it helps to keep you aware during the movement such that the carryover to a bench press is greater. The world-renowned JM press and California press, in my humble opinion, do not have great carry over to the bench press due to positioning and stress but are a great addition to triceps development.
Lift with love my friends!