Your triceps brachii connects your shoulder blade and upper arm to your forearm. As the name suggests, the muscle comprises three branches – the long, lateral and medial heads. These branches act together to cause your elbow to straighten and move your lower arm back and downward. Although you can build the individual sections through isolation exercises, the best exercise for developing your triceps as a whole is the close-grip press.
This large muscle spans the back of your upper arm, making up about two-thirds of your arm muscle mass. The long head originates on the shoulder blade. Not only does it make the elbow straighten, but it also brings the arm toward the body by extending the shoulder joint. The lateral head has its beginning on the upper arm bone, and the medial head originates under the lateral head. These two heads act only on the elbow joint. The three branches merge into a tendon, which crosses over the elbow and attaches to the lower arm bone.
Close-Grip Bench Press
The standard bench press uses chest, shoulder and triceps muscles. This exercise starts with the barbell held over your body in a straight-arm position. Your palms are facing away from your head. To execute, slowly lower the weight to your chest, rest, then push the weight up to the original position. To focus on working your triceps, move your hands closer together until they line up with your shoulders. This position stresses your elbow joint and gives subsidiary roles to your chest and shoulder muscles.
A variation of the close-grip bench press is the close-grip pushup. This exercise uses your body weight as the stressor instead of a barbell. Place your hands on the floor with your fingers together and your thumbs touching, forming a diamond shape. From a straight-arm position, lower your body until your chest touches the floor, then push off, using your upper arms to support the weight.
Reverse-Grip Bench Press
Another variation of the close-grip bench press is the reverse-grip bench press. You perform the exercise the same way as the close-grip bench press, except your palms face toward your head. This gives a slightly different emphasis on your muscle action.
Susan Miller has been writing since 1970. She has published articles in print journals and online sites, including "Mutation Research" and "Toxicological Sciences." Miller holds a bachelor's degree in chemistry from the University of Florida, as well as a master's degree in biochemistry and a Ph.D. in cell biology from Texas A&M University.