Your triceps — the muscle that sits on the back of your arm and flexes your elbow — are important for building bigger arms and moving more weight on the bench press. And few moves are better at strengthening and growing the triceps than the JM Press — a bench press-skull crusher hybrid that allows you to lift more weight and has direct carryover to horizontal pressing movements.
The move is the brainchild of esteemed powerlifter JM Blakely, and it’s now used by strength athletes as an aid to their bench press training. Below, we’ll walk you through how to do the JM press, the move’s benefits, alternatives and variations.
- How to Do the JM Press
- Benefits of the JM Press
- Muscles Worked by the JM Press
- Who Should Do the JM Press
- JM Press Sets, Reps, and Programming Recommendations
- JM Press Variations and Alternatives
- JM Press FAQ’s
To perform the JM Press, you’ll take the lying position and approximate hand-placement of a traditional close-grip bench press and perform the movement by lowering the bar toward your chin and back up to the starting position. Below, you’ll find a step-by-step process on how to perform this exercise properly.
Step 1 — Get Set
The setup for any exercise is crucial for ensuring you’re in the correct position to safely and successfully load the appropriate muscle tissue and take advantage of the unique leverages created by the specific exercise or movement pattern.
To begin the exercise, your body positioning is going to mirror that of the close-grip bench press. Lie supine position on the bench with your feet set flat on the floor just outside shoulder-width apart, with the barbell positioned above the forehead.
Tip: You do not want to be positioned directly under the barbell as this will not allow for a full range of motion during the press. Also, being positioned too close you run the risk of hitting the bar on the rack when lowering the bar.
Step 2 — Find the Correct Hand Placement
In the JM Press, you will want to individualize your hand placement as best you can, allowing for hands to be just outside of torso width and ensuring that your wrists are comfortable. You want a more narrow hand placement in this variation, but being too narrow can feel awkward and potentially strain the wrists.
Your hand placement should be around 12-18 inches apart (index finger to index finger). Larger people will have a further distance between hands versus those with smaller structures.
Tip: To help find your hand placement, bring the barbell down toward your chin to the end position of the exercise by flexing at the elbows and allowing for the shoulders to extend (draw backward) as needed. Once you’ve reached the end of your ability to flex at the elbows, and you’re sure your elbows are extended out around 45 degrees, adjust your hand placement to best match the image above.
Step 3 — Unrack the Weight
Next, you will need to unrack the barbell. When unracking the barbell, ensure you are in a safe position to manage the load as you press it up from the rack and into a starting position above your chin. If you are new to this exercise, unrack the weight with no load on the bar to get a feel for things before loading up your working weight.
With the unracked barbell resting firmly in the hand with a thumbless grip. Ensure the wrist is in a stable position and is not overly flexed or extended.
Tip: Due to positioning and the novelty of the exercise, you may want to have a spotter to ensure a safe unrack and rerack of the barbell.
Step 4 — Press the Weight
With everything in place and the barbell unracked, lower the barbell by flexing at the elbow. The benefit of this exercise is dependent on your ability to get deep into elbow flexion while maintaining a straight bar path.
The JM Press distinguishes itself by utilizing the elbow flexion properties of the barbell lying skull crusher paired with the pressing components of the close-grip bench press. Although this is an integrated barbell pressing variation, your goal will be to maximize elbow flexion while minimizing shoulder extension (the driving back of the shoulder during the eccentric).
The JM Press offers an array of benefits for all levels of athlete or fitness enthusiast. Below you will find three of the top benefits.
More Triceps Strength and Size
The JM Press is an exercise that can place high amounts of tension on the triceps and can help build muscle and strength. While it is a bench press variation, you are drastically flexing your elbows, which is a movement controller by the triceps.
Improved Lockout Performance in Bench Press
When it comes to posting a big bench press, a limiting factor can be the strength of your lockout. Your triceps are key for locking out the bench, as they’re the muscle the fully extend your arms. So, by strengthening your triceps, you’re improving the top half of your bench press lockout. Outside of the realm of powerlifting and strength sports, the ability to have significant elbow flexion strength and power extends to things such as gymnastics and other athletic activities.
Limits Strain on the Shoulders
Many barbell-based compound pressing movements have the potential to place high amounts of strain on the shoulders. The JM Press can be used to place more tension on the triceps muscle while minimizing the potential for strain around the shoulder. Powerlifters, Strongman athletes, Bodybuilders, and general fitness enthusiasts may find that the JM Press allows them to develop their pressing strength and lockout performance while limiting the strain and long-term wear and tear on the shoulder joint.
The JM Press is an upper-body pressing movement that helps place more tension on the triceps when compared to a more traditional bench press. The narrow hand placement allows for an increased amount of elbow flexion, leading to increased triceps engagement while placing minimal strain on the wrist and shoulder.
The triceps act as a main mover in the JM Press. The exercise’s unique movement pattern helps place more load on the triceps while minimizing tension placed on surrounding muscle tissue, such as the chest and shoulders.
The deltoids help stabilize the shoulder joint during this exercise. Although the main focus of the JM Press is on elbow flexion-extension, your shoulders are abducted (away from the midline) around 30-45 degrees.
Here’s a breakdown of the different populations that can and how they can benefit from the JM press.
Strength and Power Athletes
Improving the strength and lockout performance of the triceps is key to the success of many strength and power athletes. These sports require movements like the bench press, log press, clean & jerk, and many other vertical and horizontal movements that require significant amounts of triceps strength.
- Powerlifters and Strongman Athletes: The benchpress, log press, and many other vertical and horizontal pressing variations demand significant triceps strength. Utilizing the JM Press among other compound and isolation exercises will help build size and strength to the arms while having direct carryover to strength sports.
- Olympic Weightlifters: The JM Press is an excellent accessory exercise when it comes to triceps strength, joint health and tendon strength, and overall lockout performance necessary for movements such as the clean & jerk. This variation can specifically help those athletes who lack upper body strength while minimizing the risk of irritating the shoulder.
CrossFit athletes and those training for sport can use the JM Press within their programming to help increase upper body strength and muscle mass, especially in their triceps. Strong triceps will be important for maximizing performance in barbell-pressing variations (overhead press, bench press, overhead squats, and Olympic variations) and bodyweight variations (handstand and ring variations, wall balls, and burpees).
Bodybuilding and General Athletes
Training specifically for physique goals — whether for competitive bodybuilders or general fitness enthusiasts — can be beneficial for building size, strength, and improving overall body composition. The JM Press can be a great accessory for building overall size and strength in the triceps, helping you grow bigger arms and increase strength in pressing variations (bench press and overhead press).
For More Muscle
It is suggested to train across a wide range of rep ranges and training volumes to maximize muscle growth. Do three to five sets of six to 12 reps with moderate weight. You can also manipulate training tempos — like slowing down the eccentric or pausing at the bottom — can help increase time spent with significant muscular tension on the triceps.
For More Strength
The JM Press can also be used specifically for accessory work during strength-specific programs, which can help increase the tension placed on the triceps while limiting the amount of strain on the shoulders. Do three to six sets of two to six sets with heavy weight.
JM Press with EZ-Bar
Performing the JM Press with the EZ-bar is a great alternative to the barbell variation. for anyone who experiences wrist discomfort. The inward range of the EZ bar allows the wrist to remain more neutral during the lift, which prevents excessive flexion, or backward bending of the wrist. Because you (most likely) won’t be able to use as much weight on this variation, be sure to perform more reps.
JM Floor Press
This exercise is to the JM press as the floor press is to the bench press. By performing the JM press on the floor, you restrict your range of motion and allow for two things to happen. First, you can lift more weight for a greater strength-building response. Second, your triceps — which are most active during the top portion of the bench press — will be more engaged overall.
JM Press with Multi-Grip Bar
The multi-grip bar — often referred to as the Swiss bar or football bar — allows for multiple hand grip placements in a semi-pronated position. The choice of grip on this variation can allow for more individualization compared to a traditional barbell.
JM Press on Smith Machine
Doing the JM press on a smith machine allows for better technique, as the smith machine is on a fixed path. You won’t be able to break the bar path.
When should I do the JM Press?
The JM Press can be added to your programs to help place more tension on the triceps while minimizing strain on the shoulders. This exercise is great for improving the overall strength and size of the triceps and lockout performance in horizontal and vertical pressing variations. Whether you are a powerlifter, strongman athlete, Olympic weightlifter, bodybuilder, CrossFit athlete, or fitness enthusiast, the JM Press can be used effectively to improve your triceps strength and muscle size.
Is the JM Press better for my shoulders?
When compared to a more conventional bench press, most likely. Your arms are less abducted, and there is little to no movement at the shoulder joint. The JM Press’s main motion comes from elbow flexion-extension, which means there shouldn’t be discomfort on your shoulder during the exercise. Of course, if you have a pre-existing shoulder injury, you should consult with your doctor before training.
Should I warmup for the JM Press?
The JM Press is an exercise that places significant amounts of tension on the triceps, and therefore the elbow joint. It is advised that you start with a low and manageable load and ascend the weight-used through your sets. Warming up will help you protect your elbows and ensure you do not strain the triceps.
Can beginners use the JM Press?
Yes. But understand that this is a more advanced exercise. If you are a beginner, ensure that you start with no load on the barbell — or use one of the variations — and you focus on proper technique. Starting slow will ensure your safety while working on your skill acquisition and building up strength in your triceps.
Featured image: elitefts’s YouTube channel