If you want to improve pretty much any pressing movement in your training, you’ve got to build strong triceps. Want a stronger overhead press? Target your triceps to add muscle mass and improve elbow stability. Can’t lock out your bench press? Build bigger triceps. Adding triceps isolation exercises, like the Tate press, is one way to add more TLC to your triceps training — and improve your overall pressing game.
Bench presses and overhead lifts do develop your triceps. But with these compound moves, bigger muscle groups like your chest and shoulders can often overpower your triceps. With triceps isolation training, you can make sure you address any triceps weaknesses and imbalances that might be causing a plateau.
Exercises such as the Tate press — named after elite powerlifter and owner of EliteFTS, Dave Tate — won’t only increase triceps muscle mass and strength, but possibly help prevent injury at your elbows caused by weak muscles and excessive loading on your joints and connective tissues.
- How to Do the Tate Press
- Benefits of the Tate Press
- Muscles Worked by the Tate Press
- Who Should Do the Tate Press
- Tate Press Sets and Reps
- Tate Press Variations
- Tate Press Alternatives
- Frequently Asked Questions
This guide covers how to do the Tate press using dumbbells. You can also use resistance bands with a very similar setup. You can perform the Tate press on a flat bench or incline bench, based on which feels best for your shoulders and elbows.
Step 1 — Lie Down
Start by holding the dumbbells above your body as you would in a lying bench press position. Your thumbs should be next to one another, with your palms forward and elbows pointed outwards.
Coach’s Tip: Play with the degree to which your elbows are pointed outwards. See what feels best for your shoulders and elbows.
Step 2 — Bend the Elbows
Without moving your shoulders, initiate the exercise by bending your elbows. Bring your thumbs to the middle of your chest. Keep your elbows pointed outwards. The end of the dumbbells should touch your chest.
Coach’s Tip: Do not let your shoulders round forward off the bench.
Step 3 — Push the Pinkies Upwards
Extend your elbows. Be sure to keep your shoulders and chest out of the movement. Do not push your shoulders upwards off the bench.
Coach’s Tip: To keep the focus on your triceps, think about pushing your pinkies upward towards the sky.
Adding the Tate press to your program has a lot to offer lifters of various levels. Here are some of the ways that this move can reinvigorate your program.
Add More Triceps Muscle Mass and Strength
The Tate press targets your triceps and stimulates hypertrophy. When building muscle with isolation exercises, make sure you’re using proper loading and technique. In other words, to develop the most muscle, don’t use so much weight that you can’t maintain excellent form. The goal of hypertrophy is to efficiently fatigue the muscle rather than lift as heavy as you can.
Using a weight that challenges you but still facilitates solid form allows the Tate press to spark muscle growth. And bigger triceps means much bigger-looking arms, if that’s one of your training goals.
Increase Triceps Lockout Strength for Heavier Movements
Forging bigger triceps isn’t just about cultivating an aesthetic. Bigger, stronger triceps help increase lockout strength for your big compound presses. You can therefore improve your performance in movements like bench presses and overhead pressing.
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Even though these lifts do make your triceps stronger on their own, the benefit of isolated triceps training is that you can overload the triceps specifically. With compound movements, your chest and shoulders carry most of the load and your triceps help. Often, that means your triceps are the first to give out — your limiting factor against improvement. Targeting the triceps specifically isolates muscle imbalances or weaknesses that may exist during heavier compound movements.
Increase Blood Flow to Elbow Joint and Connective Tissues
High-rep sets performed for muscle isolation helps with increasing blood flow to local muscle and connective tissues. Doing high-rep sets helps push blood flow into your muscles, improves circulation, and can help keep your elbow joints healthy. To do this, use lighter weights, control your eccentrics, and get a ton of reps in to feel your muscles get pumped up.
The Tate press is a targeted pressing exercise that builds triceps strength and muscle. This pressing movement is highly isolated at the triceps because the elbows are the only point that should be moving freely through flexion and extension.
The triceps extend your elbow in pushing movements, especially at the top part of the bench press. The Tate press works to develop triceps pressing strength and stimulate muscle hypertrophy of the medial head (long head) of the triceps.
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Targeting the long head is extremely important, since it accounts for a lot of your triceps size, but isn’t directly targeted during presses.
Your shoulders should not be responsible for any movement or pressing during the Tate press. However, they’re important for maintaining your position during the exercise. If your shoulders are having trouble remaining stable, reduce the load to make sure it’s not becoming more of a workout for your shoulders than your triceps.
Strongwoman and Strongman Athletes and Powerlifters
Building stronger triceps is key for heavy overhead lifts, bench pressing, and general upper body strength. The Tate press adds volume to your triceps training without overloading your entire body. Plus, adding extra muscle mass and strength to your elbow extensors can also help (potentially) protect your joints from injury.
Olympic weightlifters can benefit from including triceps isolation movements even though their major movements are full-body compound exercises. Moves like the Tate press can improve overhead strength, lockout performance in the snatch and clean & jerk, and help to minimize injury at the elbow joint. Adding the Tate press into accessory segments, along with other tricep movements like dips, pushdowns, and overhead extensions are all great options to build stronger triceps.
The Tate press can benefit all gym-goers who are looking to build muscle mass in the triceps and boost pressing strength needed for heavy bench pressing and overhead lifts. You can program the Tate press like a pushdown, overhead extension, and other triceps isolation exercises. In other words, work toward increasing hypertrophy rather than trying to build max strength in this lift.
If you are looking to add the Tate press into your workouts, integrate them after your main strength training. This will help you build stronger, healthier triceps and elbows. Lifting in the moderate weight range for muscle growth and general strength is your best bet for muscle mass. However, you can also train the Tate press with lighter weights for higher reps to drive muscle growth and a ton of blood flow to the elbows and connective tissues at the elbow joint.
To Build Muscle Mass
If your main goal is to build muscle, use moderate weights in higher volume. You’ll typically do this after your main pressing strength work of the day (think: bench press, overhead press, etc.).
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Do three to five sets of eight to 15 reps with moderate to heavy weight. You can also perform two to four sets of 10 to 15 reps with a moderate load until failure. Rest for 45 to 90 seconds between sets.
To Increase Strength
The Tate press is a triceps exercise that can be used to build strength. However, heavier compound movements are going to carry the main bulk of your load. You’ll use single joint movements like the Tate press to assist in the overall development of strength.
That said, if you are looking to build lockout strength, focus on training in the five 10 rep range, for two to five sets. Try to lift a moderately heavy load, but make sure your form is picture perfect and that it’s not causing you any elbow pain.
Performing a Tate press with dumbbells on a flat bench isn’t the only way to go. The below Tate press variations offer slight tweaks to the dumbbell flat bench version and come with slightly different benefits.
Incline Tate Press
By performing the Tate press on a slight incline, you increase the range of motion of the flat bench Tate press. When adding range of motion to movements, you can help increase muscle hypertrophy because your muscles get a bigger weighted stretch.
If you control the movement well, you can also increase joint and connective tissue health and strengthen your end ranges of motion.
Resistance Band Tate Press
You perform the resistance band Tate press by extending your elbows against band tension. You’ll hold the bands, either anchoring them on the floor or underneath the bench.
The bands allow you to increase the tension and external loading as your elbows extend. At the same time, you’ll decrease the loading as you go into deeper ranges of elbow flexion. This accommodating resistance overloads the triceps in different ranges of motion. That can help rehabilitate your joints and connective tissues if dumbbell Tate presses are uncomfortable for you.
Whether the Tate press doesn’t feel comfortable for your elbows or you just want some more variety, these alternatives are great for truly triceps-specific exercises.
You perform a skull crusher lying on your back and bending at the elbows. That part is similar to the Tate press. The difference here is that you can use a curl bar, dumbbells, or even bands, and your elbows stay more tucked into the body that flared out.
The Tate press targets the long and lateral heads of the triceps. This move will shift even more emphasis to the long head. That’s because it loads the long head slightly more than the Tate press.
The JM press is a slight variation of the skull crusher. In it, you lower the bar to your chin or neck rather than your forehead or skull. By taking the bar to your chin rather than your forehead, the JM press is more of a hybrid between a skull crusher and a close-grip press.
With this lift, you can often overload your tricep with heavier loads. But it can also potentially minimize elbow pain for folks who may not be able to perform skull crushers pain-free.
The triceps pushdown is another single joint tricep isolation exercise that you can do in high volumes. That volume increases triceps elbow extension performance, muscle mass, and blood flow to your joints and connective tissues.
Overhead Triceps Extensions
The overhead triceps extension allows you to target the long head of the triceps. When you target the long head, you’re helping ensure optimal muscle growth and arm size because it’s such a big part of the muscle.
The Tate press helps you build bigger, stronger triceps without overtaxing your joints. By performing the Tate press and its variations and alternatives, you ensure that you are not only developing the triceps with heavy compound lifts. Because you’re giving your smaller muscles extra attention, you’ll help make your triceps as strong and powerful as possible. That way, you may be able to squeeze out a few more reps and add weight to your heavy pressing movements.
You’re ready to get on with your Tate presses, but you still have some questions. Below are a few more common questions about Tate presses and how to integrate them within your workouts.
What should I do if the Tate press bothers my elbow joints?
If this exercise activates a small amount of pain or discomfort, it makes sense to figure out why. First, reduce the weight to see if you’d loaded up too heavy. Check if your angles are correct. Try using resistance bands if you still get pain or discomfort from using dumbbells. If you are still in pain or have joint discomfort in your elbows, you may want to avoid this exercise.
Should I start or end my upper body pushing workout with the Tate press?
Generally speaking, you’ll want to add these toward the end of your session or after your main compound pressing work. You can train this lightly in warm-ups if you like. Try these after your main heavier presses for the day if you’re looking to really target your triceps.
How do I progress my Tate press?
You can advance your Tate press as you do with any other accessory exercise. You can progress this move by adding more reps, sets, increasing the load, or adding tempos and bands to stimulate the muscles.
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