French Press Exercise Guide

The French Press Exercise is an isolation movement focused on the triceps, the muscles at the back of the upper arm. The exercise involves extending a weight overhead, then lowering it behind your head before pressing it back up to the starting position. This concentrated motion effectively engages the tricep muscles, contributing to better arm definition and improved upper body strength. Variations can include using a barbell, dumbbell, or an EZ curl bar to execute the movement. It can also be performed either sitting or standing. Proper form is crucial to maximize muscle engagement and to avoid strain on the elbow and shoulder joints.

Target Muscle Group
Exercise Type
Equipment Required
Force Type
Experience Level
Secondary Muscles
Deltoids, Pectoralis Major, Serratus Anterior

Step by Step Guide

Set Up and position Yourself correctly

Begin by sitting or standing upright with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold your chosen weight—a barbell, dumbbell, or EZ curl bar—above your head with both hands, using an overhand grip. Your arms should be fully extended but not locked at the elbow. Keep your wrists straight and your core engaged for stability. If you're new to the French Press, start with lighter weight to master the form before progressing to heavier loads.

Lower the Weight

Keeping your upper arms and elbows stationary, slowly bend your elbows to lower the weight behind your head. Aim to get the weight as low as you can without compromising form, ideally until your forearms are just past parallel to the ground. Ensure that the motion is controlled and primarily driven by your triceps.

Press Back to Starting Position

Push the weight back up to the original overhead position using your triceps, keeping your elbows and upper arms stationary. Fully extend your arms at the top, squeezing your tricep muscles for optimal engagement. Repeat the exercise for the desired number of repetitions, generally between 8-12 if you're aiming for muscle building

Here are a Few Tips to Keep in Mind When Performing this Exercise.

  • Focus on Elbow Position: Ensure that your elbows are kept close to your head throughout the movement. Allowing them to flare out can reduce the efficacy of the exercise and put unnecessary stress on the shoulder joints.
  • Start with Appropriate Weight: Especially if you're new to this exercise, opt for a lighter weight to master the technique. Poor form with heavy weights can lead to elbow or shoulder injuries. As you gain strength and become comfortable with the movement, you can gradually increase the weight.
  • Keep Core Engaged: Maintain a tight core throughout the exercise to stabilize your upper body and protect your lower back. This focus will help you execute the exercise more efficiently, targeting the triceps without involving unnecessary muscle groups.

Exercise Benefits

  • Enhanced Tricep Strength: The French Press specifically targets the tricep muscles, which are crucial for pushing movements and overall arm strength. Regularly incorporating this exercise into your routine can significantly improve tricep strength.
  • Improved Arm Definition: This isolation exercise is highly effective for toning and defining the triceps, contributing to a more balanced and aesthetic upper arm appearance.
  • Reduced Injury Risk: Strengthening your triceps can offer better support and balance to your elbow and shoulder joints. This added stability can reduce the risk of injuries during other weightlifting exercises or daily activities.
  • Better Upper Body Balance: Triceps are often neglected in favor of their more visible counterpart, the biceps. A well-executed French Press exercise helps balance out your upper arm muscles, leading to a more well-rounded upper body.
  • Increased Functional Strength: A strong tricep muscle is vital for activities that involve pushing or throwing. Improved tricep strength can enhance your performance in other sports and daily tasks that require upper body strength.