Performing French bench press, standing and sitting – with a barbell and dumbbells

Apr 11, 2021 by Adam Addison
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In order for your triceps to be in great shape, you need to train them. This will help you with one of the most effective exercises – the French bench press, as well as options for doing this exercise while sitting and standing.

The secret of powerful hands

When newbies come to the gym, the first thing they want to do is build their biceps. They do not know that most of the volume of the arms is formed by the muscle that straightens the arm – the triceps. It is located on the back of the hand.

So let’s swing triceps! To do this, we will get acquainted with such an exercise as the French bench press. There are a lot of variations in execution – it will be correct to do it with one hand, and with two, and with dumbbells, and with an EZ bar.

The technique is about the same, except for the starting positions. There is a French bench press, a French bench press and a bench press. It is sometimes called a prone barbell lift, a seated barbell lift, but this is not true. If we are talking about dumbbells, then the exercise is called a dumbbell row from behind the head, or a dumbbell press from behind the head.

Let’s analyze in order how one or another version of the French press is done.

French bench press from different positions

Bench press

The French bench press is performed using the following technique:

  1. Looking for a horizontal bench. An inclined one will do if you straighten it completely. It is advisable to put a towel or T-shirt under your head.
  2. It is more convenient to use an EZ fretboard. It has a special curved shape that allows you to turn your arms in a certain way, pumping either the outer or the inner part of the triceps. Most often, the bar is taken with a narrow grip.
  3. We put the bar on our knees, lie down and take it behind the head.
  4. Slightly bent arms at the elbows go behind the head so that the elbows are at the level of the forehead … This is the starting position for this exercise.
  5. To refine the grip, place your hands on the sides of the center loop of the EZ bar, palms facing away from you (straight grip).
  6. Bend your arms so that the bar is near the crown of the head (almost touching).
  7. Slowly straighten the arms, but do not straighten them completely, it is not recommended to “snap” the elbow joints.
  8. Do 10 warm-up repetitions. Then we lower the barbell to the belt, sit down and put it on the floor. If there is a partner, he can help you grab the barbell and lower it to the floor.

The French bench press with dumbbells is done in the same way, only the arms are turned a little differently: you take the handles of the dumbbells so that they are parallel to each other.

Important nuances of technique:

  • You should try to move your elbows as close as possible. When they spread to the sides, the load goes from the posterior bundle of the triceps to the lateral, or generally to the latissimus dorsi.
  • If the wrists hurt (this may be because they bend significantly during the French bench press), you need to wear wristbands or wrap bandages around your wrists.

The French dumbbell bench press makes sense when all the bars are engaged.

Выполнение французского жима с гантелями

Seated Press

The French Seated Press is performed on an incline bench with the back at a right angle.

Dumbbells are best to do the exercise correctly.

Difficulty performing with the bar – uncomfortable hand position. When doing the French bench press with a barbell, it is difficult to achieve a position of the arms so that the shoulders are perpendicular to the floor. Usually they are slightly heaped forward, and the exercise begins to resemble a bench press while seated.

If you decide to use a straight or EZ bar, it is better to do it lying down, if you do it while sitting – take dumbbells.

Option with two dumbbells


  1. Take 2 dumbbells, unfold them so that the pancakes are in front and behind, your hands should be oriented with palms to each other.
  2. Raise your arms with dumbbells slightly bent at the elbows above your head. Try to set the angle of your shoulder to the floor at 90 degrees.
  3. Bend your elbows so that your shoulder does not move to the sides. Take the dumbbells behind your head to an acute angle at the elbow.
  4. Lift the weight back to its original position.

Do 10 warm-up reps with a light weight, then grab a worker and do 3– 4 sets of 8-10 reps. Make sure that your elbows do not extend to the sides.

If you turn your arms differently, dumbbell pancakes will prevent you from lowering the weights to a sufficient angle behind your head. Therefore, the arms are oriented exactly as noted above.

Option with one dumbbell

One dumbbell should be done French press standing or sitting on a bench.

Работа трицепсов

The technique is as follows:

  1. We take a dumbbell in our right hand. We bring it up, the shoulder is strictly perpendicular to the floor.
  2. We turn the arm so that when bending the dumbbell goes to the side of the head, and not strictly back.
  3. With the left hand we support the right so that it does not went to the sides during the exercise.
  4. We do 10 warm-up repetitions for each arm, take the working weight and perform 3 sets of 10 times to failure.

The weights are small here, but since this exercise is the last on the day of triceps, you will have little strength. We do it through burning, through fatigue. If necessary, we reduce each set, or ask a partner to help you return the dumbbell to its original position overhead.

Another way to work with one dumbbell, but with two hands:

  1. The exercise will resemble a seated pullover. We grasp the dumbbell with both hands for the pancake, passing it between the index and thumb of each hand.
  2. We bring the dumbbell over the head, we try to keep our elbows closer to the ears, and not turn it out.
  3. Bend our arms lowering the dumbbell behind the head. We raise. We do this 10 times to warm up, if you are not yet warmed up. With a working weight, you need to do 10 repetitions in 3 sets.

You can do a French press with dumbbells standing.

Technique of the standing press

The French press can also be performed with a barbell or dumbbells, but the latter is more convenient. Since the technique with dumbbells was considered in the previous case, here we will disassemble the barbell.

The technique is as follows:

  1. Take the barbell, place your feet shoulder-width apart .
  2. Straighten your shoulders, pull your pelvis back.
  3. Look forward, you cannot tilt your head!
  4. Raise the bar so that your elbows are looking up and your shoulder is on the floor formed a right angle.
  5. Elbows do not need to be pulled apart or brought together. They should be parallel to each other.
  6. Do not straighten your arms completely either. Lower the weight behind your head to a possible angle. Bring it back.
  7. If you haven’t stretched out, do 10 reps with an empty bar (for girls) or light weight. Next, set your working weight and do 3 sets of 10 reps.

The French press is not the most common version of this exercise. It is inconvenient because the spine receives an extra load. It should be done when there is little space in the gym or all the benches are occupied.

Which option to do and when

French incline bench press (back at 90 degrees), standing or lying, is done after basic exercises, for example, after bench press or parallel bars. Finally, you should perform a dumbbell extension from behind your head.

At the end of the workout, you should feel that your triceps can no longer squeeze anything. If so, the training was correct and successful!

Errors and how to avoid them


The breathing technique is the same in all exercises. For some reason, some athletes get confused when to inhale and when to exhale. Apparently, the fact that different exercises are performed in different ways is misleading. It’s actually simple.

When you do a lift, push, press, then you exhale through your mouth. This is the effort at which you exhale.

When you return the weight back, that is, in those moments when maximum effort is not required from your muscles, inhale air through your nose. It’s simple!

Elbow position

Elbows spaced to the side make it easier to perform. If you want to get the most out of the exercise, keep your elbows close to each other (press them against your head).

Incorrect sequence of exercises

Extension of the arms on the block and the French press standing or sitting are very similar. There is no point in exhausting yourself on one exercise and then trying another.

If you decide to do both exercises in one workout, distribute the load so that you have enough for both exercises. For example, 2 sets of bench press and 3 sets of extension, or vice versa.

Sore joints

Exercise is believed to be dangerous for the elbows. It’s true. If you have vulnerable elbows, we recommend using elbow braces of medium hardness (purchased in orthopedic salons) or elastic bandages.