Jay Cutler Does the Lying French Press, Discusses Benefits for Triceps Growth


Jay Cutler explained the difference between the lying French press and skull crusher.

Jay Cutler is one of the top bodybuilders of all time and continues to share his wisdom on different workouts. This time, he highlighted an exercise. The four-time Olympia champion recently showed off the Lying French press and how it is used to grow the triceps.

The French press and skull crusher are similar exercises that pump the triceps using extension and stretching. For his “tip of the day,” Cutler demonstrated the lying French press using a cambered bar.

“So tip of the day today. It is going to be skull crushers or this is called the French press. So this is for the triceps. I can do this with either a straight bar, cambered bars, dumbbells, cables.”

Jay Cutler

What Is the French Press?

The French press is similar to the skull crusher. It can be performed with many bars, with the hands extending over the shoulders. When the bar is lowered, it goes behind the head and near the top of the back. This can be done with one or two hands when using a dumbbell.

“This is going to give us an extension of the tricep, okay. Anytime you train tricep, we do a lot of pushdowns or you do kickbacks or some kind of extension.”

The French press can be performed in a standing or seated position. This exercise provides a greater stretch as the bar goes lower and puts more strain on the long head of the tricep.


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A post shared by Mr Olympia Jay Cutler (@jaycutler)

In the video, Cutler opts to lie further up on the bench. This means his head and shoulders are lower than his back. The range of motion differs from a skull crusher and is more challenging. The bar does not go below the forehead as Cutler lowers it each rep.

“I am going to focus on 12 repetitions, 80 pounds and I am going to use a cambered bar,” Cutler explained.

The French Press’s overall benefit is isolating the triceps and hitting all areas. The exercise activates stabilizers in the upper and lower body, which helps in many other regions. It can add size and strength during the exercise and should be added to arm days.

Standing French Press Exercise Guide 

Besides the lying French press Jay Cutler is doing, you can try the standing variation, which gets the lower body and core more involved. The standing French press is an isolation exercise for your triceps. Although the triceps is the primary muscle targeted, it recruits other muscles for stabilization and support, including the abs, pecs, obliques, delts, rhomboids, traps, glutes, and rotator cuffs.

You only need an EZ bar and weights for the standing French press. However, form is essential in this exercise to get its full benefits. Here’s a step-by-step guide showing how to do the standing French press correctly. 

  1. Load up an EZ bar and place it in front of you.
  2. Bending at your knees, grab the bar using an overhand grip (palm facing down). Your hands should be hip-width apart. 
  3. Stand back up with the bar and with your feet shoulder-width apart. Don’t lock out your knees; instead, keep a slight bend in them.
  4. Raise the EZ bar overhead, but don’t lock out your elbows. Also, keep your elbows facing forward instead of outward. 
  5. Next, engage your core, then tuck in your chin and pelvis. This is your starting position.
  6. Keeping your upper arms stable, slowly lower the bar behind your head. Pause at the bottom of the movement.
  7. Then, slowly return the bar to the starting position to complete the rep.
  8. Repeat for as many reps as you desire. 


The standing French press is an excellent variation of the French press that uses more shoulder flexion. Standing also activates your core and lower body muscles more. Below are other benefits of the standing French press. 

Stronger Triceps

Due to the extended movement of your shoulders, this exercise targets the long head of your triceps more. This leads to an increase in not only size but strength

Better Stabilization

The standing French press activates your core and lower body muscles, which are important for stability. Manipulating the weight overhead while standing will recruit your stabilizing muscles more. Moreover, research points to the notion that using free weights creates an unstable training environment, which enhances muscle recruitment (1).

Carryover to Bench Presses

The standing French press increases the size and strength of your triceps, which plays a massive role in pushing movements like the bench press

Better for the Elbows & Wrists

The EZ bar puts your wrist in a more natural position. This puts less stress on that joint, as you won’t have to rotate. Strengthening your triceps is also great for your elbows. 

Standing French Press Alternatives

The standing French press is an excellent routine for your triceps. However, there are more movements that you can use to build those muscles. Studies show that varying your exercises and adding advanced training techniques like drop sets can help prevent a plateau (2)

Lying French Press

This is the French press variation Jay Cutler does, similar to the skull crusher. The difference is that with this exercise, your elbows sit back more to create the overhead extensions. The weight also goes down behind your head, activating your chest slightly more. Plus, you can lift heavier when doing the lying French press due to the support and stability of the bench. 

Triceps Dip

Triceps dips are another routine that focuses on building your triceps. You use parallel bars, a bench, or a chair for this bodyweight exercise

Skull Crusher

The mechanics of skull crushers are similar to that of the French Press. They work on your triceps and are done lying on a bench, except for a standing or seated skull crusher. 

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  1. Schwanbeck, S. R., Cornish, S. M., Barss, T., & Chilibeck, P. D. (2020). Effects of Training With Free Weights Versus Machines on Muscle Mass, Strength, Free Testosterone, and Free Cortisol Levels. Journal of strength and conditioning research, 34(7), 1851–1859. https://doi.org/10.1519/JSC.0000000000003349
  2. Krzysztofik, M., Wilk, M., Wojdała, G., & Gołaś, A. (2019). Maximizing Muscle Hypertrophy: A Systematic Review of Advanced Resistance Training Techniques and Methods. International journal of environmental research and public health, 16(24), 4897. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16244897
Greg Patuto
Greg has covered the four major sports for six years and has been featured on sites such as Sports Illustrated, Fox Sports, SB Nation, NJ.com, and FanSided. Now, he is transitioning into the world of bodybuilding and strength sports.