The bench press very rightfully deserves its place in the hall of fame of free-weight exercises – it’s one hell of a chest-builder. While the regular bench press primarily works your chest while shoulders and triceps also share some of the work, the close grip bench press moves the focus to the triceps. So, if you want to move beyond the staple triceps pushdown, you should read on!
Of course, your chest and shoulders will still remain involved when you perform close grip bench press, but the major emphasis moves to the back of your upper arms. Try it for yourself and you’ll find this move is one of the best ways to target your triceps in the weights room.
Talking about the differences – you perform the close grip bench press with a narrower grip than a traditional bench press. This change in position is what puts emphasis on triceps muscles – hence, the superb size and strength gains.
In my personal experience, I’ve had great success and have seen great size and strength gains with this exercise with hundreds of clients – so much so that I include it as a triceps mass builder in my client’s workout regimen every alternate session. The best part is – strength gained in the triceps and chest with close grip bench press is carried over to other pushing exercises like the military press.
How To Do Close Grip Bench Press
The close-grip bench press is a superior movement for improving tricep strength and size. Very often this variation gets performed incorrectly, follow these instructions to help you perform the exercise using proper form and technique:
- Position the barbell at the correct reach level on a flat bench station
- Add weight to the barbell according to your fitness level and goals.
- Lie flat on the bench and grab the barbell using a close grip (about shoulder width or an inch narrower).
- Lift the bar off from the rack, arms locked, and hold the bar straight over your chest.
- Breathe in and bring the bar down (slowly and under control) toward your chest while keeping elbows close to your body.
- Pause for a second, and push the bar up using the triceps muscles to the starting position as you breathe out Lock your arms at the top of the movement.
- Perform reps as required and return the bar to the rack upon exercise completion.
Tip: A spotter or smith machine is recommended for safety.
Benefits Of Close Grip Bench Press
The close grip bench press is an upper body compound exercise that primarily works the triceps. Your chest and shoulders are the secondary muscles involved. Using a narrow grip to develop upper body pushing strength has been demonstrated in studies to be fantastic for developing triceps size and strength too.
The close grip press provides the potential for greater lift loads and maximum strength growth because the chest and shoulders support the movement. The exercise can be done safely with gradually heavier resistance when combined with your body position on the bench.
The narrow grip concentrates the majority of the stress on the triceps which is ideal for maximum muscle development. Now, this is very well a common goal among athletes, bodybuilders, and weight lifters too.
The close grip bench press enhances overall muscular balance by gradually and simultaneously increasing both muscle strength and growth. Another typical goal for lifters is to increase muscle function and symmetry.
Lifters who struggle with shoulder pain when performing the standard press can benefit from a narrower grip. A narrow grip has been demonstrated to alleviate shoulder strain and assist lifters in benching a higher load. Although the triceps are the primary movers, the chest and shoulders are also used to some extent.
Muscles Worked In Close Grip Bench Press
The close grip bench press works triceps predominantly followed by pectorals. You would notice that generally, the wider the hands are on the barbell, the less the triceps are involved in the press and vice-versa.
Individual differences can be evident when employing a range of grip locations, so coaches and athletes should figure out which width improves triceps engagement while minimizing wrist and shoulder joint stress.
Close Grip Bench Press Variations
Three close-grip bench press variations are listed below to help you gain strength, hypertrophy, and enhance your pressing performance.
1. Close-Grip Dumbbell Press
The close-grip dumbbell bench press is a unilateral variation of the standard close-grip barbell bench press. By using dumbbells, you can address any asymmetries and muscular imbalances that may go unnoticed with barbells.
In the case that the standard barbell location is proven to be unpleasant or stressful to the joints, this can also allow lifters to customize the wrist, elbow, and shoulder joint angles.
2. Close-Grip Floor Press
The close-grip floor press is a triceps and lockout strength-focused combination pressing technique.
Coaches and athletes can target triceps strength and hypertrophy by combining the floor press with the close-grip bench press.
3. Close-Grip Push Up
Another variation of the close-grip bench press is the close-grip push-up. This action could be considered a regression, yet it could be a good variety for novice athletes who are improving on their bench form.
Close-grip push-ups are a wonderful alternative if you’re looking for some extra lighter triceps volume with a movement that’s similar to the close-grip bench press.
The close grip bench press is a terrific method to mix up your upper-body workout, but there are a few typical mistakes to avoid.
Bouncing The Bar Off Chest
Attempting to push a very heavy weight up with momentum by bouncing the bar off the chest increases the danger of sternum damage and reduces the exercise’s effectiveness. From start to end, the tight grip press should be done carefully and with control while applying suitable weight resistance. This guarantees that the triceps muscles are properly formed and activated.
Not Using A Spotter
For safety, a spotter or smith machine should be used if you’re new to weight lifting and specifically this movement. When you’re familiar with the exercise and don’t have access to a spotter, keep the weight levels low and focus on good form and technique.
Lifting Hips Off Bench
Maintain proper body positioning on the bench to ensure a safe and successful movement. During a press, lifting your hips off the bench could indicate that the weight is too heavy. Reduce your weight as needed and focus on proper body mechanics.
Using The Wrong Grip
Keep a conventional grip on the bar with your thumb and fingers wrapped around it throughout the exercise. When you use a false grip, you run the danger of dropping the bar and injuring yourself (fingers and thumb on the same side of the bar).
Proper breathing is essential and a basic requirement for effective weight lifting. Many people hold their breath during the most difficult part of the action, causing internal body pressure to build up. Be aware of your body and breathing during the activity. Slowly inhale as you lower the bar to your chest, and exhale as you push back up to the starting position.
It is recommended that you utilize a spotter if you are new to this workout. If there isn’t a spotter accessible, use the least amount of weight possible. Also, avoid allowing the bar to move too far ahead.
The close-grip bench press is a great way to isolate and train your triceps while also increasing their strength, size, and pressing power. The form of the close-grip bench press, like the bench press, requires attention and frequent inspection to guarantee you’re getting the most bang for your buck!
Rahul is a sports and performance consultant. Over the course of his 15-year career in the fitness sector, he has held positions as a strength and conditioning instructor, gym owner, and consultant.
He is deeply committed to assisting people in finding happiness and feeling good about themselves.
Rahul has a master’s degree in exercise science and is a certified NSCA CSCS and CISSN.