Close Grip Bench Press (How To, Muscles Worked, Benefits)


Many consider the Bench Press the gold-standard movement of upper body strength. Close Grip Bench Press is a variation of the Bench Press using a narrower grip that places more emphasis on the triceps.

In this guide, I will teach you how to do Close Grip Bench Presses including important coaching tips, what muscles are being worked and a few variations you can try.


How To Close Grip Bench Press


Equipment Needed

  • Multi-purpose lifting rack
  • Bench
  • Barbell
  • Bumper or Iron plates

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Set the height of the barbell so that when you unrack the barbell, you are only doing a very short upward concentric movement.
  • Lie flat on your back on the bench.
  • Keep your feet flat on the floor. (Some do find it comfortable to pull the feet back toward their butt as they arch).
  • Keep your butt on the bench.
  • Pull your shoulder blades together and keep the back of your head on the bench. You will slightly arch your back. Keep your core tight and keep the shoulder blades pulled back tight.
  • Take a narrow grip, right at the start of the knurling and completely close your grip. Keep your knuckles pointing toward the ceiling and squeeze the barbell.
  • Unrack the weight and take a deep breath.
  • Control the barbell down during the eccentric movement and draw the barbell in, keeping the elbows tight to the body.
  • The barbell will make contact with your torso right at the nipple line on the chest.
  • Once contact is made, drive the barbell back up to the starting position.

Coaching Points

By far the most common mistake with bench pressing (and almost all compound movements) is improper form. Because the lift is very technical, uses the whole body, and requires patience and persistence, lifters oftentimes have incorrect form without realizing it, go up in weight too quickly, and may injure themselves.

Technical tips:

  1. In regards to your setup and form; treat every rep like it’s a 1 rep max
  2. Put a tremendous amount of detail in your setup (Do it the exact same way, every rep)
  3. Make small gains in weight over time.

Common Mistakes

  1. Do not overarch the back or let your butt come off the bench. Most professionals will not accept repetitions if the butt comes off the bench but also you will likely injure yourself with poor form.
  2. Do not let the back of your head come off the bench because you are pulling down on your neck to watch the bar hit your chest. You will get used to the movement and your peripheral vision will allow you to know when the bar makes contact.
  3. Do not let the elbows flare out away from the midline. The shoulders are incredibly vulnerable in these positions and the sheer force placed on the shoulders will lead to injury if the technique is not made a priority.

Muscles Worked


  • Chest
  • Shoulders
  • Triceps
  • Biceps (Isometric and eccentric contributors)

Close Grip Bench Press Variations


Pause Bench Press

Perform the bench press and pause with the bar on the chest. (MAINTAIN CONTROL AND RIGIDNESS WITH THE BAR. DO NOT JUST LET IT SIT ON YOUR CHEST) for 1-3 seconds (Number of seconds based on training program, periodization, and athlete readiness).

Board Bench

Perform the bench press to a board that is elevated off the chest. (Board height based on training program, periodization, sticking point weaknesses, and athlete readiness). You’ll need a partner to hold the board in place while you bench.


Close Grip Bench Press Alternatives


Need a substitution because you don’t have access to the proper equipment? Or maybe you’re just looking to add some variety to your workout. Either way, here are a few alternatives to Close Grip Bench Press that you might be able to try.

Want even more options? Here are my 10 favorite Close Grip Bench Press alternatives.

Floor Press

Floor Press is essentially Close Grip Bench Press but done on the floor. I didn’t have a bench for quite some time when I first started working out in my garage. During this time, Floor Press was one of my go-to pressing movements.

There are only two real differences between Floor Press and Close Grip Bench Press.

One, you’ll need to set the barbell up in your rack at a height that you’ll be able to safely rack and unrack the weight while laying on the floor.

Two, the bar will not touch your chest at the bottom of the rep. Instead, you’ll lower the bar until your triceps lightly touch the floor. This restricted range of motion (similar to Board Benching) will actually take stress off of the shoulders and emphasize the triceps even more.

Close Grip Push-Ups

Close Grip Pushups

Close Grip Push-Ups are a perfect alternative if you’re really limited on equipment. This is because they don’t require any equipment at all which makes them extremely versatile whether you’re at home or traveling.

You can put your hands in the popular diamond formation if you like, but really the key is keeping your elbows tight to the body throughout the movement.

Dips

Dips (1)

It’s hard to discuss an effective strength-building chest and triceps exercise like Close Grip Bench without mentioning Dips as an alternative.

Dips are one of my all-time favorite exercises and one I believe should be in almost any program trying to develop upper body size and strength.


More Info and Links


Looking to supplement your bench day with some accessory work? Head over to the Upper Body Section of our exercise library to find step-by-step exercises to help you crush a personal record.

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Ryan Horton

Horton Barbell was created by Ryan Horton who has served as a Sports Performance Coach for almost 20 years. My mission is to create a training resource to help as many coaches and athletes as possible maximize athletic potential.

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