Many people shy away from the close-grip bench press because they fear hurting themselves.
Others may not know how to do it properly and end up not getting the benefits of the exercise.
With this guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about this exercise, the muscle’s work, how to perform it safely and effectively, and the benefits of doing so.
How To Perform Close Grip Bench Press – Step-By-Step
Below we’ll break down exactly what you need to know so you can master the close-grip bench press and see results without unwanted injury.
Proper Close Grip Bench Press Form
In my experience, the best way to learn any exercise is to learn the fundamental mechanics of the movement.
Below are the key components you’ll need to learn, understand and apply to perform the close grip bench press safely (and effectively).
Step 1 – Bench Position
Before you even touch the barbell, It’s crucial that you set up the bench in the correct position.
The back support of your bench should be flat and parallel to the floor.
Coaching Note: Setup your bench so that it’s parallel to the floor (lying flat at 180°). Make sure when you lie flat on the bench that your eyes are directly underneath the barbell.
Step 2 – Stabilizing Your Shoulder Blades
To stabilize your shoulder blades, follow these steps:
- Squeeze your shoulder blades together and backward
- Roll your shoulders down towards the ground behind you
- Imagine holding a pencil between your shoulder blades to maintain the tension.
This helps keep the focus of the exercise on your triceps and chest muscles instead of your shoulders.
Coaching Note: With your hands at the appropriate grip length imagine you’re trying to squeeze a pencil between your shoulder blades and hold it in place.
Step 3 – Grip Width
During a close grip bench press, there is no benefit to having a grip width more narrow than shoulder width.
So, your grip width should only be roughly the width of your shoulders.
Start by placing your arms at shoulder width against the bar. Note where your arms naturally rest at this point.
Next, using your index fingers first, grab the bar and ensure both hands are equidistant from each other.
Coaching Note: A good rule of thumb is to take a grip that is roughly equal to shoulder width when your elbows are tucked by your torso.
Step 4 – Elbow Position
Bring your elbows as close to your torso as you can comfortably get them while keeping your shoulders flat against the bench.
Coaching Note: Your elbows should be tucked by your torso throughout the movement. The position of your elbows should feel natural to you while pressing – not exaggerated.
Step 5 – Breathing, Bracing & Executing the Exercise
It’s time to prepare and stabilize your core, so you perform the exercise.
Take a deep breath, inhaling to create internal pressure that wraps around your abdominal muscles.
Finally, you can unrack the barbell and perform the close grip bench press at a controlled tempo (and with confidence).
Coaching Note: When you are breathing and bracing your core correctly, you should feel your ribs (not your stomach) expand laterally on both sides, creating internal pressure.
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Close Grip Bench Press Muscles Worked & Their Roles
Below is a short breakdown of the close grip bench press muscles worked and the different roles each plays.
Also, I included a reference table to help explain the difference between how specific muscles play a part in the movement of an exercise.
|Prime Mover (Agonist) Muscles||These are the muscles doing the brunt of the work contracting to generate movement for the exercise.|
|Synergist Muscles||The synergist muscles are a group of nearby muscles that assist the prime movers in executing an exercise. They do this by helping stabilize the joint around where movement is happening.|
|Antagonist Muscles||The antagonist’s muscles perform the opposite action of the prime mover. (ex: If your bicep (bicep curl prime mover) is actively contracting and shortening then your tricep is relaxing and lengthening.)|
Prime Mover Muscles
- Triceps Brachii
- Pectoralis Major (Sternum)
- Deltoid, Anterior (Clavicle)
- Biceps Brachii
- Latissimus Dorsi
- Deltoid, Posterior
Bottom Line: The close grip bench press exercise places most of the emphasis on your triceps and chest muscles with reduced involvement from your shoulders. Your delts are utilized less because of the positioning of your elbows & arms which are tucked closer to your core during this exercise.
Benefits of the Close Grip Bench Press Exercise
This exercise has a few notable benefits worth highlighting. Read below so you can see how this exercise has a direct impact on your health & fitness goals.
- Stronger Triceps: Since this style of bench press requires a closer elbow position and grip position; it shifts much of the tension onto the triceps. The triceps (and chest) will experience more tension, thus leading them to get stronger. Make sure you’re implementing a form of progressive overload to see the best results, of course.
- Reduced Shoulder Involvement: Typically, if your shoulder is closer to your body during a pressing movement, it’s in a more stable position (think incline bench press vs. close grip bench press). This fact alone reduces the chance of injury and reduces shoulder muscle recruitment.
- Inner Chest Muscle Activation: The close grip bench press is one movement that puts your chest muscles very close to their point of maximum tension & shortest position. When a muscle is in its shortest position it experiences the most tension (and is maximally loaded).
Frequently Asked Questions About Close Grip Bench Press
Here are some of the most common questions we’ve compiled and answered for you.
What Does Close Grip Bench Press Work?
The close-grip bench press targets your triceps and chest, with the secondary engagement of your shoulders.
Is Close Grip Better for Bench Press?
The close grip bench press targets the triceps and chest with less emphasis on the shoulders, making it a great option for those looking to build arm strength and reduce shoulder strain.
Is Wide Grip or Close Grip Bench Easier?
The wide-grip bench press may be easier for some people than a close-grip bench press. But it ultimately depends on your body type, strength, and preference. Both variations have benefits, so try them to see which works best.
Unlock the Benefits of Close Grip Bench Press!
The close grip bench press is a solid compound lift that can help build muscle across your triceps and chest.
If you’re looking to build bigger, stronger arms, this is a great option to help you accomplish that.
Want more workout tips for increasing upper body strength & size? Read this to learn how to do pull-ups and build a stronger back.