How to Perform the Close Grip Bench Press

Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

Also Known As: Triceps bench press (variation of the traditional bench press)

Targets: Triceps, chest, and shoulders

Equipment Needed: Barbell and bench

Level: Beginner to Advanced

The close grip bench press differs from the traditional bench press in that you perform the press with a narrower grip. This position places emphasis on building strength and size in the triceps muscles, as well as the chest.

Performing a close grip press is a great way to add variety to upper body and pushing muscle workouts. Athletes using close push actions as in football, basketball, or rugby especially benefit from this type of sports specific exercise, according to research.

Pressing with a narrow grip is also beneficial for lifters with shoulder injuries unable to perform a traditional bench press. When the grip width is reduced it creates less shoulder abduction said to limit the stress placed on the shoulder joint.

You may be new to weight lifting or seasoned lifter wanting to improve an upper body routine. Adding the close grip bench press to your program would be a superior movement easily modified to every fitness level.

Seeking the guidance of a qualified personal trainer may be a good idea in the beginning until you are comfortable with the exercise.

Benefits

The close grip bench press is an upper body compound exercise that targets the triceps muscles. The secondary muscles involved are your chest and shoulders. Using a narrow grip is shown to be a great alternative method to increase upper body pushing strength.

Because the chest and shoulders assist the movement, the close grip press has the potential for heavier lift loads and maximum strength gains. Combined with your body position on the bench, the movement can be done safely with progressively heavier resistance.

The narrow grip places most of the workload on the triceps for maximum muscle development. Increased muscle size is a common goal among athletes, bodybuilders, and weight lifters.

Performing the close grip bench press promotes overall muscle balance as both muscle strength and gains are increased progressively and simultaneously. This is shown to improve muscle function and symmetry, another common goal for lifters.

Lifters who experience shoulder discomfort with the traditional press can benefit using a closer grip. A narrow grip is shown to reduce shoulder strain and help lifters to successfully bench a heavier load. Although the triceps are the primary movers, you are still using the chest and shoulders to some degree.

Step-by-Step Instructions

The close grip bench press is a superior movement to include in your push or upper body workouts for added muscle size and strength. The following instructions will help you perform the exercise using proper form and technique:

  1. A spotter or smith machine is recommended for safety.
  2. Use a flat bench station or flat bench/power rack combination.
  3. Position the barbell at the correct reach level on the rack (you are able to grip/lift the bar off the rack with assistance).
  4. Load weight resistance according to your fitness level onto the barbell.
  5. Lie flat on the bench using a close grip (about shoulder width).
  6. Lift the bar with assistance from the rack, arms locked, and holding bar straight over you.
  7. Inhale and slowly bring the bar down toward your chest keeping elbows close to your body for the entire exercise.
  8. Exhale and push the bar up using the triceps muscles and locking arms at the top of the movement.
  9. Repeat the exercise for the recommended number of repetitions.
  10. Return the bar to the rack upon exercise completion.

Common Mistakes

The close grip bench press is a great way to add variety to your upper body workout, but there are a few common mistakes to avoid during the exercise.

Not Using a Spotter or Smith Machine

If you’re new to weight lifting and this exercise, using a spotter or smith machine is recommended for safety. Once you are comfortable with the exercise and a spotter is unavailable, remain conservative with the weight loads continuing to work on good form and technique. 

Bouncing Bar Off Your Chest

Bouncing the bar off the chest is an attempt to push very heavy weight up with momentum. This increases the risk of injury to the sternum and decreases the effectiveness of the exercise. The close grip press should be executed slowly and with control from start to finish using appropriate weight resistance. This ensures proper form and activation of the triceps muscles.

Not Using Proper Grip

Maintain a standard grip with your thumb and fingers wrapped around the bar during the exercise. There is an increased risk of dropping the bar and injury using a false grip (fingers and thumb on the same side of the bar). 

Lifting Hips Off the Bench

Maintain proper body position on the bench for safe and effective execution of the movement. Lifting hips off the bench during a press may be an indicator the weight is too heavy. Reduce the weight as needed and pay attention to good body mechanics.

Improper Breathing Technique

Breathing properly is an important part of effective weight lifting. Many people hold their breath during the hardest part of the movement causing internal body pressure. Stay in tune with your body and breathing during the exercise. Inhale slowly as you lower the bar to your chest, and exhale during the push upward to start position.

Modifications and Variations

The close grip bench press can be performed in a variety of ways to accommodate your fitness level. Please keep in mind that a spotter or smith machine is always recommended for safety with this exercise.

Need a Modification?

If you’re new to weight training, you may want to apply a few modifications to the close grip bench press as follows:

  • Perform the exercise using an EZ Bar if gripping the barbell causes wrist discomfort.
  • Use dumbbells as an alternative to the barbell. In this case, your palms will be facing each other as you hold the weights. 

Up for a Challenge?

Increasing the challenge to the close grip bench press can be achieved by making a few changes including:

  • Increase the weight resistance as you gain in strength and ready for an additional challenge. Lift loads should be appropriate to your fitness level for proper execution and safety of the exercise. 
  • Increase the number of repetitions per set and challenge the close grip bench press to muscle failure.
  • Advanced variations of this exercise include the barbell bench press, bodyweight dip, and general pushup

Safety and Precautions

Weight training requires attention to body position, form, and function. Performing any resistance exercise improperly can increase your risk of injury. The following tips will help you perform the close grip bench press safely and effectively:

  • Using a spotter or smith machine is recommended during this exercise.
  • Use proper hand placement (about shoulder width) on the bar to reduce risk of injury and effectively activate the triceps muscles.
  • Maintain your elbows close to the body during the movement for proper form and technique.
  • Avoid bouncing bar off the chest to reduce risk of injury. Perform the exercise using a slow and controlled movement from start to finish.
  • Perform the exercise using appropriate weight resistance for your fitness level. Lifting too heavy increases your risk of injury and doesn’t allow you to complete the movement in good form.
  • Maintain your hips on the bench during the exercise.
  • Use a full standard grip on the bar (thumb and fingers wrapped around the bar) to avoid dropping the bar during the exercise.
  • Discontinue the exercise if you experience wrist or shoulder discomfort that doesn’t feel right.

Try It Out

Incorporate this move and similar ones into one of these popular workouts:

Was this page helpful?
Article Sources