Close Grip Bench Press: Enhancing Triceps Strength and Stability

 Written by 

Julien Raby

 Last updated on 

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Discover the power of the Close Grip Bench Press, a key exercise for boosting triceps strength and stability.

In this article, we provide a step-by-step guide on mastering this compound movement, emphasizing correct technique and form. Learn how to position your hands and body for maximum impact and how to avoid common mistakes.

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Whether you’re starting out or looking to refine your skills, our practical tips, including variations and beginner progressions, will help you effectively integrate this exercise into your routine.

Overview of Close Grip Bench Press

The close grip bench press is a highly effective compound exercise that targets your triceps, chest, and shoulders. It is a popular variation of the traditional bench press, incorporating a narrower grip width to place more emphasis on the triceps muscles. 

Proper Technique and Form

Hand Placement

To perform a close grip bench press with proper form, start by positioning your hands on the barbell. Choose a grip width that is narrower than your shoulder width. Place your palms facing away from you and wrap your fingers firmly around the bar. A proper hand placement ensures better emphasis on the triceps during the movement.

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Body Position

Lie down on the bench with your feet firmly planted on the ground. Your eyes should be approximately in line with the barbell when it’s above your upper chest. Keep your shoulder blades pinched together and maintain a slight arch in your lower back. This body position will provide a stable base for you to perform the exercise effectively.

Bar Path

As you lower the barbell, maintain control by allowing it to descend in a straight line from the starting point towards your lower chest. Ensure that your elbows are slightly tucked in throughout the movement. To press the weight back up, focus on pushing through your palms and extending your elbows until the barbell has returned to the starting position. A smooth and controlled bar path is essential for targeting the right muscle groups and avoiding injury.

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Breathing and Lockout

Inhale as you lower the barbell, keeping your core tight to provide stability. As you push the weight back up, exhale and fully extend your arms at the top of the movement. This breathing pattern helps to maintain intra-abdominal pressure, which contributes to a stable core during the lift. The lockout phase of the movement is essential for engaging the triceps and ensuring proper form.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Elbow Flaring

Elbow flaring is a common mistake that occurs when your elbows move away from your body during the close grip bench press. This can lead to shoulder pain and reduces the efficiency of the exercise. To avoid elbow flaring, ensure that your elbows stay close to your body, approximately at a 45-degree angle throughout the movement. This will not only reduce the risk of injury but also maintain proper form and maximize the benefits of the close grip bench press.

Excessive Arching

Another common mistake is excessive arching of your lower back during the exercise. While maintaining a slight natural arch is important for spinal alignment, over-arching can cause lower back pain and increase the risk of injury. Additionally, excessive arching shifts the emphasis away from the target muscle groups. To avoid hyperextension, maintain a neutral spine and engage your core muscles throughout the movement. This will help distribute the weight evenly and decrease the strain on your lower back.

Incorrect Grip Width

Choosing the proper grip width is crucial for the effectiveness of the close grip bench press and to prevent elbow pain or discomfort. Gripping the bar too narrowly can increase stress on your wrists, while too wide of a grip can diminish the activation of your triceps and chest muscles. The optimal grip width is generally around shoulder width or slightly narrower. By maintaining a good grip width, you can heighten the focus on your triceps and chest muscles while minimizing the risk of injury.

Training Tips and Variations

Volume and Repetitions

When incorporating the close grip bench press into your workout routine, it’s important to consider the volume and repetitions for optimal results. As a general guideline, you can follow these recommendations:

  • Beginner: 3 sets of 8-12 repetitions
  • Intermediate: 4 sets of 6-8 repetitions
  • Advanced: 5 sets of 3-5 repetitions

Remember to rest for about 90 seconds between each set to give your muscles time to recover. Adjust the weight according to your fitness level to ensure you can maintain proper form throughout each repetition.

Incorporating Variations

By incorporating variations into your close grip bench press training, you can target different muscle groups and avoid reaching a plateau. Here are a few variations you can try to mix up your routine:

  1. Dumbbell bench press: Instead of using a barbell, perform the close grip bench press with dumbbells to increase the range of motion and engage your stabilizing muscles.
  2. Incline close grip bench press: To target your upper pectorals and shoulders, perform the close grip bench press on an incline bench.
  3. Close grip push-ups: For a bodyweight alternative, incorporate close grip push-ups into your workout, focusing on keeping your elbows close to your body as you lower and raise yourself.

Progression for Beginners

If you’re new to the close grip bench press, it’s crucial to start slowly and focus on proper form. Here’s a progression plan for beginners:

  1. Weeks 1-2: Start with just the barbell or lighter dumbbells to practice proper form and control.
  2. Weeks 3-4: Gradually increase the weight while still maintaining correct form, ensuring you can complete the recommended repetitions (8-12) for three sets.
  3. Weeks 5-6: Add more weight and continue working on your technique. Aim for four sets of 6-8 repetitions.
  4. Weeks 7-8: If you feel comfortable and confident, move on to the advanced level by increasing the weight, performing five sets of 3-5 repetitions.

Injury Prevention and Safety

Elbow and Wrist Protection

When performing the close grip bench press, it’s crucial to protect your elbow and wrist joints. One way to reduce the risk of elbow pain is to ensure proper grip width by keeping your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. This position reduces unnecessary stress on the joints.

To prevent wrist injuries, maintain a neutral wrist position, avoiding excessive extension or flexion. Using wrist wraps can also provide additional support and stability. Including accessory movements that target the forearm muscles, such as wrist curls and reverse curls, will help strengthen the surrounding musculature and further safeguard your wrists.

Shoulder Stability Measures

Close grip bench press can potentially lead to shoulder injuries, as it involves upper body pushing movements. To mitigate shoulder discomfort and enhance stability, incorporate prehabilitation exercises like face pulls and band pull-aparts into your training routine. These movements strengthen the rotator cuff muscles and promote proper scapular function.

Ensuring correct bench press form is also essential for shoulder safety. Keep your shoulder blades retracted and maintain a slight arch in your lower back. This alignment helps maintain a stable shoulder position and reduces the risk of injury during the exercise.

Proper Warm-Up Protocols

A thorough warm-up is crucial for injury prevention in any resistance exercise, including the close grip bench press. Start with a few minutes of dynamic stretching to increase blood flow and joint mobility. Focus on exercises that target the chest, back, and shoulder muscles, such as arm swings, shoulder circles, and thoracic rotations.

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Next, perform a warm-up set of the bench press itself with a light weight. Gradually increase the weight while decreasing the number of repetitions in each set. This ramp-up approach prepares your muscles and joints for the heavier loads without causing unnecessary fatigue.

Benefits of Close Grip Bench Press

The close grip bench press is a valuable addition to your workout routine as it offers numerous benefits for muscle growth and upper body strength. By utilizing a narrower grip width, you can target specific muscle groups more effectively, such as your triceps and upper chest.

One of the primary advantages of the close grip bench press is its ability to strengthen your triceps. This exercise places more emphasis on the triceps when compared to the traditional bench press, which primarily engages your chest muscles. Improved triceps strength can not only enhance your overall upper body power, but it can also benefit your performance in other compound exercises, such as push-ups and dips.

Aside from boosting triceps development, the close grip bench press also contributes to upper chest muscle growth. According to a study, the close grip variation stimulates upper chest muscles more effectively than the standard bench press. By incorporating this exercise into your training regime, you’ll gain a more balanced and aesthetic upper body appearance.

Moreover, the close grip bench press is an excellent compound exercise, which means it works multiple muscle groups at once, leading to greater overall strength gains. As you perform the lift, you’ll engage not only your triceps and chest, but also your shoulders, forearms, and even your core. This multi-muscle activation helps improve overall lifting efficiency and stability.

Muscles Worked and Exercise Anatomy

The close grip bench press is a popular variation of the traditional bench press that puts more emphasis on certain upper body muscles. By narrowing your grip width, you can engage and challenge your muscles differently, leading to improved strength and muscle growth.

One of the primary muscles targeted during the close grip bench press is the triceps. This exercise effectively isolates and develops your triceps by placing a greater workload on these muscles compared to the wider grip bench press. The increased activation of the triceps can lead to improvements in overall pressing strength and muscle size.

Your anterior deltoids also play a significant role in the close grip bench press. These muscles are responsible for shoulder flexion and contribute to the pushing action required for the lift. By engaging your anterior deltoids in this exercise, you can enhance shoulder stability and strength.

The pectoral muscles or chest muscles are still worked during the close grip bench press, but to a lesser extent than the wider grip version. The reduced emphasis on the pectoral muscles allows for a more targeted focus on your triceps and anterior deltoids. However, the close grip still engages your inner chest muscles, helping to develop your overall chest appearance.

Here’s a quick summary of the main muscles worked during the close grip bench press:

  • Triceps: Primary muscle responsible for elbow extension, crucial for pushing movements.
  • Anterior Deltoids: Contributes to shoulder flexion and stability during pressing movements.
  • Pectoral Muscles: Engaged to a lesser extent, providing support and strength for the overall chest.

Integration with Other Exercises

Superiority to Traditional Bench Press

By focusing on the close grip bench press, you may find that it targets the triceps more effectively than the traditional bench press. This close grip variation requires a narrower hand spacing, which can lead to increased activation of the triceps muscles as seen in this study. While the traditional bench press remains a great exercise for overall chest development, incorporating the close grip bench press can help to develop your triceps, creating a more balanced upper body physique.

Synergy with Compound Movements

In addition to the close grip bench press, it’s important to include other compound exercises in your workout routine to achieve optimal results. Incorporating movements such as the incline bench press and the overhead press can help target different muscle groups, providing a well-rounded strength training regimen. Additionally, the chest pass exercise can improve your explosive power, particularly in sports where upper body strength and speed are crucial.

Some compound movements to consider incorporating include:

Alternatives for Targeted Development

If you’re looking to diversify your training and target specific muscles, consider incorporating close grip bench press alternatives and accessory movements. Several bench press variations can help you achieve more targeted muscle engagement. For example, the incline bench press emphasizes the upper chest, while various triceps exercises help isolate and develop your triceps further.

Consider these alternatives and accessory movements for targeted development:

  • Incline bench press: Targets the upper chest
  • Triceps dips: Focuses on triceps activation
  • Skull crushers: Isolates the triceps muscles

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About

Julien Raby is the owner of BoxLife. He owns a bachelor in literature and a certificate in marketing from Concordia. He's Crossfit Level 1 certified and has been involved in Crossfit since 2010. In 2023 he finally made it to Crossfit Open Quarterfinals for the first time. LinkedIn Instagram Facebook

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