The close-grip bench press is one of the best horizontal pushing exercises of all time.
As the name implies, you bring your hands closer together than you would in a traditional bench press.
The narrow grip will place more emphasis on the triceps and shoulder muscles while de-emphasizing the chest muscles.
Let’s learn how to close grip bench press with proper form!
CLOSE GRIP BENCH PRESS FORM VIDEO
BENEFITS OF THE CLOSE-GRIP BENCH PRESS
- Teaches you how to maintain a stable shoulder position for everyday movements
- The narrower grip places less stress on the pectoralis major tendons, and shifts the emphasis to the triceps
- Encourages strength development of the shoulders, and arms which improve lean muscle mass and fat burning
WHAT MUSCLES DOES THE CLOSE GRIP BENCH PRESS HIT?
- Anterior Deltoids
- Triceps Brachii
- Upper Chest
HOW TO PERFORM THE CLOSE GRIP BENCH PRESS WITH GOOD FORM
- Approach a flat bench press rack that has a barbell set at a comfortable rack height
- Retract and squeeze your scapulae together before lying down on the bench. (It also helps to imagine trying to tuck your shoulder blades into your back pocket)
- Maintain this retracted position throughout the entire lift
- Set your grip at a distance that is at shoulder width or slightly closer than shoulder width. Keep most (or all) of your fingers on the knurling (not the smooth part) of the barbell
- Always wrap your thumbs completely around the bar
- Place your feet flat on the floor, directly under your knees, and point your feet straight or angled out up to 45 degrees
- Un-rack the bar and bring the bar out over your chest around the nipple line. Ensure that your scapulae are still retracted in the starting position
- Inhale, and begin lowering the bar by tucking your elbows, more than you would on a traditional Bench Press, roughly at a 30-degree angle
- Touch the bar to your chest just slightly below the nipple and pause for a fraction of a second
- Reverse the movement by simultaneously contracting your glutes (without elevating your butt off the bench) and pressing the weight up and slightly back towards your face as you exhale
- Setting a grip width that is too close
- All of the other mistakes of the traditional bench press applies here. These include: flaring your elbows out to your sides, benching with a flat back (i.e. not retracting your shoulder blades), and letting your butt come off the bench)
- You can see all of the bench press mistakes here in more detail.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Is close grip bench worth doing?
The close-grip bench press is one of the best horizontal pushing exercises for developing pressing strength. It is also one of the top three exercises for building tricep strength.
Is close grip bench necessary?
The CGBP is not necessary if you are already targeting your triceps with other compound pressing exercises like dumbbell presses and dips.
However, it can be a great accessory exercise for strengthening your regular bench press.
What is the ideal close grip bench press hand placement?
To set your hand position in the close grip, hold your arms outstretched in front of you, and then focus on squeezing your armpits together tightly. Notice where your arms are. This is a good starting point.
My preferred grip is to have just my index fingers right at the smooth part of the bar.
How close is too close?
There is a common misconception that your grip should be very close in the CGBP. Many bodybuilders have popularized the idea of almost having your hands touching during the exercise.
A very close hand position unnecessary and can place a lot of strain on your elbows and your wrists.
Any grip that is closer than your standard grip is considered a CGBP.
Close grip bench press alternatives
If for some reason you cannot perform the CGBP exercise, there are some close grip substitutires that can give you similar benefits.
- The Close Grip Bench Press with Dumbbells : These are performed just like a dumbbell bench press but with a neutral grip (palms facing each other)
- Close Grip Push-Ups :Tuck the elbows so that they are <30 degrees from the body
Here is a video of me peforming the close grip dumbbell press.
If you are interested in learning all of the other amazing compound exercises you can do for your entire body, check out my e-book!
Is close grip bench press bad for you?
The CGBP is bad for you if you cannot do it safely with proper form. In general, if the CGBP is causing you any pain or discomfort, then you should stop doing it in its current form and change your approach.
What if I have pain during the close grip bench?
The most common location for pain during this exercise is in the anterior shoulder or in the elbows
Shoulder Joint Pain During Close Grip Bench
If you have pain in your anterior shoulder it is probably because you are allowing your shoulders to roll forward (aka internally rotate in the bottom portion of the exercise)
You can prevent this by:
- Retracting your scapula at all times throughout the movement (see above)
- Improving your shoulder internal rotation. Check out Top 9 Stretches to Improve Flexibility to learn a great stretch for the shoulders
It should go without saying that you should hold off on performing this exercise if it causes you pain.
Elbow Pain During Close Grip Bench
If you have pain in your elbow joints while doing the close grip bench, it is likely due to overuse injury.
The elbows can easily get inflamed from excessive pressing exercises. Give your elbows a break from all exercises that aggravate the pain and concentrate on stretching and massaging your triceps and your forearms. Lacrosse balls are amazing for this.
It is also important to perform forearm strengthening exercises. One of my favorite exercises is the forearm wrist roller which you can attach weights to.
How much harder is close grip bench?
In general, you can expect to be about 5-10% stronger on a regular grip bench press compared to the close grip.
As always, make sure to have a spotter, especially when handling heavier loads.
Will close grip bench help regular bench?
The close grip bench press will carryover to help your regular bench as it will signifcantly strengthen your triceps muscles.
The triceps are one of the prime movers in all bench press exercise.
Does close grip bench work upper chest?
According to one study by Barnett in 1995, the narrow grip activates the clavicular head of the pectoralis muscle more than a regular standard bench press.
Should you arch for close grip bench press?
It is beneficial to maintain a slight arch in your middle back as it can help ensure that your shoulder blades remain retracted as you are doing any bench pressing exercise.
Can I perform the CGBP on a smith machine?
I do not recommend you perform any major barbell or compound exercise on the smith machine. The smith machine forces your body into contours that are not natural.
The fixed bar path does not allow you to express the full range of motion of your joints which can increase your risk of injury.
The close grip bench is probably the best compound triceps exercise you can do.
If your goal is to build strong triceps while improving your pressing strength, you should consider adding this exercise into your training program.
Check out my free workout template below for some of the best ways to add the CGBP and all the other best exercises into an effective routine.
OTHER BENCH PRESS VARIATIONS & ALTERNATIVES FOR UPPER BODY STRENGTH
- Bench Press (Wider Grip)
- Dumbbell Bench Press (With a Neutral Grip)
- Incline Bench Press (With a Closer Grip)
- Push-ups (With a Closer Shoulder Width)
Alex Robles, MD, CPT / Brittany Robles, MD, MPH, CPT
Alex & Brittany Robles are physicians, NASM Certified Personal Trainers, and founders of The White Coat Trainer: a resource dedicated to improving the health and fitness of busy professionals using time-efficient strategies. Their advice has been featured in My Fitness Pal, Prevention, Livestrong, Reader’s Digest, Bustle, The Active Times, and more. Learn more about them here.
- Barnett, Chris, Vaughan Kippers, and Peter Turner. “Effects of variations of the bench press exercise on the EMG activity of five shoulder muscles.” The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 9.4 (1995): 222-227.