Close Grip Bench Press

Exercise Name:
Name: Close Grip Bench Press
Also Called: Narrow Grip Bench Press
Muscles Worked:
Primary: Triceps
Secondary: Front Deltoids, Chest
Function: Strength
Mechanics: Compound
Force: Push
Main: Barbell
Ancillary: Weight Bench (with uprights)
Optional: None
Experience: Beginner
Rep Range: 5-12
Training Tempo: 1 – 0 – 1 – 0
Related Exercises:
Variations: Incline Close Grip Bench Press
Alternatives: Triceps Dip, Rack Lockout, Board Press, Floor Press, Diamond Push Up, Lying Triceps Extension, Overhead Triceps Extension

Instructions with Pictures

Note: Pictures coming soon!

1. Starting Position

  • Lie down on the bench with eyes below the bar.
  • Plant feet flat on the floor, spaced comfortably apart.
  • Grasp the barbell with an overhand, shoulder width grip.
  • Choose between a regular or false grip style (jump to: grip tips).
  • Retract scapulae (shoulder blades) to tense upper back and create a stable base.
  • Unrack the bar by extending elbows and bringing bar over chest.
  • Turn elbows in to increase triceps involvement during the lift.
  • Maintain a neutral spine and keep your butt on the bench.

2. Eccentric Repetition

  • Flex elbows and extend shoulders to lower the weight until the bar touches the lower chest.

3. Midpoint

  • Don’t pause at the bottom. Immediately transition into the concentric repetition.

4. Concentric Repetition

  • Extend elbows and flex shoulders to push the weight up until arms are extended with elbows just shy of lockout; squeeze triceps at the top.

5. Repeat

  • Repeat the motion for the number of repetition remaining in your set.
  • Anything between 5-12 reps works very well on the close grip bench press.

Common Close Grip Bench Press Errors to Avoid

Mistake: Solution:
Grip too narrow Use a shoulder width grip. Anything narrower provides no marginal benefit, but only increases tension on the wrist and shoulder joints. Contrary to what the exercise’s name implies, the correct grip width isn’t really that “close.”
Elbows flared Tuck your elbows close to your body (i.e. upper arm to torso angle of 45° or less). However, flared elbows aren’t always caused by not tucking them. They often result from an excessively narrow grip (see above).
Extending instead of pressing Keep your forearms vertical (when viewed from the side) throughout the motion. Put differently, your wrists should be directly above your elbows for the duration of the exercise.

Close Grip Bench Press Tips

  1. There are 2 ways to set this exercise up, with regard to equipment. I explain each setup below.
    • A bench with uprights for holding the bar (referenced in the instructions). Commercial gyms have this. Many home gyms do not. This setup is easiest, but you need a spotter if lifting heavy.
    • An adjustable weight bench plus a power rack, which any decent commercial and home gym should have. While less convenient than the above setup, you never need a spotter.
  2. Regular overhand grip vs. false overhand grip style. Which one’s best? See for yourself. They both their have pros and cons.
    • Regular grip: Thumb wraps under the bar; fingers over. This grip is secure. However, a lack of flexibility will prevent you from tucking your elbows in enough for optimal triceps stimulation.
    • False (thumbless, suicide) grip: Thumb and fingers both wrap over the bar. This enables a greater range of motion to tuck your elbows and target the triceps. But it’s less secure, so don’t let the bar slip!
  3. Keep your wrists straight to press with maximum efficiency. If your wrists bend, your forearms tend to point backward; not vertical. Thus, when you press up, the force transfers into movement less efficiently.
  4. It’s acceptable to stop two or so inches above your chest, if going further causes any shoulder strain. The bottommost part of the range of motion provides relatively little benefit. You hit the triceps mostly at middle and top.

Is This Exercise Right for You?

The close grip bench press can be a cornerstone triceps exercise for any weight lifter, regardless of experience level.

While triceps training is mostly unproductive for beginners, I still recommend 3 sets of 1 triceps exercise, 1-2x/week. It makes training more fun and encourages adherence…

…The close grip bench press is arguably the best triceps exercise for beginners. It’s simple to learn, progress comes easy and (unlike with, say, dips) even weaklings can do it.

Experienced weight lifters can benefit substantially from the close grip bench press. Below are a couple specific examples of why many experienced lifters use this exercise.

  • Busting plateaus on the bench press, by increasing triceps strength.
  • Improving arm symmetry by bringing lagging triceps size up to par with biceps.

Avoid this exercise under the (admittedly uncommon) cirumstances below.

  • If your triceps overpower your biceps to a noticeable extent.
  • If wrist or shoulder pain persists, despite good form and avoiding common errors.

About the Author Alex

Hey! My name is Alex, and I'm the owner and author of King of the Gym. I started this website back in late 2009 during college, and it has been my pet project ever since. My goal is to help you learn proper weight training and nutrition principles so that you can get strong and build the physique of your dreams!

follow me on:

Leave a Comment: