If you would like to learn more about close grip barbell press for developing your chest, triceps, and shoulders to achieve a more defined upper body, then you should read the whole blog.
The close grip bench press is an often overlooked but incredibly effective exercise targeting chest and tricep muscles.
Unlike the traditional bench press, which primarily targets the chest muscles, the close grip version focuses more on the triceps and the inner chest.
In this article, you will learn everything you need to know about how to perform the close-grip barbell press correctly.
You will also learn its benefits, how to avoid common mistakes, its best variations, and how to do them.
- What is Close Grip Bench Press
- Close Grip Barbell Bench Press Muscles Worked
- How To Do Close Grip Barbell Bench Press
- Set-Up and Position
- Lowering the Bar
- Pressing the Bar Up
- Finishing the Lift
- Tips And Form
- Close Grip Bench Press Sets And Reps
- Close Grip Barbell Press Benefits
- Best Variations Of Close Grip Chest Press
- 1. Incline Close Grip Bench Press
- 2. Decline Close Grip Bench Press
- 3. Smith Machine Close-Grip Bench Press
- Is the close grip bench press a compound exercise?
- What is the ideal grip width for a close-grip bench press?
What is Close Grip Bench Press
The close grip bench press is a compound exercise that simultaneously works for multiple muscle groups. In addition to the triceps, the close grip press also works the chest, anterior deltoids, and serratus anterior.
The key difference between the close grip and standard bench press is the hand positioning on the barbell.
In a close-grip bench press, the hands are placed closer together on the barbell, typically around shoulder-width apart or slightly narrower. This narrower grip shifts the focus on the inner chest to the triceps muscles.
Because of this, it is a popular exercise among bodybuilders and strength athletes who want to build arm strength and size.
A study has shown that this narrower grip shifts the emphasis more towards the triceps brachii and less on the pectoralis major and shoulder compared to the traditional bench press.
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Close Grip Barbell Bench Press Muscles Worked
The close grip barbell press primarily works the tricep muscles and chest (pectoralis major).
It has the involvement of several synergist muscles, these muscles include,
A handful of other muscles worked or play the role of stabilizer muscles, including your
How To Do Close Grip Barbell Bench Press
To perform the close grip barbell press, follow these steps:
Set-Up and Position
- Load a barbell with the appropriate weight that’s challenging but allows you to maintain good.
- Lie flat on a bench with your feet flat on the floor.
- Position yourself so your eyes are under the barbell.
- Grip the barbell with your hands placed closer than shoulder-width apart.
- A good starting point is around shoulder width or slightly narrower, but adjust as needed for comfort and to avoid wrist strain.
- Engage your core and arch your back slightly, creating a natural curve in your spine.
- Retract your shoulder blades and pull your shoulders down towards your back pockets.
Lowering the Bar
- Unrack the bar and hold it directly above your chest.
- Inhale as you slowly lower the bar down toward your chest.
- Keep your elbows close to your body to emphasize tricep engagement. They should be at a 45-degree angle to your torso.
- Lower the bar until it touches your chest just below your nipple line.
Pressing the Bar Up
- Exhale and push the bar back up to the starting position.
- Focus on pushing the bar straight up, not allowing your elbows to flare out.
- Keep the movement controlled and steady.
Finishing the Lift
- At the top of the movement, extend your arms without locking your elbows.
- Ensure that your feet, hips, and shoulders remain in contact with the bench.
- Once you’ve completed your set, carefully return the bar to the rack.
- Do 8-12 reps for muscle growth.
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Tips And Form
- Start with a light set to warm up the muscles and prepare the joints. This can prevent injury and improve performance.
- Maintain a natural arch in your lower back, but don’t exaggerate it. Your head, upper back, and buttocks should remain in contact with the bench.
- Ensure the grip is tight and the wrists are straight.
- Keep your elbows at about a 45-degree angle relative to your torso. Avoid flaring the elbows out excessively or tucking them too close to your body.
- Do a full range of motion. Lower the barbell until it is close to your chest. Press it back up to full arm extension without locking out the elbows.
- Ensure smooth and controlled motion to prevent unnecessary strain on your joints.
- Inhale as you lower the barbell, and exhale as you press it up.
- Keep your core engaged. This adds stability and protects the spine.
- Selecting a weight that challenges you without sacrificing your form is important. It’s better to perform the exercise correctly with a lighter weight than to risk injury with a heavier weight.
- Focus on creating Mind-Muscle Connection. Focus on squeezing and contracting the muscles as you press up. This enhances muscle activation.
Close Grip Bench Press Sets And Reps
The number of sets per week is based on your fitness level. The number of sets per week for a beginner is less than that for an advanced.
However, the number of reps depends on the goals you want to achieve to build muscle strength and boost endurance.
But still maintainable with proper form.
- For muscle building, use a moderately heavy weight.
- For strength building, choose a heavier weight that makes the last rep of each set very challenging.
- For endurance training, choose a light to moderate weight that can do 15–20 reps.
(sec b/w sets)
|Muscle Building (Hypertrophy)
|Endurance and Toning
|General Fitness or Maintenance
Close Grip Barbell Press Benefits
You might be motivated to do the close grip barbell press exercise for several reasons, and below, I’ve mentioned a few of them.
- The close grip press emphasizes the triceps more than the standard press, which helps build tricep muscles.
- It works the inner part of the pectoralis major, which is beneficial for overall chest development.
- A compound movement lets you lift a heavier weight, which means you can build more muscle and strength.
- This exercise challenges core stability and coordination, which increases core stability and balance.
- It helps athletes improve their pressing strength in Olympic weightlifting and powerlifting. The exercise builds strength by stimulating muscle growth and coordination.
- Useful for athletes in sports requiring strong triceps for actions like throwing or punching.
- The close-grip bench press may benefit those who find a wider grip uncomfortable or experience shoulder discomfort.
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Best Variations Of Close Grip Chest Press
The close-grip barbell press can be done in different ways to suit your fitness level and your choice.
If you are new to performing a close grip bench press, you may want to apply a few modifications to make the exercise easier. One way is to use a lighter weight.
If you want to work different muscle fibers in the chest, try incline and decline close grip barbell presses. You can make it more difficult by using heavier weights. But focus on form while doing the same.
1. Incline Close Grip Bench Press
The incline close grip bench press is a variation of the standard close grip bench press. In which the bench is set to an incline, usually between 15 and 45 degrees.
You can also use the EZ bar, which is more comfortable for some people because it has an angled grip.
I like using an Ez bar to do close-grip bench exercises. It helps me get good muscle gain without hurting my wrist.
How To Do Close Grip Incline Bench Press
- Lie on an incline bench set to around 30–45 degrees.
- Grab the barbell with a close grip that is shoulder width apart or slightly narrower.
- Inhale and lower the barbell towards your upper chest.
- Keep your elbows tucked in rather than flaring them out.
- Exhale and push the barbell to the starting position.
- Repeat 8–10 reps and 3–4 sets.
- Ensure your grip is not too narrow to avoid wrist strain.
- Keep your elbows tucked in rather than flaring them out.
- Be cautious if you have shoulder issues, as the incline angle can stress the shoulder joints more.
2. Decline Close Grip Bench Press
The bench is set to a decline angle in this variation, typically between 15 and 30 degrees.
This exercise targets the lower part of the chest while still emphasizing the triceps, similar to the standard close grip bench press.
The decline position is easier on the shoulders, so it’s a good choice for people with shoulder problems.
How To Do Decline Close Grip Bench Press
- Adjust the decline bench to a 15-30 degree angle (more decline = greater lower chest emphasis).
- Lie flat on a decline bench and hook your feet underneath the pad
- Grip the barbell with a close grip, around shoulder-width.
- Unrack the bar and hold it directly above your chest.
- Inhale and lower the bar slowly to your lower chest.
- Exhale and press the bar back up to the starting position.
- Complete the desired number of repetitions.
- A very steep decline can increase the risk of sliding or discomfort.
- Use a spotter or racks to handle heavier weights safely.
- Maintain a neutral neck position; avoid straining or hyperextending your neck.
3. Smith Machine Close-Grip Bench Press
It uses the Smith machine for more stability and control. It’s more stable than a barbell, so it’s easier to focus on muscle contractions instead of balancing the bar.
The barbell on the Smith machine has a fixed path, which can be helpful for people who are new to the exercise or want to lift more.
How To Do Smith Machine Close Grip Press
- Position a bench under the Smith machine and adjust it flat.
- Lie down on the bench and Grab the barbell with a close grip, shoulder-width apart or slightly narrower.
- Lift the bar off the rack by twisting it and straighten your arms to lift it off the hooks.
- Inhale and lower the bar slowly towards the middle of your chest,
- Exhale and press the bar back up, focusing on using your triceps and chest muscles.
- You should be cautious about how much weight you use, especially if you are new to the exercise.
- Set up the bench directly underneath the barbell so the bar path is perfectly vertical.
Is the close grip bench press a compound exercise?
Yes, the close-grip bench press is a compound movement. It targets the tricep, chest, and shoulder muscles.
It is a very effective way to strengthen your upper body.
What is the ideal grip width for a close-grip bench press?
The right grip for a close-grip bench press depends on your body’s anatomy and flexibility.
- A shoulder-width apart grip is the perfect starting point for most people that targets the triceps and chest muscles.
- A slightly narrower than shoulder-width grip is perfect for those who majorly want to prioritize their triceps muscle development.
Close grip bench presses, such as the Incline, decline, and Smith machines, are powerful exercises for building upper body strength, especially in the triceps and chest.
If you like to do strength sports or go to the gym often, you should add the close grip chest press to your workout routine. You will feel the results for yourself.
Do you have any questions or tips about the close-grip barbell press? Share them in the comments below!
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- Muyor JM, Rodríguez-Ridao D, Oliva-Lozano JM. Comparison of Muscle Activity between the Horizontal Bench Press and the Seated Chest Press Exercises Using Several Grips. J Hum Kinet. 2023 Apr;87:23-34. Published online 2023 Apr 20. doi: 10.5114/jhk/161468.
- Lockie, Robert & Moreno, Matthew. (2017). The Close-Grip Bench Press. Strength and Conditioning Journal. 39. 1. 10.1519/SSC.0000000000000307.
- Barnett, C., Kippers, V., & Turner, P. (1995). Effects of variation on the bench press exercise on the EMG activity of five shoulder muscles. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 9(4), 222–227.
Manish brings over 10 years of hands-on experience in weight lifting and fat loss to fitness coaching. He specializes in gym-based training and has a lot of knowledge about exercise, lifting technique, biomechanics, and more.
Through “Fit Life Regime,” he generously shares the insights he’s gained over a decade in the field. His goal is to equip others with the knowledge to start their own fitness journey.