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 your upper body pushing workouts. Athletes using close push actions as in football, basketball, or rugby especially benefit from this type of sports-specific exercise.

The benefits of 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.

The close grip bench press is an upper body compound movements 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.

How to Do Close Grip Bench Press

The close grip bench press is a great movement to include in your push or upper body workouts for added muscle size and strength. Use a flat bench station or flat bench.

  1. Position the barbell at the correct reach level on the rack (you should be able to grip/lift the bar off the rack with assistance).
  2. Load weight the weight according to your fitness level onto the barbell.
  3. Lay flat on the bench and grip the bar with your hands shoulder-width apart.
  4. Lift the bar with assistance from the rack, arms with a soft elbows, and hold the bar straight over you.
  5. Inhale and slowly bring the bar down toward your chest, keeping your elbows close to your body for the entire exercise.
  6. Exhale and push the bar up using the triceps and softly locking the arms at the top of the movement.

Other Variations of Close Grip Bench Press

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.

Use an EZ Bar

Using an EZ bar—a shorter bar with a section that zig-zags—provides areas to grip that can relieve any discomfort on your wrists. Its unique shape allows you to position your grip more comfortably.

Use Dumbbells

A great alternative if you don’t have a spotter or lack confidence doing it with a barbell. If you’re new to strengthening this muscle group, you might want to use dumbbells instead of a barbell to start. In this case, your palms will be facing each other as you hold the weights.

Here are some 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.

1. Not Using a Spotter or Smith Machine

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

2. Bouncing Bar Off Your Chest

Bouncing the bar will only rob you of the potential benefits of the bench press while greatly increasing the chances you’ll get tragically hurt. Your ribcage is tough, but in a battle of bone against moving barbell, barbell wins every time.

3. Exaggerated Elbow Tuck/Flare

Tucking the elbows to a degree where they are nearly touching the sides of the body or flaring them out and displacing all the weight into the shoulders is incorrect for the close-grip bench press.

The act of tucking the elbows is not the problem in this scenario, it’s over tucking them to a degree that creates friction with the elbows and the sides of the body. This is an inefficient way to press and can also take away from some of the work the close-grip bench press prime movers are doing by disengaging the upper back and shoulder’s set position.

Who Should Do The Close Grip Bench Press?

Athletes who train in sports like basketball, boxing, or football where passing, throwing, defending, or punching is a key component to the sport should also consider adding in close grip bench press to their training.

These types of sport athletes would benefit because they require strength and power from a position where the elbows are kept close to the body, or they need strong elbow extension.

General Fitness

General gym go-ers who are just concerned with overall fitness are welcome to choose between wide or close grip bench press depending on their goals. If the triceps or upper chest are an area of interest, or if they are struggling with locking out wider grip bench presses, a close grip will be a good option.

This is especially true for anyone in the general population with a history of shoulder injuries, surgery or anyone experiencing discomfort or pain with a wider bench press grip.

Does Close Grip Bench Work The Chest

The close-grip bench press is an assistance lift for the bench press done with a narrower grip. This narrower grip shifts emphasis away from your chest and onto your upper chest, shoulders, and triceps. It’s most used by powerlifters to help them build a bigger 1-rep max on the bench press, but it can be quite good for gaining muscle size, too.

What Grip Is Best For The Upper Chest

The close grip bench press is primarily done from a flat position in terms of the bench set up. Meaning that its going to place larger emphasis on the sternocostal head (centre to lower part of the pec) rather than the clavicular head (upper proportion of the pec). To target the upper chest more, you would need to adjust the bench to a 15-25 degree. That way the load would be placed more on the upper chest, holding the same grip.

Some key takeaways for the close grip bench press

Safety & 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.

Oli McCann’s life as a personal trainer began after I graduated from the University of Gloucester with a 2.1 in Applied Sport & Exercise Studies, together with a Level 3 Personal Training Certificate. I also have a Sports Massage qualification.
In 2013, I started working for Nuffield Health as a personal trainer. After 3 years at the club I had become one of Nuffield Health’s top trainers in the UK, transforming people’s lives by improving their fitness and general health, and in turn enhancing their overall sense of well-being. However, to further develop and promote my personal philosophy of exercise and diet for well-being, I decided to take my business online and have worked with 1000’s of people over the last 8 years.


  • Online Fat Loss Trainer, consultant, and coach
  • Creator of Elite Coaching Community
  • 10+ years in the fitness industry