Close Grip Bench Press Explained
The close grip press is a slight variation on the familiar barbell bench press, but one that allows it to target the triceps rather than focusing on the pectoral muscles. If performed correctly, it can be very useful for increasing both size and strength in this area. The triceps brachii consists of three parts: the long, medial, and lateral heads. The close grip barbell press effectively targets the medial and lateral heads.
Due to the large amounts of weight that can often be utilized, the close grip press effectively shocks the muscles and primes them for growth, making it a useful tool for building mass in the arms as well as developing definition.
In addition, it also utilizes the chest and shoulder muscles, allowing for development in these areas as well, and can actually allow your normal benching weight to increase. It also requires the abdominal and lower back muscles to a certain degree to maintain rigid posture, and forearms to maintain a solid hold on the bar; this improves overall core and grip strength and enhances additional lifts as well.
This lift is best performed on a free-weight bench press machine, though a Smith machine can also be used. (The problem with this is that it will limit your range of motion and direct some of the weight to the pecs and shoulders, but it is still acceptable). The Incline and Decline machines can also be utilized to target different parts/ different heads of the muscle. When beginning, however, it is best to start with a standard bench.
This guide will focus on using a standard, flat, free-weight bench press.
The exercise is very similar to the standard bench press (Guide found Here), with a few variations.
1. Warm up and stretch thoroughly. It is important to stretch the shoulders completely to avoid injury. Try arm circles, and then arm circles holding added weight (5-10lbs).
2. Begin by lying down on the flat bench under the barbell with your feet planted firmly on the ground and shoulders touching the bench. Grip the bar at about shoulder width, with about 12 inches between your hands. (You can adjust the grip to make it narrower, but this tends to cause the elbows and shoulders to flare out and negates from the lift- Don’t bring your hands too close together (works shoulders) or too far apart (works chest). Keep the elbows bent at 90 degrees and the hands locked tightly around the bar with the thumbs on the outside.
3. Lift the bar off the rack and slowly lower it just below your chest – about the lower sternum area. Aim for a count of two seconds during this process. Make sure to inhale as you lower and stop once the bar reaches your chest. Do NOT drop it rapidly or bounce it off your chest.
4. After a brief pause, exhale sharply and force the bar back to it’s starting position. Try to take at least one second to do so. Focus on squeezing the muscles of the arms and not just pushing with the chest. It should be felt in your triceps. Keep the feet firmly planted and hold your waist steady; do not squirm on the bench. To help, visualize the bar staying in place, and you pushing your body away from the bar instead. It will assist with movement.
5. Repeat this process for the defined number of repetitions in one set. Repeat for up to five sets. Ideally you should begin light to warm up, and slowly add weight. Set 4 should be the heaviest, then drop weight as strength fails and try one more light set.
Additional Tips/ Notes
1. It is crucial that you keep your elbows and shoulders tight in to your side and in position during the movement. Do NOT let them flare out.
2. Stop the weight’s descent just before it reaches the lockout point (elbows as far down as they can be) in order to maximize the tension placed on the triceps.
3. Keep your back firmly tightened and do not let it round or arch too much.
4. Make sure to breathe correctly, but there is no need for unnecessary yells or grunts. This will not help you lift the weight and is very annoying to others.
5. Lift with a spotter or do not go as heavy as possible. Keep in mind that your strength will begin to fail after a few sets and do not keep trying to raise weights when alone
6. Rerack the weights upon completion.