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Whether you are a newcomer to working out or an old-timer, there are so many things you can still learn to update your exercise routine.
The good news is you can experiment with different exercises and find what works for you. For those looking for an effective upper-body exercise, try the close grip bench press. We go into the muscle groups it targets, how to perform it, and some mistakes to avoid below.
Close Grip Bench Press vs Wide Grip Bench Press vs Standard Press
A small thing like a grip change can make a huge difference to the muscles you activate. Below, we’ll take a look at the differences between the close grip and wide grip bench press.
Close grip bench press
This compound exercise is quite famous in the bodybuilding world. It’s one of the best tricep builders and also works the chest muscles.
The close-grip bench press doesn’t mean you put your hands right next to each other on the bar. The rule of thumb is that your hands should be placed just inside of shoulder-width, apart. The position should be comfortable and not place stress on your wrists.
The close grip bench press targets the following muscles:
- Shoulders (anterior deltoids)
- Upper chest (clavicular fibres)
- Shorter heads of our triceps (lateral & medial triceps)
Wide grip bench press
A wide grip bench press is said to be more of a chest activator, meaningless focus on the triceps. The wider distance encourages the lifter to use their chest as their primary source of strength.
For a wide grip, aim to have your hands about 1.5 – 2x the width of your shoulders, apart. The widened distance will allow you to fully recruit your pec muscles.
But, it’s not all sunshine when it comes to this bench press variation. A study published in the Strength and Conditioning Journal suggested that a wide grip is more likely to result in shoulder injury than a narrower one.
Standard bench press
The standard bench press is the holy grail of all bench presses. It’s a great workout to build momentum and confidence. This simple yet efficient exercise can be used with either a barbell, dumbbells, and/or a weight bench.
The traditional bench press targets the following muscles:
- Pecs (the pectoralis muscles)
The main differences between these variations are the muscles activated and which are targeted the most.
The wide grip variation hones in on the pecs, specifically the pectoralis major. The close grip works the triceps. And, the traditional press works pecs and shoulders.
All these variations work other muscle groups too, just to a different degree. For example, the standard grip works the triceps less than the close grip.
Read more about the muscle activation process here during a workout
Close Grip Bench Press How-To Guide
As with all workouts, perform some warm-up stretches before you start. This will help you to reduce the risk of injuries and post-workout stiffness
Once you’ve warmed up, you’re ready to perform the close grip bench press.
Here are some guidelines.
- Use a flat bench for your starting position. This will ensure stability and balance during your workout.
Choose a barbell that you are comfortable lifting and can grip with ease.
- Load weight plates according to your fitness level. Don’t push yourself too hard. Start small and build momentum as you improve.
- Lie flat on the bench using a close grip (just inside of shoulder-width).
- Lift the bar with arms steady and fingers gripped.
- Inhale and slowly bring the bar down toward your chest. Keep your elbows close to your body for the entire exercise.
- Exhale and push the bar up, consciously using your triceps muscles. Lock your arms at the top of the movement.
For beginners, the use of light to medium-weight dumbbells or barbells is a great starting point. Practice makes progress and as you see results, you can up the weight and reps.
Close Grip Bench Press vs Bench Dip
Some could argue and say that both the close grip press and the bench dip (aka triceps dip) are the same thing. They might work the same muscle but they have different functions and target different muscle groups.
With the bench dip, your body weight is felt in your arms. With a close grip bench press, attention is given to the weight your arm can carry, not just your body weight.
With this family of exercises, equipment is important. It paves the way for a routine that is efficient and safe.
What’s Worked More, Chest or Arms?
We say both. As mentioned, the close grip bench press is a compound exercise. It tackles various muscles at the same time.
The close grip bench press places most of the workload on the triceps. This achieves maximum tricep muscle development while testing your limits.
But, your chest and shoulder muscles are the secondary group of muscles that benefit. To challenge and grow your upper body, add all three variations to your workouts.
Mistakes to Avoid: Close Grip Bench Press
If you are going to do it, do it right.
If your technique and starting position is off, you’re not going to get the results you want. And worse, you risk intense injuries.
Here are some tips on what to avoid:
Don’t put too much pressure on the wrists.
Avoid placing your hands too close together. It leads to discomfort and forces the shoulders to rotate unnaturally.
Do not place your back in an awkward or uncomfortable position.
Using the same bar path as a traditional bench press. The narrow grip leads to a different elbow position. If you keep the bar path the same, it will cause your elbows to flare out. This can increase pressure on your wrists and joints.
Avoid elbows tucked too close to your body. You shouldn’t feel the friction between your elbows and sides. It disrupts the set position of your shoulders and upper body. If your elbows are too closely tucked, your press efficiency is negatively affected.
Narrow Grip Bench Press Benefits
It’s all about the primary muscles worked. The close grip bench press, as we highlighted before, builds the tricep muscles.
You can also count on the activation of your upper chest area. This makes it one of the best bench press variations there is when done right.
This exercise can help to reduce shoulder joint stress. If you struggle with any day-to-day shoulder pain, which prevents you from bench pressing comfortably, shifting towards a close grip bench press may be the best solution for you.
However, ensure you consult a physician or qualified professional before adding this exercise to your routine. Especially if you’re in recovery or experience chronic pain.
Final Thoughts on Narrow Grip Bench Press
The close grip bench press is an excellent exercise. Add these to your workout alongside standard and wide grip bench presses.
You’ll activate your entire upper body and develop strong pecs, shoulders, and triceps. All you need is a sturdy flat bench, a barbell or dumbbells, and you’re good to go.
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