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How To Do The Close-Grip Bench Press

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In This Series

The bench press deserves its place in the pantheon of free-weight exercises – it’s a belter of a chest-builder. But its exalted status shouldn’t make you afraid to tinker with the exercise and the first variation you should try, with a barbell at least, is the close-grip bench press.

Even if you don’t know, you should have guessed that this variation involves moving your hands closer together on the bar. The standard bench press works your chest, shoulders and triceps with the chest muscles doing the bulk of the work, whereas the close-grip bench press moves the focus to the triceps. Rest assured your chest and shoulders will remain involved, but the spotlight is on the backs of your upper arms – in fact, this move is one of the best ways to target your triceps in the weights room.

How To Do The Close-Grip Bench Press

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Lie on the bench with your feet flat on the floor and grip the barbell with your hands around shoulder-width apart. They can be slightly closer than that, but don’t move them too close together or the set-up will become unstable and you’ll risk an injury to your wrists. Brace your core and squeeze your shoulder blades together to stabilise your body. Lower the bar slowly and press up powerfully. Then bring the bar back down towards your sternum. Keep your elbows close to your sides to emphasise your triceps and don’t arch your back.

This is an exercise that should be done with a spotter handy, especially if you’re new to the move, but if you are flying solo make sure you use a considerably lighter weight.

Close-Grip Bench Press Variations

Diamond press-up

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If the standard press-up is a good bodyweight alternative to the standard bench press, moving your hands closer together under your body creates a press-up variation that more closely mimics the close-grip bench press – and achieves the same effect by targeting the same muscles.

To perform a diamond press-up, get into a press-up position with your hands directly under your chest, positioned so the thumbs and index fingers of each hand touch to form the outline of a diamond. Bend your elbows to lower your chest to the floor, ensuring that you don’t flare your elbows out too much. Pause at the bottom of the move, then push powerfully back up to the top position. The diamond press-up shifts the emphasis of the exercise from your chest to your triceps, making it a great assistance move if you’re struggling with the close-grip bench press.

Close-grip dumbbell press

If you want to make sure one of your arms isn’t getting a free ride, train each arm individually by using dumbbells instead of a barbell. This will balance out the strength in your body and ensure one side of it isn’t doing more of the work. Lying on a bench, hold a pair of dumbbells together just above your chest with your palms facing each other. Press the weights overhead, making sure you don’t let them move too far apart, then bring them back down to your chest slowly.

Nick Harris-Fry
Nick Harris-Fry

Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.