A close grip bench press is a strength training exercise that targets the triceps brachii, commonly known as the 'triceps.' The exercise is performed lying prone on a weight bench, using a weighted barbell to provide resistance. While bench presses are usually associated with the pectoral muscles, moving the hands close together shifts the focus to the triceps. The pectoral muscles are worked as synergists in this movement, as are the anterior deltoids. This exercise is particularly useful for adding increased size and strength to the upper arms, as it allows for the use of a significantly heavier weight than many other triceps exercises.
The triceps can be a difficult area to work. Many people find triceps extensions and dips to be awkward or uncomfortable. Furthermore, many triceps exercises are suitable for adding tone and definition to muscles, but do not allow a sufficient load to fully stimulate the fast-twitch muscle fibers. For weight lifters looking to add mass to the arms, the close grip bench press is often the exercise of choice. It allows for a full range of motion with a heavy barbell, an equation usually resulting in maximum muscle fiber stimulation.
A close grip bench press begins with the lifter lying prone on a weight bench. The weighted barbell should be grasped in an overhand grip, with the hands slightly less than shoulder width apart. As with any bench press, the presence of a spotter is an important safety precaution. Before removing the bar from the rack, it should be ensured that the shoulders are set, the feet are firmly on the floor, and the abdominal muscles are tensed.
As the bar is removed from the rack, the spotter should prepare to assist, if necessary. During the negative, or eccentric, phase of the exercise, the bar is lowered until a slight stretch is felt in the chest. The concentric, or positive, phase of the exercise involves forceful exhalation as the bar is pushed back to the starting position. Throughout the exercise, the elbows should be held tight against the body and the movement should be slow and controlled.
There are a few alternatives to the standard movement. A dumbbell close grip bench press is performed in much the same way, but dumbbells are used instead of a barbell. This is the safer option if a spotter is not available, but the exercise does become somewhat more difficult. As an added benefit, the use of dumbbells calls numerous stabilizer muscles into play, increasing the intensity of the exercise and potentially resulting in greater overall strength gains.
To modify which regions assist in the movement, the close grip bench press can be executed on an incline or decline instead of a flat bench. An incline bench will focus more of the stress on the upper pectoral muscles, while the decline bench will focus more on the inner part of the muscles. This is, however, an advanced technique that should never be performed without an experienced spotter.