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The Close Grip Bench Press Mistake You’re Probably Making

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Many of you are performing close grip bench presses wrong.

Heck of a way to start an article, I know, but hear me out.

Most of us learned how to perform the close grip bench press from reading muscle building magazines. If not, we learned from a similar source, or possibly just winged the exercise.

Because of its name – the close grip bench press – lifters assume they must perform it with their hands as close together as possible. This is incorrect.

When performing the close grip bench press your wrists should be directly above your elbows. Remember that point, because it’s an important one.

When performing the close grip bench press your wrists should be directly above your elbows

Most lifters perform close grip benches with their wrists well inside their elbows, generally about 6-8 inches apart. Watch most videos of the lift and you can see the forearms forming a triangular-type shape.

Not only is this horrible for the wrist and shoulder joints, but it also cuts back on the amount of iron you can move.

Performing The Close Grip Bench Press Correctly

To learn how to perform the close grip bench press properly, I want you to do the following:

  1. Stand with your arms at your side.
  2. Keeping your elbows at your side, raise your hands until they are parallel to the ground.
  3. Pretend like you are grabbing the bar.

That’s it. This is exactly how you should be performing the close grip bench press. Note the grip width and practice your setup with an empty bar.

How to Implement the Close-Grip Bench Press into Your Routine?

Now that the technique is settled in, the next important part is learning how to program the close grip into one’s bench routine. A common error is that lifters will use this highly useful exercise in a very random fashion. Thus, it’s crucial to organize your workouts for maximum gains. The important questions to initially ask are:

  1. Is the goal to improve one’s bench press or to increase upper body mass?
  2. How many times a week am I going to be benching and/or pressing (including incline or overhead presses)?
  3. Am I injury prone?
  4. What are my weak points during the bench press? Is it off the chest? Mid-way up? Maybe the lockout (uncommon in raw bench pressers though)?

As mentioned, establishing and optimizing for training goals is key. Powerlifting related goals will often involve benching at least 2 times a week, if not 3 times a week. This means that the close grip bench may have its own dedicated day depending on one’s weaknesses.

For those with a stagnating bench press, it’d be wise to accumulate volume on the close grip bench during a dedicated day. Similarly, if the lockout is a weak component then the close grip can be very useful in improving that weakness. Though this is fairly uncommon in raw benchers.

For those who want to use the close grip as an accessory only exercise, it should be done on the bench day with the least volume. This is because of the additional stress placed on the connective tissues. And of course, it should be done after the main working sets of the regular bench.

It’s also advised to avoid doing more than 2 pressing exercises in one training cycle. You can improve your regular bench press and your close grip bench; but attempting to simultaneously improve your incline press or your overhead press is not advised. It is not practical to accumulate sufficient volume on more than 2 pressing exercises in a training cycle. The risk of injury will decrease, and maintenance of adequate intensity will be non-existent.

So there you have it. Give it a try and let me know in the comments how it goes.

Steve Shaw

Steve Shaw is the founder of Muscle and Brawn, and a powerlifter with 30+ years of experience. Steve's recorded a 600lb squat, 672lb deadlift and a 382lb bench press.
Steve Shaw
5 Comments
  • Jay Dec 9,2014 at 12:11 pm

    Simple and to the point. Perfect explanation. It’s my favorite form of pressing and working the triceps.

  • joe b May 1,2014 at 1:10 am

    So I’ve doing close grip bench and not regular benching this whole time? Even though by chest has grown 2inches in four months

  • Missing Link Feb 24,2014 at 5:53 pm

    Thanks for the info. That’s probably why my elbows usually hurt after doing these!

  • Sunday Agbo Jan 23,2014 at 9:51 am

    I want to gain muscle.

  • Oscar Aug 27,2013 at 10:45 am

    Very good to know. I guess i’ve been doing it wrong all this time.

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