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How to do the close grip bench press for a bigger chest and arms

The close grip bench press is one of the most effective ways to add size to your chest and triceps. Follow New Body Plan creator and Men’s Fitness cover model Jon Lipsey’s expert tips to make sure you maximise your results

The barbell bench press is an excellent exercise for building a bigger chest. But you know what? If you want to add real size to your upper body then you’re going to need to expand your training repertoire beyond that move. There are lots of bench press variations and they all have a reason why they can be useful. The close grip bench press is one of the key variations that can add size and strength in your pecs and your arms. Here’s what you need to know to get the most out of the exercise.

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What is a close grip bench press?

It is a barbell bench press variation where your hands are comparatively close together. Exactly how close they are depends on your training goals and your flexibility.

What muscles does the close grip bench press work?

It works the same muscles as a standard bench press and the dumbbell bench press. So you’ll develop your chest, triceps and front shoulders. The difference is that moving your hands closer together shifts the emphasis towards your triceps and away from your chest.

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Why should I do this bench press variation?

There are a few reasons why you might want to do the close grip bench press. Here are the key ones.

It adds strength and size to your triceps
It is an excellent move for building bigger arms because you’re generally pressing a heavy weight.

It will improve your bench press lockout strength
If you struggle to complete bench press reps that may be because you lack lockout strength. That basically means you don’t have the strength to complete the rep. The close grip variation will improve your lockout strength by giving your the triceps power to straighten your arms.

It’s a safer option when training alone
You will lift less weight when doing a close grip press than when you do a standard bench press. This makes it a slightly safer exercise to push when you’re training on your own. If you get a bit stuck under a heavy bench press, you may be in trouble. (If you want the safest option, then start with the chest press machine or bodyweight press-ups.)

When should you do this bench press variation?

There are a number of different points in a workout that you could do the close grip bench variation. Here are the main ones.

• At the start of the workout to pre-fatigue your triceps as part of a chest workout.
• As the second exercise in a chest superset to fully fatigue your triceps.
• As your main triceps exercise. If you’re doing a chest and triceps workout, that might be after your main chest moves. If you’re doing an arms workout it might be at the start of a session.

The thing you need to be aware of is that it will fatigue your triceps. So if you’re looking to set a new bench press PB, or do some low-rep bench press sets, it’s not a great option. But once you’ve done your heavy work you can slot a close grip bench press into your workout.

How many sets and reps should I do?

There’s a range of sets and reps that would be valid for the close grip bench press. Higher reps are always going to be a good option for a couple of reasons. The lower load means they are relatively safe. And the higher end of the rep scale is going to create muscle growth and improve the aesthetic look of your arms.

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Close grip bench press variations

Incline close grip bench

In this variation you do the move on a bench set at a 30 degree incline. That moves the emphasis on to your upper chest and front shoulders. It will also slightly reduce the weight you can lift.

Decline close grip bench

This close-grip variation of the decline bench press involves setting the bench at a decline. That will emphasise the bottom of the chest. It may also allow you to lift more weight, once you get used to the position.

EZ bar close grip bench

This is a great close grip bench press variation to use in a tricep superset. You could pair it with a lying triceps extension. You’ll be weaker in the latter move so, if you’re using the same weight, do that first. Then move to the stronger exercise when you are already a bit fatigued. You could do 10 reps of the triceps extension and 15-20 reps of the close grip bench.

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