CLOSE-GRIP BENCH PRESS FORM: 5 KEY MISTAKES TO AVOID
Most people perform the close grip bench press all wrong.
That might sound like an overly simplistic way to start this article off, but hear me out.
Yes, the close grip bench is a great exercise to effectively target all 3 heads of the triceps in one go…
However, if your technique is off, you’ll likely be setting yourself up for some real problems down the road, especially as you move onto heavier and heavier weights.
Not only will you fail to get the most out of the movement in terms of training your triceps, but you’ll also be placing your wrists, elbows and shoulders under a lot of stress that can very easily lead to injury.
(Of course, if you want to make gains consistently, you want to prevent injury.)
So without further ado, here are the top 5 mistakes that most lifters make on their close grip bench press form, and how to avoid them during your tricep workouts…
5 Close-Grip Bench Press Form Mistakes To Avoid
(The video above demonstrates the proper form for the close-grip bench press, and you can come back to the video as a reference whenever necessary)
Close-Grip Bench Press Mistake #1
Using Too Narrow Of A Grip.
Yes, this is a “close grip” bench press, but going too close is actually a critical mistake that will end up doing you a lot more harm than good over the long run.
Most lifters take the name of this exercise a bit too literally and will usually grab onto the bar with their hands spaced very closely together, oftentimes no more than about 5 or 6 inches apart.
When you grip the bar too narrowly, you end up placing a large amount of additional stress on your wrists as they’re forced into an awkward, hyper-adducted position.
This not only increases the chances for wrist and elbow injuries, but it also limits the stimulation on your triceps by reducing the total amount of weight you can lift, decreasing the stability of the bar, and reducing the range of motion as well.
When it comes to proper close grip bench press form, your goal should always be to keep your wrists and elbows in line so that they’re directly “stacked” on top of each other as you raise and lower the bar. In order to do this, you’ll want to grab onto the bar using a shoulder-width grip.
Shoulder-width is narrow enough to effectively maximize the stress on your triceps, but it’s also wide enough that your wrists and elbows will be protected at the same time.
Close-Grip Bench Press Mistake #2
Lowering The Bar To The Mid Or Upper Chest.
When you lower the bar too high up on your body, your wrists and elbows will automatically fall into a misaligned position.
Your elbows will end up flaring out excessively, or if you are able to keep them tucked in, your wrists will fall out of alignment with them.
To maintain the proper position for the exercise, focus on lowering the bar beneath your chest to a point right below your nipple.
This will allow you to keep your elbows tucked in while also keeping your wrists stacked directly on top where they should be.
Close-Grip Bench Press Mistake #3
Failing To Retract The Scapula.
When you perform the exercise with your shoulder blades “flat” against the bench, the amount of stress your shoulder joints have to bear is significantly increased.
This is because the shoulders lose their solid contact with the bench and have nothing to properly drive against.
So, just like with a standard barbell bench press or dumbbell press, always make sure to retract your scapula and maintain that position throughout the entire exercise.
This will help to properly stabilize your shoulder joint and prevent injuries.
A good form cue for this is to think about squeezing your shoulder blades together and “putting them in your back pocket”.
Maintaining a small arch in your lower back will help out with this as well.
In order to ensure that you don’t lose that scapular retraction during lift off, you’ll ideally want to have a spotter assist you in clearing the bar. Pressing upward to lift the bar off on your own can cause the scapula to flatten out in the process.
Close-Grip Bench Press Mistake #4
Tucking The Elbows In Too Closely.
Although most lifters think that the elbows must be directly at the sides of their body at all times, doing so will actually cause your scapula to flatten out as you perform the exercise.
Instead, flare your elbows out just slightly at about a 30 degree angle.
This will prevent your upper body from rolling forward as you lower the bar and will keep your scapula and shoulders in the proper position throughout the exercise.
Close-Grip Bench Press Mistake #5
Focusing On Pressing The Bar Away From The Body.
This might sound like an odd “mistake”, since the bar clearly has to be pressed away from your body in order to complete each rep.
While this is obviously true, what you want to focus on while performing each rep is pushing yourself away from the bar instead.
This is yet another way to ensure that your shoulders stay back and in the proper position.
So, as you press the bar up, also think about driving your body backward into the bench at the same time.
Close-Grip Bench Press Recap
In order to utilize optimal close grip bench press form that maximizes the stress on your triceps while keeping your wrists, elbows, and shoulders protected from injury, you’ll want to:
- Hold onto the bar using a shoulder-width grip and keep your elbows and wrists in line with each other at all times.
- Lower the bar to a point beneath your chest, just below your nipple.
- Keep your shoulders back and your scapula retracted throughout the exercise.
- Flare your elbows out slightly at roughly a 30 degree angle.
- Focus on pushing yourself away from the bar rather than just thinking about pressing the bar away from you.
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