Muscles Targeted: The close grip barbell bench press targets the triceps as the primary muscle group and also targets the inner chest and the front deltoids as secondary muscles. This is one of the best mass building exercises to build overall size to your triceps. Since the triceps make up the majority of your arms (3 muscles versus 2 muscles for the biceps), it’s a very important area of the upper arm to really work on if your goal is to build impressive arms. The key to this exercise is the hand placement and the position of the elbows. It’s very important to keep your hand grip position narrow on the barbell and your elbows into your sides when performing this exercise in order to place the most stress and tension on the triceps muscles. It’s also important to use an overhand, closed grip with your thumbs wrapped around the barbell. You might see some individuals in the gym with an open grip (thumbs not wrapped around barbell) and this should be avoided since you risk the possibility of the barbell slipping out of your hands and falling onto your chest.
Exercise Advice: Begin this exercise by lying down on a flat bench and placing your feet firmly on the ground. Make sure your back and your head are completely flat on the bench. Start the exercise with just the barbell and do 12-15 repetitions to fully warm-up your muscles before moving onto your working sets. Place your hands using a narrow grip position about 8-12 inches apart on the barbell. Your hands should be well inside shoulder width to emphasize the stress on your triceps and not your chest. Use a regular grip with your thumbs wrapped around the barbell. Slowly raise the barbell off the rack and into the starting position over your face. If you have a spotter, have them assist you with raising the barbell off the rack with a “lift off”. From the starting position, slowly lower the barbell down to just below the nipple line and let the barbell slightly touch your chest. If you have shoulder issues, then you should avoid lowering the bar all the way down to touch your chest and focus on stopping about 4-6 inches from your chest. From the bottom position, slowly press the bar up to the starting position to complete one full repetition. It’s very important to keep your elbow in close to your sides during the entire range of motion on the close grip barbell bench press. If you let your elbows flare out, it will place more stress onto your pecs which you want to avoid.
Things To Avoid: You want to avoid any arching or rolling of your lower back when doing the close grip barbell bench press exercise. Make sure to keep your back flat on the bench while lowering the weight down and pressing it back up. If your lower back starts to arch, you are most likely using too much weight and you should reduce the weight and focus more on your technique to make sure you’re performing the exercise correctly. You should also avoid taking too wide of a grip on the bar for this exercise which will cause your chest muscles to become more involved. Your elbows should also stay close to your sides, so avoid letting your them flare out. Try to avoid using too much weight on this exercise. A lot of beginners might think its the same as doing a barbell bench press and they think the can load the bar up with a lot of weight. Since, your hand and grip position is more narrow on the barbell, it makes the exercise much more difficult since you’re using more of your triceps versus your pecs. Your triceps muscles are much smaller than your pecs, so this decreases the amount of overall weight you can use on this exercise. Always have a friend give you a spot when doing lower reps and heavier weight. A good spotter will provide assistance with a lift off and will also help you throughout the exercise to make sure you get the weight all the way back up to the top. A spotter can also provide assistance when you want to perform extra reps past failure which is great when you want to increase your strength levels and really stimulate your triceps into growth!
Reps and Sets: A good repetition range for building overall muscle mass and strength in your triceps is to focus on between 8-12 reps per set. Total sets for the close grip barbell bench press should be between 2-3 sets. Your overall sets for your entire triceps workout should be in the range of 5-6 sets since your triceps are a smaller muscle group and do not need to many sets to stimulate growth. There is no need to be doing 12-15 sets for your triceps since this will quickly lead to overtraining issues and you will start plateau with your progress. Try to combine a few other exercises into your triceps workout to really stimulate the muscles and get a great pump in your triceps.
Other Exercises To Use: A few other great exercises to combine with the close grip barbell bench press in your overall triceps workout, are the Barbell Lying Tricep Extensions and the Straight Bar Pushdowns. This will really allow you to hit the triceps from all different angles which will help stimulate the muscles into growth. Try to always avoid doing the same exercises, reps and sets for each workout since this will lead to a plateau because your muscles need to be stimulated with different movements in order to be shocked and keep growing. If you do the same exercises for each workout every week, your muscles start to get used to the stimulus. So, really try to switch up the exercises and also your repetition ranges every week. One week can be a heavy workout week where you train with lower repetitions and heavier weight (4-6 rep per set). The next week can be a light workout week where you train with lighter weight but more repetitions per set (12-15 reps per set).