Close Grip Incline Bench Press Exercise Guide — How to, Muscles Worked, & Alternatives

close grip incline bench press

A close grip at an incline on bench press activates your triceps and upper pec muscles. 

The bench press is a cornerstone exercise in bodybuilding, crucial for fortifying a wide array of upper body muscles. Widely recognized for its efficacy, it remains a staple chest workout routine of bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts. Whether executed with dumbbells or a barbell, studies have evidenced that the bench press significantly enhances upper muscle activity and athlete performance (1).

Among its many variations, the incline, decline, and flat bench press each target specific muscle groups. This discussion will focus on the close-grip incline bench press, a nuanced variation that intensifies the traditional bench press’s impact.

This variant, characterized by its narrower grip, focuses on the upper body, particularly strengthening the triceps. This guide delves into the pivotal role of the close-grip incline bench press in upper body muscle development. It outlines its key benefits and comprehensively explores its significance in an effective training regimen.

Techniques & Muscles Worked

It’s a compound exercise that targets the chest and shoulders. Due to the narrow grip, it emphasizes the triceps. Core muscles, like the abs and obliques, work as stabilizers when performing this exercise. 

This is an effective exercise for athletes looking to build upper body size and strength. It can be done with a pair of dumbbells or barbells. It’s done with a narrow grip on an incline bench. Below is a step-by-step guide on how to do the exercise correctly using a barbell.

  1. Lie flat on the incline bench with your handset at a slightly less than a shoulder-width overhand grip and feet flat on the floor.
  2. Pull your shoulder blades back and lift the barbell from the rack, extending your elbows and arms fully. This is your starting position.
  3. Take a deep breath, brace your core, then slowly lower the barbell close to your chest.
  4. Next, exhale and push the bar up, extending your elbows and arms to return to the starting position and complete your rep.
  5. Repeat this up-and-down movement for as many reps as you desire.


It’s an upper-body strengthening and muscle-building exercise with many benefits for athletes. The close grip puts extra tension on the triceps muscles, increasing muscle hypertrophy in the arms during this exercise (2). Here are some benefits of the close grip incline bench press.

Triceps & Upper Body Hypertrophy

This exercise targets your triceps for larger arms. It also hits your chest and shoulder muscles for more muscle mass and gains. 

Less Stress On the Shoulder Joint

When performing the close-grip incline bench press, the shoulder is under less strain, which increases the range of motion and helps prevent shoulder discomfort. 

Better Coordination & Stability

When performing them, it’s important to control the barbell. This includes bracing your abs with your feet firmly planted on the ground. This builds your core muscles more, which helps with posture and form.

Carryover to Other Routines

It works on your upper body muscles and strengthens them. This improves your form for other strength training and muscle-building exercises. As a result, your overall upper body movement and athlete performance improve.

Close Grip Incline Bench Press Alternatives

Regularly performing them can produce impressive upper body gains. Unlike the traditional bench press, the close grip incline bench press emphasizes the triceps and upper chest more. However, you shouldn’t limit yourself to this exercise to avoid a plateau. Here are other effective upper body-building workouts to try for similar results.

Medicine Ball Throw & Chase

This exercise works your arms, chest, and shoulders. The medicine ball is large, round, and heavy, so throwing it strengthens those muscles. It targets the glutes, hamstrings, and calves as a secondary muscle.

Decline Close Grip Pushups

Traditional pushups work on the triceps, shoulders, and pecs. They require no equipment, making them a pure bodyweight exercise. Performing them at a decline and with a close grip will mimic the muscles engaged in the close grip incline bench press — your triceps and upper pecs. Regularly doing pushups could also lower your risk of cardiovascular diseases (3).


Dips are a strength training exercise that works the triceps, delts, chest, and rhomboids. They can be challenging because your feet are off the floor, leaving your entire body weight driving through the arms only. This makes them particularly effective for your upper body.


What is the close grip incline bench press good for?

They’re good for bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts who want to build upper body mass and strength. This exercise mainly focuses on the triceps and upper chest.

What do you train with the close grip incline bench press?

During the close-grip incline bench press, you train your arms, chest, and shoulders. This improves your upper body strength, which boosts an athlete’s performance.

Does the close grip incline bench press make you stronger?

Yes, incorporating the close grip incline bench press into your workouts can make you stronger. The close grip incline bench press builds upper body strength and muscular mass, leading to more strength.

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  1. Saeterbakken, A. H., Mo, D. A., Scott, S., & Andersen, V. (2017). The Effects of Bench Press Variations in Competitive Athletes on Muscle Activity and Performance. Journal of human kinetics, 57, 61–71.
  2. Saeterbakken, A. H., Stien, N., Pedersen, H., Solstad, T. E. J., Cumming, K. T., & Andersen, V. (2021). The Effect of Grip Width on Muscle Strength and Electromyographic Activity in Bench Press among Novice- and Resistance-Trained Men. International journal of environmental research and public health, 18(12), 6444.
  3. Yang, J., Christophi, C. A., Farioli, A., Baur, D. M., Moffatt, S., Zollinger, T. W., & Kales, S. N. (2019). Association Between Push-up Exercise Capacity and Future Cardiovascular Events Among Active Adult Men. JAMA network open, 2(2), e188341.
Terry Ramos
As a personal trainer and writer, Terry loves changing lives through coaching and the written word. Terry has a B.S. in Kinesiology and is an ACSM Certified Personal Trainer and ISSA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. He enjoys playing music, reading, and watching films when he's not writing or training.