Last updated on November 15th, 2022 at 11:12 am
Have you ever wondered why you can’t feel your triceps in the close grip bench press?
I know many people complain that they tend to feel the close grip bench more in the shoulders.
Then there are those of you who say that you don’t feel any tricep stimulation at all.
Check out the following tips to ensure that your triceps are working hard during the close grip bench press.
Can’t Feel Triceps in Close Grip Bench Press
The main reason you can’t feel your triceps during the close grip bench press is because you’re allowing the elbows to flair out. The closer you keep your elbows tucked into your body, the more tricep involvement there will be in the close grip bench press.
1. Make Sure Your Elbows Remain Tucked in
The most obvious reason for not feeling your triceps during the close grip bench press is because your elbows are flaring out to the sides.
Even though the exercise carries the name “bench press” there is a slightly different technique required.
You need to keep your elbows as close to your sides as possible throughout the movement.
In fact, I would go as far to say that the inner part of your upper arms should brush against the side of your chest.
If you do this then you’ll definitely feel the exercise in your triceps.
I often think that some people actually have their hands too close together.
Granted, it is named “close grip”, although I believe that having your hands slightly less than shoulder-width apart will suffice.
I would still consider having your hands 12 inches apart as “close grip”.
So yes, where you place your hands is fairly relevant, but where your elbows are is far more important.
If you want to feel your triceps really work during the close grip bench then tuck those elbows as tight as possible.
The Bench Press Debate – Elbows Flared or Tucked
2. Lower the Bar Towards Your Upper Abs
The standard bench press will typically see you lower the bar to your nipple line, or even slightly higher.
As I’ve mentioned, the close-grip involves a slightly different technique, and this includes where you lower the bar towards.
At the bottom of the movement the bar should be in line with your upper abs.
Realistically, this is only an inch or two below the nipple line, but this slight variation makes all the difference.
If you lower the bar to the “traditional” bench press area, i.e. the nipple line, then the chest will be activated more than the triceps.
Additionally, as you have a much narrower grip there will be a lot more shoulder involvement to push the bar back up.
As you’re keeping your elbow tucked into your sides during the close grip bench press the barbell will take a slightly different route than with the standard bench press.
So, really concentrate on lowering the bar towards the upper abs and you should feel the movement in your triceps much more.
3. Do Not Lower The Bar Down Too Far
Regardless of the type of bench press that is performed there is a tendency to lower the bar too far.
I’m sure we could all argue the point for hours about where the barbell should finish at the bottom of the movement.
Some people will say that the bar should touch the body, whereas others will say that you shouldn’t lower the bar too far.
For me, I believe that at the lowest point (for any type of bench press) the elbow joint should form a 90 degree angle between the upper and lower arms.
This is especially true of the close grip bench press.
As soon as you lessen this angle by bringing the bar down too low you’ll once again bring the shoulders into play in order to push the bar back up.
Remember that you’re keeping your elbows tucked in and that you’re lowering the bar towards the upper abs.
So, as soon as the bar comes down too low, and touches the body, you’re going to have to use the shoulder muscles to get the weight back up again.
I feel this puts a lot of undue stress on the shoulder joints and takes the emphasis away from the triceps.
How to Close Grip Bench Press
4. Try a Suicide Grip
Who’d have thought that the position of your thumbs could make such a difference to how you train?
In fact, thumb positioning could have an impact on the amount of weight you lift, as well as the specific muscles that you target.
Funnily enough, I’ve spoken of this before when it comes to pull ups.
It just so happens that thumb position can potentially play an important role in the close grip bench press as well.
I have noticed that I seem to get far more tricep activation with a suicide grip, or a thumbless grip, aka the false grip.
Basically, rather than wrapping your thumbs around the bar, they remain next to your index fingers.
You’ll find that the bar typically rests slightly lower in the hands, which helps to change factors like which muscles are being activated.
I find that with a lot of exercises, whether push or pull, I like to use a suicide grip.
In fact, off the top of my head, the only exercises that I don’t use a thumbless grip for are pull ups and deadlifts.
So, try the thumbless or suicide grip and see if this helps to activate the triceps to a greater degree.
Why Do Pro Bodybuilders Use The Thumbless Grip?
5. Reduce The Amount of Weight on the Bar
This is something that I’ve mentioned time-and-time again if you’re not feeling the target muscles working during an exercise.
And with good reason.
We all have a tendency to try to lift too much weight.
I’m all for going heavy and getting a really intense workout.
However, not at the cost of form, technique, and not hitting the desired muscles.
This is very much true when it comes to the close grip bench press.
So, if you really want to feel the triceps working then reduce the weight on the bar.
I actually prefer working arms, both biceps and triceps, with higher reps.
In fact, my volume, i.e. total reps per exercise, can actually be very high.
I see nothing wrong with performing an arm exercise for 3-4 sets in the 15-25-rep range.
You’ll get a great pump in the working muscles, plus you’ll definitely feel them working throughout the entire set, and afterwards.
So please, reduce the weight and get those triceps working how they should.
I hope it’s a little clearer now as to why you can’t feel your triceps during the close grip bench press.
For me, the number one reason is typically because the elbows flare out during the movement.
There are certain bench press variations when it is better to allow the elbows to flare out.
However, when it comes to close-grip keep those elbows tucked in as tight as possible.
While I’m on the subject of training arms, here’s something that may sound a little weird (unless you’ve actually experienced this yourself).
You can discover what I have to say about feeling bicep curls in your chest (oh yes, this happens quite often)
Hi, I’m Partha, owner and founder of My Bodyweight Exercises. I am a Level 3 Personal Trainer and Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist through the Register of Exercise Professionals, United Kingdom. I have been a regular gym-goer since 2000 and coaching clients since 2012. My aim is to help you achieve your body composition goals.