Last updated on October 30th, 2022 at 11:33 am
Anyone else wondering why their close-grip bench press is stronger than their regular bench press?
I mean, it just doesn’t seem right, does it?
You know that you should generally be benching more with a wider grip.
Plus, close-grip bench press is far more tricep-focused, which of course is a far smaller muscle than your pecs.
So, what exactly is going on here?
Allow me to reveal all.
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Why is My Close Grip Bench Stronger?
There are various reasons why your close-grip bench press is stronger than your regular bench. However, the most obvious of these is that your triceps are relatively stronger than your chest. This typically comes about from performing various pressing exercises, which stimulate the triceps, while having less focus of pec-focused pressing exercises. As an example, perhaps the only pec-focused exercise you perform is bench press. However, your other pressing exercises include overhead press, dips, tricep extensions, etc.
Your Triceps Are Relatively Stronger Than Your Chest
There’s no two ways about it, if your close-grip is stronger than your regular bench, your triceps are relatively stronger than your pecs.
We typically train bench press for pec development, whereas close-grip is far more focused on the triceps.
However, both exercises still work both muscle groups quite hard, and the shoulders.
In other words, whether you perform close, regular, or wide grip bench press, you’ll always hit the same three main muscle groups, just to varying degrees.
Now, as I’ve mentioned, the fact that you’re stronger at close-grip shows that your triceps are relatively stronger than your chest.
Please note, I said “relatively”, as regardless of your training, the pecs will always be the bigger and stronger muscle.
The simple fact that the pecs take up more room in the body means that they are the bigger muscle and therefore can apply more force than the triceps when benching.
That being said, there are statistics which prove exactly what I have just said.
When it comes to the regular bench press, it is estimated that the chest and shoulders produce 78% of the force necessary to move the barbell.
This means that your triceps contribute 22% towards the lift.
However, with close-grip bench press, your chest and shoulders provide 63% of the force, whereas your triceps provide 37%.
So, immediately you can see that close-grip bench press uses much more tricep force than regular bench press.
Nevertheless, it is still the chest and shoulders that take up the majority of the slack, irrespective of which grip you use.
But still, if you’re finding close-grip easier, this does point to a muscle imbalance between your pecs and your triceps.
What Other “Pressing” Exercises Do You Do?
If your close-grip bench is stronger than your regular bench, I would suggest that you take a long hard look at the rest of training.
More specifically, the other types of pressing movements that you regularly perform.
In fact, this could provide a fantastic clue as to why you’re experiencing this.
Let’s face facts, the bench press is probably one of the most popular exercises in the gym if not the most popular.
Well, among men anyway, I’m sure hip thrusts, or some other glute-focused exercise, is more favoured by the ladies.
There’s nothing wrong with this, but I’ve always tried to ensure that I have a more balanced approach to my training.
Don’t get me wrong, I have definitely “specialized” a certain body part or a specific exercise for a number of weeks.
However, I still like to think of my training as being fairly balanced.
Now, one issue I often see is that many gym-goers will simply bench press for their chest, and never really perform any other pec-focused exercises.
Once more, there’s nothing wrong with this, although it will depend on how often you’re performing the bench press, and your overall body composition goals.
Your Triceps Will Always Be Activated When “Pushing” & “Pressing”
That being said, you must remember that all pressing exercises will stimulate the triceps.
Therefore, this should help your triceps to get stronger and bigger.
And this is even true when your triceps are the secondary muscle group being trained.
As an example, heavy overhead presses may be a fantastic exercise for your shoulders, but they’re also awesome for your triceps.
Perhaps, you also regularly perform dips, tricep extensions, skullcrushers, Arnold presses, etc.
Now, don’t get me wrong, these are all great exercises, and ones that I personally perform on a regular basis.
However, once more, there is a lot of tricep work going on here.
Personally, I believe that the triceps are actually one of the fastest muscles to recover.
Yes, you may “feel” your triceps for days after training them, but you’ll typically find that can easily “press” the same loads multiple times a week,
Realistically, what I’m saying is to take a closer look at your overall weekly training.
Your aim is to determine how many specific pec-focused exercises you’re performing in comparison to the rest of your “push-training”.
This may hold the key as to why your triceps are relatively stronger than your pecs.
Do You Feel Regular Bench in Your Shoulders?
As popular as the bench press is, I very rarely perform regular or wide-grip bench press, if ever.
In fact, when I do bench it’s always with close-grip.
So, in effect, my close-grip bench is definitely going to be stronger than my regular.
This is simply due to the fact that I perform the exercise much more often.
However, my reasoning behind this was to protect my shoulders.
And this is typically made worse with a wider grip.
If you think about it, your front delts are put under enormous stress whenever you bench press.
This is also why it worries me when I see someone who regularly bench presses, but also performs a high volume of an exercise like front raises.
This not only raises you higher on the bench, thus meaning you have reduced the range of motion, but it “packs” your shoulder joint into a much safer position.
So, if you bench press regularly, without adhering to “shoulder health”, it may not be long before you injure your shoulders.
Then again, it could be the case that you always feel a slight niggle whenever you bench press with a regular or wide grip.
If you find this to be true, then you potentially have some type of on-going shoulder injury.
And this will of course affect your strength and power when it comes to bench pressing.
So, if you find that close-grip bench press presents you with no issues, but regular bench causes you discomfort, this could be the root of your strength issues.
Of course, the best way to heal is to stop bench pressing, rest and recover.
This will also mean that you should work on your shoulder strength, mobility, and flexibility, which can hugely help to improve your bench press anyway.
Master Shoulder Mobility – 4 Simple Exercises
So, as you can see, there are a fair few reasons why your close-grip bench press is stronger than regular.
However, this generally comes down to the fact that your triceps are relatively stronger than your pecs.
This is typically caused by the type of training you do, especially if a lot of your pressing and pushing exercises are not chest-related.
What I mean by this is that every press/push exercise you ever perform will stimulate the triceps.
However, the same cannot be said for your chest.
Therefore, it may be time to focus on a variety of chest-strengthening exercises to even out your training.
Furthermore, the bench press in general puts a huge amount of stress on the shoulders.
And the wider your grip, the worse this typically is.
So, if you “feel” your shoulders when bench pressing with a regular grip, this may point to a potential injury.
As the close-grip bench press places less stress on the shoulders, you may find that you favour the exercise.
However, if there is a potential injury, then rest and recovery will always be the order of the day.
Another issue that I know many of you have is that you struggle to feel bench press in the target muscles. So, you can learn more about why I believe you can’t feel bench press in your chest.
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.