All bench-press movements target the pectoralis major, deltoids, triceps and serratus anterior. The pecs are, of course, your chest muscles, the delts your shoulders, and the triceps the large muscles on the backs of your upper arms. Most bodybuilders know all that, but many don’t know that the serratus anterior is a large muscle that’s actually the foundation of the shoulder.
The serratus originates, or attaches, on the outer portion of the rib cage below your pecs. It inserts to the inner edge of the shoulder blade, or scapula, so it travels between the shoulder blade and the ribs. Its function is to stabilize the scapula and turn it upward. The socket for the ball-and-socket joint of the shoulder is on the outer portion of the scapula, under the deltoid muscle. When you rotate your scapula, your shoulder socket (glenoid fossa) is turned upward as well, so it gives the shoulder a greater range of motion.
The close-grip bench press has a powerful effect on the triceps. It’s not that the triceps works more on the movement but that the pectoralis major works less, so you feel the effort in your triceps. Keep in mind that when muscles are stretched, they are recruited more. The pectoralis major is recruited when you stretch it by raising your arm to the side (abduction) and letting your elbow drop down (horizontal extension) as if performing a regular-grip or wide-grip bench press. With the close-grip bench press, however, your elbows are closer to your sides so there’s less pec stretch, and the triceps and deltoids have to perform the work.
The close-grip bench press is useful for powerlifters, as it can help the initial drive off the chest to get the bar moving. Many people remember Bill Kazmaier from his world championship performances in powerlifting and also from the World’s Strongest Man contests. Kaz performed the bench press with 661 pounds and a fairly close grip, and his fellow competitors were amazed at how fast he moved the bar off his chest.
Eugene Fair Demonstrating Some Pressing Power
Bodybuilders can develop more triceps mass by performing this movement. It’s often used in rotation in strength-training programs of football players. There’s so much contact—hitting, blocking and shoving with the hands shoulder width apart—that many players and strength coaches like to use the close-grip bench. It’s part of the reason there are so many huge arms on the line of scrimmage in any NFL game.
Trainees who have shoulder pain during regular-grip bench presses may find the close-grip version much less painful. A wider grip can cause pain in an unstable, or too loose, shoulder because when the pec muscle is stretched, the capsule, or ligaments, of the shoulder are stretched too. The precise grip width is important. Many trainees think the hands should be placed together or nearly together on the bar; however, that extreme close grip is very difficult to use because the strain and stress on the tendons, ligaments and cartilage of the wrist are tremendous. A shoulder-width grip is much better, as it enables your wrists to be in a much more neutral position and your elbows to fall naturally to the sides. The bar placement for a close-grip bench press should be much lower on your chest than it is for a regular-grip bench press. The drive is an arc upward from the low point on your chest to a finishing point over your shoulders or neck. That bar placement and shoulder-width grip will prevent excessive shoulder stretch and may decrease or eliminate shoulder pain during the lift.
If you’re looking to boost your bench-press poundage and get more drive off your chest, more triceps development and less shoulder pain, give the close-grip bench press a try.
Editor’s note: Visit www.softtissuecenter.com for reprints of IRONMAN Sportsmedicine columns. You can order the book Strength, Conditioning and Injury Prevention for Hockey by Joseph Horrigan, D.C., and E. J. “Doc” Kreis, D.A., from Home Gym Warehouse, 1-800-447-0008 or www.home-gym.com.
242 RAW DVD With Jeremy Hoornstra Includes The Following Feats Of Strength!
Flat Bench (raw) 675 x 1, 585 x 4, 495 x 10, 405 x 22