Dumbbell Close Grip Press: Benefits, Muscles Worked, and More

published by: Debbie Luna
Last Updated:
December 15, 2022

Most fitness enthusiasts would incorporate the bench press into their workout routine due to the ability of this exercise to showcase exceptional strength. A variation of this is the dumbbell close grip press, which is an exercise that places the hands closer to each other. By doing this, particular muscle groups are activated to a greater degree.

The dumbbell close grip press is a compound resistance exercise that provides a more focused activation of the triceps brachii muscle as compared to the traditional bench press. However, the main muscles worked by the dumbbell close grip press are still the chest muscles, especially the inner pecs.

Performed with a grip at less than shoulder-width distance, the dumbbell close grip press is an effective exercise with multiple benefits, including an increase in size, strength, and power of the upper body. Variations of this exercise may be used to target different muscles.

What is a Dumbbell Close Grip Press?

The dumbbell close grip press, also known as the dumbbell crush press, is a variation of the bench press used to develop the inner chest and the triceps. As compared to a normal bench press, the starting position for the close grip press is one where the hands are placed closer than a shoulder-width distance and the dumbbells are pressed against each other.

dumbbell close grip press

By squeezing the chest as the dumbbells are pushed together, the pectoralis muscles are stimulated, particularly the inner pecs. It also activates the triceps to a greater degree as compared to a traditional bench press.

How to Perform a Dumbbell Close Grip Press

Grab a pair of dumbbells off the ground and lie down on a flat bench. With a dumbbell in each hand, keep the weights near the chest. Upon setting up, take a few deep breaths, squeeze the weights together, and press upward until the elbows are fully extended. Hold the position for a second before slowly lowering the dumbbells. 

Keep the weights in contact with each other as the dumbbells are lowered back down to the chest. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions to complete a single set.

Muscles Worked in a Dumbbell Close Grip Press

Because it engages several muscles and involves several joints, the close grip dumbbell press is considered a compound exercise. It primarily targets the pectoral muscles, emphasizing the inner pecs as the dumbbells are pressed together.

dumbbell close grip press muscles

Dumbbell close grip presses also work the triceps brachii muscle. The triceps is the muscle at the back of the upper arm. It works to extend the arm at the elbow joint and is involved in the majority of upper body exercises, especially during push workouts.

The muscles in the shoulder are also engaged as the arm moves into horizontal adduction. The anterior deltoids contract with the chest muscles to lift the weights together. The rotator cuff muscles work to stabilize the shoulder joint.

Benefits of the Dumbbell Close Grip Press

The dumbbell close grip press is considered a chest-focused exercise with the ability to target more of the inner chest while also recruiting the triceps to a higher degree. Thus, this exercise is able to increase the size of the chest and the posterior portion of the upper arms.

An increase in muscle size translates to an increase in strength and power in the above mentioned parts of the body. This is because greater muscle cross-sectional area has been proven to be associated with an improvement in muscle strength. Furthermore, this contributes to better athletic performance in sporting activities that require explosive upper body power such as boxing and football.

Apart from athletic performance, however, the dumbbell close grip press also contributes to improved functionality in activities of daily life. This may be appreciated in movements such as lifting and pushing.

Another benefit of doing this exercise over the traditional bench press is that the dumbbell close grip press is less likely to produce shoulder pain. This is attributed to the fact that the dumbbell close grip press reduces the strain placed on the shoulders due to the triceps carrying more of the load.

The dumbbell close grip press is also a more effective workout compared to a traditional bench press because even when using lighter weights, the former is able to increase muscle activation. In other words, the dumbbell close grip press does not require heavy loads in order to effectively activate the muscles that it targets.

Variations  of the Dumbbell Close Grip Press

Incline Bench Close-Grip Dumbbell Press

The incline bench close-grip dumbbell press is an excellent exercise to target the pectoral muscles, specifically, the upper pecs. Due to the mechanics of the movement wherein the dumbbells are maintained side by side, this squeezes the pecs and requires the chests to do more work during the entire press.

incline close grip press

To perform this, grab a pair of dumbbells in each hand and lie down on a bench inclined to a 45-degree angle. Hold the pair of dumbbells with a neutral grip where the palms are facing each other. The dumbbells should be positioned at an arm’s length above the chest.

Engage the core muscles and keep the elbows close to the body as the dumbbells are lowered until they touch the chest. Push the weights back up to the starting position and then repeat the motion for the desired number of reps to complete a single set. 

Decline Bench Close-Grip Dumbbell Press

While the incline bench close-grip dumbbell press works on the upper pecs, the decline bench variation, on the other hand, develops the lower pectoral muscles. The movement also indirectly targets the muscles of the chest and shoulders as it strengthens the triceps. 

To perform this, grab a pair of dumbbells in each hand and lie flat on a declined bench set to a 15 to 20-degree decline to increase lower pec activation. Hook the feet underneath the pad of the bench and set the shoulder blades by squeezing them together and driving them into the bench.

Hold the pair of dumbbells at arm's length above the chest with the palms facing each other in a neutral grip. Descend the dumbbells slowly until it touches the chest by unlocking the elbows. Finally, push the bar back up to the starting position to complete a single rep.

Diamond Push Up

Due to the narrower base of support, the diamond push-up is one of the harder forms of the push-up. Due to the biomechanical disadvantage, the hand position places stress on the muscles that typically carry most of the strain in a traditional push-up, and the load of the work is placed on the triceps.

diamond pushup

The individual is not required to make a diamond shape with their hands for this activity. The goal is to maintain hands that are closer together than they would be during a standard push-up. The hands should remain close together so that the triceps brachii are more actively worked. The precise distance may vary.

The position is a high plank with the feet parallel to the hips and the hands on the floor beneath the chest, much like a standard push-up. To form a diamond or triangle, the hands and forefingers are brought together almost directly under the chest. Squeezing the thighs and glutes to increase support can help you maintain a tight, straight body.

The elbows must be pointed back toward the feet as the chest is lowered toward the floor. The body is lowered until the arms are along the side of the ribs, then the upward movement is started after a brief pause. The body is propelled upward while maintaining alignment by pushing the floor away until the elbows are straight.

Final Thoughts

The close-grip dumbbell press is an excellent variation to add to a lifter’s workout routine. However, it is often put off by some lifters due to the idea of using less weight than normal.

There is a failure to recognize that even with the use of lighter weights, this workout is still able to increase muscle activation due to the pressure that comes from having to push the dumbbells together throughout the duration of the workout.

Adding the dumbbell close grip press to a workout routine not only helps a person get stronger, but it also helps them get more of the benefits they want from their regular routine.

References

1. Rocha Júnior VD, Gentil P, Oliveira E, Carmo JD. Comparison among the EMG activity of the pectoralis major, anterior deltoidis and triceps brachii during the bench press and peck deck exercises (200/2005). Revista Brasileira de Medicina do Esporte. 2007;13:51-4.

2. Tiwana MS, Sinkler MA, Bordoni B. Anatomy, Shoulder and Upper Limb, Triceps Muscle. [Updated 2022 Aug 30]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK536996/

3. Kim YS, Kim DY, Ha MS. Effect of the push-up exercise at different palmar width on muscle activities. J Phys Ther Sci. 2016;28(2):446-449. doi:10.1589/jpts.28.446

Debbie (Deb) started powerlifting and Olympic lifting in High School as part of her track team's programming; She continues to train in order to remain athletic. Inspire US allows Deb to share information related to training, lifting, biomechanics, and more.
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