9 Best Close-Grip Bench Press Alternative

The close-grip bench press alternative is a popular variation to make the bench press hit your triceps more. But, whether you want to add variety to your tricep movements or find ways to avoid the close-grip bench press altogether, you might be searching for an alternative

The 9 best alternatives to the close-grip bench press are:

  • Board bench press
  • Pin bench press
  • Barbell floor press
  • Dumbbell floor press
  • Dumbbell bench press
  • Close-grip chest press machine
  • Close-grip overhead press
  • Dumbbell overhead press
  • Log press

We’ll dive into the specifics of each of these exercises below.

What Makes a Good Close-Grip Bench Press Alternative?

close-grip bench press alternative
close-grip bench press alternative

If you’re looking to supplement or replace the close-grip bench press, chances are you’re thinking about improving your triceps, either for size or strength. You may have other reasons, but triceps tend to be the biggest reason to do a close-grip bench variation in the first place.  close-grip bench press alternative

As you think about alternatives, a good replacement for the close-grip bench press will meet the following two criteria:

  • The exercise targets the same or similar muscle groups
  • The exercise follows a similar pressing movement

Targeting Similar Muscles as the Close-Grip Bench Press

The close-grip bench press uses the same muscles used in the standard bench press – the pecs, shoulders, and triceps, while being stabilized by the lats, erectors, and rotator cuff.  close-grip bench press alternative

The differentiator of the close-grip variation is that it increases the range of motion (ROM) of the triceps flexion and extension, putting greater emphasis on them at the lockout

Given this emphasis on the triceps, any exercise you select as a close-grip bench press should give similar emphasis to the triceps while also working the pecs and shoulders. Depending on your goals, you may put more or less preference on how much work the shoulders and pecs get when selecting alternatives.

If you normally don’t feel your triceps working in the close-grip bench press, check out Can’t Feel Triceps In Close Grip Bench? Try These 5 Tips. close-grip bench press alternative

Follow a Similar Movement Pattern

close-grip bench press alternative
close-grip bench press alternative

The close-grip bench press is a compound pressing movement, meaning we push or press the load away from our body (as opposed to pulling weight toward our body, like a row or a deadlift) by the combined effort of several muscles (shoulders, pecs, triceps). 

While there are great exercises that isolate the triceps, pecs, or shoulders to work alone, not all of them are necessarily pressing movements (like a dumbbell lateral raise, a cable crossover, or a tricep extension).

That’s not to say they aren’t valuable because they definitely are. But if you’re looking to replace the close-grip bench press in your program for a while, selecting a compound pressing movement is an important factor.

For this reason, my list only includes compound pressing alternatives that give emphasis to the triceps rather than including isolated tricep extension/flexion exercises.

9 Best Close-Grip Bench Press Alternatives

Following those two criteria, here is my list of the 9 best close-grip bench press alternatives:

1. Board Bench Press

The board bench press varies the lift by having you lower the bar to a board or other obstacle between your chest and the bar. Instead of hitting your chest, you lower the bar to the board or other surface resting on your chest and press it back up. 

This can be effective for a number of reasons. But in our case, it’s a great close-grip bench alternative because the limited Range of Motion (ROM) puts greater emphasis on the triceps, especially with thicker boards.

Because the top of the ROM primarily relies on your triceps to lock out the rep, the board press limits the involvement of your pecs and shoulders, leaving your triceps to do rep after rep of just their portion of the lift. This way, you don’t expend as much energy making your pecs and shoulders work, allowing you to more efficiently train your triceps’ pressing abilities.  close-grip bench press alternative

How To Do it

  • Lie on a bench as you would for a normal bench press variation.
  • Have a spotter hold a board or place a board on your chest over your usual touchpoint.
  • Grip the bar with a wider-than-shoulder-width grip and unrack it.
  • Lower the bar to the board on your chest, directly over your normal touchpoint.
  • Press the bar back up.
  • Repeat for reps.

Pro Tip

If a second person is unavailable, you can attach the board to the bar with a wrist wrap or other creative method. I sometimes keep a second t-shirt in my gym bag to put on when I use boards, pull it over the t-shirt I’m wearing, and then slip the board in between my two t-shirts to hold it in place while I bench. You can also purchase Bench Blokz that attach to a bar.

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Depending on your tricep strength (and sequencing in the workout with other bench/tricep work), you may be able to do more or fewer board reps than you expect. Be sure to start with a manageable weight and adjust from there so you don’t get injured or stuck under a failed rep. close-grip bench press alternative

The triceps fatigue very quickly with most lifters, so be mindful of how this movement will affect you and be prepared with spotters and help.  close-grip bench press alternative

When performing the board bench press, you can use one, two, or three boards. I wrote specifically about the three-board bench press in my article 3-Board Bench Press: Technique, Benefits, How To Program.

2. Pin Bench Press

Sometimes called pin presses, this variation has you adjust the safety bars on the sides of the bench press so you press from a dead stop. You can adjust the pins to any height so you can press from any point in the bench ROM. 

For our purposes, you’ll want to set them somewhere 1-4” above your touchpoint so we can emphasize the triceps rather than the bottom of the rep, which would bring more pec emphasis into the exercise.

Just like the board press, the pin press allows you to focus on the triceps’ portion of the lift. The big difference here is the call for the dead stop on the pins. close-grip bench press alternative

Most lifters benefit from the momentum their pecs and shoulders generate when getting the bar moving off their chest. When you take that away and have to get the bar moving with triceps alone, you get a fantastic triceps-focused alternative that’s sure to make your bench press stronger.  close-grip bench press alternative

How To Do it

  • Adjust the safety pins/bars/face savers on the side of the bench press so the bar cannot touch your chest, typically 1-4” above your touchpoint.
    • Lie on the bench and set up like you would for any bench press attempt.
    • Grip the bar with a wider-than-shoulder-width grip and unrack it.
    • Lower the bar to the pins. Allow your muscles to relax for a split second so the bar can rest fully on the pins.
    • Engage your muscles again and press the bar back up.
    • Repeat for reps.

    Pro Tip

    There is an important difference between paused bench press reps and pin press reps. A paused bench press rep calls for the lifter to stay fully tense and engaged during the pause. You do not want to relax your muscles and rest in this moment.  close-grip bench press alternative

    With the pin press, we do the opposite. We want to rest the bar on the pins for a moment, disengage our muscles so we have to intentionally reengage them, build tension, and get the bar moving again from this dead stop.  close-grip bench press alternative

    When you do pin presses, be sure to apply this difference so you aren’t simply doing paused reps to pins. Do this right and make the lift harder in these circumstances, and your body will be more prepared for reps when you aren’t stopping them on pins in the future! close-grip bench press alternative

    3. Barbell Floor Press

If you don’t have access to a bench press with safety pins or a board to do board presses, have no fear – floor presses are the minimalist solution!

Floor presses limit your ROM on the bench press because your elbows/humerus physically cannot descend below the floor when you are lying on the floor.

With your back on the floor and your elbows obstructed by the floor, you get a similar effect as placing a board between the bar and your chest or setting safety bars to catch the barbell. We can only do the top portion of the lift, and our triceps have to do more work.  close-grip bench press alternative

How To Do it

  • Place the barbell low on a power rack or squat rack so you can reach it while lying on the floor.
  • Lie under the barbell like you would a normal bench press.
  • Grip the bar with a wider-than-shoulder-width grip and unrack it.
  • Lower the bar toward your chest until the backs of your arms touch the floor.
  • Press the barbell back up.
  • Repeat for reps.

Pro Tip

If you’re doing these for the first time, the floor may surprise you as your arms hit it. Avoid hurting your arms by performing these reps slowly to get a feel for the allowed ROM. You don’t want to have a bunch of weight in your hands as you slam your elbows against the floor because you weren’t expecting it.

Secondly, you can use a soft pad or yoga mat to make lying on the floor more bearable as you perform these reps.  close-grip bench press alternative

4. Dumbbell Floor Press

Even without a squat rack or power rack to place a barbell on, you can use dumbbells to get a similar effect! You may not be able to get as much weight in your hands with DB’s, but they’re still a great option. 

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Whether you have a barbell or DB’s in your hands, as you lie on the floor, your ROM is limited. Your arms can’t descend as far as they do when we lie on a bench, making those triceps do their job more than usual.

How To Do it

  • Lie on the floor with a dumbbell in each hand and your arms held straight over your chest.
  • Lower the dumbbells until the backs of your arm touch the floor.
  • Press the dumbbells back up.
  • Repeat for reps.

Pro Tip

As I’ll touch on with other dumbbell variations, you can mimic the close-grip element here with dumbbells by simply paying attention to how close together you hold the dumbbells.  close-grip bench press alternative

Keep the dumbbells in a narrower grip throughout the whole ROM to get even more tricep emphasis!

5. Dumbbell Bench Press

A simple change in equipment can go a long way in giving yourself alternative exercises with similar effects on your muscles. close-grip bench press alternative

The dumbbell bench press is an easy option to replace your close-grip bench press. Simply hold the dumbbells closer together than you normally would (ideally the same width you would place your hands apart on a barbell), perform DB bench press reps, and boom – you’ve got yourself a solid alternative. 

How To Do it

  • Lie on a bench.
  • With a dumbbell in each hand and your arms held over your chest, hold the dumbbells shoulder-width apart, or narrower, if possible.
  • Lower the dumbbells to your chest and press them back up.
  • Repeat for reps.

Pro Tip

Because you are holding two independent dumbbells, your grip width can easily shift throughout the ROM. This is one of the stated benefits of the DB variation, of course. But to emphasize your triceps, you’ll want to keep your arm position consistently narrow.  close-grip bench press alternative

Additionally, you can make these hit your triceps more by shortening the ROM and repping them about halfway down to your chest and back up. This isolates the lockout, or triceps-focused portion, of the lift.

This may not be your favorite alternative to the close-grip bench press, but if you find yourself with access to DB’s and no access to a bench press or barbell, they can get the job done really well.

If you’re looking for a bench so you can do movements like dumbbell bench presses at home, check out the Rep Fitness AB-3100 bench. close-grip bench press alternative

6. Close-Grip Chest Press Machine

As a powerlifter, I always prefer the barbell over machines when it comes to bench press variations. But that doesn’t take away the benefit you can get from a chest press machine!

Most of these machines have large handles so you can adjust your grip to your preference. You can place your hands in the narrowest position here and get more triceps work just the same as you would with a close-grip bench press.  close-grip bench press alternative

You also get the benefit of being seated without the risk of dropping a barbell on your face, so you can burn these reps out to complete failure if you want! close-grip bench press alternative close-grip bench press alternative

How To Do it

  • Adjust the seat of the chest press machine so the handles are at about mid-chest height.
  • Sit in the chest press machine with your back against the back pad.
  • Place your hands on the narrowest possible arrangement of the handles.
  • Press the handles/arms away from your body and return them back to the start position.
  • Repeat for reps.

Pro Tip

Chest press machines are all built differently, but each of them will force your technique in some way or another. Your bench press technique will differ depending on which angle the arms swing, where the arms intersect with your chest, and the seat height and angle.

Don’t let the machine create bad habits in your bench press form! If you care about your bench press performance, my recommendation is to use the chest press machine late in your workout after you’ve done bench press work as an accessory movement to get some extra tricep/chest work in.

Don’t rely on it as your primary pressing exercise, or you’ll likely build some bad habits as you try to bench press again.  close-grip bench press alternative

7. Close-Grip Overhead Press

You get the same effect by narrowing your grip on the overhead barbell press as you do with the bench press – increased ROM on the triceps to lock out the press

Whether you’re lying down, standing up, or seated upright, extending the weight over your head requires your triceps to fully extend, making the close-grip overhead press a great alternative to the close-grip bench press.

How To Do it

  • Stand or sit with a barbell in your hands under your chin. Place your hands narrower than shoulder-width apart on the barbell. close-grip bench press alternative
  • Press the barbell upward over your head.
  • Return the barbell to the starting position.
  • Repeat for reps.
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Pro Tip

A common technique mistake is to try to keep the barbell in front of you as you press, but this can throw you off balance and make it harder to complete the rep.

As you press the bar upward, push the barbell slightly backward at a diagonal bar path as soon as it has cleared the top of your head, and push your head through the hole created by your arms and the barbell. The bar should end directly over your shoulders with your head forward.  close-grip bench press alternative

By doing this, you keep the bar centered over your body, allowing you to balance better.

It will take some practice, so start with an empty barbell or some weight you know you can handle so you can get the form right before increasing the load.

Additionally, you can emphasize the triceps even more by lowering the bar to your eyes and pressing it back up instead of bringing it below your chin with each rep.  close-grip bench press alternative

8. Dumbbell Overhead Press

You may not always get the ideal equipment you want when doing a workout, so having a dumbbell variation is a helpful option! You can get that tricep pressing work in with a dumbbell overhead press, too! 

How To Do it

  • Sit or stand with a dumbbell in each hand at about eye level.
  • Press the dumbbells up over your head and lower them back down to about eye level.
  • Repeat for reps.

Pro Tip

As with the DB bench press, be conscientious of your hand placement and try to keep your hands narrow to get the most tricep emphasis.

You can also do these in a hammer grip with your elbows in front of you (instead of flared out to your sides) to limit shoulder fatigue as you focus on your triceps.

If you’re looking for ways to target your triceps without any equipment, check out these 12 bodyweight triceps exercises. close-grip bench press alternative

9. Log Pin Press

If you have access to a log to do log presses, these are an awesome alternative to the close-grip bench press. By placing it up on pins or a high rack, you don’t have to worry about the “clean” portion of the lift getting the log off the ground and up to your chest. Instead, you can just focus on the press and triceps benefits.

What I love about logs is they essentially combine the benefits of the overhead press with the board bench press. Because the log is so thick (typically 8-12” around), it’s like overhead pressing a barbell to a board on your chest that limits your ROM. The log hits your chest about 6” sooner than a normal barbell would.

What that means is your triceps get a ton of work by limiting the ROM to emphasize the top of the lift as you lock out that log over and over again. close-grip bench press alternative

How To Do it

  • Place the log on overhead pins or a high rack at about chest height or slightly lower.
  • Grip the handles of the log and remove it from the rack.
  • Press the log overhead using the same technique as an overhead press.
  • Return the log to the starting position.
  • Repeat for reps.

Pro Tip

Remember that with standing presses, there are static presses and there are push presses. Push presses allow you to bend your knees and get a “jump” to assist the press. Static presses call for you to keep your lower body as still as possible and use your strength with no momentum to complete the press.  close-grip bench press alternative

Push presses have their time and place, but if you are doing these log presses to supplement or replace close-grip bench presses, hold yourself accountable for doing them in a static press form. Keep your body still and make your triceps do the work to press the log for each rep, and you’ll get better results faster.

For more tricep exercises that can strengthen your bench press, check out 16 Best Tricep Exercises to Increase Bench Press Strength. close-grip bench press alternative

Frequently Asked Questions

What Exercises Can I Do Instead of Close-Grip Bench Press?

Any exercise that emphasizes your triceps in a pressing movement is a great alternative to the close-grip bench press. This includes any version of the barbell bench press, dumbbell bench press, chest press machine, overhead press, and log press. close-grip bench press alternative

How Can I Do Close-Grip Bench Press Alternatives Without a Bench?

A great alternative to the close-grip bench press that doesn’t require a bench is the floor press, either with a barbell or dumbbells. By lying on the floor, your arms can’t descend as low as when you lie on a bench. This puts more work on your triceps to emphasize them similarly to the close-grip bench press.

I hope you enjoyed reading this blog. Please do share it with your friends so that they can also get the information. If you have any questions or suggestions then share them in the comment section below.

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