Move of the Week: Close-grip Neutral-grip Bench Press

It’s August, so here’s a new edition of Move of the Week to kick off the new month! Today, we’re featuring a variation of everyone’s favorite exercise. Enjoy! 

THE MOVE: Close-grip Neutral-grip Bench Press

MOVEMENT PATTERN AND MUSCLES WORKED: Horizontal pushing pattern: chest, shoulders, triceps, lats, upper back.

WHY DO IT: It’s about time we featured another bench press variation on MotW, so I’ve given in. After all, I’d be remiss to not discuss everyone’s favorite exercise for upper body #gainz in the summertime. As a bonus, Ross makes a quick albeit hilarious cameo 9 seconds in that I think we can all enjoy.

Today’s MotW is something you can use as an accessory to the full competition-style bench press used in powerlifting, or to simply give your joints and your body a break from lifting heavy. With dumbbells, you can do two things that you can’t with a barbell. First you can turn the dumbbells so that your palms face each other in a neutral grip; second, we can press the dumbbells together into one “unit” so to speak, and turn it into a close-grip bench press as well.

The neutral grip takes undue stress off your shoulders, while the close grip helps build the triceps over the pecs. The latter will improve lock-out strength in the bench press. Unlike the floor press though, you can use your full range-of-motion here. This combination grip mimics something you can do with the swiss bar, a powerlifting staple that we love. But if you do not have this specialty barbell available to you, dumbbells are a great alternative to achieve the same benefits.

HOW TO DO IT: For this exercise, set up on a bench and press the dumbbells up. For the close and neutral grip, turn the dumbbells so that your palms face each other and press them together. Brace your core to stabilize, and think about actively pulling the dumbbells down in the same line of pull as that of your normal bench press. Tap your chest, and think about pressing the dumbbells away from you to finish the lift.

By doing these two things, you are keeping your shoulder blades glued to the bench so that you have a stable platform to press from. This is different from the scapular movement inherent to a push-up, and although both the bench and push-up are horizontal pushing movements, they are like apples and oranges.

For today’s move I’d recommend 3-4 sets of 8 reps. This can be used as an accessory to the main bench press on a strength day, or on a low-intensity day to give your body a break. If you still want to bench but need something easy on the joints, try this out for a bit and let us know what you think on Twitter or Instagram @halevylife !

by Jeremy Lau

Jeremy Lau

Jeremy Lau Halevy Life Staff CoachJeremy Lau is a Senior Staff Coach at Halevy Life.

Jeremy graduated cum laude from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with a BSc. in Biomedical Engineering and is currently pursuing his M.Ed. in Exercise Physiology at Columbia University. In addition to his academic accolades, Jeremy is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS).

Prior to joining the team at Halevy Life, Jeremy completed a coaching internship at Cressey Sports Performance, where he coached both amateur and professional athletes, among whom were many professional MLB baseball players.

As an athlete, Jeremy has played baseball competitively for most of his life.’