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Close grip bench press alternative and substitute exercises

Here are the best tricep-building alternatives to the close grip bench press.
Written By  James Jackson
Last Updated on 2nd May 2022
A man demonstarting a good close grip bench press alternative

Although the close grip bench press is an excellent mass building movement, it's not for everyone. And besides, not every lifter has access to a weight bench and a barbell, meaning that the traditional close grip bench press is out of the question.

That's why I made a list of the most effective close grip bench press alternatives. These substitute exercises work your triceps in a similar way to the close grip bench press; the difference is that most of them use different equipment.

Related Guides:

The 7 best close grip bench press alternatives

If you're looking for a good close grip bench press alternative, be sure to check out these handpicked replacements.

1. Close-grip push-ups

A man performing close grip push ups

If you want a like-for-like close grip bench press substitute—in terms of muscle activation—then look no further than the close-grip push-up. This exercise is basically the bodyweight version of the close grip bench press because it works your triceps in the exact same way.

The only difference is that, rather than pushing your hands into the barbell, you're pushing your hands into the floor, meaning that you can perform this excellent close grip bench press replacement anywhere.

Like the close grip bench press, close-grip push-ups also work your chest and anterior deltoids, which means that the exercise naturally has lots of carryover to your other compound presses (bench press, overhead press, etc.)

But just because close-grip push-ups are a bodyweight exercise doesn't mean that they can't build mass. The narrow hand position makes the movement much more triceps-taxing than regular push-ups, and you can even wear a weighted vest to make the exercise feel just as heavy as a bench press.

2. Tricep pushdowns

A man doing a standing cable tricep pushdown exercise with a rope attachment during his workout

If you're looking for a close grip bench alternative because you don't have much equipment, then you might be rolling your eyes right now, but hear me out.

You can do tricep pushdowns on the cable machine at the gym, but you can also perform them at home with a resistance band and a door anchor, a setup that costs next to nothing.

Anyway, pushdowns really enable you to isolate your triceps, especially the lateral head. So in this sense, pushdowns are the opposite of a close grip bench press because they're an isolation exercise rather than a compound movement.

The trick to getting the most from this close grip bench press alternative is to lock your elbows out on every single pushdown rep that you perform. This is because elbow extension is the primary function of the triceps brachii, so you need to lock your elbows out in order to achieve maximum muscle stimulation. [1]

3. Skull crushers

A man demonstrating how to do skull crushers with an EZ bar

The skull crusher is an excellent alternative to the close grip bench press because it excels at the one thing that the CGBP fails at; it absolutely smokes the long head of your triceps—if you make this one modification.

Rather than lower the weights directly to your forehead, you actually want to bring them behind your head so that you can put the long head of your triceps under a deep, growth-stimulating eccentric stretch.

The reason that this modification is so advantageous is that the long head is bigger than the lateral and medial heads combined!

But in order to work the long head optimally, you need to put your shoulders into flexion, which is exactly what you're doing by lowering the weights behind your head during a skull crusher.

4. Floor press

A man doing a dumbbell floor press

The floor press is the best close grip bench press substitute for lifters who don't have a weight bench because all you need is either a barbell or a pair of dumbbells (and really, you can do a floor press with one dumbbell).

To keep the focus of the movement on your triceps, tuck your elbows into your sides as you press the weight up. In this way, the floor press is basically like a close grip bench press, except that it has slightly less range of motion.

But this reduced range of motion may actually be a good thing because it encourages you to keep the tension on your triceps. When you bring the bar/dumbbells all the way down to your chest, your pecs and front delts take over. But when you stop a good few inches away from your chest, your triceps do most of the work. That's why the floor press is such a good replacement for the close grip bench press.

5. Overhead extensions

A man performing a standing dumbbell overhead tricep extension exercise

Overhead extensions are remarkably versatile because you can perform them with bands, dumbbells, barbells, heavy bottles of water—anything that you can lower behind your head.

Although not a like-for-like close grip bench alternative, overhead extensions are similar to skull crushers in that they excel in the one area that close grip bench presses don't; long head activation.

Since the long head makes up most of your triceps mass, it's not a muscle that you should overlook. So in a sense, even though you're lifting much lighter, the overhead extension is arguably a better mass-builder than the CGBP because it trains the single biggest muscle in your upper arm—the long head of the triceps.

Ultimately, if you're looking for a great alternative to the close grip bench press that you can do with dumbbells (or even just one dumbbell), overhead extensions are one of the top choices.

6. Tricep dips

A man doing bench dips

If you're looking for another good bodyweight alternative to the close grip bench press, then tricep dips are a great option because you can perform them virtually anywhere.

All you need to get your triceps burning is a chair, sofa, or bed—any stable surface that you can put your hands on.

Dips really make your triceps burn because they're great for high rep training, but you can easily make them heavier by elevating your feet and even putting weight plates on your legs.

See our close grip bench vs dips comparison for more information.

7. Wide-grip bench press

A man doing a wide grip bench press

I realize that the wide-grip bench press is the last exercise you're looking for if you want to work your triceps, but being the exact opposite of a close grip bench press, I couldn't not include it in this list.

As mentioned in our close grip vs wide grip bench comparison, the wide-grip bench press is an outstanding mass builder for the chest. So if you're not currently performing this close grip bench press replacement, it's a great exercise to include in your chest routine if you're looking to make some serious size gains.

Ideally, you'd perform the wide-grip bench press on a different day of the week to the close-grip bench because the exercises still have a lot of crossover and—due to being barbell movements—are both best performed first in your routine when you're at your freshest.

The verdict: What is the best close grip bench press alternative?

A man showing a good alternative to the close grip bench press

It depends on whether you're looking for a like-for-like close grip bench press alternative or a complete close grip bench press substitute. If you want a like-for-like replacement, then close-grip push-ups are your best bet because they're basically like doing a bench press on the floor, meaning that they don't require any equipment.

On the other hand, if you're looking for a slightly different alternative to the close grip bench press, then I'd recommend the skull crusher. You can do skull crushers either on a bench or lying on the floor, and they're really great for working the long head of your triceps (the biggest head), which is the one triceps muscle that the close grip bench press neglects.

References

  1. Landin, D., Thompson, M., & Jackson, M. (2018). Functions of the Triceps Brachii in Humans: A Review. Journal of Clinical Medicine Research, 10(4), 290–293. https://doi.org/10.14740/jocmr3340w
James Jackson
James Jackson is a personal trainer who uses his expertise in strength and conditioning to create helpful workout tutorials that show fitness enthusiasts how to build muscle while staying safe in the gym. He draws on the latest sports science data as well as tried and tested training techniques to get the best results for his clients without them having to live in the gym.
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