The close grip push-up is a more advanced version of the classic exercise that offers some unique benefits for trainees. It’s more challenging than the classic push-up, and works the same muscle groups, but with a different emphasis.
Read on to learn what those are, how to perform it effectively, how to progress if you currently lack the strength for this push-up variation, and more. And remember, variation is one of the keys to optimizing your workouts and breaking through plateaus. Close grip push ups are one of those awesome variations.
Push-ups were part of the admissions physical test when I went to West Point, as well as a staple in U.S. Army. So they’re a top bodyweight exercise that should be part of every workout regimen.
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What Are Close Grip Push-Ups?
As their name suggests, close grip push-ups are a variation where you position your hands close together. The variation is similar to diamond push-ups because the objective is almost identical.
One difference is that diamond push-ups are those where trainees must put their thumbs and index fingers together to form a diamond shape (hence the name). In contrast, close-grip push-ups require trainees to have their hands closer but not necessarily in contact.
Regardless, the outcome is identical. With the hands close, the chest is put at a mechanical disadvantage, forcing the triceps to take over and do more of the work required to complete each repetition.
Because of that, close grip push-ups are more difficult to perform than standard ones.
A notable benefit of this push-up variation is that trainees can target their triceps with no equipment. It works great as the main movement of a tricep workout, but it can also be used as a finisher by more advanced trainees.
Primary Muscles Worked 💪
Secondary Muscles Worked 💪
How to Perform Close Grip Push-Ups (Step-By-Step)
Things to keep in mind:
- Keep your entire body straight
- Engage your abs and avoid lower back arching
- Be mindful of pain on the outside of your wrists
Performing Close-Grip Push Ups:
- Get down on the floor and position your hands close together.
- Extend your body for the push-up and support your legs on your toes.
- Flex your abs and retract your shoulder blades.
- Take a deep breath and lower yourself as much as you can.
- Pause briefly and push yourself back to the top as you exhale.
The Benefits of Close Grip Push-Ups
One benefit of close grip push-ups is they build good core stability because it takes more effort to maintain your balance. Unlike regular push-ups, where you have a wider base because your hands are spread out, close grip push-ups have a narrower base. As a result, your abs, obliques, and other midsection muscles contribute more. (1)
Another benefit is that the exercise is versatile, and trainees can tweak it to fit their current abilities. We’ll talk about some options next.
Tweaks and Variations
One simple tweak is to perform the exercise on your knees instead of on your toes. Doing so makes it easier for beginners. Another option is to perform an incline close grip push-up, where you push yourself off from an elevated object, be it a chair, flat gym bench, or even a kitchen counter.
To make the movement more challenging, you can wrap a loop resistance band behind your back and over your hands. Doing so would increase the resistance and possibly increase tricep activation.
If having your hands too close leads to wrist discomfort, spread them out an inch or two and see if that helps.
Safety Tips and Final Considerations
As always, start each workout with a warm-up. Do some light cardio, dynamic stretching, and some light push-ups to get going. The sequence shouldn’t take you longer than five to seven minutes. (2)
Once done with that, start doing reps slowly and with good body control. Lower yourself as much as you can, but never to the point of discomfort.
Having your hands too close can place some stress on the outer portion of your wrists (the ulna bone), so be mindful of that and adjust your hand position if necessary. (3)
Additionally, always keep your abs tight to avoid arching your lower back. That might not seem like a big deal, but it could lead to discomfort in the area.
Check some other top push-ups and bodyweight exercises:
- Plyo Push-ups
- Pike Push-ups
- Diamond Push-ups
- Eccentric Pull-ups
- Do Pull-ups Work Biceps?
- Do Pull-ups Work the Chest?
- Bodyweight Dips
- Bodyweight Ab Workout
- What Do Push-ups Work?
- Close-grip push-up guide: How to master close-grip push-ups – 2023. MasterClass. (n.d.).
- Elizabeth Quinn, M. S. (2020, March 13). Prevent injuries. Verywell Fit.
- professional, C. C. medical. (n.d.). Ulna (bone): Anatomy, Location & Function. Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/body/24520-ulna