When it comes to triceps exercises, the narrow grip bench press is often considered king of the compound mass builders. Its calisthenics counterpart, close grip push ups, deserves to be regarded just as highly. Close grip push ups are usually more often found in bodyweight-only or bootcamp-style programs, but they could definitely be in your gym rotation, too.
To do close grip push ups, start off by getting on the floor into a normal push up position. Spread your feet out a little wider for added stability, then bring your hands closer together. Rotate your both hands inward (i.e. – your left hand should rotate clockwise and your right hand counter clockwise) such that your thumbs and index fingers form almost a “diamond” shape.
From here, perform push ups as you normally would. Keep your core tight and body straight as you lower yourself. Your hands will be on the floor just under your chest, so go down as far as comfortable and / or flexibility will allow. Push yourself back up to the starting position and repeat.
Standard close grip push ups form as just described will see your elbows flaring out wide. While this can be a great triceps builder, it can sometimes place a bit of stress on the elbows. If you find your elbows aching after your workout, you might want to alter your form a bit so you don’t develop tendonitis.
Luckily, it’s a quick and easy fix. When you place your hands on the floor, keep your thumbs touching each other, but rotate your hands outward until such point that your thumbs and index fingers form the shape of a big “W”. This will bring your elbows closer to your torso and reduce the stress placed upon them. However, do take note that this will shift most of the emphasis to the inner head of the triceps instead of the lower triceps and “horseshoe”.
If you can only crank out sets of 8-12 reps with good form, then you could easily insert 3-5 sets early into your program as a mass and/or strength builder. However, if you can easily do sets of 20-25 or more, then doing a couple sets at the end of your workout would be a great way to really finish off your triceps.
An alternative way to integrate close grip push ups is in supersets. Because they can be done with just the smallest amount of floor space, you could easily hit the deck to do 10-15 reps after every set of your favorite triceps gym exercises. This is a great way to add a fair amount of extra volume and really pump the triceps full of blood.
Even if you’re not a calisthenics aficionado, you should seriously consider putting close grip push ups in your regimen. They can be a great mass builder and strength exercise for novices, and can be an excellent way for more experienced trainees to pump their triceps full of blood when coupled with other movements. Just be sure to watch out for undue stress on your elbows and you’ll be improving your triceps in short order.