Bench

How wide should my bench grip be? Bench press hand position

In order to enhance strength and performance on the bench press, choosing a grip is critical. The muscles used, the distance the barbell must travel from start to finish, and the bar route will all be affected by the grip you choose.

You’ve probably noticed a lot of powerlifters using a wide grip for bench press and thought if it’s something you should try.

A wide grip bench press is defined as a grip that is 1.5-2X the breadth of your shoulder blades.

The wide grip bench press lets you to recruit the pec muscles to their full potential, which are responsible for delivering the most force off the chest. A wide grip bench press also limits the range of motion of the activity, lowering the amount of effort required to press the barbell.

These appear to be all favorable effects when utilizing a wide grip bench press at first glance.

How wide should my bench grip be
How wide should my bench grip be

However, there are other personal aspects to consider before deciding whether or not a wide grip bench press is right for you. Let’s continue the conversation!

What is the Function of a Wide Grip Bench Press? (Muscles to Target)

The pecs, shoulders, and triceps are all employed to varied degrees in the bench press, as I mentioned in my guide to the muscles involved in the bench press. Three factors influence which muscles are recruited:

What is the Function of a Wide Grip Bench Press? (Muscles to Target)
  • The bench press angle: whether you’re doing a flat, incline, or decline bench press.
  • The barbell’s range of motion: whether it’s at the bottom, middle, or top of the range of motion.
  • Whether you’re using a narrow or wide grip on the bar is a personal preference.

Last but not least, the wider you grasp the bar, the less triceps you’ll utilize and the more chest you’ll use. A wide grip bench is defined as grabbing the bar twice the distance between your shoulders.

If your shoulders are 40cm apart and you grab the bar 80cm apart from index finger to index finger (2X the distance), you’re doing a wide grip bench press.

Bench Press Grip Width: Why Do People Use a Wide Grip When Bench press?

Bench Press Grip Width: Why Do People Use a Wide Grip When Bench press?

You may lift less range of motion, stimulate the broader muscle of your chest, and better establish your shoulders in the start position by using a wider grip on the bench press. This enhances stability throughout the movement.

Furthermore, powerlifters use this grip with other technical concepts to lift greater weight (discussed more below).

You have a smaller range of motion when lifting.

You have a smaller range of motion when lifting.

When compared to a narrow grip bench press, a wide grip bench press requires less range of motion for the barbell to traverse. You do less total work when you do less range of motion.

The amount of labor is calculated by multiplying the force by the distance across which it must be exerted. As a result, if you need to move the barbell over a long distance, it is a disadvantage because applying the same amount of force requires more energy.

Make use of your assets (recruit your strongest muscles)

As previously stated, adopting a wide grip on the bench press will maximize the recruitment of pec muscle fibers.

Make use of your assets (recruit your strongest muscles)

If you’re a lifter with particularly powerful pec muscles in comparison to your shoulders and triceps, you’ll want to play to your strengths and choose a grip that allows you to fully recruit these muscles.

This isn’t to imply that if your pecs are strong enough, you shouldn’t work on your shoulder and tricep muscles as well.

The most difficult phase of the bench press range of motion for most people is when the shoulders and elbows are fully flexed and the barbell is at the bottom of the range of motion.

A broad grasp will put you in the best position to propel the barbell off your chest with speed if you have strong pec muscles and can utilize your strengths.

Adjust your shoulders to a more beneficial position.

As you unrack the barbell and bring the weight to your chest, you should be able to maintain this position.

You’ll lose shoulder stability while bench pressing if the scapula slides away from the rib cage at any time, which will feel like the shoulder blades sliding apart or lifting upward (like a shrug).

Adjust your shoulders to a more beneficial position.

This loss of position will result in a loss of strength, reducing your capacity to generate force as you drive the barbell off your chest, and possibly increasing the risk of shoulder injury.

It’s simpler to keep your shoulder blades retracted and depressed over the complete range of motion with a wide grip bench press.

As you begin the action with a narrow grip, you may not feel any change, but as the barbell gets closer to your chest, your shoulders will desire to roll up and forward.

A great combination involves combining a wide grip with other powerlifting technical fundamentals.

The wide grip bench press is the standard posture in the discipline of powerlifting. In fact, seeing a world-class bench presser use a narrow grip would be unusual.

This is because when lifting a heavy weight, powerlifters prefer to have as little range of motion as feasible.

A great combination involves combining a wide grip with other powerlifting technical fundamentals.

As previously stated, the wide grip bench press reduces range of motion; nevertheless, powerlifters attempt to further restrict range of motion by forcing their chest high up on the bench and employing a technique known as the bench press arch.

When the wide grip style bench press is combined with other technical principles to shorten the range of motion, the movement becomes much easier than it would otherwise be, allowing powerlifters to lift more weight.

Bench Pressing with a Narrow Grip vs. a Wide Grip (3 Things to Consider)

If you’re confident that bench pressing with a wide grip is the way to go, there are a few things you should know before getting started.

Bench Pressing with a Narrow Grip vs. a Wide Grip (3 Things to Consider)

1. Your touch point will be unique.

The contact point will vary between your nipples and sternum depending on the length of your arms.

If you’re used to benching with a narrow grip and now want to widen it, the bar path will shift slightly, and you’ll find yourself touching higher on your chest (closer to your nipple line vs. sternum).

It’s crucial to understand the difference in touch points because touching the same location on your chest with a tight grip (lower on your chest) would put you in a substantially weaker position.

The new contact point (higher on your chest) may feel strange at first, but it will become more natural over time.

Check out my entire guide on determining the correct bench press touchpoint based on your grip and arm length.

2. Extend your fingers one at a time, one finger length at a time.

Because the wide grip bench press necessitates a considerable level of pec muscular strength, if you leap into a wide grip right away, you may not have the strength to lift the same loads you were previously doing.

I’ve seen lifters make this mistake and become disheartened as a result of the reduced training load caused by the wide grip bench. They experiment with the broad grip for a few exercises before returning to their previous grip.

The lack of early strength on the wide grip bench isn’t always due to the grip; it can also be due to rushing into a grip where your muscles aren’t acclimated to the extra strain.

For example, if you were previously a ‘tricep-dominant’ bench presser who used a narrow grip and now switch to a wide grip bench press, your chest will need some time to catch up to the requisite level of strength.

As a result, here’s what I recommend for starting to expand your bench press grip:

  • Begin by widening each side by one finger length.
  • 3–4 weeks of practice with this grip
  • Move your grasp out another one finger length each side if it feels comfortable and you’re still maintaining (or developing) your strength.
  • Continue doing this for a few months until you have a wide grasp that is roughly 2X shoulder-width distance.

3. Before attempting, make sure your mobility and shoulder health are in good form.

If you lack shoulder mobility or have previously suffered a rotator cuff injury or shoulder impingement, a wide grip bench press may put your shoulder in jeopardy.

Fees (2008) suggests bench pressing with a grip no broader than 1.5X shoulder-width distance for lifters with limited shoulder mobility or a history of shoulder problems.

This 1.5X shoulder-width grip, it was reasoned, places the shoulder below a 45-degree abduction, reducing shoulder stress on the rotator cuff and bicep tendon. It was also mentioned that this is just a suggestion, and that numerous lifters that fall into this group might very well go broader and still be safe.

Lifters with a limited range of motion in their upper body or shoulder difficulties should decrease the load first, then practice stretching techniques and rotator cuff stabilization exercises while widening their grasp.

How Wide Should Your Bench Press Grip Be?

A wide grip bench press is 2X the distance measured between your shoulders, as described previously.

How Wide Should Your Bench Press Grip Be?

Many powerlifters, including 10X World Powerlifting Champion Jennifer Thompson, use this formula to establish their grip width, as shown in the video below.

However, there are a few more elements to consider when determining your ideal grip, which may influence whether you grasp the bar 2X shoulder-width distance or not.

Powerlifters are limited to 81cm in height.

If you’re a competitive powerlifter, you can’t grip the bar more than 81cm apart on the bench press, according to powerlifting rules.

This distance is provided for you by the hashmark on the bar, thus your index fingers on both hands must be covering the hashmark at all times. You can narrow your grasp on the bar, but you can’t go any further.

Assume you have broad shoulders with a 42-centimeter gap between them. The grip-width would be 84cm if you doubled the distance, which is outside of the 81cm hashmarks. Because you can’t employ this grip, you can’t double your shoulder-width distance to meet the 2X suggestion based on your body mechanics.

Bench press grip width is determined by arm length.

When calculating your appropriate grip width for bench press, keep in mind your own arm length.

People with longer arms will naturally desire to grasp the bar wider than those with shorter arms. This is why it’s crucial not to compare your grip breadth to that of another person, especially if their arms are different lengths, as they almost always are.

If you have long arms and are benching with a shoulder-width grip, you’re a good candidate to start widening your grip for bench press.

Use a 1.5X – 2X shoulder-width distance as a guideline.

The broad suggestion for a wide grip bench press in the exercise science field is 2X shoulder-width distance.

A fixed 2X shoulder-width grip is clearly not realistic in the real world, based on powerlifting standards for bench press and someone’s limb lengths/proportions.

This is why, while determining the best grip for bench press, we should choose a range of 1.5X – 2X shoulder-width distance. Many strong bench pressers fall into this range, and you’ll most likely be able to maximize your bench press strength if you fall into this area as well.

A lifter may commit to expanding their grasp over several months, but if, despite their best efforts, they still don’t feel comfortable in this grip, they should not keep it. They might get better results with a more moderate grip closer to the 1.5X shoulder-width distance.

How to Do a Bench Press with a Wide Grip

How to Do a Bench Press with a Wide Grip
  1. Lie down on the bench with your shoulder blades pulled together and down, and your back slightly arched.
  2. Grip the bar at 1.5–2 times your shoulder width.
  3. Inhale deeply, hold your breath, and remove the bar from the rack.
  4. Lower the bar slowly and steadily until it lands around your sternum on your chest.
  5. While exhaling, raise the bar to the beginning position.
  6. While in the top position, take another breath and repeat for reps.

How to Do a Bench Press with a Close Grip

How to Do a Bench Press with a Close Grip
  1. Lie down on the bench with your shoulder blades pulled together and down, and your back slightly arched.
  2. Grip the bar narrower than you would for a typical bench press, so your hands are directly above or even closer to your shoulders.
  3. Inhale deeply, hold your breath, and remove the bar from the rack.
  4. Lower the bar slowly and steadily until it touches your chest near the lower end of your ribs.
  5. While in the top position, take another breath and repeat for reps.

Is Bench Pressing With a Wide Grip Easier or Difficult?

Another question I get is if wide grip bench pressing is easier or tougher.

Is Bench Pressing With a Wide Grip Easier or Difficult?

If you don’t have strong pec muscles and shoulder stabilization, a wide grip bench press will be even more difficult. If you gently move your grip out over several months (one finger length at a time), work on growing the size and strength of your pec muscles, and increase your shoulder stability, you can get stronger in a wide grip bench press.

F.A.Q how wide should my bench grip be:

Is it better to bench with a wide grip?

When the bar comes down to your chest, it’s much simpler to retain your shoulders in the proper posture with a wider grip. This will increase your power production and help you build your bench press.

Is wide grip better for chest?

This exercise was proven to be one of the most effective motions for eliciting a high amount of muscle activity in the pectoralis major in a study conducted by the American Council on Workout, making it a more effective targeted chest exercise than incline dumbbell flys or standard push-ups.

Should you bench wide or narrow?

The broad grip position will emphasize the chest and shoulder muscles while putting a substantial amount of stress on the shoulder joint, and the tight grasp position will emphasize the triceps muscles while also putting a significant amount of stress on the wrist joint.

Conclusion:

The wider you grip the bar, the more force you’ll generate with your chest muscles. Most powerlifters bench press with a wide grip of 1.5-2X shoulder width, however the exact grip you use should be determined by your body mechanics and personal preferences.

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Field John

If you are an avid believer in health and fitness and want to do something for your team, I can help. As the founder of Field Goals Fitness, I lead a collective of health and fitness professionals dedicated to helping Australians lead a more active and healthier lifestyle. With a warm, friendly, and supportive approach that gets results, I enjoy helping individuals & organisations achieve sustainable success with their health and fitness goals. Certifying as a Personal Trainer in 2009, was a turning point in my life. I had spent 14 years in the corporate world in Business Development roles and decided to take all that I had learnt in sales and marketing and start my own business.

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