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What's A Good Grip for the Bench Press?

Author:  Tyler J. Tonso, DC CKTP FMSC

If you talk to different lifters in the gym you’ll more than likely run in to varying opinions about hand width placement for the bench press and they’ll emphatically tell you why you need to do the same. However, many of these lifters base their opinion off of purely what has worked for them, what they read in a muscle magazine, and what helps them lift more weight. It’s important to realize that there are many things to consider when selecting grip positions on a bench press.

bench press

Wide Grip

Most people tend to steer toward having a grip that is either slightly or grossly wider than their shoulder width. This grip biomechanically helps people lift heavier weight partly due to taking out the disadvantage of having the elbows bent past 90 degrees when the weight is lowered to the chest and also the slight internal rotation of the shoulder. While this also places more focus on the chest, it also puts a large amount of strain on the anterior shoulder. This can cause a number of issues that include tendonitis in various areas of the shoulder, instability in the anterior aspect of the shoulder, and  poor functional movement patterns that not only hinder your progress in various exercises, but lead to an increased chance of various injuries. Grips that are wider than the shoulders have also been shown to increase the chances of osteolysis of the lateral aspect of the clavicle. This is basically when the bone erodes from abnormal stress and insufficient healing/resting.

Narrow Grip

A narrow grip bench press has the hands either at shoulder width or slightly less than shoulder width. This grip places less focus on the chest and gets more assistance from the triceps. Biomechanically, people may not be able to lift as much weight due to the disadvantage of the elbows bending past 90 degrees and the external rotation of the shoulder, but overall this tends to be a safer lift that places less stress on the shoulders.

So Which One is Better?

If you want a grip that decreases your chance of getting injured then you could argue that a shoulder width bench press is optimal due to less stress being placed on the anterior shoulder and high tendency for shoulder injuries with bench press exercises. However, it’s important to remember that variance is key to any exercise regimen and neither purely wide grip, nor purely narrow grip exercises will be beneficial. Focusing purely on one specific grip width will lead to plateaus due to the lack of variance in exercises and from an orthopedic aspect this will lead to poor functional movement patterns and increased injuries.

In the long run it’s best to just keep it simple. Vary the grips and this will vary the stresses on the various parts of the body. Then you can keep making those exercise gains without putting your body at risk.


1 Join the Conversation

  1. curro says
    Jul 14, 2018 at 12:52 PM

    We will use the information of the wide grip. Thank you very much.

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