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Get It Right: Reverse-Grip Bench Press

For high-speed gains in chest size, try putting this classic exercise in reverse.

By David Armayor, MAT, CSCS
Get It Right: Reverse-Grip Bench Press

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It's easy to tell if someone is uncomfortable by reading his or her body language. In a restaurant, for instance, you can recognize that the two people shifting awkwardly in a nearby booth are probably on a first date. But find the same couple several dates later and the difference will be dramatic. Why? They're simply more comfortable with each other.

In the gym, some exercises might make you feel clumsy on the first go-round. The reverse-grip bench press is that kind of move, but few people actually give it a second chance. Unfortunately, they're missing out on an exercise that can dramatically shape their chests, specifically the upper portion, as well as their triceps. Once you've had some practice, you just might have a new special something to turn to on chest day. Follow these steps, always use a spotter and get it right!

Start

>> Lie faceup on a bench with your back and head fully supported, feet flat on the floor.

>> Grasp the bar with a shoulder-width reverse grip (palms facing you). It's very important to wrap your thumbs around the bar for safety.

>> Have a spotter assist you as you lift the bar from the rack and steady it over your chest. Your elbows will point forward at the start, instead of out to your sides as in the standard bench press.

Action

>> Inhale deeply and slowly lower the bar to your lower chest/upper abs, keeping your elbows tight to your body.

>> Pause, then press the bar toward the ceiling in a slight arc using a smooth, controlled motion. Repeat for reps.

Pointers

>> The warning to always wrap your thumbs around the bar during this exercise cannot be overstated. Many bodybuilders place their fingers and thumbs on one side of the bar during the standard bench press, but that grip is not recommended for the reverse-grip version.

>> Keep the movement slow and controlled. Resist the urge to bounce the bar off your chest; doing so is counterproductive because it can cause injury and decreases the tension on the target muscles.

>> Although you're lying flat, this move targets the upper chest as well as the tri's due to the arm motion. Perform the reverse-grip bench with other upper-pec moves like the low- pulley cable crossover or the incline bench press.

>> You may be slightly limited by a lack of flexibility in your wrists due to the tightness in your forearms, but as you add weight in your warm-up, your forearms and wrists should acclimate to the change in grip.

>> If this exercise feels awkward at first or if you train alone, try it on a Smith machine.

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