Horizontal pressing movements engage three primary movers: the chest, the triceps, and the front delts. Changing your hand position allows you to focus the load on one or more of these muscle groups. For chest, the best hand position is a wide hand spacing, either shoulder width or more. This takes the load off the triceps and places it more on the chest.


Although a wide hand position is commonly asserted to place more demand on the chest, there is little evidence to support it. A narrow hand position places emphasis on the triceps but also stresses the chest.


  • The length-tension relationship of muscle mechanics suggests that hands positioned wide place the chest in a slightly stretched position, maximizing the e ciency for force development.
  • Likewise, muscles generate less tension at shorter muscle lengths. Therefore, for a given loading condition, a muscle in a shortened position must recruit a greater number of motor units to develop the same tension that it would at a longer length.
  • Research performed at the Mayo Clinic demonstrated through the use of electro- myography (EMG) that both the triceps and the chest are activated more with a narrow hand placement than with either a shoulder-width or a wide hand placement.


When doing pushups, place the hands in a narrow position to maximally stimulate both the chest and triceps.


There are often times that we need to get in a quick workout when a gym isn’t available. At these times body-weight movements are often all we’ve got. When doing pushups, place the hands in a narrow position and with the index fingers and thumbs touching, forming a diamond. Then position yourself so that as you lower your body, your hands are right at your sternum. This is the most effective pushup position and will give good results in a pinch.