Hand Spacing Q & A

Lee Haney on using different hand spacing during various exercises




I see people using different hand spacings when performing exercises like bench presses, military presses and barbell curls. What’s the reason for doing this?


For training variety, most people will incorporate more dumbbell work than barbell movements because they think that using a barbell has too many limitations. Armed with a little knowledge about hand spacing, you can use barbells in a number of ways with different results.

For example, when I performed barbell bench presses, I liked using a relatively wide hand spacing, with each hand placed about a foot beyond shoulder-width. With my hands positioned there, more stress was placed on my outer pecs, which resulted in making me look wider. Had I taken a narrower grip, say with my hands aligned with my shoulders, I would have hit more of the center of my chest muscles. If I’d used a close grip, the stresswould have been focused on my triceps, as well as the inner edge of my pectorals, which is where all the striations appear when you hit a most-muscular pose. The rule of thumb for chest is the wider the grip, the more you work the outer edge of your pecs; the closer the grip, the greater the stress on your center line.

The same rule holds true for military presses. When using a very wide grip, you tend to hit the outer portion of the deltoids where the shoulders meet the upper arms. Using a close grip will reposition the load to the area where the shoulders meet the origin of the trapezius. You can even feel closegrip military presses in your traps, as they can contract more fully with the added range of motion from a close grip.


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