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As we said last week, most lifters simply lay back on the bench and get to work, giving little to no thought to proper muscle engagement or using their entire body to complete the lift. It’s easier to just do what’s comfortable and familiar for body positioning, and this includes your grip. But making some simple adjustments in this arena can help you to hoist bar-bending loads in record time.
BENCH PRESS SEMINAR 1: CAT Strength
BENCH PRESS SEMINAR 2: Armed for Strength
BENCH PRESS SEMINAR 3: Stop Stretching
BENCH PRESS SEMINAR 4: More Sets – Fewer Reps
BENCH PRESS SEMINAR 5: Dead Bench
BENCH PRESS SEMINAR 6: Bar Squeeze
The wider the grip, the less distance you have to push the bar to complete a bench press. This is why many competitive lifters pick a wide grip for the bench press. But lately, some lifters, including the greatest bench presser of all-time, my client Jeremy Hoornstra, have had greater success with a narrower grip. Lifters that espouse narrow grips say this feels better on their shoulders and gives them better drive off the chest.
The whole basis of wide-grip bench presses as a supplementary lift is to build drive off the chest. Perhaps not surprisingly, research shows that narrow grips produce similar chest activation but greater triceps activation than a wider grip. Even though less distance is required to push the barbell with a wide-grip bench press, more muscles appear to be activated with a narrow grip. This is certainly something to consider when choosing a grip width because you are pushing the weight off your chest, not a bench press shirt.
Most researchers and lifters believe that bench pressing with a narrow grip helps reduce the potential risk of pec tears and shoulder injuries. EMG studies showed that grip width did not cause a major difference in the recruitment of the pecs, but intensified triceps activity.
The same study demonstrated that bench press grips wider than shoulder width increased the chance of pec tears and shoulder injuries. Shoulder torque is 1.5 times greater with a wide grip than a narrow grip.
So if you’re interested in maximum muscle recruitment and safer lifts, try moving your hands in closer to shoulder width. It may feel uncomfortable or limiting if you’re used to a wider grip but, over time, the triceps will become an even greater contributor to the lift which is particularly valuable when trying to lockout a heavy load.
Josh Bryant, MFS, CSCS, PES, is the owner of JoshStrength.com and co-author (with Adam benShea) of the Amazon No. 1 seller Jailhouse Strong. He is a strength coach at Metroflex Gym in Arlington, Texas, and holds 12 world records in powerlifting. You can connect with him on Twitter and Facebook or visit his website at www.joshstrength.com.
Putting all bench press seminars to work for you? Then take these supps to maximize your progress.
Whey protein 20 grams 30-60 minutes pre-workout; 40-60 grams immediately post-workout
Caffeine 200-400 mg 1-2 hours before workouts
Creatine 3-5 grams with pre- and postworkout shakes; on rest days take 3-5 grams with breakfast
Beta-alanine 1-1.5 grams with pre- and postworkout shakes; on rest days take 1-1.5 grams with breakfast
Ribose 5-10 grams with pre- and postworkout shakes; on rest days take 5-10 grams with breakfast
Taurine 1-3 grams with pre- and postworkout shakes
Tribulus terrestris 250-750 mg with breakfast and one hour before workouts; do not take it on rest days
Fish oil 4-6 grams in 2-3 divided doses with meals