Chest Exercises

Bench Press Seminar 7: Hand Spacing

What’s the best grip for a man-sized bench? Wide or narrow? Science may hold the answer.


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 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

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