“What are the pros and cons of different hand placements when bench pressing?” – Juan Batres

Varying your grip width when bench pressing will definitely change which muscle groups are doing the majority of the work for the lift. Changing where you place your hands on the bar, or using specialty bars like a football bar can also alleviate stress on the shoulders, wrists, and elbows – especially for lifters who have pretty beat up shoulders.

Staying Narrow

Using a narrower grip on the bar – where the index fingers are on the inside smooth part of the bar – will target the triceps and be much easier on your shoulders. If you can’t keep your chest up when benching, this narrow grip bench press variation can create a lot of stress on the anterior (front) part of your shoulders, as I describe in this video.

Going Wide

A wider hand placement – with the pinky fingers on the outside rings – will target the chest to a greater extent. Unfortunately, this variation also causes the most stress on the shoulders.

When benching with a wider grip, I prefer to drop the weights and focus on a more controlled eccentric tempo. Take 3-5 seconds to lower the weight to ensure you get maximal muscle contraction in the chest, while minimizing the stress on your joints. 

To get the best possible results from your chest training, variety is the key. I encourage you to use various grip widths, take advantage of different equipment (barbell, dumbbells, push-ups), and switch up your rep schemes and training loads.