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I have a long reach and was wondering what the optimal position is for my grip during bench press. From finger-tip to fingertip I measure 6'6". I currently bench with my ring finger lined up on the band. Wondering if that is too wide or if I can safely get away with a wider grip.

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"Optimal" for what? Different widths focus on different things, and as the answer states, too wide means you're not getting a good range of motion. –  Dave Newton Apr 12 '12 at 23:03
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1 Answer

In Starting Strength, a well-known book on barbell training, Mark Rippetoe says (emphasis mine):

Grip width, within a certain range, is largely a matter of individual preference. Since you are trying to develop general upper-body strength, your form should be generalized, without too much emphasis on any one muscle group and with a lot of work for all of them. The greatest range of motion is obtained with a grip that places the forearms in a vertical position when the bar is on the chest. With a wider grip, the bar doesn’t move as far and locks out before the triceps have done much work, so the pecs and delts end up doing more of what work gets done. But as long as the grip falls somewhere between 22 and 28 inches between index fingers, the purpose is served. This range allows enough leeway for people of all shoulder widths to find a grip they feel strongest with, while preserving the longer range of motion. Too much narrower a grip will, for most people, take pounds off the work set by placing the responsibility for most of the lockout on the comparatively smaller triceps,although most lifters can close-grip a fairly high percentage of their standard-grip bench press. A wider grip shortens the range of motion excessively and takes out too much tricep, as well as producing a longer moment arm between the hand and the shoulder joint. Heavier weights can be benched with a wide grip since the bar doesn’t have to move as far (the legal width for powerlifting competition is 32 inches between index fingers).

Ideally, your spotter should tell you if your forearms are in a correct position when down; if that is not possible, then use whatever feels comfortable to you (but between 22 and 28 inches). Don't use a too wide grip if your goal is strength: the shortened range of motion is sub-optimal.

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The position of elbow relative to the shoulder changes the width of the grip where the forearms are straight. Where should the bar be on the chest to gauge this width? Nipples? –  silasdavis Jul 19 '12 at 11:17
    
@silasdavis I believe the book suggests the "nipple line" or slightly under it. I'll recheck and update the answer when I get the chance. –  VPeric Jul 19 '12 at 13:03
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