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Background

I've been fooling around with some variation in grip width on the bench press lately.

I've had a trainer help me find my "ideal" width, which I use most of the time. I.e. the width where my forearm stays as perpendicular as possible to the floor for most of the lift, while neither flaring nor tucking the elbows.

In these cases, my form looks like this. (Not me depicted, just an example.)

enter image description here

But I some times like to use a slighly more narrow grip - about a palm-width in on each hand. Just outside the shoulders. It looks something like this:

enter image description here

Question

What are the implications as far as muscle group intensities? Does it fill the role of if your muscle X is weak, do more of this for any particular muscle group?

This question is similar to, but not a duplicate of, Bench press grip width?, as I am not looking to discover the optimal width, but simply clarify benefits/drawbacks of a slightly narrower-than-normal width.

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The major muscle groups in any variation of bench press are the pec major and minor, and the triceps (with various other muscles playing stabilizing roles).

In general, the narrower one's grip, the more the triceps tend to become the primary mover. The close-grip bench press is, indeed, a vary popular accessory for people who have weaker triceps.

In contrast, the wider one's grip, the more the pecs will tend to become the primary mover. This can be seen with flyes. The grip is extremely wide which allows the pecs to be the primary source for abducting the arms. A wider grip, though, does come with added risk to the shoulders which should be kept in mind when exploring an extra wide grip.

  • Yeah, the super-wide grip has never been my thing. Tried it a few times, and within two reps, I felt it wasn't treating my shoulders right. But as far as using narrower grip as an accessory movement, is there a "test" to see if my triceps are the weak point of my bench press? – Alec Apr 23 '16 at 15:07
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    How's your lockout? That tends to be the key identifier for weaker triceps. If you're strong off the chest, but then lose most of your momentum getting through the lockout, I'd consider some extra tricep work. – Alex L Apr 23 '16 at 15:22
  • My lockout is probably the easiest part. When I fail a rep, I fail it an inch or two off the chest. I guess more flies then? – Alec Apr 23 '16 at 15:58
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    Flyes might help, but I find they're more geared towards hypertrophy (not a bad thing). If your weak point is right off your chest, then doing paused reps or Spoto presses would most likely help since they are closer to the same movement pattern. – Alex L Apr 23 '16 at 16:05
  • @AlexL +1 for the Spoto press. A terrific bench variation to have in your arsenal. – G_H Apr 23 '16 at 22:47
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Your optimal grip is that perfect medium between to close and too wide. You'll know it's the right grip because you'll feel a dominant chest contraction. If your grip is too close you'll feel it in your arms. If your grip is too wide you'll feel it in your front delts.

Close grip bench press is great for triceps. It works well with the incline variation too.

Wide grip bench press is very dangerous. It puts too much direct tension on the front delts that don't have alot of strength in the bench position. This can cause a tear in the delt or a rotator cuff injury. This is a very serious injury that you don't want to ever deal with.

SO.... depending on what muscle you want to target, inter change a regular grip and close grip. You'll know when your grip is too wide when you start feeling pain in the shoulders.

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