Which Is Better? Wide-Grip Bench Press vs. Close-Grip Bench Press | appencode.com

Which Is Better? Wide-Grip Bench Press vs. Close-Grip Bench Press

A staple upper-body exercise, the barbell bench press can be performed with the hands either slightly wider than or slightly narrower than shoulder-width apart to work different muscles. To better understand the benefits and potential drawbacks of each variation, top personal trainers weigh in on what you should know about this tried-and-true move.

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What Is a Wide-Grip Bench Press?

With a wide-grip bench press, you’re usually holding the barbell at two times your shoulder width apart. Arguably one of the most popular strength training exercises, the wide-grip bench press has been a regular in workout routines for decades, and with good reason.

Wide-Grip Bench Presses Recruit Your Biceps

If you want biceps power, go wide. A study from the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that there was greater activation of the biceps brachii (aka the biceps muscles) when using a wide grip versus a normal or close grip. And FYI, improving the strength of your biceps can help you make progress in other exercises where they’re a driving force.

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Wide-Grip Bench Presses Are an Efficient Chest Exercise

Not only are you getting major biceps power with each wide-grip rep, but you’ll also pump your chest muscles. A study commissioned by the American Council on Exercise found this exercise to be one of the most effective moves for eliciting a high level of muscle activity in the pectoralis major (aka your pecs or chest), making it a superior targeted chest exercise compared to incline dumbbell flys or traditional push-ups.

Wide-Grip Chest Presses Have a Shorter Range of Motion

If you want to feel super strong, you’ll love wide-grip bench presses. Because of the angle you have your arms, the range of motion for the exercise will be smaller. What’s great about that limited range of motion is that, since you’re moving the weight a smaller distance, you’ll be able to lift more than you can with a normal or close-grip bench press.

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Pro tip: To reduce the risk of injury, move through the complete range of motion — both during the lower and lifting phase of the movement — with control.

What Is a Close-Grip Bench Press?

To do a close-grip bench press (aka a narrow-grip bench press), you’ll position your hands on the barbell at just slightly less than shoulder-width apart. Even though it’s a simple switch, your hand position completely transforms the exercise.

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Close-Grip Bench Presses Help Improve Other Arm Exercises

Compared to the wide- or normal-width chest press, the close-grip bench press is best for working on your triceps. Having strong triceps is beneficial for many reasons, and training them can help push you to new upper-body gains.

“When you’re struggling with getting the weight away from your body, that is really where a lack of triceps strength comes to play,” Antonia Henry, M.Sc., R.Y.T., a NASM-certified personal trainer and pregnancy and postpartum athleticism coach, previously told Shape. Targeting those muscles will make those difficult moments easier, she added.

Close-Grip Bench Presses Are Safer

While the wide-grip bench press does effectively emphasize both the chest and the shoulders (specifically the anterior deltoid), safety is always key, notes Shana Verstegen, an ACE-certified personal trainer and TRX Master Trainer. “Personally, I steer clear of the wide-grip bench press with my clients due to the risk of shoulder instability and pectoralis major rupture,” she explains.

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Verstegen’s concern over the risks outweighing the benefits is supported by a review of research published in the Strength and Conditioning Journal, which found that the amount of torque in the shoulders is nearly 1.5 times greater when performing a wide-grip bench press than a narrow-grip one, thereby increasing injury potential.

Close-Grip Bench Presses Work Your Smaller Arms Muscles

Adjusting the placement of the hands shifts the emphasis from the larger muscles of the torso to the smaller muscles of the arms, specifically the triceps and forearms. Working these smaller muscles shouldn’t be ignored, but the lesser power of these muscles makes proper alignment essential: “Watch for excessive extension of the wrists in which the knuckles rock back toward the forearms,” notes Jonathan Ross, author of Abs Revealed.

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While the narrow-grip bench press serves as an effective exercise for strengthening the upper arms while producing less strain on the shoulders, individuals with elbow, wrist, or shoulder concerns will likely find it to be more of a challenge, notes Ross.

How to Choose Between a Close-Grip vs. Wide-Grip Bench Press

While there are plenty of reasons why both variations on the bench press should be added to your gym routine, there are key differences that can help you decide when one will better meet your strength training goals.

For Training Biceps: Wide-Grip Bench Press

If you’re looking to increase your bicep strength and need some go-to exercises to make it happen, the wide-grip bench press is a worthy addition to your rotation. Just make sure you’re also working the rest of your arm muscles, so you don’t cause any muscle imbalances.

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For Working Triceps: Close-Grip Bench Press

If you’re tired of your usual triceps workout, the close-grip bench press can help you switch things up. And, as mentioned earlier, strengthening your triceps can lead to an allover increase in arm strength — you may even hit a new PR.

For Targeting Chest Muscles: Wide-Grip Bench Press

Push-ups getting a bit boring? Flip over and opt for wide-grip bench presses. As mentioned, you’ll get a superior chest muscle activation with this move compared to the bodyweight exercise. Plus, this hand position recruits the chest muscles more than other variations of the chest press.

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To Avoid Injury: Close-Grip Bench Press

While it’s not a given that you’ll get injured while doing a wide-grip bench press, the experts do note that it’s more likely to happen with that variation. If you’re not so sure about the wide grip and would rather play it safe, opt for the close-grip bench press instead.

For Heavier Lifts: Wide-Grip Bench Press

Want to feel like a badass on the bench? Grab a spotter and bang out some wide-grip bench presses. You’ll be able to push more weight than you would with a normal or close-grip bench press, which has the added bonus of boosting your ego as well as your muscles. Just be sure to only lower the bar to three to four inches above the chest as opposed to completely lowering the bar to lightly touch the chest, advises Verstegen.

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So, Which Is Better — Wide-Grip vs. Close-Grip Bench Press?

Your choice of grip is largely dependent on whether your focus is to strengthen predominantly the chest or the triceps, though there are other factors to consider as well. Consider your health history, desired fitness goals, and body awareness, suggests Don Bahneman, C.S.C.S., senior director at Exos. “With flat bench lifts, there is a need for good mobility in the shoulders as well as good scapular stability in order to reduce the potential for injury,” he explains.

And if the bench press is an exercise you’re adamant about performing yet holding a straight bar results in discomfort, consider using dumbbells in lieu of a barbell and/or try performing this exercise using a bench inclined between 15 and 60 degrees, adds Bahneman.

While both variations of this move remain popular, there are hundreds of pushing-based exercises to choose from (hello, push-ups!), reminds Verstegen. And be sure to counter those movements with some pulling exercises (such as a dumbbell back workout) to reduce the risk of injury and create a more well-rounded workout experience.

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