The bench press is one of the most popular exercises in the gym, and for a good reason. It is a great exercise for building strength and muscle mass in the chest, shoulders, and arms. There are many different ways to perform the bench press, but one of the most effective is the wide grip bench press. As the name implies, this variation of the bench press is performed with a wide grip. There are many benefits to performing the wide grip bench press that we’ll go over in this article. We’ll also provide a step-by-step guide on how to properly execute this exercise.
Wide Grip Bench Press Muscles Worked
The bench press targets three major muscle groups:
The pectoralis major is the large muscle that makes up the majority of the chest. This muscle is responsible for bringing the arms together in front of the body (as in a bench press).
Unlike other variations of the bench press, the wide-grip bench press puts a greater emphasis on the outer portion of the pectoralis major.
The anterior deltoids are a group of muscles located at the front of the shoulder. The primary function of the anterior deltoid is to lift the arm forward and up.
The wide-grip bench press doesn’t place as much emphasis on the anterior deltoids as other variations of the bench press, but they are still worked to a certain degree.
The triceps brachii is a large muscle located at the back of the upper arm. The primary function of the triceps brachii is to extend the elbow.
As with the anterior deltoids, the wide-grip bench press doesn’t place as much emphasis on the triceps brachii as other variations of the bench press. However, they are still worked to a certain degree.
Benefits Of The Wide Grip Bench Press
Is it better to have a wide or narrow grip on the bench press? It depends. The wide grip bench press is a great exercise for building strength and size in the chest, shoulders, and arms. Here are some of the benefits of this exercise:
It Activates More Muscle Fibers
All your muscles are made up of fibers. When you exercise you are actually tearing away at these muscle fibers. This is what causes the muscle soreness that you feel after a workout (4).
The more muscle fibers you can activate, the more growth you will see. The wide grip bench press is very effective at activating more muscle fibers than other variations of the bench press because it places more stress on the muscles (4).
It Builds Functional Strength
Functional strength is the type of strength that you use in everyday activities. The bench press is a great exercise for building functional strength because it trains your muscles to work together (3).
It Shortens The Bar Path
The bar path is the distance that the bar travels from the starting position to the ending position. The shorter the bar path, the less work your muscles have to do.
This bench press has a shorter bar path than other variations of the bench press, which means you’re able to lift a heavier weight.
It Increases Shoulder Stability
The wide grip bench press is a great exercise for increasing shoulder stability. This is because the exercise places more emphasis on the stabilizer muscles around the shoulder joint (2).
It Improves Posture
It Reduces Horizontal Elbow Displacement
A common mistake that people make when performing the bench press is in allowing their elbows to spread out to the sides (this is called horizontal elbow displacement). This puts unnecessary stress on the shoulder joint and can lead to injury.
The wide grip bench press reduces horizontal elbow displacement because it places your arms in a more natural position.
It Flattens The Resistance Curve
The resistance curve is the amount of resistance that your muscles have to overcome at different points in the exercise. The flat resistance curve of the wide grip bench press makes it a more efficient exercise.
It Isolates The Chest Muscles
The wide grip bench press is a great exercise for isolating the chest muscles. This is because the exercise places more emphasis on the chest muscles and less on the triceps and shoulders.
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How To Perform The Wide Grip Bench Press
Now that we’ve gone over the benefits of the wide grip bench press, let’s take a look at how to properly execute this exercise. Here is a step-by-step guide:
- Lie down on a flat bench with your feet flat on the ground.
- Place your hands on the bar slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
- Arch your back and squeeze your glutes. This will help to stabilize your body.
- Lift the bar off the rack and lower it to your sternum.
- Pause for a moment and then press the bar back up to the starting position.
- Repeat for the desired number of reps.
How Wide Should Your Grip Be?
The answer to this question depends on several factors, including:
- Your muscle mass – if you already have large muscles in the chest and shoulders, you won’t need to use as wide of a grip. A moderately wide grip will be sufficient.
- Your level of experience – if you’re new to weightlifting, you’ll want to start with a moderately wide grip. As you get more experience, you can experiment with a wider grip.
- Your goals – if your goal is to target as many muscles at once, a moderately wide grip will be best. If you’re trying to focus on a specific muscle group, especially the delts or lats, then a wide grip will be more effective.
- Your leverages – if you have long arms, you’ll be able to use a wider grip than someone with short arms. Additionally, if you can arch your back well, you’ll also be able to use a wider grip.
In general, most people will benefit from using a grip that is somewhere between shoulder-width and one and a half times shoulder-width. Experiment with different grips and see what works best for you.
Common Mistakes And Safety Tips
There are a few common mistakes that people make when performing the wide grip bench press. Here are some safety tips to keep in mind (2):
- Don’t arch your back too much – this can put unnecessary strain on your lower back.
- Don’t bounce the bar off your chest – this can damage your sternum.
- Don’t allow your elbows to flare out – this puts unnecessary stress on the shoulder joint.
- Use a spotter – this exercise is best performed with a spotter.
- Use proper form – always use proper form when lifting weights to avoid injury.
- Warm up and cool down – be sure to warm up and cool down before and after your workout. This helps to prevent injury and increase your flexibility.
- Don’t overload the bar – only lift as much weight as you can handle. Start with a weightless bar and gradually increase the amount of weight you lift.
- Don’t use momentum – don’t swing the bar or use momentum to lift the weight. This can lead to injury.
- Don’t rush the exercise – take your time and focus on each rep.
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The wide grip bench press is a great exercise for building strength and muscle mass in the chest, shoulders, and arms. This exercise also has many other benefits, such as increasing shoulder stability and improving posture.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- A Biomechanical Analysis of Wide, Medium, and Narrow Grip Width Effects on Kinematics, Horizontal Kinetics, and Muscle Activity on the Sticking Region in Recreationally Trained Males During 1-RM Bench Pressing (2021, fronteirsin.org)
- BENCH PRESS TARGETED MUSCLES, GRIPS, AND MOVEMENT PATTERNS (n.d., nasm.org)
- The Effect of Grip Width on Muscle Strength and Electromyographic Activity in Bench Press among Novice- and Resistance-Trained Men(2021, mdpi.com)
- The Effects of Bench Press Variations in Competitive Athletes on Muscle Activity and Performance(2017, nih.gov)