Maybe the one exercise that even Star Wars nerds and their brothers have heard of. The one exercise that a lot of new beginners think is the measure of their strength. Possibly the first ever exercise that a lot of us performed when walking into a gym for the first time, because we didn’t know how to do anything else (those were the days…sort of).
You guessed it, I’m talking about the almighty bench press. One of few exercises that has stood the test of time, and still to this day remains one of the most effective exercises for chiseling your chest and even some good shoulder and tricep work.
In case you didn’t notice though, that’s a pretty big bar. That bar needs to be gripped somewhere, and different grips can potentially give you different results.
The Wide Grip Bench Press – The wide grip bench press is what most people think of when thinking of a bench press. It is the staple in many fitness enthusiast’s chest routines, and will probably continue to be for a long time. There have been at least a dozen studies showing the direct affect that the bench press has on the pectoralis muscles. It would be an understatement to say that we know it works. We also know it releases large amounts of human growth hormone, and also benefits the anterior deltoid (front shoulder) muscles.
Overtime though, many people, especially heavy lifters, have been injured during this exercise. Here is one of the biggest reasons why; according to a new study published by The Strength and Conditioning Journal, the wide grip bench press puts nearly 1.5x more torque and pressure on the shoulders, when compared to its narrow grip counter-part. For this reason, many trainers seem to be steering towards a narrower grip on the bench press bar, though not to narrow.
The Narrow Grip Bench Press – While the narrow grip bench press does have an impact on the chest muscles in a slightly different way, I think most people would agree that the main difference is the impact that it is going to have on the shoulder and tricep muscles. If you feel that you are lacking in these areas, this grip might be more of your thing.
Do not go too narrow though, as a really close grip could be asking for injury. Even though the close grip bench press does have a lot less potential for shoulder injury, the chances of a wrist or elbow injury slightly goes up. Too much weight on a close grip bench bar, and you’ll immediately realize that it was a bad idea. Not near as much weight should be used as with a wide grip bench press. Start low and work your way up until you feel comfortable.
So, as far as chest muscles themselves, those aren’t the huge determining factor in which grip you should go with, but rather, you should look at the pro’s and cons of the other muscles worked, and decide which is for you.
If you need some deltoid and/or tricep work, the narrow grip wouldn’t hurt to throw in on your chest day.
If you are looking solely for that wide, broad chest and want to get good range of motion, I would recommend going with the wide grip bench press.
Either way, listen to your body and what it is telling you! Never keep doing something when you are in pain in any area, or that could possibly be the last time you will be doing that lift for a while.
Now that you know the difference, what are you waiting on? Today is chest day!
Article by fitness expert Zack Simpson