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The 7 Most Powerful Bench Press Grips to Level-Up Your Chest Workouts

 Written by 

Julien Raby

 Last updated on 

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When it comes to bench press, small changes can make a big difference. In this article, we are going to provide you with the 7 bench press grips, their benefits, and how to perform them. Let’s get started.

7 Bench Press Grips: Benefits, Why and How to Do Them

Here are the 7 best bench press grip variations :

A man performs bench press
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1. Traditional Bench Press Grip

A man does a regular grip bench press
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The traditional is the most common barbell bench press grip. It’s probably the easiest way to learn the bench press technique as far as keeping your elbows tucked. It provides you with a nice balance of control and comfort. Nearly every athlete uses the traditional grip in their chest workout.

Most people can move the most weight while doing standard bench presses. This is because of a good range of motion and chest activation. This major muscle group is really strong when well-developed. 

Benefits of The Traditional Bench Press

How to Perform The Traditional Bench Press

To perform the bench press with a traditional grip, your hands need to be one-and-a-half times the width of their shoulders. Always lower the bar under control with your elbow joints perpendicular to the floor at the bottom. Your shoulder blades back and chest up. Perform a gentle touch at the bottom and a full extension at the top.

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Man does a wide grip bench press
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2. Close Grip Bench Press

The close grip bench press works on pressing from a narrow hand position. It provides you with the most range of motion because you move the bar further to complete a rep. This limits your loading potential. Therefore you probably won’t set your personal record using a close grip. However, it offers a lot of other benefits.

When compared to a wider grip, the narrow grip bench press activates more of your upper chest or pectoralis major. One study indicated that the narrow grip bench press offers greater activation of the triceps brachii because of the increased elbow flexion. The narrower grip is safer for shoulders than a wider grip.

Benefits of The Close Grip Bench Press

  • the greatest range of motion;
  • the limited loading potential;
  • activates more of your triceps, anterior deltoids, and upper chest muscles;
  • alleviate some elbow or shoulder discomfort.

How to Perform The Close Grip Bench Press

You are going to grab the bar narrower than your regular bench press grip or at the exact same width as your shoulders. There is no correct width for this. Hold your upper arms tucked to your sides. The barbell should touch your torso lower than with wide and traditional grips.

Due to its bar path, the best place to touch the bar is the spot that facilitates vertical forearms with our closer grip. This means that we will have to pinch the bar lower on the chest, closer to the sternum in order to maintain vertical forearms with this variation. 

Common Mistakes

Don’t go too narrow with a close grip when your thumbs are almost touching. This places much stress on your wrists and causes your elbows to flare out. Rolling your knuckles forward and crushing the bar in your hands as you bring the bar down will ensure a neutral wrist angle and help you keep your elbow joints under the bar.

3. Wide Grip Bench Press

A muscular man does a wide grip bench press
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The wide grip is basically considered a grip that is 1.5-2 x the measurement of the space between the shoulders. It is the most efficient bench press grip. Professional powerlifters always prefer to grab the bar as wide as they are legally permitted. This helps to lift as much weight as possible. 

The Most Effective Bench Press Grip

Although the wide grip bench presses may not be comfortable for everyone, many people will typically be stronger with a wider grip up to a point for a few reasons. 

Firstly, a wider grip is going to mean a slightly shorter range of motion. It is easier to move it less inches than more inches.

Secondly, a wider grip is going to make the midpoint and lockout portions of the lift easier since the pecs won’t be quite as contracted. Basically, a wider grip means there’s going to be more stretch on the pecs to contract more forcefully throughout the range of motion.

Thirdly, it’s generally easier to maintain a tight upper back with a wider grip as it tends to force you into a bit more scapular retraction and depression giving you a more stable base of support throughout the lift.

Chest Activation

According to some studies, the wide grip increases chest activation especially the lower part of the pectoralis major. This grip takes any tension off your triceps. One study found that the wide grip also placed more torque on your shoulder joints than a traditional or close grip. 

Pressure on The Shoulders

In general, the wide grip bench press isn’t the best option for your shoulders. The wider you put your arms, the more pressure is on the humerus. You also place much stress flaring your elbows when your arms are out that wide and you start going back up with a bar.

Benefits of The Wide Grip Bench Press

  • Limited range of motion;
  • Stability, a good arch, and a tight setup;
  • Ability to lift heavy weights;
  • Emphasizes your chest muscles to a greater degree and helps widen it out a lot.

How to Perform The Wide Grip Bench Press

You are going to take the bar wider than your regular bench press grip. Focus on keeping your elbows in. Lift the bar up, come down, and bring it deep into your chest for that big stretch and squeeze.

We recommend that you start with a lighter weight than you would normally. To avoid injury, it’s best to take it one finger-length at a time.

4. Suicide Grip or Thumbless Grip

A man does suicide grip bench press
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The bench press is usually performed with thumbs wrapped around the bar. This keeps the barbell locked in place and improves power output as well. 

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The thumbless grip, also known as a false grip, is considered a grip where your thumbs are placed over the bar instead of under. Using a thumbless grip or a suicide grip strongly increases the risk of injury.

This grip reduces shoulder stress and increases triceps activity. However, any potential benefits are considerably overshadowed by the dangers. The bar can slip out of your hands and drop on your chest or neck. It’s pretty risky. Don’t use the thumbless grip. 

Benefits of The Suicide Grip

  • It can reduce strain on the shoulders, elbows, and wrists;
  • Increased mind-muscle connection;
  • Increased tricep strength;
  • It can improve power output but the danger is too high to ignore.

How to Perform The Thumbless Grip

You are going to do your standard bench press grip width. Once you’ve taken the barbell, unwrap your thumbs. Only after that, you want to lower the barbell down to your chest. Allow your wrists to roll back a little bit. Wrap your thumbs and place the bar back into the rack. 

Try to do the thumbless grip bench press only after you have a lot of experience in the medium grip bench press. You should always use chalk to dry your palms when you do the bench press with a suicide grip. 

5. Reverse Grip

The reverse grip is a rare variation of the bench presses. One study suggests that the reverse grip bench press almost doubles the biceps brachii activation when compared to the traditional bench presses. This is because of the amount of shoulder flexion occurring during this movement. 

If you want to add a different stimulus to your bench press strength and muscle-building program, use the reverse grip. If you are recovering from a shoulder injury, the reverse grip is the best bet for you.

Benefits of The Reverse Grip Bench Press

  • upper chest and biceps brachii muscle activity;
  • adding variety and challenge to your barbell bench press workout;
  • comfortable for your elbows, shoulders, and wrists.

How to Perform The Reverse Grip Bench Press

Start with just the bar without weight plates. You are going to grab the barbell with a supinated grip when palms facing upwards. Start with a moderate grip. The wider you grab the barbell with the reverse grip, the more comfortable it is to hold. 

You are going to arch your upper back and lower the bar toward your sternum by bending your elbows. Squeeze and do the target number of reps in your set. Try to do the reverse grip only after you have a lot of experience in the traditional grip bench press.

6. Neutral Grip

This barbell bench press variation is highly underrated yet incredibly effective. As with every lift, your benchpress progress may eventually plateau. When it happens, adding variations can be another viable option. 

Use variations of the movements that are intentionally made more difficult so you cannot use as much weight. However, the relative intensity and how hard the exercise feels will still be high. The bench press with a neutral grip is the best choice for this goal.

Use the appropriate equipment such as a Swiss barbell with several perpendicular handles to do the bench press with a neutral grip. This grip may be more comfortable on your shoulder, elbow, and wrist joints than other bench press grips.

Benefits of The Neutral Grip

  • Comfortable;
  • Adds variety into your bench press training;
  • Beginner friendly.

How to Perform The Neutral Grip

Grab comfortable handles is most comfortable for you. Lie down on the flat bench, take a deep breath, and slightly stick out your chest. Lower the bar toward your body and squeeze. You are going to maintain vertical alignment between your elbow and wrist during this chest exercise.

7. Bulldog Grip Barbell Bench Press

If you are an advanced lifter, you might want to try the bulldog grip. This grip helps you increase your strength and the amount of weight you can lift on the bench presses. You are placing the bar into your palm directly over the radius bone. It provides you with better vertical alignment between your wrists and the barbell.

Benefits of The Bulldog Grip Barbell Bench Press

  • a more effective transfer of force;
  • ability to lift heavy weights on the bench press.

How to Perform The Bulldog Grip

Lie down on the bench press. Place the bar as deep in your palm as possible. Slightly twist your hand around it such that your ring finger and pinky finger slide off the shaft. The bar should rest in the nook between your index finger and thumb. 

Your shoulder blades are pinched back and down. With a slight arch in your lower back, remove the barbell from the rack. 

Take a deep breath and slowly lower the weight down to your chest. Make sure that your forearms and elbows remain perpendicular to the bar the whole exercise. Press the bar up and back.

Man with army shirt does bench press
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Does Grip Matter in Bench Press?

Both your grip technique and your grip strength affect your bench press. Different grips offer different benefits and disadvantages. 

When we grip the barbell for the bench press, it’s very common for people to think about squeezing the bar as hard as possible but that’s not totally correct. What is more important is exactly where on the hand placing the barbell. That should be on the strongest part of your hand which is right in line with the ulna.

The ulna is one of the two bones of our forearm. We have the radius and the ulna. When we pronate and supinate that radius moves but the ulna doesn’t. So, it is a lot stronger to place the barbell in line with the bone that doesn’t move.

A man does bench press with a spotter
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How to Find The Perfect Bench Press Grip for You

Here’s how to determine your perfect bench press grip width during the bench press.

You’re going to start by measuring the length between the ends of your clavicle bones. Next, find the center of the barbell and mark it out with chalk. Then mark out your clavicle length on each side.

One study found that the strongest bench press came out at two times the clavicle length grip width. You’re going to place your first fingers on this line as you set up. 

Another way to find your optimal grip is to look at the angle of your elbow with the bar on your chest. For optimal pressing leverages, you want this angle to be a little bit outside of 90 degrees. When it comes to hand position, you want your forearms to be perpendicular to the barbell. 

The barbell should sit a little diagonal in your hand with the pinky finger slightly flared out. If the bar sits straight across the hand, it may increase the risk of injury.

Bench Press Grip: FAQs

Why do powerlifters bench so wide?

64% of all lifters use the widest grip that is legal to lift the heaviest weights. However, some people will be stronger with a closer grip, but in general, a wider grip will be stronger for most people.

Is a close-grip bench press bad for the chest?

No. You will likely be able to press less weight than with a standard grip due to the greater range of motion between the shoulder joint and the bar as well as the lessened impact on the pectoralis muscles.


Julien Raby is the owner of BoxLife. He owns a bachelor in literature and a certificate in marketing from Concordia. He's Crossfit Level 1 certified and has been involved in Crossfit since 2010. In 2023 he finally made it to Crossfit Open Quarterfinals for the first time. LinkedIn Instagram Facebook

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