Chest Training – Decline Wide Grip Bench Press

The decline wide grip bench press helps to isolate your pectorals, shifting emphasis from your triceps and delts. You can use this lift to improve your pectoral strength.

Decline wide grips also have a shorter range of motion (ROM) than the bench press and standard grip decline press potentially increasing the weight you can push.

Muscles Used for this Exercise

Exercise Classification

Exercise Technique

A cross between the wide grip bench press and the decline bench press, decline wide grip bench presses reduce emphasis on the delts and triceps allowing you to focus on pectoral strength. With the wide grip, concentrate on driving the bar hard off the chest with your pecs and popping your elbows to lock out.

If you’ve never used the decline bench before, use caution at first as the angle you press the bar up may feel awkward.

  • Equipment: Use a standard decline bench and barbell, preferably a standard 20kg bar with rings in the knurling at the standard 81cm distance. This allows you to consistently measure your hand position.
  • Foot Position: Adjust the length of the foot/ankle pads on the bench so that you can slide under the bar, and not hit the rack as you press the bar up.
  • Hand Position: Your hand position should be well outside your normal bench press grip.
    • Depending on the length of your arms, you should try to grip the bar as wide as possible while still safely allowing you to unrack and re-rack the bar. At a minimum, use a grip that is at one hand width or more wider than your normal grip.
    • With the bar at your chest, your forearms should angle outward due to the width of the grip, not perpendicular to the floor as with the typical grip for the bench press.
    • Thumbs should be wrapped around the bar. Rest the bar in the base of your palm so that when holding the bar it lies directly over your wrists and forearms.

Setting Up

  • Secure your ankles and lower legs between the pads of the bench and lie down on the bench at a decline with your head, shoulders and buttocks in contact with the bench. They should all remain in contact throughout your set.
  • Grip the bar using the hand position above.
  • Squeeze your shoulder blades together and hold them as if you’re trying to pinch a coin between them.
  • Hold this position throughout the full ROM of each repetition.

Lift Execution

  • Stay tight and try to lock your elbows prior to unracking the bar. How close you come to locking out will depend on the rack height. Take a deep breath into your lungs and abdomen and hold it. Bring the bar straight out over the chest keeping your shoulder blades pinched tightly together.
  • Take another deep breath and hold it, filling your lungs and abdomen. Hold the air in until you’ve pressed the bar back up past the sticking point to increase your chest’s stability.
    • Note: When doing high rep sets (10 or higher) I relax my breathing and breath in as the bar is coming down to increase the speed of the reps. Typically at 10 reps or more the weight is light enough to retain tightness even if the breathing technique is not strict.
  • Bring the bar down quickly but controlled to the lower part of your chest between your nipple line and the base of the sternum.
    • Bar should come down quickly and come to a complete stop lightly on your chest without sinking in.
    • Keep your shoulder blades pinched tightly together as you lower the bar.
    • Don’t bring the bar down lower on your body than the base of your sternum. Lowering the bar to your abdomen will greatly reduce the lift’s ROM and reduce exercise effectiveness.
    • Don’t bring the bar down higher on the body than the nipple line, as this can increase tension on your shoulders.
  • Drive the bar explosively off your chest using your pecs and lats. Use the momentum from the initial press to carry the bar past the sticking point. Finish the lift by locking your elbows. Begin exhaling as the bar crosses your sticking point, breathing out through lockout.
    • To lock the bar out strongly, with the wide grip bench press, concentrate on popping the elbows locked, not pressing the bar up.
    • Concentrate on driving the bar straight toward the ceiling. Because of the decline angle, if you’re not familiar with the lift, the bar may have a tendency to drift toward your head.
  • Keep your head, shoulders and buttocks on the bench throughout the full lift.
  • Because you have a wide grip on the bar, when you re-rack the weight be careful not to catch your fingers between the bar and the bench supports.

Strength Standard

  • Because of the shorter ROM of this lift due to the decline angle and wide grip, you may find that you can press more with decline wide grip than standard bench presses.

Common Mistakes

  • Failing to keep your shoulder blades tight: This reduces your ability to keep your upper body tight.
  • Focusing on pressing the bar up instead of locking your elbows: The lift is over when your elbows are locked, it is not based on pressing the bar up any particular distance. Emphasis on pressing the bar up instead of locking your elbows can cause you to loosen your shoulder blades and make locking out more difficult.
  • Bringing the bar down too low on the chest: Bringing the bar to your chest below the base of your sternum greatly reduces the range of motion of the lift due to the angle of the decline. This reduces the effectiveness of the lift.
  • Bringing the bar down too high on the chest: Lowering the bar high on your chest increases the emphasis on your anterior delts. Hitting a point lower on your chest, between the nipples and base of the sternum, can reduce the tension on your shoulders, reducing your risk of injuring them.

Exercise Safety

  • Use of a spotter. When benching with a wide grip, your arm length will be shorter, and it may be even more difficult to re-rack the weight than with a standard bench press. If you get pinned under a heavy bar on a decline bench, it is exceptionally difficult to get out from under it.
  • Use a weight you can control through the full range of motion. Lower the bar under control, touch lightly, and press explosively. Don’t bounce the bar off the chest.


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