Chest Training – Wide Grip Bench PressPosted: November 21, 2014
The wide grip bench press helps to isolate your pectorals, shifting emphasis from the secondary bench press muscle group – your triceps. You can use this lift to improve your pectoral strength.
The wider grip used also reduces the range of motion (ROM) of the lift, potentially increasing the weight you can press.
Muscles Used for this Exercise
- Primary Muscle Groups: Pectorals
- Secondary Muscle Groups: Triceps, Anterior Delts
- Stabilizers: Upper Back (Latissimus Dorsi, Rhomboids, Trapezius), Biceps, Quads (Leg Drive)
Although the technique is very similar to the bench press, with the wide grip emphasize driving the bar hard off the chest with your pecs and lats and popping your elbows to lock out:
- Equipment: Use a standard flat bench and barbell, preferably a bar with rings in the knurling at the standard 81cm distance. This allows you to consistently measure your hand position.
- Stance/Foot Position: Place your feet flat on the floor. You may have to try different foot positions based on your body mechanics, start by bringing them back underneath your hips with your toes pointed out.
- Hand Position: Your hand position should be well outside your normal 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 re-rack the bar. At a minimum, use a grip that is at least one hand width 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.
- Lie flat on the bench with your shoulders, head, and buttocks in firm contact with the bench and your feet flat on the floor. Maintain this position, none of your contact points should shift throughout the lift.
- Grip the bar using the hand position above, and find the correct foot position.
- Squeeze your shoulder blades together as if you’re trying to pinch a coin between them and hold them tight. Drive through the balls of your feet, pushing your hips toward your shoulders, creating a small arch in your back, and tightening your body from your toes to your traps. Maintain this leg drive and full body tightness throughout the full lift.
- Stay tight and try to lock your elbows prior to unracking the bar, depending on 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.
- 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 but stop lightly on your chest without sinking in.
- Keep your chest up by maintaining a strong leg drive, keeping your shoulder blades pinched tightly together, and keeping your lungs full of air.
- 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.
- Because you have a wide grip on the bar, when you re-rack the weight be careful not to smash your fingers between the bar and the bench supports.
- Although the wide grip bench press will have a shorter ROM than a full press and may allow you to press more weight, this is somewhat dependent on your individual strengths.
- If you are strong off the chest compared to your lockout, wide grip presses will likely be stronger than your standard grip bench press.
- If your lockout is more powerful than the drive off your chest, wide grip presses may be somewhat more challenging that the standard grip bench press.
- Allowing your chest to collapse as you bring the bar down: This reduces your tightness and stability, and limits the explosiveness with which you can drive the bar off your chest.
- Failing to keep your shoulder blades tight or maintaining leg drive: This also reduces your ability to remain tight and keep your chest up.
- 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 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.
- 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.
- 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 off the chest.
- Decline wide grip bench press: Using the wide grip bench press on a decline bench can reduce emphasis on your anterior delts, increasing the emphasis on your pectorals.
Additional Chest Exercises