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Bench Press Grip Width: How To Improve Your Bench

How to Find Your Bench Press Grip Width

For many, bench press grip width is merely guess work. That’s not good seeing as how there is an optimal grip-width for bench press. If you end up grabbing the barbell too narrow, you’ll have a greater range of motion. In a physic’s sense, you’ll be doing more work and thus will not be able tohandle as heavy a load. Also associated with a close grip, you’ll end up activating more of the smaller, weaker clavicular-head of the pectoralis major.

On the other hand, if you go too wide, you’ll end up putting excessive and unnecessary torque on your shoulders and elbows. Over time this can lead to injury which is the last thing you want. So what is the optimal bench press grip width?

1.5 to 2.0 x Biacromial Width

The optimal bench press grip width falls between 1.5 – 2.0 x your biacromial width. If you slide your finger along the top ridge of your shoulder, as you approach the edge of your shoulder, your finger will glide up and over a bony bump before descending down the arm. That is the acromion process. The measurement taken from one acromion process to the other of the other shoulder is your biacromial width. This is the actual measurement of ‘how wide’ your shoulders are.

For example, my biacromial width measures 16 inches, so my grip width would fall between 24 and 32 inches on the bar. The rings on a standard barbell are 32 inches apart and are land-marks to be used for precisely placing your hands on the bar. Adjust your grip-width within your given grip-width range and find the exact width that works best for you.

Why is 1.5 to 2.0 x Biacromial Width Optimal For Bench Press?

At this grip-width range, the range of motion the bar has to travel from full-extension to the chest is approximately 20% less than a narrow grip width with arms straight out (biacromial width grip-width only). Again, from a physic’s stand point, you’re doing less work with a given load, so you’ll be able to handle a heavier load. Also, this grip width will target the larger, stronger sternal head of the pectoralis major, so the stretch-reflex of the muscle in this given movement will be greater.

So performing the bench press with a grip width of 1.5 to 2.0x your biacromial width:

  • Reduces range of motion (ROM) ~20%
  • Greater activation of sternal head of pecs
  • Less stress on shoulders and elbows
  • Enables you to handle heavier loads, thus incurring greater adaptation

Do you have any training questions? Send me a message below and I’ll gladly answer it!



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