Grip width for bench press: What’s right?

When it comes to bench press, there are several technical things that tend to be holding most people back.  I’m going to touch on one that seems to be more common in women, but men make this mistake too.

Grip Width

Most people just assume that you can grab the barbell anywhere and be able to bench press. While this is true, a lot has to change depending on where you place your grip. Women tend to place their hands about shoulder width apart and men tend to grab the bar wide.   That in and of itself is not the problem. The problem lies in the relationship between the elbow and the wrist.  If the hands are in close and the elbows are out wide, you will lose strength.

NOTE: This is the same problem that I see with women doing pushups. Their hands are shoulder width apart, up by the forehead and the elbows go out to the side. This is typically because their triceps are weak, so the only thing left to do is to put all the stress on the shoulders. Bad for shoulders and not a strong position.



So, the question that is asked… what grip do I use?

As with a lot of training things, it will vary. You need to find where you are the strongest. This is typically based on your limb length and where you are strongest. If you don’t know the answer to these, start with this:  Put the tip of your thumb right at the gnurling line (where the grippy part meets the smooth).  Where your hands are placed is a good start. (Be sure to still wrap your thumbs around the bar.)

Closer grip and wider grip benches are still helpful in your training to build various parts of your bench press. If you always bench with the same grip (your “normal” grip), you will stall. Even changing up the grip by an inch will force you to get stronger in different positions. Remember, when it comes to maximal effort training, it’s not always about the weight used… it’s about straining and time under tension.


Stay tuned for more in this bench press series. If you have specific bench press issues you want addressed, leave a comment below!


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8 Responses to “Grip width for bench press: What’s right?”

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  1. Good post! I like going a smidge wider than recommended here, but that’ because I really want to work the pec with less tricep involvement. In fact, I’ve been trying something out, where on my last set of bench press reps, I like to drop the weight a bit, and put my hands as far out on the bar as possible, and do reps til failure. I compared this to just doing a last set of reps to failure with normal grip, but it seems that I feel it more in the outer pec on the extreme wide grip (which is what I’m wanting to do).

    • Julia Ladewski says:

      Hey Chris! Yeah, it depends on what your goal is for the bench press. If it’s more bodybuilding, then “working the pecs” is what you want. If you’re looking for a big, strong bench, then it’s more than just a muscle group… you WANT those triceps involved!!!

  2. Melly Testa says:

    Could you please talk a bit more about women and push ups?

  3. Angeline Feliciano says:

    Hey Julia! What tips can you give on determining the arch for the bench? Also, how do you set up for the lift? Thank you!

    • Julia Ladewski says:

      this is going to be my next installment for the bench work. But arch depends on mobility/flexibility and where your strengths lie. will definitely get some video footage!!! 🙂

  4. Michelle says:

    Ahhh, the bench press. My worst lift:( I am so glad you are touching on this..I need all the help I can get! A woman with long arms (like me) defiantly should go wider. I used to grip about shoulder width apart like you mentioned most woman naturally do and did terrible at the bench. When I started to go wider it took a bit to get use to but it was worth it as my bench finally is going up. I also saw a video that suggested you should grip the same distance apart as your shoulder to shoulder length doubled. So if you were to measure you shoulder width times two….that is where you grip would be. Thanks Julie! I don’t have Facebook anymore btw. Hope training is going great!

    • Julia Ladewski says:

      Well, bummer you don’t have facebook!!! So please do keep in touch!!

      I don’t know if I would say that shoulder width doubled is a hard fast number, but it might be a good guideline for competition grip. I know I don’t do everything as wide as when I bench in a meet. Plus, a lot of other things to take into consideration and it depends on what part of the bench you’re trying to build and where your weaknesses are.

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