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Close grip vs wide grip bench press: What’s the difference, and which is best?

Learn the major differences between the close grip bench press and the wide grip bench press and learn which one is best for hypertrophy.
Written By  James Jackson
Last Updated on 2nd May 2022
A man performing a side by side close grip vs wide grip bench press comparison

In this close grip vs wide grip bench press comparison, you’ll learn which bench press grip is the best strength, hypertrophy, and injury prevention.

Of course, like many things in strength training, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. The optimal bench press grip width for you depends on your goals, training experience, and individual anthropometry.

Related Comparisons:

What is the difference between a close grip bench press and a wide grip bench press?

A man doing a wide grip vs close grip bench press comparison to see which is better

What is the difference between a close grip bench and a wide grip bench press? The main difference between these exercises is that a close grip bench press emphasizes the triceps, whereas the wide grip bench press works more of the chest.

Most lifters will also find that they’re stronger on a wide grip bench press than on a close grip bench press. However, individuals with a lot of muscle mass will likely find that a regular grip enables them to lift the most amount of weight.

Another difference is that wide grip bench presses place more stress on your shoulders and rotator cuffs, whereas close grip bench presses put more torque through your elbow joints. So if you have any non-severe injuries, you can work around them by changing your grip.

Finally, a wide grip bench press has less range of motion than a close grip bench press, meaning that your pushing muscles need to perform less total work when you bench with a wide grip. This is one reason why many elite powerlifters opt to use a relatively wide grip for their bench press.

Close grip vs wide grip bench press: Strength

A man doing a close grip bench press vs wide grip bench press comparison to show the differences

First of all, we need to define strength. Are you talking about strength potential? Or are you talking about moving as much weight as possible?

Lifters with bigger pecs, triceps, and anterior deltoids will have the most strength potential, which—given the necessary neurological adaptations—will enable them to bench the most amount of weight.

On the other hand, if you just want to bench press as much weight as possible right now, then a wide grip will be the best option in some cases—especially if you can maintain a solid bench press arch.

If, for example, you don’t have that much muscle mass, then a wide grip is likely better than a close grip because it decreases your range of motion, meaning that your pushing muscles have to do less work.

On the other hand, if you’ve built a solid foundation of size, then a regular grip will likely be your best bet because you can better make use of your muscle strength (strength potential) when you use a normal grip.

Close grip bench press vs wide grip: Muscle growth

A man showing that you can bench press with a wide or narrow grip

A wide grip bench press leads to more chest activation, whereas a close grip bench press results in more triceps development.

However, if you use an extra-wide grip, then you might actually reduce your pectoral activation because your range of motion will be so small. So if you’re training for hypertrophy, then you should stick to a moderately wide grip so that you can get a good chest contraction.

If you want to train your chest, triceps, and anterior deltoids relatively equally—a good idea on compound movements—use a regular grip so that you can get the fullest possible range of motion.

Wide grip vs close grip bench press: Injury risk

A weight lifter doing a wide grip bench press vs close grip bench press comparison

As I mentioned earlier in this close grip vs wide grip bench press comparison, the close grip bench press puts more torque through your elbows, whereas the wide grip bench press places more strain on your shoulders.

Therefore, if you have elbow problems, then you’ll definitely want to give the wide-grip bench press a try because it doesn’t put as much tension on your triceps or elbows joints.

On the other hand, if wide grip bench presses don’t agree with your shoulders, then you’ll definitely want to use a narrower grip and tuck your elbows closer to your sides so that you can take the tension off your rotator cuffs.

Close grip bench press vs normal bench press

A weight lifter doing a side by side close grip bench press vs normal grip comparison

Many lifters get so caught up in the wide grip vs close grip bench press debate that they forget all about the regular bench press—you know, the one that most people do.

For strength, the normal grip bench press is ideal if you’re big because it enables you to make full use of your pushing muscles.

Conversely, if you lack that bodybuilder mass, then a wide grip is generally better (if you can arch) because your muscles will need to do less work.

Also, a regular grip bench press enables you to generate more force because your wrists and elbows are more in line.

All of this is in addition to the extra muscle growth benefits that come with the regular grip bench press—bigger range of motion, more chest activation, better carryover to other bodybuilding lifts.

Should you do close grip bench press and wide grip bench press on the same day?

A weight lifter performing a wide vs narrow bench press comparison at the gym

Should you do a close grip bench press and a wide grip bench press on the same day? No, in general, you should not do a close grip bench press and a wide grip bench press in the same workout because they train the same muscles with a very similar movement pattern.

Both lifts are ideally performed at the start of your workouts because they’re suited to heavy, explosive, low rep lifting. So if you did one after the other, then you’d be sacrificing your strength and decreasing the quality of your workouts, in most cases.

Now, with intelligent programming, it is possible to perform the close grip bench press and the wide grip bench press in the same session and make good progress doing so.

Essentially, you’d do low rep wide-grip bench presses to work on your maximal strength, and then you’d do close grip bench presses for slightly higher reps to increase your triceps muscularity (which, in turn, will boost your pressing strength).

See Also: Close grip bench press alternative

Close grip bench press vs wide grip bench press: The verdict

A man demonstrating that you can do a bench press with a close grip and a wide grip

Although very similar, the close grip and wide grip bench press are ultimately two different lifts. Whereas the close grip bench press puts more tension on your triceps, the wide grip bench press puts your pecs under a deeper muscle stretch.

In terms of strength, a closer grip or a regular grip is often better for explosive lifters with more muscle mass because they can really “muscle” the weight up with their powerful chest, triceps, and shoulders.

On the other hand, smaller lifters who have the ability to arch often perform better with a wide grip because it cuts the range of motion, meaning that their muscles have to do less work.

I hope that you enjoyed this close grip vs wide grip bench press comparison. There is, of course, no right or wrong bench press grip, so you should definitely try different grips to see which is best for your training goals.

References

  1. BBC Bitesize. (2022). The components of fitness – definitions, examples and tests - Keeping fit and healthy in sport - OCR - GCSE Physical Education Revision - OCR. https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/guides/z8j87hv/revision/2
  2. Muscle & Strength. (2017, November 3). Barbell Bench Press. https://www.muscleandstrength.com/exercises/barbell-bench-press.html
James Jackson
James Jackson is a personal trainer who uses his expertise in strength and conditioning to create helpful workout tutorials that show fitness enthusiasts how to build muscle while staying safe in the gym. He draws on the latest sports science data as well as tried and tested training techniques to get the best results for his clients without them having to live in the gym.
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