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Wide vs narrow push ups: Which one is best?

Learn the difference between wide and narrow push ups in this head-to-head comparison.
Written By  James Jackson
Last Updated on 2nd May 2022
A man doing a close grip push ups vs wide grip push ups comparison to see which is better for chest

In this head-to-head wide vs narrow push ups comparison, you'll learn which of these two push up variations is best for gaining size, which is best for building strength, and whether or not you should include both exercises in your routine.

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Wide vs narrow push ups for chest development

A man doing a side by side wide vs narrow push ups comparison

First off, let's talk wide vs narrow push ups for chest development. When you do wide grip push ups, you afford your chest muscles a deeper stretch and a greater range of motion.

Deeper ranges of motion and longer eccentric muscle stretches give your chest more time under tension and break down more muscle fibers, which ultimately means that wide grip push ups are better than close grip push ups for chest development.

Additionally, when you use a wide hand position for your push ups, there's less movement at the elbow joint, which means that the triceps don't have to do as much work. For this reason, narrow grip push ups are better for triceps development.

On the contrary, wide grip push ups have a greater degree of shoulder flexion than narrow grip push ups, meaning that your pectorals and anterior deltoids have to do the bulk of the work.

Wide push ups vs narrow push ups for strength

A man doing a wide vs close push ups comparison

Next up in this close grip push ups vs wide grip push ups comparison, we're discussing strength: Which exercises will make your chest, triceps, and shoulders stronger?

Since wide grip push ups are better than narrow grip push ups for working the chest and front delts, they're naturally the superior choice for strengthening your pectorals and the front of your shoulders. For this reason, wide grip push ups have better carryover to the traditional barbell bench press (and all the other chest and front delt exercises) than narrow push ups.

On the other hand, since close grip push ups put more tension on your triceps, they're naturally better than wide grip push ups for building triceps strength, meaning that they have better carryover to exercises like the close grip bench press.

So, as you can see, strength is specific. For chest and shoulder strength, do with the wide grip push up. For maximal triceps strength, go with the narrow grip push up.

Do you need to do both exercises?

A man performing a head-to-head wide push ups vs narrow push ups comparison

No, you don't absolutely need to do wide grip push ups and narrow grip push ups.

However, there's no reason why you can't do both movements.

After all, push ups are basically like a bodyweight bench press, and plenty of successful lifters do both regular/wide grip bench presses and close grip bench presses, so there's no good reason why you can't do both of these push up variations.

One way to program them is to do heavy (ideally weighted) wide grip push ups and then higher rep (bodyweight) close grip push ups as a secondary or accessory lift.

If you only want to do one of these exercises for some additional upper body work, then choose the exercise that best aligns with your goals—wide grip push ups for chest and shoulder development and close grip push ups for triceps development.

Should you do wide or narrow push ups first?

A man showing that you can do wide or narrow push ups for chest development

If your chest needs more work (or if the pecs are just a priority for you), start with wide grip push ups.

On the other hand, if you want to prioritize your triceps, then do close grip push ups first.

Of course, you can do both exercises but on different days of the week, which is ideal if you train your upper body twice per week. This way, the exercises wouldn't interfere with each other as much, meaning that you'd be able to perform each movement with your full strength.

Wide grip vs close grip push ups: The verdict

A man doing a wide grip vs close grip push ups comparison to show the differences

As mentioned throughout this wide vs close push ups comparison, one exercise isn't necessarily better than the other; it depends on your goals and which muscles you want to place the most emphasis on.

Both wide and close grip push ups train your chest, triceps, and anterior deltoids.

However, they don't work each of those three muscles to the same degree.

For training your chest muscles and front delts, the wide grip push up is your best bet. Conversely, if you want to train your triceps with as much tension as possible, then go with narrow grip push ups.

I hope that my wide vs narrow push ups comparison was useful, and hopefully, you now understand the difference between these two exercises in terms of muscle growth and strength development.

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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