bench press, grip, grip width, bench press

Daily Wisdom: VARY YOUR BENCH PRESS

Why athletes should switch up their grip in this upper-body move

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TODAY'S TOPIC: HOW LIFTING WITH A NARROW GRIP CAN HELP YOU TO BE A MORE POWERFUL ATHLETE

THE SCIENCE

A new study out of California State University found that using a narrow grip during a bench press may help athletes’ performance. The researchers studied male and female powerlifters and conducted a motion analyses of a wide-, medium-, and close-grip bench presses to determine the sticking region, the point within the lift where the bar velocity will tend to slow down, for each lift. 
EXPERT INSIGHT

“The sticking region is the most difficult section of the lift where the individual has to generate the most force to overcome the resistance of the bar,” explains study author Robert Lockie, Ph.D. The participants lifted at a higher velocity when using a close grip (on average, with the hands 39 centimeters apart compared to the medium-grip press which uses an average of 57 centimeters width), suggesting that this grip could be used for power training. “This could be useful for those athletes that need to generate powerful upper-body movements from a position where the hands are held closer to the torso, like an offensive linemen blocking in football or basketball players who perform chest passes during a game,” says Lockie. 

The close-grip bench press has other perks as well: “The shoulders are adducted which means the range of motion of the elbow will increase during the lift, which in turn means the triceps will be more active,” says Lockie.

Of course, there are benefits to a traditional bench press grip (such as allowing you to lift more weight), and Lockie recommends that athletes vary the two grips in their workouts. 

THE BOTTOM LINE

“This is not to suggest that the traditional bench press be eliminated from hypertrophy or strength training regimes,” emphasizes Lockie. Rather, the close-grip bench press would be an appropriate upper-body strength exercise variation to be used on a day where speed and power is emphasized; The traditional bench press could be used on a heavy-lifting day or when muscle-building is the primary goal.