What Varying Your Grip Can Do For Your Bench Press

Don’t be so basic..


Three sets of eight to twelve, two off-days per week, chest on Monday…basic.


Expand your horizons, and stop wearing the same matching tank top and shorts. When it comes to gains and longevity, variation is going to do you a few favors. Allow us to outline some for you:

  • Reduced risk of injury
  • A larger number of muscle fibers will get pounded
  • You won’t burn out mentally

Just to name a few. Training variety is a multi-faceted topic that could span a decent number of articles (maybe we should do a series); however, in the meantime we’ll focus on every frat boy’s favorite (besides the ab coaster) — bench press.

It doesn’t get much more classic than this. It’s one of the big three, everyone should be—and probably is—doing it, but it’s prone to being under-utilized. The king of all upper body exercises has the potential for enough variation to have you hitting new and improved chest workouts every week for months. The secret lies mostly in the grip.

Get informed on the next page…


1. The Grip Ladder

A hell of a lot more fun than the agility ladder you hop around on, this bench press grip gauntlet hits it all. As logic would have it, you begin with the most difficult mechanical position first (close grip), and systematically work your way out with each set. For example, after every completed set, shift your grip an inch outward.


This kind of chest pump communism will be giving every portion of the chest (and even triceps) an equal part of the punishment. Not to mention it’s more interesting than four sets of ten with a “normal” grip.

Our recommendation: Five sets of eight to five, becoming progressively wider. You could move wide to narrow, but we have a feeling that wouldn’t pan out as well.

2. Close Grip

This grip is a personal favorite. There’s no better way to build that Triceptatops, while simultaneously etching in some inner pec. It’s important to note your hands don’t need to be as close as once thought. Keeping the grip just within shoulder width is enough to stress the triceps while maintaining the positional strength to move enough weight.


*Safety Tip: Remember to bring the elbows slightly inward during close grip. The only thing flared out elbows ever got anyone was shoulder impingement.

3. Lift Wide To Get Wide

No big surprise here — just like pull-ups. The wider you grab the bar, the wider that muscle will get; however, it’s not exactly a cakewalk. An expansive grip means more power and less distance for the bar to travel, but every pro has a con. This position leaves the shoulder at a very disadvantageous angle, and receives very little help from the triceps.


*Quick Fix: Be aware of your shoulder position, and again, bring the elbows slightly inward and raise your chest to avoid too much direct pressure on the shoulder joint. If your body is resembling a “T”, anything higher than 40% of your max is going to lead you right to the physical therapist.

Let’s bring it together on the last page…


The Big Picture

There’s no excuse for being basic anymore, channel your inner free-weight MacGyver and put these techniques to the test. If you’re coming up short on programming, we’ll give you the first one for free.

Start your chest day (we’re guessing Monday) off with four to five heavy sets of wide grip incline bench press. Remember to roll your shoulders back, pinch your scapulas together, and keep that chest high like you’re actually proud of it.

After you’ve knocked out the serious weight, move on to the flat bench press and grind out five more sets of the grip ladder. The weight and reps for the ladder can be changed depending on your current goals. If it’s a chest and triceps day, finishing with a superset of cable crossover and rope pull-downs would be a solid move, but old fashioned weighted dips couldn’t hurt either.

The point is, don’t get complacent. Experiment in the gym (within reason) and let us know if you crack the code with a certain exercise. There are thousands of ways to get a pump, but remember there’s no replacement for intensity.

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