6 Different Types of Bench Press Grips (Which is Best for You)

the 6 different types of bench press grips

There are a number of different grips you can take on the bench press, and each one has a place depending on the technique you want to use and muscles you’re looking to engage. 

Each grip style will modify the distance the bar has to travel as well as your bar path, so it’s important to know going into your bench session which variations you’ll be using and why.

The 6 different types of bench press grips are: 

  • Close Grip Bench Press
  • Medium Grip Bench Press
  • Wide Grip Bench Press
  • Suicide Grip Bench Press
  • Reverse Grip Bench Press
  • Neutral Grip Bench Press (Swiss Bar)

Below I’ll detail exactly what these styles are, and give you the specific reasons to choose each one so you’re getting the most out of your chosen bench press variation.

1. Close Grip Bench Press

the close grip bench press is fantastic for building lockout strength

What is This Grip Good For?

The close grip bench press is fantastic for building lockout strength, strengthening your triceps, reducing both elbow flare and the stress on your shoulders, and activating your upper chest. 

Can’t feel your triceps in the close grip bench press? Check out my other article.

How to Use This Grip?

A close grip bench press is generally regarded as your hands being shoulder width apart, or just inside. 

Another way to measure is 5 finger lengths inside your normal bench press grip. So if you naturally grab the bar in a really wide position, a narrow grip bench press, for you, will look more like a “medium” grip bench press for others.   

When Should You Use This Grip?

This grip is an excellent choice if you find you struggle with the lockout portion of your bench, as well as if you’re a lifter with longer arms

Both of these will mean that you need more tricep strength, which is where the close grip bench press really shines. 

Read more about the various benefits of the close grip bench press in our article on the 8 Close Grip Bench Press Benefits.

2. Medium Grip Bench Press

the medium grip bench press is a strong choice to prioritize tucking of the elbows and tricep engagement

What is This Grip Good For?

The medium grip bench press is a strong choice to prioritize tucking of the elbows and tricep engagement (similar to the narrow grip bench press), without causing as much of an increase in the range of motion for the exercise. 

As well, it can be useful for those with previous pec injuries, as it transfers involvement from the pectoralis major to the anterior deltoid and tricep.

How to Use This Grip?

While the narrow grip bench press is generally a full 5 finger lengths in from your normal bench press length, a medium grip bench press is only 3-4 finger lengths inside. Think of this as more of a hybrid between your standard grip bench press and a narrow grip bench press.

When Should You Use This Grip?

This grip is an excellent alternative to the narrow grip bench press, giving you less range of motion than a narrow grip while still recruiting more of the triceps

You will notice more tricep activation than a standard bench press grip since activation is taken away from the pectoralis major and put on to the triceps as your grip moves inward.

3. Wide Grip Bench Press

the wide grip bench press is useful for maximally engaging the pectoralis major,

What is This Grip Good For?

The wide grip bench press is useful for maximally engaging the pectoralis major, decreasing the range of motion as much as possible in the bench press, and reducing the overall load needed to complete the repetition.

How to Use This Grip?

A wide grip bench press is typically considered a width that is 1.5-2x the width of your shoulders. When combined with properly set shoulder blades, this is an excellent combination for a strong bench press.

When Should You Use This Grip?

If you’re a lifter who has exceptionally strong pectoral muscles, this is the grip for you. The wide grip bench press moves the load from the shoulders and triceps (which you would find more in a medium or narrow grip) and places it on the pectoralis major. 

This grip could also be used as an assistance exercise to strengthen your bench press overall if you find your weakest portion of the range is right as the bar comes off your chest

Most competitive powerlifters will use a wide grip bench press because they are trying to limit the range of motion as much as possible.  The less range of motion the barbell needs to travel, the less overall work that needs to be performed using the same load. 

To learn more about the wide grip bench press benefits and drawbacks, see our complete guide.

4. Suicide Grip Bench Press

suicide grip can be useful in forcing you to tuck your elbows more on the bench press

What is This Grip Good For?

This grip can be useful in forcing you to tuck your elbows more on the bench press, drawing more power from your triceps. As well, having a thumbless grip forces you to keep the barbell stacked over your forearm, keeping your wrist in a better position.

How to Use This Grip?

The suicide grip is similar to a medium or wide grip bench press with the only difference being that your thumb is placed underneath or on top of the barbell, on the same side as your fingers. 

When Should You Use This Grip?

I don’t believe anyone should ever be using the suicide grip. 

While there are benefits to this grip, these benefits can be duplicated with a narrow grip bench press variation (forcing you to tuck your elbows and use your triceps), and the thumbless grip will cause the weight on the bar to feel heavier, as you’re unable to fully grip the bar as hard as you can – a key to a strong bench press. 

The potential danger of the barbell slipping out of your hands and landing on you (even if you have a spotter) far outweighs the potential benefits, especially when those benefits can be mimicked with different bench press grips. 

To learn more behind the reasons not to use the suicide grip, see our article on 6 Reasons Not to Use the Suicide Grip for Bench Press.

5. Reverse Grip Bench Press

the reverse grip bench press is excellent for activating more of the upper chest, biceps, and forearms

What is This Grip Good For?

The reverse grip bench press is excellent for activating different muscles, such as more of the upper chest, biceps, and forearms than is traditionally activated in a standard bench press. 

As well, because this variation is so different from a standard bench press, it can be used to work around an injury and place more priority on the forearms, biceps, shoulders, and upper pecs than in a standard bench press.

How to Use This Grip?

The key to using the reverse grip bench press is to switch the position of your hands so that your knuckles are now pointing towards your toes. 

As well, ensure you have an experienced spotter with you, as unracking the bar, completing repetitions, and reracking the bar will seem very foreign if this is your first time taking this style of grip for a test drive.

When Should You Use This Grip?

The usage of this grip will depend heavily on your overall goals within the gym environment. If you’re a powerlifter or more driven towards powerlifting-style training, this movement is best used as part of a deload week to introduce some variation, as this grip is so far removed from your standard bench press that there may not be much carry-over. 

If you’re a bodybuilder or physique athlete, this grip may be more useful for you as a regular part of your training, as there is much more activation of the upper chest and biceps brachii. 

To read more about the benefits and setting up a reverse grip bench press, see our complete guide.

6. Neutral Grip Bench Press (Swiss Bar)

The swiss bar bench press is best used for better activation of the triceps

What is This Grip Good For?

The swiss bar bench press is best used for better activation of the triceps (as the movement requires more tucking of the elbows), keeping your wrists in a safer position, and for those with shoulder injuries, as this grip puts less stress on the shoulders.

How to Use This Grip?

The neutral grip bench press can be used by placing your hands in a neutral position on a swiss bar. While there are multiple grips to choose from, you should experiment with a few different grip widths and pick the grip that feels most comfortable for your bench press. 

When Should You Use This Grip?

Swiss bar bench press is a good replacement for a standard bench press or a narrow grip bench press if you find that these movements are aggravating your shoulders or wrists. 

This exercise is also a good recommendation for working some upper body training into your routine while recovering from a shoulder injury. 

To learn more about the benefits of the swiss bar or neutral grip bench press, see our complete guide.

Which Bench Press Grip Type Should You Use?

  • For growing your upper chest – Reverse grip or neutral grip
  • For working your lockout/tricep strength – reverse grip or neutral grip
  • For building your pectoralis major – wide grip
  • For building strength off the chest – wide grip
  • For competing in powerlifting – wide grip
  • For dealing with a shoulder injury/shoulder pain – neutral grip
  • For dealing with a wrist injury/wrist pain – neutral grip
  • For tricep development if narrow grip is uncomfortable – medium grip/reverse grip
  • For shoulder development – reverse grip, medium grip, or narrow grip
which grip type should you use

Final Thoughts

The bench press has plenty of variations, with each having a place in your training routine based on the muscles you’re trying to develop and what portion of your range of motion is the weakest. Knowing how to safely use each grip, as well as the benefits and drawbacks to each variation is crucial to ensure that you can extract the maximum benefit from each of these exercises. 

A lot of lifters ask whether they can just train the bench press for their triceps. We answer that question in our article Is Bench Press Good Enough For Triceps?