Utilising bench press grip width for performance and longevity in powerlifting
Studies mentioned in this article involved participants that were either competitive national to international level powerlifters or trained individuals with a minimum bench press training experience of 2 years [1,2]. The three grip widths are defined as, narrow, the bi-acromial distance, wide, the preferred grip and medium, the middle of the two [1,2]. How does width affect muscle activity & joint angles??
A quick comparison of joint across all three grips reveals that a wider grip is representative of a greater elbow angle, with increased shoulder abduction, than the narrow and medium . This compares to the narrow grip width which has significantly smaller shoulder abduction angle and greater flexion angle than the two other grip widths . The greater degree of shoulder abduction in turn causes an increased level of forces through the shoulder joint during a wide grip bench press, whereas increased elbow flexion causes greater forces through the elbow during a narrow grip bench press .
This in return impacts on muscle activation. The wider grip has greater pectoralis major and anterior deltoid activation than the medium or narrow, with the narrow grip having significantly increased activity of the triceps brachii and decreased biceps brachii [1,2].
How does this affect performance and longevity??
These aspects in conjunction with a lesser ROM than narrow grip, result in greater average RepMax being achieved using a wide grip bench press in comparison with the medium and narrow grip .
Though more effective in moving larger weight there is large reports of pain induced during the wide grip bench press, with large associations with shoulder pain and injury due to the increased forces through the joint .
Practical application of varying widths.
Therefore, using grip variations such as a narrow or even moderate grip bench press during training may reduce stress on shoulders, making it possible to increase the training volume without compromising neuromuscular activation. This allows for longevity of the athlete and insures for continual strength adaption to the movement