Bench Press Hand Position

I’ve weight lifted for about 11 years and early on was taught by a football coach to always bench with my thumbs back, behind the bar instead of wrapped around it. This has worked well for me (I bench 315 with a body weight of 178 - when younger was about 355 for a bench) but I rarely see anyone doing this. Was he smoking dope? Is this method flawed, or is it everyone else? I’ve never had any slippage problems, etc despite the fact my thumb is not wrapped around the bar.

Thumb position is really just a matter of personal preference. The only real advantange of keeping the thumb back as opposed to around the bar is, there is less forearm stimulation but it really is not significant stimulation in the first place. Damian Frantz, B.S. exercise physiologist

The method you are using is commonly used, yet incorrect. By wrapping your thumb around the bar you activate more chest muscle fibers. Thus, you can expect better development / strength. By doing the way you are now, you also risk slippage when tired, or working heavy.

I use the same open grip on all pressing lifts. Takes some stress off my wrist/forearm and is just more comfortable (for me).

I use an open grip all the time as well - with no problems.
JRR - would you care to elaborate on how exactly switching my grip will recruit more chest muscle fibres?

I’ve recently switched to a wide grip (used to hold with my pinky on the deep cut, now with the thumb). With my original grip, it didn’t seem to matter where the thumb went except that the wrist didn’t get as sore from being bent back so much as it did with the thumbless grip. Chest recruitment will be exactly the same as long as the wrist has the same orientation with the bar. I did use a personal technique though that did change chest recruitment. When my chest wasn’t as much stronger than the tricep as it’s supposed to be, to finish the last few reps, with the thumb around the bar, I would twist my wrists about 45 degrees so that my forearms, upper arm and the bar would be inline if one looked from above-this took the load off the chest and put more on the triceps. Now that my chest is really strong, I went to a wider grip and the thumbless grip is the only one possible for me. With the thumb around the bar, all of the pressure ends up on the joint between the thumb and the palm.

I used to use the false or thumbless grip for a long time until I wanted to train for powerlifting. I switched to a regular grip and didn’t really feel any difference. After time it feels much safer, watching guys do heavy bench with a false grip makes me nervous. We had a guy in our gym roll 375 off his palms (after 10 reps) and land on his collarbones, didn’t break anything but it did give him whiplash and messed up his throat for a while. What I’m saying is this: safety in the gym is very important and the minor difference in grip is not worth the chance of an accident. As for my example, another few inches higher, the bar would have crushed his throat and he’d be dead.

I hear that a lot man but done properly, I just don’t see it happening. It can’t roll back (not anymore than it can roll back with a regular grip anyway) and since the thumbless grip forces your wrist to be bent backwards, your palm will prevent it from rolling forward. That is, unless you do something REALLY messed up during the lift, like heave the bar towards your belly (in this situation, having your thumb around the bar ain’t gonna do anything other than maybe break it) or maybe his wrists were strong enough to extend with 375 in his wrists and have the weight roll off…in that case, morefire to him.

On the topic of danger, I wanna get this off my chest (pun intended)...ever since Clark set his record, I see every dolt in the gym doing reverse grip bench....THUMBLESS!!! Jeez! If a weight can roll off with a normal thumbless grip....with a reverse, you're guaranteed that it'll end up on your neck or face. The only reason Clark did it is that it helped him lock out (or so I hear, no first hand info).

Actually, EDITORS? Do you guys know why he did it reverse? Is it easier? Does it qualify in your mind?

Whatever increase in stimulation a false grip has its probably minimal. I know a guy who dropped 275 on his chest using the false grip. He couldnt bench for 4 months. The last time i checked the stimulation you get when your not training is close to none. Use the safer grip.

Dave Tate and or Louis Simmons mention the muscle fiber activation with a full grip as opposed to a thumbless grip in either one of their articles, or on Westsides’tapes. In addition, in Dave’s article for T-mag, "Bench Press 600 Pounds " he states that gripping the bar and trying to pull it apart while benching, activates the triceps more. You cannot do the aforementioned with a thumbless grip.