I used a wider grip in the past but this year I moved my grip in and found that it's much easier to tuck my elbows and use my lats - my pinkies are on the rings. I tried widening my grip the past month and felt stronger for the first few weeks but then I began over working my pecs, probably because I wasn't engaging my lats as well during the pause. I moved my grip back in and it feels comfortable again.
I prefer to rely more on lat and shoulder strength than pecs, especially when doing paused bench. For a PR I can move my grip out by a finger if necessary but after my last experience of potentially tearing my pecs, I stick to the narrower grip for training.
I am the exact opposite. I feel much tighter all the way around from set up to lockout with a wider grip and with out a doubt I am far stronger than. When I get my hands closer I can tuck my elbows more but get no where near the lat or upper back tightness. When I press wide I go index on the rings as legally wide as allowed by most feds. I tuck and squeeze the bar as hard as I can and my elbows are tucked as hard as they can even though it may not look it due to the angle of the arms.
Tucking the elbows protects the shoulders more than flaring, but at about half way up on the press, flaring becomes more necessary as the weight needs to drift up to get centered over the shoulder joint.
It seems like the key, no matter what grip width, is to maximize lat and upper back tightness. I'm curious how others determine grip width. I probably have a narrower width because I have smaller lats haha. I didn't figure out how to maximize tightness until I switched to mainly paused bench during training. The tightness in my lats and upper back prevents the bar from sinking into my chest.
When people say to bend the bar during bench press, I never really understood what that meant because I thought it meant to bend the bar by twisting only my forearms. In actuality I'm really bending the bar with my lats and just keeping my wrists right above my elbows (at bottom position). You can try it yourself while standing straight up.
With your elbows out to the side (arms parallel to the floor), bend your elbows 90 degrees and have your hands point straight forward. It should look like you're doing a body builder bench. Now squeeze your upper back and lats as tight as possible while arching your back like you're getting ready to bench press and feel your elbows move inward and lock into its natural position. This is my position for tucking my elbows which is close to 45 degrees and is probably different for others.
Since my hands rotate with my upper arm, that results in bending the bar. This tightness and position is pretty much what I feel when I bench except tighter since I can use leg drive.
thanks for clarifying, I appreciate the straight forward answer you gave. In terms of engaging the lats (this is asked to anyone who mentioned them) how exactly would you go about teaching someone to bench with them? always had trouble engaging them
Get a broom stick that has a small amount of give or a PVC pip somethin about the thickness of a barbell, bit will it will a very small amount of give. Lay on the bench, set up normally, take the stick at standard grip with, then try to bend the stick in half ( imagine trying to bench it into a u shape) this will cause your elbows to tuck inward. If this does not happen you are bending the wrong way.
This should create a ton of tension in the lats and rear felt area. Then slowly bring the stick down maintain maximal twist. Once you get about 3-4 inches off your chest you will notice that even with nothing but a broom stick it can be a bit challenging to touch your chest.
One movement that helped me learn how to engage lats in general were high rep dumbbell rows and squeezing the lats at the top. That helped build lat size and the mind-muscle connection. In terms of using them during the bench, it's almost like having a foam ball between my upper arm and body and trying to squeeze the crap out of the ball by forcing my elbow in toward my body.
This probably won't be popular, but I always feel the need to point out that the lats aren't THAT important in a raw bench. They don't move the bar away from your chest, and they really aren't as important as the mid and upper back, IMO.
Try this cue: as you bring the bar down, try to reach your chest up to it. This works well for most people, in my experience, and it gets you engaging the muscles around the shoulder blade correctly.
I bench a paused 435, so obviously my opinion is super important
The lats help tuck your elbows, and with a narrow enough grip they do allow for a bit of a spring off the bottom, but in doing so, they place the pecs in a mechanically inefficient position. As to pushing the bar up, mechanically, the lats can only assist to the point that the humerus is parallel to the torso. Beyond that, the lats do nothing. Maintaining lat tightness helps keep the shoulder girdle stable, most likely the reason for painfree benching noted by Reed.
My opinion doesn't matter much at all though, as I have only paused 315.
Trip, do not dismiss the importance of the lats in the bench press simply because you have had success without using yours to their potential. I would bet a 5th of your favorite adult beverage that you would press more if you learned to properly engage your lats while benching.
I agree that the upper back strength is of supreme importance but the bench press, for powerlifters, is a whole body movement. To exclude the lats or any relevant benching muscle for that matter would be a huge mistake IMHO.
I hope you read that as sarcasm...I wasn't being pompous. But I did feel the need to post it because contrarian opinions are often shouted down if one can't back up one's claims with sufficient numbers.
And I didn't say I don't properly engage my own lats when benching
But what I'm driving at is that the lats are down the list of things that need to be in line for a big bench.
IMO, the best generic setup for a bench is an arch that you can set without any theatrics, a tight upper back, moderate tuck with knuckles pointing up throughout the lift, and flare during the press.
Yes, I think the lats need to engage properly in order to help the shoulder blades move correctly and guide the bar down in the right path. But again IMO, a proper grip width takes care of that pretty well. That's a little outside the shoulders as I see it.
So in summation, I don't necessarily disagree with you, but I just don't agree with harping on the lats to beginners. And I feel like that's all I hear sometimes.
I hear ya and yes I knew you were being funny with mentioning your poundage. As far as the lats go, the bench freaks at wanna be big would take exception to your list of important benching muscles, but when in rome...