T Nation

Thumbless revelation with bench press

Something strange happened today. I was starting my chest on the bench, with my normal thumbless grip. I am on a strength phase and using low reps. I was only able to do 1 rep on my final sets. And then I started explaining to my spotter that breaking past a plataeu is a mental challenge as well as a physical one. And then it occured to me. Perhaps as my lifts are getting up to near 400 lbs maybe I am less comfortable pushing with a thumbless grip. So I tried the thumbs once again after a couple years of doing thumbless. And - WHAM - 4 reps instead of 1! When you start to go really heavy is it nearly impossible to get full strength out of a thumbless grip? Can anyone bench over 350 thumbless? I prefered thumbless because it felt I could focus on my chest more. But after today I felt I could focus harder once again the other way. (this forum is frickin’ awesome!)

IMO only a goof would do any lifting thumbless. I think it would make it too easy for the bar to slip & kill me.

IMHO thumbless grips lets you keep your arms in a straight line and not kick an elbow out to the side.

I have to agree with Drax here. Goof goof goof. Sorry man. When I see people bench thumbless I get scared. However since you have a 400 lbs bench I shouldn’t call you a goof. :slight_smile:


I switched to thumbless after my first couple of years training and have used it since my max bench was around 255. It felt stricter and much better than wrapping my thumbs around the bar. I felt like I could push off using the forearm bone (what the hell is that bone called again???) and get less bend in my wrist. But you make me nervous by mentioning it slipping, knock on wood, although I have never had a time I thought it might slip. I am going to use thumbs again for Bench Press and see if it helps, especially since it is less strain on the wrist with the forearms perpendicular to the floor. But I will keep the thumbless grip on close-grip presses for tris, it keeps my elbows at my sides and prevents strain in my wrist. Thanks for the replies, many people use this grip style in my local gym in Hawaii, and I didn’t realize that so few people used it as well… OUT HERE

Staley had an article that mentioned a guy that benched with a thumbless grip…until one day. Maybe you should ask him about it. :slight_smile:

supposedly, you can get more tricep drive with the thumbless grip. unfortunately, i have personally seen powerlifters lose the weight right out of their hand and get thumped across the chest. i think that happened to garry frank with 700 plus pounds and he hurt some ribs. and garry knows a thing or two about benching. not sure if that’s true, but very possible. you take your chances with a thumbless grip and max effort presses.

Thumbless grip actually allows you to use the tri’s more than chest. It would be great if they made bars with a crook in it like an EZ-bar. Then you could use your thumb AND get that triceps drive like a thumbless grip.

come on guys. lets be real. how much of a difference is it really gonna make. Its minutia. I saw a guy drop 295 on his chest with his arms extended using a false grip. why even chance it. the guy couldnt bench for 6 months. think about it. how much of a difference is it going to make in the long run?

I’ve always used an open (thumbless) grip on all presses. It relieved the pain in my wrists but my wrists and forearms are a lot stronger now. I think I’ll try a standard grip again when I bench and see if it makes a difference.

Something else about using the thumb: you can exert more grip power. I always remember Pavel saying to flex all the muscles – that the body has most power output when everything works together. Irradiation he called it.

Well, here’s my two cents’ worth: First, to all the guys who’ve seen people lose the bar with a thumbless grip, I have to think that those people were doing something stupid like “throwing” the bar a little at the top of their lift. I personally have used both open and closed grips off and on for about a quarter century now, and have never had a problem (or seen anyone else have a problem). I can’t imagine how several hundred pounds would suddenly leap off of someone’s palm for no reason (i.e. if one were using good form) … Second, I agree with Goldberg in that there just isn’t THAT much difference (physically) between the two grips. Think about it: you can take a closed grip, hoist the bar and then without moving your palm position at all rotate your thumbs out to an open position. However, an open grip does allow you a greater range of positions in terms of hand-relative-to-bar. So maybe some people might feel a little more comfortable one way or the other. And a closed grip may be more psychologically comforting to some as well. Finally, if you want a bigger bench, here’s a tip from a powerlifter I know: When you take your grip (open or closed), make sure to concentrate on closing your pinkies as tightly as possible. This might relate to Pavel’s irradiation theories (although he talks about squeezing your butt-cheeks together more than anything), but concentrating on keeping your little fingers tight helps drive the bar up. Try it and see.