Wide Grip Vs. Close Grip

People working out with weights

Weight training hosts a myriad of techniques, which range from lifting styles to hand placement. As you work with barbells or pullup bars, there are two significant techniques you may use. These include the wide-grip or close-grip hand placement. Like other technique variations, the grip you select determines the muscles you target and the difficulty of the exercise.

Wide Grip

A wide grip in weight training means the hands are placed on a barbell or other type of bar a grip wider than shoulder width. Typically, when lifting a barbell or a bar on a weight machine your hands are placed shoulder-width apart, unless otherwise specified. By selecting a wide grip over a standard grip, you’ll activate different muscles for the same exercise. For example, a standard grip barbell bench press activates the pectorals as well as your shoulders and triceps, while a wide grip isolates the outer regions of the chest muscles, according to DaveyWaveyFitness.com.

Close Grip

In the same vain as the wide grip, a close grip hand placement involves bringing your hands narrower than shoulder width. Much like adopting a wide grip, executing an exercise with a close grip activates other muscle groups when compared to the standard shoulder-width grip. For example, using the same exercise as previously described, the barbell bench press, changing your grip from standard to close places focus on the triceps, while the pectorals and shoulders act as synergist muscles, meaning they assist another muscle group during a movement.

Advantages and Disadvantages

In terms of effectiveness of the wide and close grip, each hand placement has the ability to isolate specific muscle groups within the same exercise. For example, using the bench press exercise you may isolate three different muscle groups based on your hand placement. Therefore, in terms of strength training both hand grips offer the same benefit. However, that’s not to say wide and close grips are ideal for every exerciser. Those suffering from wrist pain should not use the close-grip hand placement for the bench press, as too close of a grip can cause your wrist to bend, which may potentially injure this joint.


While it is impossible to say one grip is better than the other, selecting the best grip for you is dependent on your fitness goals and current strength levels. Switching up hand placements on exercises such as the barbell bench press or bar pullups activates different muscles, which changes the difficulty of the exercise. When you switch grip styles, especially on exercises that use added resistance beyond your body weight, be extremely cautious. Just because you can lift 145 pounds on the standard bench press does not mean you can lift the same weight on the close- or wide-grip variation.