Go to a commercial gym and you will struggle to find many people doing the reverse-grip bench press. This wonderful exercise can add significant size to your lagging upper chest to give your body a more complete overall look from a front and side profile.
In your quest for physical excellence, you will have undoubtedly, at some point, performed or incorporated an Incline Bench Press into your routine.
As we have previously explained in the past, the upper chest — with the addition of the back, and front and side deltoids — helps add to the illusion of width looking at the body front-on.
The Incline Bench Press is the go-to lift to work the upper chest.
But what if I told you there was another way?
Some ill-equipped gyms don’t even stock an adjustable bench — so you have to make do with flat bench ad infinitum.
You can train your upper chest harder than ever before with this particular variation.
Why You Should Do The Reverse-Grip Bench Press
Below, we will present you with 3 reasons to consider employing The Reverse-Grip Bench Press in your training regimen.
One personal reason why I favor this movement is that it inspired me to create one of my signature exercises: The Herc Press.
Why You Should Do The Reverse-Grip Bench Press #1: It is Gentler On Your Shoulders and Elbows Than The Incline Bench
When you have been training for a long time, wear and tear can set in, recovery times slow down, and you can’t train as frequently as you like — assuming you remain natural for as long as possible.
Most Incline Bench Press set ups are very anterior deltoid dominant and overstimulate these small muscles to the point where they fatigue sooner than other larger muscles such as the triceps or pectorals.
The reverse-grip bench press helps ease some of the tension off the anterior deltoids and shoulders as well as adopting a more comfortable position for your elbows.
Last year, yours truly had to abandon the Incline Bench Press altogether as my home set up would aggravate my elbows.
The reverse-grip bench press came to the rescue.
As the range of motion is slightly shorter and the lockout isn’t as brusque, the reverse-grip bench press is a better option if your joints have a tendency to flare up.
Why You Should Do The Reverse-Grip Bench Press #2: It Stimulates The Upper Pecs More Than The Incline Bench Press
Quite shockingly, but the Reverse-Grip Bench Press actually stimulates the upper chest more than the Incline Bench Press, while the Incline Bench Press only stimulates the upper chest a little more than the Flat Bench.
According to Muscle & Fitness:
- Australian researchers reported in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research that when weight-trained subjects performed incline bench presses, the muscle activity of their upper pecs was only about 5% more than the muscle activity of their upper pecs during the flat bench press.
- Canadian scientists found that when trained lifters did the reverse-grip bench press, the muscle activity of their upper pecs was 30% greater than when they did the bench press with a standard overhand grip.
Why You Should Do The Reverse-Grip Bench Press #3: You Can Do It At More Gyms Than The Incline Bench Press
Okay, now, this one is a little more out there, but as many gyms are shut down and a lot of people are stuck either training at home or with rudimentary equipment, the Reverse-Grip Bench Press provides you with more opportunities to train your upper chest than the Incline Bench Press.
Without an adjustable bench, most lifters would simply have to neglect attempting to hammer their upper chest as the idea of another upper-pec-dominant movement might be unthinkable.
Yes, the Incline Bench Press has become something of a meme — despite being one of the most satisfying exercises in the gym to perform — but there are other options out there if equipment is lacking or if you get bored of the Incline Bench Press.
How to Do The Reverse-Grip Bench Press
For a complete tutorial, check out the video below.
Another benefit of this great exercise is that you can work up to handling greater workloads than on the Incline Bench Press.
Most lifters can Incline Bench Press around 70-85% of their Bench Press 1 rep max. However, your Reverse-Grip Bench Press should be around 85-95% of your max.
But, having said that, don’t just jump into the deep end if you are unfamiliar with this exercise.
Start small — say, around 40-50% of your Bench Press Max before moving onto greater workloads.
Be sure to always have a spotter and use safety pins. It’s better to be momentarily embarrassed than seriously injured or worse.
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