Reverse Grip Bench Press: How-To, Benefits, Alternatives

reverse grip bench press

People often think that the best exercise for the upper chest is the upper bench press. However, according to the study done by the University of Toronto, this is not the case at all. In reality, the upper bench press works only 5% more than the upper chest muscle fibers than the flat bench press. 

Thus, if you’re looking for a faster and more effective way to work on your inner chest – the reverse grip bench press is one of the best exercises to turn to. It hits 30% more upper pectoral muscle fibers than the flat bench press, which means that the reverse grip bench press exercise is a great way to get that V-shape a lot faster.

So let’s take a closer look at all the benefits of reverse grip bench press, as well as how to perform it the right way.

How to do Reverse Grip

Before we go into the nitty-gritty details about how to perform reverse grip bench, it’s important to note that you must only assume proper form. So:

  • The first thing to do is to lie down on your back with the bar over your head. Make sure that your back and glutes rest comfortably on the seat while your soles are staying on the floor. 
  • When you grab the bar, your palms should face backward and your hands should be a little bit wider than your shoulder-width apart. 
  •  Lift the bar and fully extend your arms above your chest. 
  • Take a deep breath and lower the bar until it almost touches your lower chest. Make sure that it does not touch your chest as you want to maintain the tension. 
  • You can now raise the bar and exhale the air you just inhaled. 
  • Continue doing so until failure or anywhere from 8 to 16 repetitions depending on the weight.

What Muscles Does The Reverse Grip Activate?

reverse grip bench press muscles

You might think that the reverse-grip bench press only works out your chest and that would be it, but that is not entirely accurate. More precisely, this exercise will work out your triceps, front delts, pectorals, trapezius, and even your wrist muscles. So you can call it an all-in-one way for your upper muscles thanks to the diversity it brings. 

Moreover, you can even use a wide reverse grip if you are willing to activate those upper muscles and use a narrow hold when wanting to train your triceps.

But on this website, we don’t want to say shit, and our #1 goal is to say the truth. So…

Here is the harsh truth: if you are a beginner with no several years of practice, don't try to fuck with your body. You literally don't need this type of grip, so focus on the classical grip - it's safer, healthier and you'll get more results.

Igor Makovetskyi

Igor Makovetskyi

IPF Professional Powerlifter, 2017 IPF World Classic Powerlifting Champion

… And personally I totally agree with my teacher. But if you still want to make your upper chests bigger, then here is the BEST and SAFEST alternative for the reverse grip bench press – remember these three words: incline bench press.

incline bp

As you may seen on the picture, this exercise help you to train the SAME groups of muscles. We are recommend you to use this exercise in your training routine.

Reverse Grip Bench Press VS Incline Bench Press: Which One is Better?

The research results of the American Council on Exercise (USA 2016) and research of the Department of Teacher Education and Sports showed that the reverse grip bench press in terms of electrical activity of the upper chest is 25-30% more effective than the incline bench press. The maximum EMG (electromyography) values ​​were shown in the reverse grip bench press at an upward angle. That’s why this type of the BP gives you the best “clings” to the upper chest.

5 Benefits of Reverse Grip Bench Press (And The Classical One As Well)

When it comes to the benefits of reverse grip bench press, there is plenty to talk about:

1.It Helps Build a Strong Chest

The chest press is a demanding exercise that requires a lot of effort, yet it is worth it. This is why it’s so famous in all gyms throughout the world, so don’t be afraid to lift that bar. A part of its popularity is certainly because it can help build some serious mass in the chest area. 

Moreover, many famous bodybuilders such as Arnold have been using reverse grip benches for decades to win contests and achieve that perfect chest shape.

2. It’s Easy To Do (But Not Always)

Unlike many other exercises, the reverse-grip bench press is fairly easy to perform with the bigger weights, especially if you are used to regular press. 

But if we’re talking about the correct technique, I don’t personally recommend you to make reverse grip BP without fitness instructor. It’s hard to stack your wrists correctly, and the wrong technique can cause the problems with your joints, tendonts and ligaments.

3. Burns a Lot Of Calories

Lifting weights and bench pressing, in particular, can help burn a lot of calories.  Research has shown that an ordinary lifter can lose up to 532 calories per hour when lifting weights. This combined with having your reverse grip bench press muscles worked, such as upper pecs, will sure help shed those annoying extra pounds and look ripped.

4. Helps Build Strength

When using the reverse hold you are putting even more strain on your muscles, thus increasing your maximum overall strength and power. And if you want to get even more strength from this exercise try to up the weights by a little bit every week. 

5. Improves Form

Each set of reverse grip bench you perform will help you control the weights, pull your shoulders back even easier, and perform the motion with precision. As a bonus, you will also have an easier time performing other exercises and improve your core stability.

Mistakes to Avoid in BP

Of course, for this exercise to work as intended and bring you only the best results, you must also keep in mind reverse grip bench mistakes you should avoid.

Keep Your Back on The Bench

A scapular retraction is necessary (bring the scapulae back together and lower them down) which will cause the lower back to arch and lift off the seat slightly. This will make the exercise safer and we will involve the pectoral more and better. This is probably the most important advice you can take when it comes to reverse grip bench press upper chest exercises.

Sometimes, you may seen the powerlifters who are arching in the bench press – like this one:

arching in the bench press

Do you need to make the same? No and NO again, that’s why:

  1. You are not a circus acrobat. Don’t try to move your head to your ass, and don’t try to make the St. Louis Gateway Arch;
  2. You are not on the professional powerlifting competition, where you’re trying to minimize the distance to your chest and lift the maximum weight.
  3. Arching is a very dangerous technique, which can be performed only by the professional powerlifters.

Don’t Move or Lift Your Feet

When you perform a reverse grip bench it’s very important to put your feet on the ground and to put them in contact with the floor. This will give you greater stability and help lift more weight. 

Note that there is a variation in which the feet do not rest on the ground but this is rather dangerous, and we wouldn’t recommend trying this option.

Don’t Half-rep

If you cannot properly reach your chest with the weight and then fully extend your arms again – it means you are using too much weight and are doing half repetitions. Cheating repetitions are not uncommon but your main focus should be to do as many correct ones as possible, especially if you are a beginner. 

Keep Your Glutes on The Bench

This is a very common mistake when trying to perform the famous leg drive. This technique is mainly used by powerlifters to increase their max power when doing single repetitions. 

However, when you lift your glutes you put a lot of pressure on your lower back, which will result in injury if you keep repeating this reverse grip bench mistake.

Conclusion

All in all, the reverse grip bench press offers lifters a versatile and safe way to not only build a massive chest but also get rid of some extra pounds and feel a lot better. 

Moreover, the reverse-grip bench press can also help you train many other muscle groups,  such as trapezius and more.

With that said – make sure to follow a proper form while performing a reverse grip bench press, avoid mistakes, and we’re certain that you’ll love the benefits this exercise will give you!

So, what do you think? Do you enjoy doing reverse hold bench press, or is there an alternative you would like to recommend?

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