Suicide Grip Bench Press: Do You REALLY Need To Make It?
Nothing builds a bigger, wider, beach ready chest more than sliding onto the bench and pressing pounds and pounds of iron to the sky.
Probably the most popular of all the exercises in the gym (maybe even more popular than traditional curls), it’s tough to beat the feeling of really blasting your chest on the bench and seeing your hard work in action weeks or months down the line.
The trouble with the bench press, though, is that it is deceptively simple.
Hard-core iron warriors and “bro scientists” are always looking for ways to push their bench a little harder, to shake things up a little bit and slam their muscles from different angles and put them under different loads.
That’s where the “Suicide Grip” comes into play.
Beloved by some and feared by others, it’s important that you know exactly what you are getting into with the Suicide Grip before you ever think about sliding under the bar and knocking out some reps with it.
Let’s dig right in!
What Exactly is the Suicide Grip?
The Suicide Grip (sometimes called the false grip, a thumbless grip, or a neutralizer grip) doesn’t really look that much different from a traditional grip on a bar when you jump on the bench.
The major difference here is that you slide your thumb from its traditional position on the opposing side of the bar from the rest of your fingers (a position that adds extra stability and control) and instead align it with the rest of the fingers on your hand.
Once you have your thumb wrapped underneath the barbell your wrist shifts into a different position, your shoulders shift into a different position, and you start activating a lot more of your triceps (one of the bigger muscle groups in your arms).
Of course, at the same, you lose a huge amount of control over the bar – and that can be a problem when you’re pushing one rep maximums or close to it.
You might not think there’s a whole lot of risk pushing a loaded bar up to the sky with your thumb rolled out of position. But just ask anyone that’s pushed this kind of grip without having a spotter on hand and you’ll know just how dicey it can get!
Is the Grip Really That Dangerous?
Some people think that the Suicide Grip bench grip is an accident and injury waiting to happen, but others think that it’s a performance “hack” that takes the traditional bench to the next level.
Truth be told, it’s probably somewhere in between those two extremes – though it might trend a little more towards the risk factors than anything else.
Let’s break down what makes these bench press reps so risky:
Can’t Get a Death Grip on the Bar Anymore – Straight out of the gate, you aren’t going to be able to “choke” the bar the way you would have been able to if your thumb was in the standard position.
This means you’re going to lose a lot of control (when could that be important when you’re pushing 80% of your one rep max?), but it also means that the weight you are working with is going to feel a lot heavier, too.
Your mind thinks that you got extra plates on the bar because of this grip but your body knows that there’s a disconnect. That creates stress, anxiety, and anything but confidence – and it also forces you to push harder with lower-level weights, opening up a world of opportunity for injury.
You Lose Lat Control – The suicide grip bench press is also going to compromise the control you have over your lats during these compound movements.
Because the lats play such a major role in stabilizing the bar as you move it down to your chest it’s not hard to introduce extra wobble and lose all stabilization.
Again, that create some pretty risky situations but it’s also going to put a lot more stress on your chest, your triceps, and on your shoulders – again opening you up for a lot of injury potential.
Dropping the Bar – The most obvious risk you run when rocking and rolling with the Suicide Grip is having the bar roll right out of your hands!
This happens all the time when people are pushing real iron, sending the bar slamming down onto their chest (or their neck) in creating some pretty hairy situations.
You can minimize a lot of this by using a spotter – which you should be anyway, when you’re training heavy – but who wants to take the risk for so little payoff?
Speaking of payoff…
Are There Any Benefits?
There are a couple of reasons that more experienced lifters like to use the thumbless grip every now and again, even if some of these “benefits” follow little more in the bro science category than anything else.
For one thing, lifters that lean on this grip say that it somehow allows them to position the bar perfectly for every rep because of the neutrality the thumbless grip introduces into the wrist angle.
That may be true, but it’s not like it’s impossible to create good form and wrist neutrality with your thumb in the traditional position (and offering a lot more stability, too).
Other guys like to say that this grip generates more muscle activation. That sounds like something one of those late-night infomercials would pedal more than anything else. There’s no real hard science to back that up, either.
Finally, you have the real nuts that like to say that this kind of grip produces a “burn the boats” sort of mentality.
You know it’s risky, you know you’re in danger, and so your mind is super focused and you’re willing to push your body beyond what you used to think were your limits.
Maybe there’s something to that, but there’s probably other ways to hype yourself up and really get after a pile of iron without having to risk life and limb along the way.
Bottom Line – DON’T Use This Grip
First and foremost, you may ask like, “You’re wrong! Friend of mine said that I MUST use this grip and there’s nothing dangerous!”.
Wow. If you don’t trust me, let’s take a look at the IPF Technical Book for the professional powerlifters (2019 edition).
Page 18, bench press rules, quote 1:His hands and fingers must grip the bar positioned in the rack stands with a thumbs around grip.
Another quote is from the Iowa University, powerlifting rules:
Rule 5: Lift RequirementsThe lifter’s hands may grip the bar with a “thumbs around” grip. Note: The use of the “reverse grip” or a thumb-less grip on the bench is strictly prohibited.
You seen that? International Powerlifting Federation and State University don’t allow to use suicide grip for bench press. Why? Because it’s really dangerous, and no one want to get injuries on the competition.
When you get right down to it, the odds are pretty good that you’ll be much better off with more traditional bench press grips than rocking and rolling with the Suicide Grip.
Every gym has thumbless grip bench press accident horror stories, stories about some guy pushing too hard and too fast with a false grip and dumping a loaded bar directly on their throat or bouncing it off of their chest.
Those kinds of injuries are always severe, always keep guys out of the gym for weeks if not months on end. Imagine getting sidelined for six weeks (or more), losing all kinds of gains, just because you wanted to fiddle around with where your thumb was on the bar.
The bottom line is simple – steer clear of the Suicide Grip. If you still want to tinker and toy with it, use it in your warm-up reps and only ever with a spotter squarely over your shoulders.
Just keep it out of the heavy stuff.
You’ll find yourself praying to the iron gods sooner rather than later.