The barbell bench press has often been described as one of the best upper body strength exercises. The barbell bench press can be utilised to build the endurance, strength, and power of both horizontal and vertical pressing movements. 

The working muscle groups involved in the bench press include pectoralis major, anterior deltoid, and triceps brachii musculature. Studies have also demonstrated muscle activation of the posterior deltoid, latissimus dorsi, biceps brachii, and the rotator cuff musculature.

There are numerous variations of the barbell bench press, although a bench press performed on a flat bench is likely the most common variation. Other variations include using an incline or decline bench, a narrow, medium, or wide-grip, and a reverse-grip (double-supinated) rather than a standard grip (double-pronated/overhand).

Saeterbakken et al. examined the effect of wide, medium, and narrow grip width on muscle activation during the flat bench press. A 6RM bench press was utilised for each condition. 

The wide grip set-up was 81cm between the hands, which is consistent with the max width allowed in many powerlifting meets. The narrow grip width was set at the athlete’s armpit to armpit distance, and the medium grip width was set halfway between the wide and narrow grip. 

The only significant difference in EMG findings between the narrow, medium, and wide grip bench press was related to the biceps brachii. The biceps brachii activation in the narrow grip bench press decreased by 30.5% and 25.9% compared to the medium grip and wide grip bench press. It’s important to keep in mind here that this study was performed on subjects who competed professionally in the bench press.

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