Grip: Your Hands On The Barbell

Medium, Wide and Narrow Grip Positions

Medium, Wide and Narrow Grip Positions

A question comes up a lot about grip. Where do my hands go on the barbell?

One way to look at grip position is to discuss how far the bar needs to travel a.k.a. barbell path distance.

Barbell Path distance is the distance the bar travels from start to finish. For example in the bench press, the bar goes from the top, to the chest and then back to the top.

The wider your grip, the less distance the bar needs to travel. This is because your arms begin to angle. A narrow grip makes the bar path longer because your arms get straighter.

A wide grip on the bar will always make the bar path distance less. To put it another way, improve your chances of a successful lift with a wider grip.

If the rules allow it, you want your grip to be as wide as possible to make the lift faster. Good advise but it comes with a price. That price is leverage.

Leverage is the exertion of force by means of a lever or an object used in the manner of a lever. The lever in the case of a bench press are your arms (bones, joints etc.). When you change the position of your grip, the angles of your arms change. This will affect the shape of your lever and the force you can apply.

To optimize your lever you want your elbows under your wrists and elbows close to your body. If your hands are too far apart your elbows are inside your wrists far away from your body. This makes for a very short bar path but poor leverage. If your hands are too close then your elbows go outside your wrists and elbows get too close and you get jammed up. This improves leverage over the wide grip but makes the bar path extremely long.

Always do what feels right between a wide and narrow grip. Try different styles to find the one that fits you the best.


David Shirley

CrossFit Upland is an Official CrossFit Gym in Upland California. Since 2014, CrossFit Upland has been guiding its members to find their fitness.