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What Does the Wide Grip Bench Press Work?

author image Jen Weir
Jen Weir writes for several websites, specializing in the health and fitness field. She holds a Bachelor of Science in exercise science from Montana State University, is an NSCA-certified strength and conditioning specialist and maintains a personal trainer certification from the American College of Sports Medicine.
What Does the Wide Grip Bench Press Work?
Tax your chest with the wide-grip bench press. Photo Credit Indeed/Digital Vision/Getty Images

The bench press is one of the most popular exercises for working and building the muscles of the chest. There are several variations to the exercise including the use of an inclined, declined or flat bench and the use of different grips. All of these different forms can be further varied by using a barbell or dumbbells. The wide-grip bench press is one such variation that is used to intensely work your chest, shoulders and arms.


The wide-grip bench press is a chest intensive exercise, targeting the pectoralis major muscle, particularly the lateral or outer fibers. This large muscle is the prime mover of arm flexion and is used extensively for activities such as climbing, throwing and pushing. The pectoralis major consists of the clavicular head that originates from the collar bone and the sternal head originating from the sternum.


While not worked as extensively as in a narrow-grip bench press, the triceps are used during a wide-grip bench press. The primary job of the three-headed triceps muscle is to extend the arm at the elbow. The long head of the triceps also helps stabilize the shoulder joint during the wide-grip bench press.

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The deltoid is a single muscle that makes up the bulk of the shoulder. This muscle has three attachment sites, or heads; the anterior, medial and lateral. The medial and lateral heads stabilize the shoulder joints during the wide grip bench press while the anterior head assists the pectoralis major in flexing the arm. You can work your anterior deltoids even more with a wide-grip bench press by using an inclined bench.


As with any exercise, if done incorrectly or excessively, injury can result. Wide-grip bench presses are particularly stressful for the shoulder joints. The wide abduction angle of the arms during the exercise places an ample load on the front of the shoulder capsule, which could result in injury to the rotator cuff or the glenohumeral ligaments. To prevent such injuries, avoid using a grip that is too wide and don't lower the bar all the way to your chest. Refrain from using heavy weights when first beginning the wide-grip bench press. Instead, start with lighter weights and give your muscles, tendons and ligaments plenty of time to adapt and strengthen. You can progressively add more weight to the exercise.

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