Bench Press Flat Reverse Grip

Start Position
End Position

Starting position:

  1. Lie face-up on a flat bench with feet flat on the floor on each side of the bench.
  2. Ensure you have a five-point body contact with the bench. This includes the back of the head, the shoulder blades/upper back, glute region/lower back, and both feet.
  3. Adjust yourself on the bench so that your eyes are below the edge of the supports of the barbell.
  4. If you are training without a spotter: Grasp the barbell with a closed pronated grip.
  5. Extend elbows (without locking elbows), to lift the bar off of the rack and position the barbell above your chest.
  6. In a controlled fashion, allow the elbows to bend while lowering the bar towards your chest. Allow the bar to rest on your chest briefly while you switch your grip to supinated (slightly wider than shoulder width). Push the weight upward, extending elbows fully (without locking them).
  7. If you are training with a spotter: Grasp the barbell with a supinated grip. Grip should be slightly wider than shoulder width.
  8. Signal the spotter for assistance with lifting the bar off the supports.
  9. Extend elbows (without locking elbows), to lift the bar off of the rack and position the barbell above your chest.

Downward movement/eccentric phase:

  1. In a controlled fashion, allow the elbows to bend while lowering the bar towards your chest.
  2. As the bar is lowered, the upper arms should be close to your torso.
  3. Lower the barbell until the bar reaches your lower chest/upper abdominal.
  4. Maintain the wrists rigid and directly above the elbows throughout the entire movement.
  5. Maintain the five-point body contact throughout the entire movement.

Upward movement/concentric phase:

    1. Extend elbows, pushing the bar upward, returning the bar to starting position (do not lock elbows).
    2. When your set is complete re-rack the bar or signal your spotter to assist with re-racking the bar.
    3. Maintain a tense grip on the bar until it is racked.
    4. If a spotter is present, they should assist with bar lift off. Once the lifter has control of the bar, the spotter should position their hands in an alternated grip position (close to the bar but not touching) as the bar descends and ascends. The spotter should slightly flex at the knees, hips and torso (keeping the back flat) while the bar is lowered and slightly extend as the bar goes upward.
Do not hold your breath. Exhale during the concentric phase and inhale during the eccentric phase. Do not lift feet off of the floor or arch back throughout the lift and descent. Do not bounce the bar off of the chest at the bottom of the movement when proceeding to the next repetition/concentric phase.


Exercise Data

  • Primary Muscles: Pectoralis major (upper region)
  • Synergists: Triceps brachii, anterior deltoid, biceps brachii, anconeus, coracobrachialis
  • Stabilizers: Wrist flexors and extensors, rotator cuff muscles, abdominal muscles
  • Type: Strength, hypertrophy, muscular endurance
  • Mechanics: Shoulder flexion and elbow extension
  • Equipment: Barbell and bench
  • Lever: 1st class lever
  • Level: Intermediate to advanced
  • FAQ'S & FACTS ABOUT Bench Press Flat Reverse Grip

    What Is A Barbell Reverse Grip Flat Bench Press?

    A reverse grip bench press is a resistance exercise, which involves the primary horizontal shoulder adductor, the pectoralis major. It is a variation of the traditional bench press in which the wrists are rotated, switching to a supinated grip as opposed to pronated. This exercise can be performed with an Olympic bar or other barbell alternative.

    The concentric portion of the lift is shoulder flexion and elbow extension, which involves the lifting of the weight. The eccentric portion is shoulder extension and elbow flexion, which involves the descent of the weight.

    The purpose of the reverse grip bench press is to strengthen the upper portion of the pectoralis major while promoting hypertrophy (increases in size) of this muscle.

    Why Do A Barbell Reverse Grip Flat Bench Press?

    Reverse grip bench presses increase the size and strength of the upper (clavicular) and lower (sternocostal) heads of the pectoralis major. The reverse [supinated] grip, however, significantly activates the upper (clavicular) heads. Therefore, the reverse grip bench press is an effective exercise to develop the upper chest. The triceps brachii and anterior deltoid are also activated in this movement. The supinated grip also activates the biceps brachii.

    The reverse grip bench press serves as a valuable exercise to improve aesthetics of the pectoral muscle.

    Anatomy Of A Barbell Reverse Grip Flat Bench Press

    The pectoralis major is a large, fan-shaped muscle that spans across the chest, forming the front portion of the axillary fold (arm pit). It is divided into two parts: clavicular and sternal. Its origin is located at the sternal end of the clavicle, the sternum, rib cartilage (ribs 1-6 [or 7]), and the aponeurosis of the external oblique. The fibers of the pectoralis major converge at the point of insertion located at the greater tubercle of the humerus.

    The pectoralis major aids in pushing movements as the shoulder adducts the arm against resistance. The supinated grip minimizes horizontal shoulder adduction on the concentric phase and replaces it with shoulder flexion and elbow extension to lift the bar. Shoulder flexion activates the upper fibers of the pectoralis major.1

    The triceps brachii is located on the back of the upper arm, originating at the shoulder and inserting in the elbow joint. It consists of three heads, the long, medial and lateral head. The medial head lies beneath the long and lateral head. The long head origin is located at the infraglenoid tubercle of the scapula (shoulder blade). The original of the lateral head is located at the posterior shaft of the humerus. The medial head origin is located at the radial groove of the posterior humeral shaft.

    The long and lateral heads make up the “horseshoe” portion of the triceps. All three heads merge, sharing insertion into the olecranon process of the ulna, located at the elbow joint.
    The triceps brachii extend the elbow joint.

    The deltoid is a thick, multipennate muscle that forms a curtain around the shoulder. It is the primary muscle involved with arm abduction and the anterior fibers are a primary shoulder flexor. The anterior deltoid is a primary synergist of the pectoralis. When developed, the deltoids give the shoulder their round shape. The origin of the deltoid is located at the insertion of the trapezius, lateral third of the clavicle and the acromion spine of the scapula. Its insertion is located at the deltoid tuberosity of the humerus.

    The biceps brachii consists of two heads, the long head and the short head. The biceps brachii assists with shoulder flexion as a weak shoulder flexor.

    The anconeus is a short, triangular muscle located at the elbow joint. Its origin is located at the lateral epicondyle of the humerus, inserting at the lateral aspect of the olecranon process of the ulna.

    The coracobrachialis is a synergist of the anterior deltoid and pectoralis major, assisting with shoulder flexion. It is a small muscle originating at the coracoid process of the scapula and inserting half way down the shaft of the humerus.

    The wrist flexors and extensors stabilize the wrists, the abdominals stabilize the torso and the rotator cuff muscles stabilize the shoulder girdle.

    1. Paton ME, Brown JM. (1994). An electromyographic analysis of functional differentiation in human pectoralis major muscle. J Electromyogr Kineseol. 4(3): 161-9.

    Variations Of A Barbell Reverse Grip Flat Bench Press

    Wide grip reverse grip bench press, close grip reverse grip bench press, incline reverse grip bench press.

    How To Improve Your Barbell Reverse Grip Flat Bench Press

    Utilizing a spotter can ensure the safety of bench press execution, overall. Performing bench press with a reverse grip, in particular, increases the difficulty of un-racking the barbell. Therefore, it is recommended to perform this lift with a spotter. If performing this lift without a spotter, it is recommended to decrease the amount of weight lifted.

    Varying gip width with reverse grip bench press can complement overall upper chest development. Wide grip reverse grip bench press may significantly increase activation of the upper fibers of the pectoralis major while a close grip reverse grip (shoulder width grip) increases triceps activation.

    Focus on the concentric portion of the contraction, concentrating on “squeezing” as arms are fully extending as you push the barbell upward.

    Emphasis on eccentric contractions, prolonging the eccentric portion of the contraction, may also be incorporated in a training program focused on increasing strength. This should be implemented accordingly and with adequate muscle recovery as eccentric contractions cause substantial damage to muscle tissue.

    In order to improve pushing performance through “sticking points”, partial repetition ranges may be implemented to improve full range of motion of the reverse grip bench press. Strategically varying your grip width (narrow, standard and wide grip) and hand positioning (supinated grip, pronated grip) can improve overall bench press performance.

    Varying your bench press angles (e.g. decline bench, incline bench press) can optimize fiber activation of all portions of the pectoralis major. In addition, strategically incorporating heavy elastic bands and weighted chains in a periodized training program may increase upper body strength and power for experienced lifters and elite athletes.2

    It is important to note that your repetition and set volume will depend on your goals (e.g. strength, hypertrophy, muscular endurance). It is also important to allow adequate recovery days in between chest and triceps training to allow muscles to repair.

    2. Ghigiarelli JJ et al. (2009). The effects of a 7-week heavy elastic band and weight chain program on upper-body strength and upper-body power in a sample of division 1-AA football players. JSCR. 23(3):756-64.

    Common Mistakes When Doing A Barbell Reverse Grip Flat Bench Press

    Performing reverse grip bench press without a spotter can be hazardous to the lifter. It is advised to perform this lift with a spotter for optimal safety.

    It is very common to observe an individual arching their back in efforts of lifting the weight with more ease. This technique should only be performed by weightlifting professionals and can compromise the safety of lifters.

    Injuries Or Ailments & Their Effects Regarding A Barbell Reverse Grip Flat Bench Press

    If proper technique is not adhered to (e.g. arching of the back, dropping the weight quickly instead of controlling the descent on the eccentric portion of the lift), the likelihood of injury increases.

    If proper technique and recovery are not adhered to, impingement syndrome, rotator cuff injuries, biceps tendonitis/biceps tendinosis, pectoralis major tears and glenoid labrum tears may result. It is best to avoid bench press exercises when addressing impingement syndrome/rotator cuff injury unless advised by a physical therapist.