Reverse Grip Bench Press: Muscles Worked, Benefits, How-To

If you want to learn more about reverse-grip barbell press for developing your chest, triceps, and shoulders.

Or, If you want to try a new way of doing bench press to make your upper body look more defined, read the whole blog. 

The reverse grip bench press is an incredibly effective exercise to target the triceps, chest, and shoulder muscles.

Add a reverse grip bench press to your workout routine to strengthen your chest. You need to know how to do it correctly and which muscles are being worked.

What Is a Reverse Grip Bench Press?

The reverse-grip bench press is a variation of the traditional bench press. In it, you use an underhand grip (palms facing you).

It is a compound exercise that simultaneously works for multiple muscle groups. In addition to targeting the chest, reverse grip bench presses also train the triceps, anterior deltoids, and serratus anterior.

A reverse grip hits the tricep muscles more than the regular bench press. One study has shown that reverse grip is one of the best exercise modifications of standard bench press to prevent and train around shoulder pain.

Another study shows that muscle activity of the upper pectoralis increased by 30% when using the reverse grip instead of the regular overhand grip.

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Reverse Grip Bench Press Muscles Worked

A reverse-grip bench press is a compound exercise that engages multiple muscles.

A study has shown that a supinated or underhand grip increases activity for the biceps brachii and the pectoralis major’s clavicular portion (Upper chest).

Reverse Grip Bench Press Muscles Worked

How To Do Reverse Grip Barbell Bench Press

To perform the reverse grip barbell press, follow these steps:

Set-Up And Position

  • Lie flat on a bench with your feet flat on the floor.
  • Grip the barbell with an underhand grip slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  • Retract your shoulder blades and pull your shoulders down towards your back pockets.
  • Unrack the barbell and hold it directly above your chest.

Lowering The Bar

  • Inhale and lower the bar down toward your chest.
  • Lower the bar until it touches your chest just below your nipple line. Maintain a tight grip.

Pressing The Bar Up

  • Exhale and push the bar back up to the starting position.
  • Focus on pushing the bar straight up.
  • Keep the movement controlled and steady.

Finishing The Lift

  • At the top of the movement, extend your arms without locking your elbows.
  • Perform the desired number of reps.
Reverse Grip Barbell Bench Press

Barbell Reverse Grip Press Tips And Form

  • The reverse grip bench press can be less stable than the regular one, so start with lighter weights.
  • It is more challenging in terms of wrist and shoulder stability. People who have had shoulder or wrist surgery should not do this.
  • Keep the elbows close to your body and avoid flaring them.
  • Maintain a natural arch in your lower back, but don’t exaggerate it.
  • Your head, upper back, and buttocks should remain in contact with the bench.
  • Ensure the grip is tight and the wrists are straight.
  • Do a full range of motion. Lower the barbell until it is close to your chest. Press it back up to full arm extension without locking out the elbows.
  • Focus on creating Mind-Muscle Connection.
  • Focus on squeezing and contracting the muscles as you press up. This enhances muscle activation.
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Sets And Reps

The number of sets per week is based on your fitness level. The number of sets per week for a beginner is less than that for an advanced.  

However, the number of reps depends on the goals you want to achieve to build muscle strength and boost endurance.  

But still maintainable with proper form.

  • For muscle building, use a moderately heavy weight.
  • For strength building, choose a heavier weight that makes the last rep of each set very challenging.
  • For endurance training, choose a light to moderate weight that can do 15–20 reps.
GoalSetsRepsRest (sec)
Strength Building3-54-690-120
Muscle Building (Hypertrophy)3-48-1260-90 
Endurance and Toning2-312-2030-60
General Fitness or Maintenance38-1060-90 

Best Variations Of Reverse Grip Chest Press

The wide-grip barbell press can be done in different ways to suit your fitness level and your choice.

1. Incline Reverse Grip Bench Press

The incline reverse grip bench press is a variation of the incline barbell press. Wherein the bench is positioned at an incline of 30–45 degrees. The barbell is held at a distance greater than shoulder-width apart.

This emphasis is more on your upper chest muscles (front shoulders, tricep) than the traditional bench press because of the way the bench is set.

Incline Reverse Grip Bench Press

How To Do Reverse Grip Incline Bench Press

  • Lie on an incline bench set to around 30–45 degrees.
  • Grab the barbell with an underhand grip (palms facing you) that is wider than shoulder-width apart.
  • Inhale and lower the barbell towards your upper chest.
  • Exhale and push the barbell to the starting position.
  • Repeat 8–10 reps and 3–4 sets.


  • Keep the barbell in the line of your wrist and elbows, and ensure it moves straight.
  • If you are new to this exercise, start with a lighter weight to learn proper form and technique.
  • Avoid bouncing the barbell off your chest.

2. Decline Reverse Grip Bench Press

The decline reverse-grip bench press is a great variation to target the lower portion of the chest.

Doing a decline bench press with a reverse grip will work your lower chest, and front delt It will also work your tricep muscles and core.

The decline position is easier on the shoulders, so it’s a good choice for people with shoulder problems.

Decline Reverse Grip Bench Press

How To Do Decline Close Grip Bench Press

  • Adjust the decline bench to a 15-30 degree angle.
  • Lie flat on a decline bench and hook your feet underneath the pad
  • Grip the barbell with an underhand grip.
  • Unrack the bar, hold it directly above your chest, and retract your shoulder.
  • Inhale and lower the bar slowly to your lower chest.
  • Exhale and press the bar back up to the starting position.
  • Complete the desired number of repetitions.


  • A very steep decline can increase the risk of sliding or discomfort.
  • Use a spotter or racks to handle heavier weights safely.
  • Maintain a neutral neck position; avoid straining or hyperextending your neck.

3. Smith Machine Reverse-Grip Bench Press

The Smith Machine Bench Press is a popular exercise in the gym that can help you lift heavier weights without a spotter. 

It’s more stable than a barbell, so it’s easier to focus on muscle contractions instead of balancing the bar. 

The barbell on the Smith machine has a set path, which can be helpful for people who are new to the exercise or want to lift more weight.

Smith Machine Reverse-Grip Bench Press

How To Do Smith Machine Reverse Grip Bench Press

  • Position a bench under the Smith machine.
  • Lie down on the bench and Grab the barbell with an underhand grip.
  • Lift the bar off the rack by twisting it and straighten your arms to lift it off the hooks.
  • Inhale and lower the bar slowly towards your chest.
  • Exhale and press the bar back up, focusing on using your triceps and chest muscles.


  • You should be cautious about how much weight you use, especially if you are new to the exercise.
  • Set up the bench directly underneath the barbell to perfectly vertical the bar path.

Reverse Grip Barbell Press Benefits

The reverse grip bench press is a challenging and effective exercise with several benefits. I’ve mentioned a few of them:

  • The reverse grip bench emphasizes the upper chest more. So this can be a great and different variation to work on upper pecs.
  • Being a variation from the regular bench press, it can target more muscle fibers and add a new challenge to your chest routine.
  • Reverse grip bench press engages different stabilizer muscles, like the rotator cuff, which can contribute to better shoulder stability over time.
  • This engages the tricep to a greater extent than the regular bench press grip.
  • This exercise challenges core stability and coordination, which increases core stability and balance.


Are There Any Benefits To Using A Reverse Grip?

Yes, using a reverse grip can emphasize your triceps and upper chest, engage your biceps, and may even be more comfortable for people with shoulder problems during traditional bench presses.

It is a very effective way to strengthen your upper body. 

What Should Be The Grip In A Reverse Grip Bench Press?

Your grip should be underhand (palms facing you) slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. It provides stability and control during the lift.


Reverse grip bench presses, such as the Incline, decline, and Smith machines, are powerful exercises for building upper body strength, especially in the front delt, triceps, and upper chest.

If you like to do strength sports or go to the gym often, you should add the close grip chest press to your workout routine. You will feel the results for yourself.

Do you have any questions or tips about the reverse grip barbell press? Please share them in the comments below!

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  • Guillermo Escalante: Exercise Modification Strategies to Prevent and Train Around Shoulder Pain: Strength & Conditioning Journal 39(3):1 (December 2016). DOI: 10.1519/SSC.0000000000000259.
  • Saeterbakken, Atle Hole, et al. “The Effects of Bench Press Variations in Competitive Athletes on Muscle Activity and Performance.” Journal of Human Kinetics, vol. 57, no. 1, 2017, pp. 61–71.
  • Lehman, Gregory. (2005). The Influence of Grip Width and Forearm Pronation/Supination on Upper-Body Myoelectric Activity During the Flat Bench Press. Journal of strength and conditioning research / National Strength & Conditioning Association. 19. 587-91. 10.1519/R-15024.1.
  • Wattanaprakornkul, Duangjai, et al. “Direction-Specific Recruitment of Rotator Cuff Muscles during Bench Press and Row.” Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology, vol. 21, no. 6, 2011, pp. 1041–1049.

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