The perfect grip or stance for any exercise has the greatest range of motion possible for that exercise.
Possible is the keyword. In many cases, using the fullest range of motion should be avoided. Consider the following examples:
- A person with long arms and a small torso finds that touching the barbell to the chest harms their shoulder on the bench press.
- A trainee with long legs may struggle to prevent rounding of their lower back with too deep a squat.
- Someone that relaxes their shoulder blades at the bottom of a pull-up achieves more range of motion at the expense of safety and tension that develops size and strength.
Nonetheless, the fullest range of motion could occur if the trainee wanted to do so.
This can only occur when you avoid the extremes.
If you perform a close-grip bench press, you will move more at the elbows but less at the shoulders. You will feel it mainly in the triceps. A wide-grip bench press would have you move more at the shoulders but less at the elbows, so you feel it mainly in the chest.
A closer stance for the squat involves mostly the knees and ankles. You will feel it mainly in the quads and calves. A wider stance for the squat involves mostly the hips, so you feel it mainly in the hamstrings and glutes.
All these positions lessen the total distance you move. You fail to strike a balance among the working muscles and joints. Instead, choose a medium grip or stance.
The Middle Position
Most assume the moderate position of any argument must be correct. This is clearly wrong. How can you compromise when one extreme harms you?
Taking a middle position on grip and stance has evidence though. You apply more compression versus shearing forces on your joints. Any joint that overpowers an exercise will get torn apart.
All the active muscles play an equal role with the middle ground. You should feel as if no specific muscle limits you during an exercise. This may not lead to the best performance though.
Performance vs. Safety and Results
Going for the safe, medium route increases the total range of motion. This requires more muscular power. This makes the exercise feel harder but is safer and more effective.
Powerlifters take a very wide stance on the squat. This can hurt their hips and fails to involve the quads and calves as much. They do this to establish the best leverage and more easily reach the standards for competition.
A wide-grip bench press decreases the distance between the lockout and the chest. You may get a couple more reps versus a closer grip. Nonetheless, this would overemphasize the chest and harm the shoulders.
Use the medium option. You may justify otherwise since outward performance boosts or you want to focus on certain body parts. You ignore pain in the joints though and fail to stimulate all the involved muscles.
Remember, better performance does not always mean better results.
The Perfect Medium
Attain the perfect grip or stance by using the position that allows the greatest possible range of motion. This position will be neither too wide nor too narrow. This advice applies to every exercise to stay safe and grow completely.