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ISSA, International Sports Sciences Association, Certified Personal Trainer, ISSAonline, 5 Weightlifting Grip Variations and Why You Need to Try Them

5 Weightlifting Grip Variations and Why You Need to Try Them

Reading Time: 5 minutes 15 seconds


DATE: 2022-08-09

The grip variations clients choose to use during a workout play a major role in achieving fitness goals. Knowing the different grip variations that are best for your clients is crucial when programming. Although it will not make or break a workout entirely, it’s still important to mix things up. 

The body adapts to the demands you place on it over time. With so many workout factors to address, most people start off with adjusting reps, sets, and load. These exercise aspects are often referred to as intensity and volume. To maximize results and see progress, you must constantly adjust these.

So, why do we leave out grip variations? Grip variations are not talked about as much, but they should be. In this article, we will explore some of the most popular grip variations. You will learn how to implement them into your workout routine and understand the benefits of each.

Grip Variations and Benefits

Reps, sets, and weight are just a few exercise factors that are needed to advance clients towards their goals. Grip variations offer benefits as well. Switching up your routine and changing your grip can help you work muscles you might not have targeted during your normal routine. Here’s what you need to know: 

Pronated Grip

When a client grips onto a barbell with an overhand grip it is referred to as a pronated grip. This hand placement involves the palms facing away from the body. Consider an exercise like the bench press or lat pulldown. Clients often utilize the pronated grip to perform these traditional exercises. 

Of course, different grips can be used, but are not as common for certain exercises. Depending on the exercise, the double overhand grip has many benefits. The pronated grip does not always make an exercise any easier. This is due to the amount of resistance it can create. The hand placement or grip forces more muscles to be used during lifts than other grip variations. 

Let’s consider the barbell or dumbbell biceps curl. Typically, clients will perform this exercise with an underhand grip. When performing the prone grip bicep curl, you target different muscles that were inactive with other grips. For this exercise, the brachioradialis and long head of the biceps are more activated. The traditional or underhand curl targets mainly the short head of the biceps.

Supinated Grip

The underhand grip or supinated grip can handle more load than the pronated grip. Consider using a regular or underhand grip during exercises such as biceps curls. The supinated grip will allow the muscles being worked to produce a greater range of motion. This means that muscles can elongate and contract more efficiently.

An exercise that effectively displays this type of benefit is the pull-up or chin-up. For the pull-up, clients utilize a pronated or overhand grip. With chin-ups, clients will flip their grip underhand or supinated. If you’ve performed these two exercises before, you’ll know that the chin-up is easier to execute than the pull-up. This can also be referred to as a reverse grip.

The main reason for this is that pronated grips produce more resistance. It also requires more muscles to be used at once. Supinated grips also require different muscles to work. Though the underhand grip will tolerate more weight and resistance. This is important to know when designing programs, but also for adjusting the level of difficulty during a workout.

Mixed Grip

By taking the pronated and supinated grip and combining them, you end up with the mixed grip. It is common for clients to use a mixed grip during the deadlift. Instead of using an overhand grip with both hands, they will place one hand overhand and the other underhand. 

This hand placement on the barbell provides a stronger grip. In this case, it helps prevent the bar from rolling or slipping out of the hands. A popular way to perform deadlifts is using a pronated grip until the weight becomes extremely heavy. Then switch to the mixed grip for assistance.

The mixed grip has benefits, but you must be aware of the risks associated. While this grip allows clients to lift more weight, it also puts more stress on the biceps on the supinated side. During the lift, the biceps muscle is stretched, increasing the risk of injury. 

Overusing the mixed grip can also lead to muscle imbalances. It’s important to use the mixed grip only when you lift your heaviest weights. If you do use the mixed grip often, try switching hands to avoid the associated risks.

Neutral Grip

When a client's hand position has both palms facing one another, they are using a neutral grip. The neutral or narrow grip is used for different exercises. These can include pull-ups, shoulder presses, and cable rows. During dumbbell chest presses, you can turn your palms to face one another. This will allow the dumbbells to naturally move into a neutral position. You can apply this to shoulder presses and lat pulldowns with a special cable attachment.

Should you consider using a neutral grip style over other grip positions? The neutral grip alleviates stress on the wrists and shoulders. When performing dumbbell chest press, clients often use a pronated grip. This grip naturally puts the weight farther away from the body and pushes the elbows out. 

This places more stress on the shoulders. When the dumbbells are turned inward with a neutral grip, muscle activation changes. This means there's less stress on the shoulder and wrist. The narrow grip can also be used to target the triceps more during push exercises. You see this a lot with the close grip bench press. Though you can’t achieve a neutral grip on a barbell. This means you need different barbell equipment to allow this. Otherwise, clients will need to switch to dumbbells.

Hook Grip

Lastly, the hook grip is a common grip used in Olympic weightlifting. Lifting straps are not allowed in weightlifting competitions. Therefore, lifters rely on using the hook grip. This grip increases lifting capacity and involves a pronated grip with just a slight difference.

When gripping the barbell overhand, lifters must place the thumb under the first and second fingers. It's important to ensure you wrap the thumb around the bar first. Then after the thumb wraps around the bar, the other fingers wrap on top to reinforce the grip. Lifters tend to prefer this grip over a regular pronated grip. Especially for control during explosive lifts. This is because of the likelihood of the bar rolling or slipping out of the hands. 

With the hook grip lifters have a tighter and more secure grip, boosting their confidence. The concept of the hook grip is like the mixed grip. During the mixed grip, the supinated side produces support or force opposite the pronated side. This prevents the bar from slipping because if it rolls one way the other side pushes back. For the hook grip, the thumb provides support opposite the fingers, eliminating the bar from slipping or losing grip of it.

Exploring Weightlifting Grips

Body position plays a major role in exercise. It affects how efficiently you move, and which muscle groups are targeted. The same thing applies to grip variations. Not only is grip strength important, but grip style matters for all lifters. 

It is often overlooked how a simple change in hand placement can make a difference in results. Consider using grip variations like the pronated, supinated, mixed, neutral, and hook grips for training. 

Though keep in mind you can also change the grip width or set up in addition to these variations. For example, you can apply wide or close grip setups to a pronated grip. This can be utilized in all exercises. 

Looking to gain more in-depth knowledge of the body’s muscle and skeletal structure? Check out ISSA’s Certified Personal Trainer course. You’ll expand your training know-how, whether it’s just for your own workout or to help others build healthier lives. Start your fitness journey today!

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