Why Grip Matters When Lifting Weights

You’re doing a barbell row with an overhand grip (palms facing down). The person next to you is doing the same barbell row with an underhand grip (palms facing up).

Who is performing the exercise the right way? What’s the difference?

When exercising, body position matters from head to toe. The muscles don’t work in an isolated manner. This is why a tiny change in how you grip a bar, cable or dumbbell can be the difference between stressing one muscle more than another.

In general, there’s no right or wrong. Different styles of gripping simply put more work on one area over another. In the case of the barbell rowers, the overhand grip isolates the back muscles better than the underhand grip, which hits the biceps more.

Grip 101

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There are different types of grips, but the most common ones, among the fitness rats, are:

The neutral grip (palms facing in), pronated grip (overhand) and supinated grip (underhand).

Likewise, the width of the grip will make an impact on which muscles are tackled more. The three common widths are shoulder width apart, narrow (slightly narrower than shoulder width apart) and wide (slighter wider than shoulder with apart).

How to grip?

This is what you can expect when changing your grip and arm-width position in relation to the most common weight training exercises.

Back exercises:

Overhand pull down, pull ups and back row will tackle more the latisumuss dorsi. The  narrow underhand will tackle the lats in addition to heavily involving the biceps.

Neutral dumbbell row will emphasize the rhomboids and trapezius muscles.

Chest exercises:

Overhand wide dumbbell/barbell chest press and push-ups will emphasize the pectoralis muscles. Narrow grip push-ups will make the triceps work harder.

Underhand narrow press will mainly increase the triceps workload.

Neutral dumbbell chest press will take off some pressure of the shoulder when doing this exercise. This is advisable for people who suffer from shoulder impingement.

Shoulder exercises

Narrow barbell overhand shoulder press will make the most out of the anterior deltoid (front part of the shoulder). A wider grip will work the middle part more.

Neutral dumbbell front shoulder raises will tackle the anterior part of the deltoid more than the others.

Dumbbells lateral raises with thumbs facing your body like emptying a can, will hit some of the rotator cuff muscles (these under seen small muscles play an important role in keeping  a healthy shoulder joint).

Biceps exercises

Underhand biceps curls will isolate the biceps.

Neutral biceps curls (known as the hammer curl) will call the brachioradialis (muscles of the forearm) in more than the biceps muscles.

Triceps Exercises

Rope triceps extensions will hit the lateral head of the triceps (the outside part of the arm).

Underhand overhead triceps extension back to the machine will hit the long head (the back part of the arm) of the triceps more than the other two heads.

Just by changing the grip on the exercises, you can challenge other muscles that may be overlooked in your exercise routine. This will not just shake up your workout but also will guarantee that you’re working on any muscle unbalances.

Marta Montenegro inspires people to live healthy lives by giving them the tools and strength to find one’s inner athlete through her personal website MartaMontenegro.com. She created SOBeFiT, a national fitness magazine for men and women, and the Montenegro Method DVD workout series – a program she designed for getting results in just 21 days by exercising 21 minutes a day . Marta is a strength and conditioning coach and serves as an adjunct professor of exercise physiology at Florida International University.

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