Get a Good Grip on your Strength Training

woman doing curlWhen you want to alter your workouts to target different muscle groups, it’s common to look for new or different exercises. But altering your hand grips can do the trick, too.

Grips and hand positions are not only a way to refine your workout, proper use of these techniques will help you maximize your results and minimize your risk of injury.

Grips and Hand Positions

There are three main grips on the bar:

1. Neutral, palms facing in/toward each other
2. Pronated or overhand, palms facing down
3. Supinated or underhand, palms facing up her

Note: use a closed grip (with your fingers wrapped fully around the bar and your thumb closing the grip on the other side) to avoid letting the bar slip out of your hands and causing injury.

There are three main grip widths, or hand positions:
1. Standard, hands shoulder width apart
2. Narrow, hands a closer together than shoulder width
3. Wide, hands a bit farther apart than shoulder width

Exercises with Grip Variations

Once you have your form right, there’s generally no right or wrong on most grip choices, but there are differences in the effects. In fact, your body position always matters when you exercise. So learn your basic styles of gripping and use them to work more on a certain muscle group, to challenge imbalances, and so on.

Here are some ways to apply grip variations to common gym exercises:

  • The typical underhand grip for biceps curls isolates the biceps
  • A neutral grip for biceps curls is called the hammer curl, which activates the brachioradialis muscles of the forearm more

    • Alternate between rope triceps extensions to address the outside part of the arm known as the lateral head, with a reverse underhand grip for overhead extensions to address the back of the arm known as the long head

  • Use a narrow overhand grip on the barbell for your shoulder press to target the anterior deltoid at the front of the shoulder, and a wider grip to better target the middle of the shoulder
  • Do front shoulder raises holding dumbbells with a neutral grip to hit the anterior part of the deltoid with more intensity

  • Pull downs, pull ups and back rows with an overhand grip will work the lats, or latissimus dorsi, while a narrow underhand grip will further involve the biceps
  • A dumbbell row with a neutral grip focuses on the rhomboids and trapezius muscles of your upper back

  • For chest press, an underhand narrow grip adds to the triceps work, but a wide hand position emphasizes pecs. Same for hand positions in push-ups.
  • If you have a tricky shoulder, you might try a neutral grip for your dumbbell chest press, which relieves some of the pressure of impingement

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