Exercise Technique Fundamentals: Hand Grip Types and Widths

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Exercise Technique Fundamentals: Hand Grip Types and Widths

There are several commonalities among resistance training exercise techniques. Most free weight and machine exercises involve some sort of hand grip on a bar, dumbbell,  or handle, and absolutely all exercises require an optimal body or limb position, movement range and speed, and method of breath­ing. In this post you will discover different hand grip types and widths we use in strength training.

Grasping a bar of any type involves two considerations: the type of grip to use and the spacing of your hands on the bar.

Different Types of Weightlifting Grips

Most Common Grip Types

Three common grips are used in resistance training exercises:

  • The pronated grip, with palms down and knuckles up, also called the overhand grip;
  • The supinated grip, with palms up and knuckles down, also known as the underhand grip;
  • Neutral grip – in which the knuckles point laterally (as in a handshake). This handgrip type is possible only when you use dumbbells or some exercise machines.

Examples of exercises that use these handgrips are the shoulder press, which uses a pronated (overhand) grip, and the wrist curl, which uses a supinated (underhand) grip. Some exercises, such as the dumbbell hammer curl and a version of the machine seated shoulder press, use a neutral grip. With this grip, the palms face in and the knuckles point out to the side, as in a handshake.

Different Types of Weightlifting Grips: Pronated, Supinated, Alternated, and Hook Grip

Different Types of Weightlifting Grips: Pronated, Supinated, Alternated, and Hook Grip

Neutral grip in weightlifting

Neutral grip in weightlifting

Less Common Grip Types

Two less common grips are used in resistance training exercises:

  • The alternated grip (mixed grip), in which one hand is in a pronated grip and the other is in a supinated grip. Using a mixed grip (one arm overhand and one underhand) makes it much more difficult for the bar to slip out of your grip, so you may be able to lift more weight using it. This grip type is particularly convenient for the deadlift exercise.
  • The hook grip, which is similar to the pronated grip except that the thumb is positioned under the index and middle fingers. The hook grip is typi­cally used for performing exercises that require a stronger grip (power exercises, e.g., snatch). Note that the thumb is wrapped around the bar in all of the grips shown; this positioning is called a closed grip. When the thumb does not wrap around the bar, the grip is called an open or false grip. The open grip can be dangerous because the bar may roll off your palms and onto your face and cause severe injury. Always use a closed grip.

Grip Widths in Strength Training

Establishing the proper grip in an exercise involves placing the hands at the correct distance from each other (referred to as the grip width). The three grip widths are:

  • Common (normal) grip is defined as the shoulder-width distance of the individual, so it will differ according to the size of the individual performing the exercise,
  • Wide grip is any grip larger that shoulder width, and
  • Narrow grip is any grip smaller than shouder width;
Grip Widths

Grip Widths

Image above illustrate normal, narrow, and wide grip on the barbell.

For most exercises, the hands are placed approximately shoulder-width apart. The hand positioning for all exercises should result in a balanced, even bar.

Effects of Changing Your Grip Position

As you work your way through the individual muscle groups and exercises throughout our big database, you’ll find information about the effects of changing your grip position. Changing the grip on an exercise works the muscle from a slightly different angle, which targets a different area of the muscle than the standard grip for that exercise. Grip variations are most commonly discussed when using a barbell, but changes in hand position have similar effects on muscles when using dumbbells, cables, and various machines.

Example: hand grip types and widths for seated cable row exercise

Grip type. A pronated (overhand) grip tends to target the upper and middle trapezius, whereas a neutral (thumbs up) grip hits the middle and lower trapezius. A supinated (underhand) grip switches the focus to the latissimus dorsi.

Seated cable row: pronated, neutral, and supinated grip

Seated cable row: pronated, neutral, and supinated grip

Hand spacing. Spacing your hands father apart will target the outer trapezius, whereas placing your hands closer together will focus on the inner portion of the trapezius.

Closing Thoughts About Hand Grip Types and Widths

Three basic types of grips are used in weightlifting: pronated (overhand), supinated (underhand), and neutral.

There are several grip widths we use in weight training. In some exercises, you place your hands about shoulder-width apart at an equal distance from the weight plates. Some exercises require a narrower grip than this, such as at hip width. Other exercises require a wider grip.

Finally, when reading the descriptions of the exercises from our database, be sure to note the type of grip and the proper width for each exercise. Incorrectly placed hands can create an unbalanced grip and result in serious injury.

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