Barbell Grip Variations and How To Use Them
by Evelyn Valdez·
If you’re an avid lifter, barbell exercises likely play a very important role in your fitness routine. You can gradually add more resistance to your workouts by loading the bar with heavier plates each time, allowing you to progressively get bigger and stronger muscles with the help of the same piece of equipment.
That said, simply picking up the barbell won’t do! Proper form is necessary in order to reap all the benefits of lifting with a barbell, and that includes the grip that you use. Different grips have different benefits, and some exercises work better with some grip variations than others.
In this article, we’ll show how to grip a barbell in 5 different ways that you can use during your weightlifting sessions, along with their benefits and the exercises that are best paired with them so you can maximize your gains next time you’re ready to train your strength.
The overhand or pronated grip is probably the type of grip you’re most familiar with since it’s the most natural way you can approach a barbell. As the name suggests, the overhand grip involves placing your hands over the bar with your palms facing down while wrapping your thumbs around it, tightly securing it in your hands.
Now, just because it’s the most common grip doesn’t mean that it’s the best since that depends on the exercise and the muscles you want to target, but it’s definitely the go-to for beginners! This is because this grip variation offers enough support with the barbell to help you tackle the weight more easily.
When it comes to specific lifts, the overhand grip is used for pretty much every weightlifting exercise, from bench presses and barbell squats to classic deadlifts. Heavy lifting requires a lot of control and support, making this the ideal grip for when you’re trying to max out heavy exercises or training for a competition.
As you might suspect from the name, the underhand or supinated grip is basically the opposite of the overhand grip. For this reversed grip, you place your hands under the bar with your palms facing up while wrapping your thumbs around and over it, grabbing it just as tightly.
This grip allows for a greater range of motion, allowing your muscles to extend and contract more efficiently, which results in greater gains by promoting hypertrophy. And when it comes to specific muscle activation, the underhand grip is the best at targeting your lats because of how your arms are positioned, making it great for back days!
The underhand grip works best with pulling exercises such as biceps curls, lat pulldowns, and inverted rows. But it’s also great for variations that are usually performed with the overhand grip, such as an underhand bent-over barbell row, allowing you to target and prioritize different muscles.
Also known as alternate grip, the mixed grip combines the previous two grip styles into a single one. This means that one hand goes over the bar with your palm facing down while your other hand goes under the bar with your palm facing up, and you can switch which one goes in what position depending on how you feel more comfortable.
This grip style allows for better control over the bar, reducing the risk of the bar slipping at any time and making it great for heavy lifts, but there’s a downside to this. Because your hands and, therefore, your arms are in different positions, you can risk a muscle imbalance since different sets of muscles are at work on each side of your body.
Because of this, the mixed grip isn’t really recommended for regular weightlifting exercises. Instead, it’s primarily used by those looking to max out their deadlifts or shrugs since it allows for better control over the heavy bar. It’s also great for spotting others, as it helps keep the bar safe and under control.
If you take the overhand grip support and take it up a notch, you get the hook grip. To achieve this, you position your fingers slightly differently from the overhand grip, placing your hands over the bar and your thumbs under and around it but keeping your thumbs under the rest of your fingers instead of over them.
This means that you’ll place your thumbs first on the bar and then wrap it with the rest of your fingers on top, reinforcing the grip. The result is an extra firm grip that reduces the chances of the bar slipping away, which can be hard to get used to at first due to the discomfort of having your thumbs pressed against the bar.
Once you get past that initial discomfort, though, this grip style is ideal for explosive exercises, which is why it’s a favorite among Olympic weightlifters! Exercises such as snatches, deadlifts, and clean and jerks require being able to be fast with the bar, and the hook grip gives both the extra support and the confidence needed to do it safely.
The false grip is essentially another overhand grip variation, much like the hook grip, except this time, instead of reinforcing the grip, you’ll be reducing the support. This means placing your hands over the bar but not wrapping your thumbs around it, instead keeping them over the bar next to your index fingers.
If it sounds tricky, that’s because it definitely is! Bars are usually heavy, but even if you don’t place any load on the bar at first, being able to use this grip correctly will take time to master. Because you’re not fully grasping the bar, this grip is almost exclusively used by advanced lifters who have already developed enough grip strength to pull it off.
Some exercises that you can perform with a false grip are deadlifts, squats, and shoulder presses, similar to regular overhand grip exercises. However, be careful with exercises such as bench presses because the position of your arms makes it harder to control the bar with the false grip, risking the possibility of the bar slipping out.
Take your gains to the next level with the right grip variation
As you can see, different grip styles have different benefits and allow you to hit different muscles, so the key is knowing which one to use! As long as you grip the bar correctly and use a weight that’s appropriate for your fitness level, you’ll be maximizing your gains and achieving your goals in no time.
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