6 Different Grip Types and When to Use Them

The type of grip you use on a barbell determines how well you can lift the weight.
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The way you grip a barbell, pair of dumbbells, chin-up bar and other pieces of gym equipment has a big impact on what you'll get out of the exercise. When deciding between common grip types, you'll want to consider the pros and cons of each — and which exercises each grip is good for.

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Different barbell grips recruit different muscles and place different demands on your joints. They each have their advantages and disadvantages. Some exercises can only be performed with one type of grip, while others are more versatile.

Understanding more about each type will help you make the best decision based on your access to equipment, training goals and injury history. Picking the right grip will help you get stronger, stay safe and maximize your workout results.

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Pros and Cons of Grip Types

Grip Type

Pro

Con

Pronated (Overhand) Grip

Improves grip strength

May limit amount of weight lifted

Supinated (Underhand) Grip

Builds stronger biceps

Can lead to elbow pain

Mixed Grip

Allows for lifting heavier weights

Increases risk of biceps tears and muscle imbalances

Neutral Grip

Is joint-friendly

Doesn't work with a standard barbell

Hook Grip

Is a very strong and stable grip

Is advanced and potentially painful

False Grip

Helps keep wrists stable and transitions smooth

Increases risk of barbell rolling and causing injury

1. Pronated Grip (Overhand Grip)

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A pronated grip, also called an overhand grip, is the most common grip used for barbell exercises, including deadlifts.

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It's perfect for those who're new to strength training in general or new to using a barbell specifically and want to improve their overall grip strength, Mathew Forzaglia, New York-based certified personal trainer, tells LIVESTRONG.com. Here's how to do it:

  1. Place the barbell on the floor in front of you.
  2. Grab the bar with both hands, both palms facing your body, Samuel Becourtney, physical therapist at Bespoke Treatments in New York, tells LIVESTRONG.com. (If the bar is overhead — like a pull-up bar — your palms will face away from you.)
  3. Wrap your fingers over the top of the bar and your thumbs under the bar.

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Tip

"Choosing how far apart your hands are impacts how your muscles are activated," says Katie McKinney, CPT. "For example, you can choose to do a narrow grip barbell biceps curl or a wide grip deadlift to add a different kind of challenge to the exercise."

Pronated Grip Works Best For:

  • Barbell deadlifts
  • Lower-body movements with a barbell on your back including squats, lunges and split squats
  • Barbell bench press
  • Barbell overhead press
  • Barbell rows
  • Barbell and dumbbell reverse curls
  • Seated rows
  • Lat pulldowns
  • Pull-ups
  • Dumbbell pressing movements including bench press and overhead press

Pros

  • A pronated grip will help improve your grip strength by building stronger forearms and hands.
  • It lets you recruit the muscles of your upper back to stabilize your shoulders and keep your joints in an optimal position. One example of this is trying to break the bar in half when you're deadlifting. This engages your lats, locking in your shoulders and preventing your back from rounding as you stand up.

Cons

  • Stronger lifters may be limited by their grip strength while using a pronated grip on exercises such as deadlifts or rows, Forzaglia says. If building grip strength isn't your main training goal, switching to a mixed or hook grip will allow you to move heavier loads.
  • A pronated grip can make transitions difficult while performing Olympic lifts or gymnastics movements. It can be easier to use a false or hook grip for these types of exercises.

2. Supinated Grip (Underhand Grip)

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It's helpful to think of the supinated grip or underhand grip as the opposite of the pronated grip. Here's how to do it:

  1. Place the barbell on the floor in front of you.
  2. Instead of grabbing the bar with both palms facing your body, grab it so both palms face away from you, Becourtney says. (If the bar is overhead — like a pull-up bar — your palms will face toward you.)
  3. You should still securely wrap your fingers over and thumbs under the bar.

Supinated Grip Works Best For:

  • Barbell rows
  • Barbell and dumbbell curls
  • Lat pulldowns
  • Seated rows
  • Chin-ups

Pros

  • Using a supinated grip requires more help from your biceps. This can make certain exercises (like chin-ups) a little easier, and it can help you build bigger and stronger biceps, Forzaglia says.

Cons

  • Some people will find using a supinated grip leads to elbow pain. If this happens, switch to a neutral or pronated grip.
  • The supinated grip has limited usefulness outside of pulling movements.

Pronated vs. Supinated Grip

Most barbell exercises will feel best with a pronated grip, especially for beginners. The supinated grip is less versatile and is only really useful for pulling exercises.

Consider switching from a pronated grip to a supinated grip if you want to target more of your biceps and less of your back muscles or if you want to mix up your training. Using a supinated grip on chin-ups can help you build strength for pronated pull-ups if you're not yet strong enough for the latter.

3. Mixed Grip

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A mixed grip is a combination of pronated and supinated grips. It's sometimes called an alternate grip. Here's how to do it:

  1. Grab the bar with one palm facing forward.
  2. Position the other hand so that the palm faces the other way.
  3. Wrap your fingers over and thumbs under the bar all the way around.

Mixed Grip Works Best For:

  • Barbell deadlifts
  • Barbell rows
  • Pull-ups and chin-ups

Pros

  • Using a mixed grip will allow you to lift heavier weights, especially if grip strength is a limiting factor, Forzaglia says.
  • It allows you to create tension and stability through your shoulders when thinking about trying to break the bar in half. Although you won't be quite as secure as you would be using a pronated grip, you can still keep your shoulders and back safe while lifting.

Cons

  • Deadlifting with a mixed grip can put you at risk of biceps tears in the supinated (underhand grip) arm. Keep both elbows locked out while using a mixed grip for heavy deadlifts.
  • Using a mixed grip won't help you improve your grip strength as much.
  • Overly relying on a mixed grip can lead to muscle imbalances, Becourtney says. Try to switch which hand is in the supinated position from set to set to stay more balanced.

4. Neutral Grip

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Since your palms face each other during a neutral grip, you can't use it with a standard barbell. However, it works exceptionally well with other training tools, including dumbbells and speciality bars such as trap bars, Swiss bars and safety bars. Here's how to do it:

  1. Hold the weights or bar with both hands.
  2. Turn your palms inward so that they face each other.

Neutral Grip Works Best For:

  • Chin-ups and pull-ups
  • Lat pulldowns
  • Seated rows
  • Dumbbell rows
  • Dumbbell pressing movements, including chest press and overhead press
  • Dumbbell hammer curls
  • Dumbbell exercises where you hold weights at your side, such as lunges, split squats, farmer carries and suitcase deadlifts
  • Any exercise using a trap bar, including deadlifts, rows, overhead press and farmer carries
  • Any exercise using a Swiss bar, including bench press, overhead press and rows
  • Lower-body movements with a safety bar on your back including squats, lunges and split squats

Pros

  • The neutral grip is very joint-friendly. Trainees who have trouble performing certain exercises due to shoulder or elbow issues may find a neutral grip reduces or eliminates their pain.
  • Much like with the supinated grip, a neutral grip gives you more help from your biceps. This can make certain exercises easier.

Cons

  • You can't use a neutral grip with a traditional straight barbell.

5. Hook Grip

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These last two grips are advanced grips. The majority of trainees probably won't use them, but they might help some folks take their performance to the next level on certain exercises.

A common hold used in Olympic lifting, the hook grip involves wrapping your hand around the bar, thumb inside your fist, Forzaglia says. Here's how to do it:

  1. Set up as if you were going to use a pronated (overhand) grip.
  2. Instead of wrapping your thumb around the bar so it's on top of your fingers, hook your thumb between the bar and your first 1 to 2 fingers.
  3. The thumb will be underneath your fingers and pinned tightly to the bar.

Hook Grip Works Best For:

  • Olympic lifts, including snatch and clean and jerk
  • Barbell deadlifts
  • Pull-ups
  • Dumbbell farmer carries (this is a good exercise to help you get used to the hook grip)

Pros

  • A hook grip is a very stable and strong grip. You'll be less limited by your grip strength when trying to move heavy loads without the risk of biceps tears you'd get with a mixed grip.
  • It prevents the bar from rolling around in your hand during transitions, which is important when you're trying to explosively move a heavy bar from the floor to the overhead position, Becourtney says.

Cons

  • It can be painful to use a hook grip if you're not used to it. It puts a lot of pressure on your thumb and you might even scrape off some skin. If you're serious about learning to use a hook grip but the pain is holding you back, consider taping your thumbs until you get more accustomed to the position.

Mixed Grip vs. Hook Grip

Both the mixed grip and hook grip can help you deadlift heavier weights. How do you know which one to use?

  • The hook grip is safer in some ways than the mixed grip, since you reduce the risk of biceps tears. However, learning the hook grip can be quite challenging.
  • The mixed grip is much easier (and less painful) to learn than the hook grip. It's a very simple transition from using a pronated grip to using a mixed grip.

If you don't intend to perform Olympic lifts, start with the mixed grip. If you do plan to work on Olympic lifting, or if you're concerned about the injury risk and don't mind some initial discomfort, give the hook grip a shot.

6. False Grip

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You must be extra careful when using a false grip on a barbell because your hands aren't fully wrapped around the bar.

The false grip is a pronated (overhand) grip without your thumbs wrapped around the bar, Forzaglia says. The bar sits on the lower part of the palm of your hand. Your thumb stays next to your index finger.

False Grip Works Best For:

  • Pull-ups
  • Barbell overhead press
  • Barbell benching (with a spotter)
  • Lower-body movements with a barbell on your back, including squats, lunges and split squats
  • Gymnastics exercises using rings or a straight bar, such as muscle-ups
  • Lat pulldowns
  • Seated rows

Pros

  • Using a false grip can help you keep your wrists in a more stable position, making it ideal for folks who suffer from wrist pain, Becourtney says.
  • A false grip can help with transitions in movements that require different positions, such as muscle-ups.
  • Using a false grip shortens the distance the bar has to travel in pressing movements. Even a few centimeters can make a big difference if you're competing or trying to set a new personal record.

Cons

  • Because your thumb isn't wrapped around the bar, there's a much higher chance of the bar rolling out of your grip and potentially causing injury, Forzaglia says. Proceed with caution and don't ever bench press with a false grip unless you have a careful spotter.

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