Types of Bar Grips and Their Effect on Training

Training with bars is popular because of the muscles that are strengthened. However, the importance of the grip is often ignored. Here we'll teach you about the different types of grip and their effects.
Types of Bar Grips and Their Effect on Training

Last update: 11 August, 2021

The grip simply means the way you position your hand on the bar in order to vary your training dynamics. Different bar grips influence the results you obtain because of the different number of muscle fibers affected.

This means that when you’re planning a resistance training session, you need to take into account not only the exercise you’ll be doing, but also the variations in the way you grip the bar in order to achieve a much more specific focus.

Why should you vary your grip?

Varying your grip during a routine modifies the angle of action, which means you’re targeting a different amount of muscle fibers. Also, if you choose properly, the exercise will be more complete.

We should clarify that modifying your grip doesn’t vary the muscle group you’re working on. In other words, the same exercise performed with a prone or supine grip targets the same muscles, but not the same range of fibers.

Main types of grip

Understanding the main types of bar grip is crucial for giving your muscles a complete workout. Briefly, the most commonly used variants are the supine, prone, neutral and mixed grips.

1. Supine grip

The palms of the hands, together with the wrists, face upwards. You should avoid overlapping your fingers when gripping the bar, as this hinders proper load distribution.

This grip generates greater tension both in the posterior area of the shoulders and in the biceps brachii (short head and long head).

2. Prone grip

This is one of the best-known and most used grips in routines. To do it, you need to have your knuckles facing upwards, and the palms of your hands directed towards the ground. It’s suitable for those who are taking their first steps into the world of weight training, as it helps to gain confidence.

It’s used because it’s good for heightened toning of the dorsals, trapezius and forearms. In spite of this, the prone grip tires out the muscles faster, with a smaller number of repetitions. Therefore, when incorporating it into your routine, make sure you look into just how you should begin.

Types of bar grip: a man using the prone grip in a gym.
In the prone grip, the palms of the hands face downward, with the knuckles facing upward.

The neutral grip is also called the hammer grip, and the hands are positioned with the palms facing each other in parallel. It’s most commonly used for extended strengthening of the fibers in the biceps, triceps, and shoulders. However, it can be used for an almost limitless number of exercises.

4. Mixed grip (alternating)

The term mixed grip refers to using both the prone and supine grips in the same exercise, with each hand executing a different grip.

What’s the purpose of the mixed grip? It can be useful when you have accumulated fatigue but still want to complete your pre-established training sets.

When using this grip, it’s best to alternate hands at the end of the sets. It’s also necessary to take into account the imbalance that’s generated regarding the distribution of tensions, as this can lead to injuries.

Exercises to apply the different types of grip

As well as developing more muscle fibers, alternating bar grips prevents injuries to the elbows, wrists and shoulders, because the distribution of effort is more balanced.

Keeping this in mind, and remembering that the different grips still work the same muscles, here are some examples of exercises that are better suited to certain types of bar grip, considering the amount of fibers involved.

Exercise options for the supine grip

The supine variant gives a better fiber workout with these exercises:

  • Inverted rowing
  • Inclined rowing
  • Biceps curls
  • Back pull-ups
  • Basic rowing
  • Lateral pull-ups

Exercise options for the prone grip

Among the most common exercises that use the prone grip are the following:

  • Deadlifts using the trap bar
  • Reverse barbell curls
  • Free weights
  • Bench presses
  • Pull-ups
  • Shoulder presses
  • Barbell squats
  • Barbell rowing

Exercise options for the neutral grip

The neutral grip is one of the most interesting grip types, and these are the exercises that best take advantage of its benefits:

  • Pull-ups
  • Alternating biceps curl with dumbbells
  • Deadlifts
  • Bench presses
  • Pull-ups
A woman performing a flat bench press.
The bench press is an exercise that can be performed to vary your grip type.

Exercise options for the mixed bar grip

The mixed grip can be used for the following exercises:

  • Sumo deadlift
  • Bench presses
  • Classic deadlift
  • Traction exercises

Bar grips help prevent injuries

When starting out in the world of fitness, the first thing to focus on is to work as many muscle groups as possible for balanced development. After this, varying grip types can take you to the next, more complete level of body development.

Taking this into account, while creating each routine it’s important to include exercises that work on both the external and internal sides of the targeted muscles. This is what the supine, prone, neutral, and mixed grips are for.

Lastly, remember that a change of grip can prevent different injuries that make sustained development impossible. In that sense, varying hand placement on the bar is key for peak performance athletes.

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