Get a Grip for Even More Workout Gains

This is your Quick Training Tip, a chance to learn how to work smarter in just a few moments so you can get right to your workout.

Think back to the last time you made changes to your workout program. Was it a few weeks ago? A couple of months ago? Longer?

If the memory is a bit fuzzy (or more than a couple of months old), it’s time to switch things up, or suffer the potential consequences: Muscle imbalances, increasingly slower gains, performance plateaus, and, worst of all, an increasing risk of overuse injuries.

You could take an extreme approach and make wholesale changes to your current program, swapping out all of your exercises for new ones or changing training modalities (e.g., going from weightlifting to metabolic conditioning or HIIT). But a much simpler and (depending on your goals) often more effective approach is to focus on smaller changes, such as altering your grip on the appropriate exercises.

The most common weightlifting grips are pronated (overhand), which is what you typically use when performing a pullup or strict deadlift, and supinated (underhand), which is typically used in exercises such as the chinup and dumbbell curl. Other options include an alternated grip, in which one hand is pronated and the other is supinated, often used by deadlifters pulling heavy weight, and a neutral grip, in which both palms face each other (think: hammer curl).

Here’s why grip matters: Even slight variations in hand position during a lift can totally change which muscles are targeted. Take the dumbbell curl, for example. Using the standard supinated grip targets your biceps, but if you rotate your hands 90 degrees to a neutral grip, the emphasis shifts to a different elbow flexor, the brachialis. If you rotate your hands 90 degrees again (to a pronated grip), you’ll target yet another elbow flexor, the brachioradialis.

Your move: Change your grip for any exercise with which you haven’t noticed significant improvement for at least four weeks. If you’ve stalled out on the chinup, switch to a pullup to take your biceps out of the equation and force your back muscles to work harder, for example. If you’ve been stuck at the same weight in the biceps curl, swap it out for the hammer curl, which will nail the strongest of your three elbow flexors, the brachialis. If the classic pronated grip barbell row has stopped working for you, use a reverse (supinated) grip to instantly increase your load (thanks to greater biceps recruitment) and trigger new strength gains. Just be smart with heavy loaded movements, like presses, and don’t mess with Olympic lifts.

When it comes to weightlifting, it’s often the smallest changes that deliver the biggest results.

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