When you’re first beginning to lift weights, one of the most intimidating things can be figuring out how to grip the barbell. After all, it’s a pretty heavy, long piece of steel unlike anything most of us are handling in our day-to-day lives. There are a lot of barbell grip variations, and each can feel different, especially as your body gets fatigued toward the end of your workout. This article will help you understand the pros and cons of each grip.
Overhand grip can be thought like the standard barbell grip, as it is the way most people naturally would grip the bar without putting thought into it. It’s when both of your palms are facing your body and your thumbs are wrapped around the bar, falling over your fingertips.
This grip is quite versatile, used for everything from pull-ups, to bench press, to bent-over row. It’s also the “classic” deadlift grip, which is the most instinctive option and great to use for light to medium weights.
Underhand grip is the reverse of overhand: your palms are facing away from you, with thumbs engaged. It’s the one that you’re probably used to using for barbell curls, but it’s also applicable to exercises like bent-over barbell rows, chin-ups, and lat pull-downs, among other things.
One possible downside to the underhand grip is when you’re using it for back exercises, like chin-ups and barbell rows, your biceps become involved, taking off some of the load and reducing the engagement of your back muscles.
A mixed grip is a combination of the above two: one hand is in underhand grip and the other is in overhand. This is a technique that is used when your grip is a limiting factor in how much weight you can lift. You’ll most likely come to a point eventually in your deadlifting when you could deadlift more than your grip can manage. In that situation, most people switch to using a mixed grip, which allows them to pick up heavier weight.
The pro of this grip is clear: it lets you lift more. However, doing it too often will prevent your grip from getting stronger, and there is a possibility of creating muscle imbalance or tearing your biceps. As such, it’s best not to use this grip until you really have to.
False grip is like an overhand grip, but without the use of your thumbs. It’s very common in gymnastics and with experienced lifters. It’s risky for something like bench press, but could be useful in an exercise like overhead press/shoulder press, as it allows you to guide the bar path better.
You can also use it for squats, machine exercises, and pull-ups. Just know that the bar is liable to roll out of your hands, and act accordingly.
With hook grip, your thumb wraps around the bar first, and then your fingers go on top of it, holding it in. It’s another option that can work to help make up the difference for a weaker grip. It’s used often for Olympic lifts like cleans and snatches, as well as deadlifts.
Despite the obvious pro of allowing you to lift heavier, the hook grip can feel quite uncomfortable and even painful before you get the hang of it. However, it’s a less dangerous option than mixed grip, so it could be worth getting used to.
Whichever grip you choose, grip hard! Commit. Squeeze the bar. And then get to lifting.