Is Your Pronated Grip Limiting your Deadlift PR?

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You walk up to a barbell and you grab it. Maybe it has a bit of weight on it and you prep yourself to accommodate the heavy load, but that’s probably about the extent of it.

You know what you’re probably not doing? Thinking about your grip on the barbell.

To be honest, why would you? It’s not like we think about what grip we’re going to use to pick up a coffee cup or laptop.

We just…grab them.

But you really should be thinking about how you take hold of that barbell because your grip selection will have a big impact on both the muscles worked as well as your overall ability to perform a particular exercise.

And what better lifting grip to discuss than the Godfather of Grips himself…

The pronated grip

@crossfitdc

Today, we’re going to discuss what the pronated grip is, exercises where it is commonly utilized, and benefits derived from using it. 

We’ll also discuss how it might actually be limiting your PRs in certain exercises…

…how scandalous!

What Is a Pronated Grip?

A pronated grip (also known as an overhand grip) is a type of hand position used in resistance exercises.

With this grip, the palms of your hands face away from you  while the fingers wrap around the barbell (or other objects such as a pull-up bar, kettlebell, or dumbbell). The thumb wraps around and firmly grasps the barbell and is positioned below the rest of the fingers.

The pronated grip activates the muscles in the back and arms more than other grips. It does so by putting a greater emphasis on the muscles responsible for pulling movements which happens when your palms are faced away from your body.

@thecrossfitmayhem

A pronated grip can be used to strengthen your grip and target muscles including the:

  • latissimus dorsi
  • brachialis
  • brachioradialis
  • rhomboids
  • trapezius

Pronated Grip in Lifting: When to Use It?

A pronated grip is used in various types of exercises, from pronated grip pull-ups (colloquially known as “pull-ups”) to deadlifts and rows. It is more regular in the pulling type of exercises, but it’s found in some types of pushing exercises too (the bench press is probably the best and most obvious example of this!)

You generally use this grip for heavy barbell exercises. They all require a strong pronated grip, especially the competition lifts in weightlifting, powerlifting, and CrossFit.

@morningchalkup

At times, the deadlift can be an exception to this as many lifters (myself included!) prefer a “mixed” grip, one hand pronated, the other hand supinated (facing towards me).

When it comes to resistance exercises, there are three main scenarios where you can, and most likely will, opt for a pronated grip:

Pull Exercises

You can use pronated grip in various pull exercises such as:

  • pull-ups (as opposed to “chin-ups where a supinated grip is utilized)
  • pronated grip deadlifts (unless the mixed grip is utilized)
  • barbell shrugs

The pronated grip in pull exercises will activate your:

  • brachialis
  • brachioradialis
  • latissimus dorsi
  • rhomboids
  • trapezius

Presses

You can use a pronated grip with the overhead press and, as previously mentioned, the bench press. This will activate your triceps brachii and pectoralis muscle group while maintaining a more secure grip.

Rows

Numerous row exercises use a pronated grip. Depending on the type of row, you will emphasize slightly different muscle groups.

@rowhouseofficial

Barbell bent-over row

  • latissimus dorsi
  • the middle and lower trapezius
  • the rhomboids
  • the posterior deltoids

Dumbbell row

  • latissimus dorsi
  • spinal erectors
  • forearms and biceps
  • scapular stabilizers

T-Bar row

  • latissimus dorsi
  • rhomboids
  • trapezius
  • posterior deltoid
@cody_amey

Benefits of Pronated Grips

  1. Activates more muscle groups and increases strength a study has shown that a pronated grip activates muscles more than alternative grips when it comes to pull-ups. The pronated grip mostly targets the biceps brachii, latissimus dorsi, trapezius, and deltoids. Research suggests that this grip is especially great for working your lats (back muscles) compared to other grips.
  2. Improves your grip – by building stronger forearms and hands, a pronated grip helps you strengthen your grip. This can improve your performance in exercises that require grip strength, such as deadlifts.
  3. Reduces risk of injury – a pronated grip gives you more stability and control over the weight. That means the bar is more secure in your hands than it is with other grip types.

Drawbacks of Pronated Grips

  1. A study showed that this grip is weaker than a neutral and supinated grip in certain exercises. Don’t expect to hit a PR with a pronated grip on exercises where neutral or supinated grip is better!
  2. If you focus only on pronated grip exercises, you may neglect some muscles that aren’t particularly targeted with this grip, such as the biceps. Think about how your arms feel doing a pull-up (pronated) vs. a chin-up (supinated). Your biceps blow up during chin-ups…not so much during pull-ups. Alternating your grip type and incorporating exercises that require a mixed or supinated grip fix this!

Frequently Asked Questions

I’m sure you have been losing sleep over the last few years with your grip questions. Hopefully we’ll be able to cover any lingering ones you still have here:

A supinated grip is done with the palms facing up and the fingers wrapped around the bar (underhand grip). It more directly targets the biceps and forearm muscles. A pronated hand grip requires an overhand grip with the palms facing down and fingers wrapped around the bar.

A pronated grip might be safer because you have better control over the weight you are lifting. Don’t get lazy, though! It still puts stress on wrists and holds the risk of injury, so you should take the same precautions as with any other grip when lifting.

Use a Pronated Grip…but Not ALL the Time!

I doubt that Googling “pronate grip”. “wat is pronate grip?”. or “prnated grip good” was on your radar more than 10 minutes ago, yet here we are! 

In all seriousness, knowing the in’s and out’s of grip selection, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of the pronated grip can be particularly useful, especially when deciding on pull-up/chin-up and deadlift programming. The grip you choose on these exercises, specifically, makes a big difference in how the lifts will be executed.

You’ll naturally find that you use a pronated grip most of the time as it simply “makes sense” to use, but don’t hesitate to experiment with different grip types in order to promote a different muscle stimulus. You might find that you can gut out a few more sets of chin-ups after you’ve fried yourself on pull-ups or that you’ll hit your deadlift PR with a mixed grip.

And now, the phrase I’ve been waiting to write this entire time:

Get a grip!

Put your new-found appreciation for the pronated grip to the test and go do some shrugs. We have a whole article outlining the benefits of these heavy barbelled bad boys!

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AUTHOR

Tom, CrossFit Level 1 Trainer, ISSA-CPT, PN1-NC, DPA, CAPM has been CrossFitting for over 10 years. He has participated in a number of team and individual CrossFit competitions across Europe and the United States. He was the 2012 Chick-fil-A Race Series champion (North Georgia Circuit) and has put together a few gnarly garage and basement gyms in his time!

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