When learning how to lift weights, it’s crucial to master the proper form so you’re able to lift more safely and more efficiently for your goals. But proper form isn’t only about keeping your back straight or your feet separated at a certain distance – your grip on the weight is part of your form too!
Usually, there’s an ideal way to grab the bar for each exercise, and that is the one you should stick to when learning any new movements. But knowing about the different types of grip and implementing them when you’ve already mastered the basic form is a great way to build muscle in areas that can often be neglected as well as have a better hold on more challenging exercises.
Of course, knowing how to hold the bar is just one half of it – the other one is having enough grip strength to do so! In this article, we’ll show you how each type of grip works and what you can do with it, but also how to train your grip strength so you’re able to keep progressing seamlessly in your strength training journey.
What are the 5 main types of grip?
You may encounter a lot of different grip types during your journey, whether you see them at the gym or in a guided workout video. That said, most of them are variations of the 5 main types of grip that you should learn:
Also known as the prone grip, this is the most versatile grip and the one that you probably already know and use. For an overhand grip, you place your hands over the bar while your thumb wraps around it, creating enough support to be able to lift the bar easily.
This grip is the standard for a reason. It’s the most natural way to grab a bar and almost any path you go through will feel well-supported by the placement of your hands, making it super beginner-friendly. You can use it for basically any weightlifting movement, such as:
Coming in second place in terms of versatility, we have the underhand grip. Also known as the reverse or supine grip, this way of holding the bar consists of placing your hands under it while your thumb wraps around it. It’s essentially the opposite of an overhand grip.
This type of grip can be used in a variety of movements, but it truly shines during a lot of pulling movements because of the way your arms are positioned. A good example is the bent-over row, which we mentioned as a good overhand grip exercise, but using an underhand grip will help you put more focus on training your lats. Other great underhand grip exercises are:
- Biceps curls
- Inverted rows
- Lat pulldowns
The mixed or alternate grip, as you may have guessed, is a combination of the two main types of grip: overhand and underhand. Basically, you place one hand in an overhand grip (over the bar) and the other hand in an underhand grip (under the bar), while your thumbs wrap around it.
This is where things get a bit more tricky, so this grip isn’t recommended for those who are just starting their fitness journey. Having your hands in different positions will allow for better control over the bar slipping, so using a mixed grip properly is a great way to lift much heavier while still being safe.
Because of this heavy lifting factor, the mixed grip is almost exclusively used as a deadlifting and shrugging grip and isn’t really recommended for other exercises, though it can also be very useful when spotting someone.
This grip is very similar to the overhand grip because you place your hands over the bar with your thumb wrapped around it. But instead of your thumb resting over your fingertips, it will be under them, making direct contact with the bar.
While the hook grip looks simple to do, it can be somewhat tricky to master. Getting used to this grip isn’t just about the grip itself, but the discomfort of getting your thumb pressed against the bar. That said, once mastered, a mixed grip is a great option for Olympic and explosive exercises because it keeps the bar from rolling out your fingers. Some great hook grip exercises are:
- Clean and jerk
This is probably the toughest one to master, not because it’s difficult but because you need to be careful when using it. A false grip is nothing more than an open overhand grip, which means that your hands will go over the bar while also keeping your thumbs over it and pressed next to your index fingers.
As you can probably imagine, this grip adds an extra level of difficulty to your exercises because the bar isn’t fully secured in your hands. It needs a lot of grip strength to be executed properly and you need to keep your hands bent backward to prevent it from rolling out, so it’s almost exclusive to advanced lifters.
Exercises such as the bench press are too risky to perform with a false grip because of the position of your body. Instead, this grip is mostly used during movements where you’re standing with the bar over your shoulders or above, such as:
How to train your grip strength
Grip strength is crucial for anyone in a resistance training journey to avoid struggling with the weights or even dropping them, and it can be improved by just doing regular weight training exercises! Here are some of our favorites:
Bottoms-up kettlebell press
A great way to build grip strength for when the weight is over your shoulders is by doing this simple kettlebell exercise.
How to do it:
- Grab one kettlebell by the handle with your right hand and bend your elbow around 90 degrees so that the ball of the kettlebell is pointing up.
- Begin the movement by pressing the weight up until your arm is extended overhead and then bring it back down without letting the weight roll in your hand.
- Finish your reps and repeat with the opposite arm.
Weightlifting isn’t only about lifting free weights, but also your own body weight, and this exercise is perfect to train your grip for that.
How to do it:
- Find a pull-up bar and grab it with your arms completely extended and the desired grip. This is a good exercise to train all types of grips, so you can switch it up every time you try it.
- Instead of pulling yourself up, let your body hang from the bar, relying only on your grip strength to keep you in the air for as long as you can.
When it comes to improving your grip strength, it’s important to train both the strength of your hands and the strength of your fingers – or pinch grip. This exercise will help you with the latter!
How to do it:
- Find a couple of weight plates and grab one in each hand, secured between your thumbs and the rest of your fingers.
- Keep your body straight and pinch the plates so that they don’t slip from your fingers, as if you were trying to make your fingers touch, and hold for the desired count.
This is known as a core and shoulders exercise, but it also challenges your grip strength by holding two kettlebells while you walk.
How to do it:
- Find two kettlebells and grab them in each hand by the handle.
- Keep the weights down, and begin by walking forward in a straight line, making sure you don’t hit the sides of your legs with the kettlebells.
- Walk in 30-second intervals until you’ve completed your reps.
This one isn’t a regular strength training workout, but it does train your strength, except only in your hands.
This grip-specific exercise involves squishing a hand gripper, which is a training tool with two handles that are close together. The goal is to try and get both handles to touch with one hand, strongly gripping it as if you were gripping a barbell. It comes in different sizes depending on your current grip strength, so you can make progress as you go.
Better control over your weights means better control over your gains
Knowing about the different grip types and when to use them is the best way to reach those strength training goals that you’re after. And don’t forget to train your grip strength! All kinds of weightlifting exercises are great for this, but the ones that we mentioned are particularly effective, so try them out with a lighter weight and build your way up.
If you’re looking to try out these grips with a variety of different exercises, check the Fit With Iulia app! Each week, Iulia creates goal-focused workouts to help you get closer to your goals, using a combination of compound, isolation, and unilateral movements. Try your first workout for free by downloading the Fit With Iulia app, choosing a goal, and trying the first workout of any goal – no subscription required!