Upping the reps, sets, resistance… you know the drill. When it comes to adding progressive overload to your training, if you’re anything like us, you’re probably eager to find new ways to modify your workouts for greater gains.
So how about switching up your grip variations to take your training to the next level?
Why use different grip variations for weightlifting?
Exploring different grip variations is an efficient way of switching up your workout, especially if you’re starting to plateau or get bored of your routine.
Switching grip variations can make the exercises more challenging, and changing the stimulus can greatly benefit strength and stability, improve range of motion, and activate target muscle groups more effectively.
If improving muscular strength is your goal, you’ll understand that the body adapts over time to the stress put on it by the given activity. So keeping in mind the principles of progressive overload, it’s vital to adjust the intensity and volume of your exercises to see continuous progress.
Reverse Grip (Underhand Grip)
The reverse grip, also known as an underhand grip, inverted grip, or supinated grip, is where you grip the bar or weight with supinated hand placement, palms facing towards your body. This differs from the standard grip for weightlifting, which assumes an overhand hand placement on the bar or weights with your palms facing away from your body.
This grip placement can be used in various lifting exercises to make the exercises more challenging. But it can also be used to enhance grip strength and forearm strength to benefit other forms of movement such as rock climbing, bouldering, baseball, or martial arts.
For many exercises, there are advantages to using both grip variations for different reasons. So whether it’s that you want to improve your grip strength or have more stability during your lift, it’s all about playing around and finding what feels best for you.
Let's take a look at seven weightlifting exercises that can be performed using different grip variations in the gym and learn about their benefits.
7 Exercises To Modify Using The Reverse Grip Variation
Reverse Grip Row
How to perform the Reverse Grip Row
Hold the bar slightly wider than shoulder width, with palms facing forward.
Position your feet shoulder-width apart.
Bend your knees slightly, and hinge your hips, bringing your torso parallel to the ground - maintaining a neutral spine.
Squeezing your back muscles, bend your elbows and pull the bar in towards your belly button.
Slowly straighten your arms back to the start position. This is one rep.
Benefits of the Reverse Grip Lat Row
How you set up your barbell row is all about what you’re trying to achieve from the movement.
The overhand barbell row is effective in targeting the middle and upper trapezius and rhomboid muscles. When your hands are in an overhand grip, as you pull the bar upwards in a rowing motion, the natural path your arms follow means your elbows tend to flare out slightly away from your midline.
In comparison, the reverse grip barbell row uses a grip position that sets your shoulders in place, creating more stability as you drive inwards. This naturally forces your elbows closer to your midline as you row and shifts the bias onto the lower region of your back, lats, and biceps.
Reverse Grip Lat Pulldown
How to perform the Reverse Grip Lat Pulldown
Set the machine using a wide handle and sit down on the bench.
Grip the bar above you with a supinated grip, with your hands just under shoulder width apart.
Depress the shoulders and pull the bar down towards your body, keeping your elbows in line with your torso.
Pause slightly at the bottom, focusing on squeezing the back muscles and keeping your chest lifted.
Extend your arms back up with control to the start position. This is one rep.
Benefits of the Reverse Grip Lat Pulldown
The reverse grip lat pulldown is a variation of the exercise that allows for a larger ROM and activation of the lower lats compared to the overhand lat pulldown. This increased range of motion is seen specifically at the end range of the movement, as the underhand grip enables you to pull the bar down lower towards your ribcage.
As well as this, the reverse grip lat pulldown also provides more activation of the biceps… so a double whammy for the strength gains.
Reverse Grip Curl
How to perform the Reverse Grip Curl
Grab your chosen weight using an overhand grip.
Standing shoulder width apart, rest your weights on the top of your thighs.
Bring your forearms up to shoulder height with your palms facing away from your body.
Make sure your arms are kept tucked close to your body and lower back to the starting position. This is one rep.
Benefits of the Reverse Grip Curl
Whilst the overhand grip curl is an excellent isolation exercise for growing your biceps, the reverse grip variation has many other benefits. It's a great exercise to incorporate if you're struggling with grip strength during heavy lifts, as it's often your grip strength that fails first.
Additionally, this is an ideal exercise to incorporate into your gym session if you’re training for sport-specific gains such as in bouldering or rock climbing as it'll help to improve your grip strength and forearm strength.
Reverse Grip Bench Press
How to perform the Reverse Grip Bench Press
A spotter is always recommended when doing a reverse grip bench press.
First, make sure the hooks are adjusted to the correct height, you can choose a bench, power rack, or squat rack to do so.
Lie on the bench with the bar in line with your eye level.
Take a supinated grip of the bar with your wrists facing towards you, hands placed wider than shoulder-width apart.
Once you've set up your grip, unrack the bar, bringing it forward slightly.
Embrace your core and extend your arms upwards.
Bring the bar back down to just above your chest, push the bar back up and repeat for the required number of reps.
Benefits of the Reverse Bench Press
The reverse grip bench press may look like a confusing exercise to perform, and it’s definitely not one for beginners. This variation can be incorporated into your workout routine to add variety, build upper body strength, or provide an alternative during recovery or a deload period.
The reverse grip bench press involves more elbow tucking and therefore recruits greater use of the biceps and uses more shoulder flexion. It also requires more wrist mobility and forearm strength and, due to the change in biomechanics, requires a lot more stability, coordination, and proprioception.
Reverse Grip Tricep Pushdown
How to perform the Reverse Grip Tricep Pushdown
Set up the cable machine with a straight bar.
Stand shoulder-width apart facing the cable machine.
Take an underhand grip on the straight bar on the cable machine, and pull the bar down toward your thighs.
Squeeze your triceps at the bottom and release the bar to the start position slowly, and repeat.
Benefits of the Reverse Tricep Pushdown
Like the standard tricep pushdown, reverse grip tricep pushdowns are effective exercises for tricep isolation, but the flipped grip provides more elbow stabilization.
The tricep pushdown targets all three parts of the tricep muscles; the medial, lateral, and long head, with a specific focus on the medial head. So while this isn't the best movement for size like the overhand grip (which targets the lateral head), it's a useful exercise for balanced tricep development.
But it's not just an isolation exercise, as the tricep pushdown requires complete core stabilization and also activates your glutes and back. Add this move to the end of your upper body workouts in the gym for a burn out or alternately grab a long band and try this at home.
Reverse Grip Seated Row
How to perform the Reverse Grip Seated Row
Attach a straight bar to the cable machine.
Sit down and bend at the hips to grip the bar with your palms facing up a shoulder-width apart.
Once you've gripped the bar, sit up straight, keeping your spine neutral and knees slightly bent.
Pull the bar towards your torso, keeping your core engaged and back upright while tucking your elbows slightly towards your midline.
Return to the start position with control and make sure not to bend your spine at any point.
Benefits of the Reverse Seated Row
The reverse grip seated row can be added to your back day to improve your shoulder mobility and to implement a good push-pull ratio, especially if you have rounded shoulders or bench press a lot. This compound movement targets all back muscles and also inhibits additional bicep activation, allowing for greater arm strength to be achieved in the reverse grip position.
As you go heavier with the resistance during this move, you might find you experience pressure in your elbows and shoulders, which you should take as a cue to go lighter or switch grips.
Hook Grip Deadlift
How to perform the Hook Grip Deadlift
Begin with your feet shoulder-width apart.
Keeping a straight back, bend your knees until you can reach the bar.
Wrap your thumb under the bar and your index and middle fingers over the top. To create the 'hook', your fingers should overlap your thumb, creating a secure grip on the bar.
Make sure you’re not squeezing over the knuckle, and ensure the top of your thumb is pressing into the bar.
Keeping a neutral spine, perform a normal deadlift - keeping the bar close to the body throughout the movement.
Do not let go of the bar when performing a repetition even if you feel that it is uncomfortable. Wait until the barbell is back on the floor and you can safely undo your hook grip.
Benefits of the Hook Grip Deadlift
The hook grip is a variation you can try for your deadlifts as you become more advanced in the exercise. The hook grip is a technique used by professional weightlifters and is Olympic-approved, and it can benefit you as your deadlift becomes heavier.
The hooking grip creates a wrap with your fingers placed over your thumbs, which keeps your thumbs in place, making it harder for you to lose your grip on the bar. The hook grip is a more secure grip than the mixed grip deadlift and comes without the potential issues caused by asymmetry. This is also a great grip variation to adopt for other heavy lifts like cleans and rows, especially if your goal is to increase power and force.
The reverse grip provides a modification to many exercises to help isolate muscle groups, encourage balanced muscle development, and provide an alternative during recovery or injury.
Mastering the movements may be difficult at the start, but your body will enjoy the challenge of a new stimulus and will reap the benefits of flipping the grip.
Need some help with your grip strength? Why not check out our article on the benefits of lifting gloves, wrist wraps, and lifting straps and when you should wear them?
For more strength and conditioning articles, make sure you check out the Conditioning zone over on Gymshark Central!