Thursday, July 29, 2010

Exercise Cues: Grip

...I don't think she needs my advice...

Last week - #2 specifically - I mentioned how certain exercise cues aren't really that obvious. On the bright side, this gives me more material for posts and a new label & series to create.

First in this installment is how to grip any implement you use. Whether it be a dumbbell, barbell, kettlebell, or small child, where it rests in your hand can change how the action is executed. Additionally, proper gripping minimizes callus formation.

Some of this is copied & pasted from the document I wrote here since it's a good description. I originally learned this through Mehdi over at StrongLifts.

Hand shows which way your moving the weight
in opposition to which way the weight wants to move.

That indeed is my hand. Now optimal position on the,
Left – Where to grab the bar in exercises which involve pulling the weight towards the body.
Right – Where to grab the bar, possibly lower, in exercises which involve pushing/pressing the weight away from the body.
Hand direction is shown when force is being exerted upon the bar. This is during the concentric portion of the lift. During this part, the bar will be going against the movement of your hand (shown by the 2 arrows coming out of the bar).

If you’re doing a pushing exercise, such as the bench press, but improperly grab the bar high in your hand, as seen on the left, the bar will move down while you perform the exercise. Gravity works like that. As a result, skin will get rubbed and folded upon itself while the bar slides down. It not only forms calluses, but is inconvenient and irritable while you perform a set. Lastly, this could contribute to your wrists bending backwards instead of remaining straight.

For pressing exercises, I put the bar in my hand as close to the bottom of it as possible. When your fingers close, that bottom part (the palm pretty much) actually creates a mini-platform/cushion for the bar to sit on.

For pulling exercises, I take my four fingers and create a sort of "hook" with my hand and fit the bar in that area. It gives me an idea of where the bar will be during a set. I may adjust a bit here and there, but for the most part it's accurate enough. All that's left to do is close your thumb around the bar.

One problem in positioning your grip is what does the exercise fall under, press or pull?
Presses: Typically work front shoulders, triceps, and/or pecs.
Pulls: More focus on the forearms, biceps, traps, and/or lats.
There are a few caveats to this. Farmer's walks work the forearms, however gravity is pulling the weight downwards so you would want to use a pulling grip (position near the fingers).

Also, this is hard to apply to lower-body exercises. Back squats and overhead squats fall under pressing while deadlifts, snatches, & cleans are more pulling.

Overall, this post is a thorough explanation on how you want to position your grip.

Next time: The excitement of scapular retraction! Stay tuned!


  1. Hey! Just found your blog! You have a ton of great info--I'm perusing your archives. Thanks for the really neat perspective.

  2. Thank you very much. I'm glad you find the information useful.

    I always assume new comers pick up at the most recent post, but I hope you find the older stuff just as good.

    Appreciate you stopping by!

  3. yo son, i was having this issue. when i was bench pressing, i knew that my wrists shouldnt bend so i positioned my hands differently so that my wrists wouldnt bend but when i went to higher weights, i just reverted back to my old grip. it feels awkward to have the bar at your palm.

  4. Sach, it's all natural baby. The bar keeps trying to move down when you bench so might as well position it there from the start. I always had it up high but it kept slipping for me.

    We should all hit up the gym 1st weekend back.

  5. Well, I finally finished reading back on about 98% of your posts, Niel. Great stuff, really! Very informative post. Thanks for this.

  6. Hey Christine, thanks a lot. I know there are a lot of posts, but awesome to hear you read them. Definitely better to catch up now instead of many posts later.

    Thanks for visiting!


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