The bench press is one of the core upper body compound exercises. Its effects in targeting arm and torso muscles and its traverse and intermediary muscles are indispensable for people looking to build strength and muscle. Incorporating tempo in performing the bench press movement, however, can make this exercise even more effective.
Tempo bench press refers to altering the timing of the eccentric and concentric movements of the bench press. The most common tempo bench press involves 3 seconds of eccentric motion and 1 second of concentric motion, or more popularly known as 3010 tempo bench press.
Time under tension or the total amount of time the muscle is engaged during exercise is a crucial factor for muscle growth and development. Depending on the individual's fitness goals, the time under tension should vary from 4-6 repetitions per exercise to more than 15 repetitions.
Strength training requires around 4-6 repetitions of heavy weight. Hypertrophy and fat burning require a threshold of 8-12 repetitions. Lastly, endurance training requires more than 15 repetitions of an exercise.
The difference in required repetitions is related to the total amount of time under tension. Building strength requires the muscles to work at the highest intensity for a short period while building endurance requires the muscle to work at least 60 seconds per set. Thus, it is important to set a fitness goal before starting a fitness routine.
Aside from time under tension, the activation of the muscles during the eccentric and concentric phases of the exercise also contributes to muscle growth. Using posture and muscle control during exercise not only enhances muscle activation awareness but also contribute to muscle growth.
Many weightlifters perform the eccentric motion or the downward motion of the exercise more slowly than the concentric motion or the upward motion. Professional powerlifters perform the concentric motion as fast as possible and then perform the eccentric motion slowly.
The discovery of the different effects of timing the concentric and eccentric motion led to the acknowledgment of the benefits of "tempo" in muscle building. Tempo allows the smaller motor units to be exhausted in order to activate the larger motor units of the muscle and produce the maximum amount of force to achieve hypertrophy.
Tempo refers to the total amount of time that a muscle or muscle group spends under heavy load or tension. The lifting tempo can be faster or slower depending on the individual's fitness goals.
Tempo for weight lifting such as bench press appears as four consecutive numbers.
Following a specific tempo when performing lifting exercises allows the lifter to feel the weight as he/she performs the eccentric motion. It allows them to have greater mind-to-muscle activation. This contributes to the strengthening of the muscles and their connective tissues.
Despite the benefits of learning and incorporating tempo in training, it remains to be one of the least understood concepts in muscle and strength building.
Learning and mastering the use of tempo allows the lifter to fully experience the exercise. It allows the body to replicate movements that are most effective in activating the muscles. It also strengthens the muscles and their connective tissues and builds better fitness foundations in order to avoid injuries when performing rigorous and stressful exercises.
Tempo training during bench press or incorporating timing and tempo when performing the bench press enhances bar control. This allows the lifter to control the lift and descent of the bar more consistently where the bar always touches the same spot every repetition. Bar control also leads to greater improvement in strength and consistency since the cognitive faculty is also engaged when performing lifts.
Tempo training when bench pressing also balances three core aspects of the lift that constitutes an effective training regimen. These core aspects include speed, tightness, and control.
Speed refers to the amount of time to execute a lift. Tightness refers to the amount of tension in the muscle group. Control refers to the ability of the lifter to consistently move the bar in the same direction at all times.
Tempo training allows the lifter to achieve balance among the three core aspects of the bench press. Proper tempo training teaches the lifter to use the proper speed to maximize muscle tightness and bar control. A decrease in muscle tightness or bar control means the lifter is executing each lift too quickly.
One of the most commonly used tempos for bench press is 3010 tempo.
The 3010 bench press tempo will have 3 seconds to lower the bar towards the chest and 1 second to lift the bar back up. There are no rests in between sets and repetitions of the exercise since the midpoint and pause on top numbers are at 0.
This bench press tempo has a slow eccentric motion and a quick concentric motion. The slow concentric motion causes more muscle fibers to break and increases the energy expenditure during the workout. As a result, the muscles are rebuilt stronger and larger. This tempo is referred to as ideal for developing lean muscle mass. Similarly, the concentric motion is performed in burst motions to allow greater recruitment of intermediary muscles to develop strength and power.
The quick concentric motion is essential for powerlifting movements. However, this might not be true for other exercises and sports. As an example, marathon runners will not benefit from the tempo training of other sports because it can introduce muscle gains that can hinder their agility.
Performing a tempo bench press or incorporating tempo training when performing the bench press allows the lifter to engage both the mind and body.
Tempo training enhances the mind and body connection which not only enhances the lifting experience but also increases its effects on strength and muscle building.
Currently, the 3010 tempo bench press is one of the best tempos in activating the upper body muscles in order to gain strength and reach hypertrophy.
The deadlift is one of the fundamental powerlifting exercises along with bench press and squats. Beginners in the fitness and bodybuilding industry, however, require more experience before performing deadlifts efficiently and safely. Rack pulls make for an introductory exercise to performing deadlifts.
Deadlifts require a full range of motion and maximum knee flexion and extension while rack pulls only require a partial range of motion with minimal knee movement. The rack pull focuses only on the top-end of the deadlift movement, making it a variation of partial deadlifts like block pulls.
Rack pulls and deadlifts have distinct similarities because they are both-hip-hinge movements. This means that both these exercises recruit the gluteal and spinal muscles. While they activate an almost identical set of muscles, the emphasis on the individual muscle is different.
Rack pulls emphasize training the back and the upper shoulder area. This is composed of the muscles such as the latissimus dorsi (lats), rhomboids, and spinal erectors. Deadlifts train the mid and lower back and the glutes. The full range of motion of deadlifts places great emphasis on the lower body for generating force to achieve lockout at the top-end of the exercise.
The deadlift is composed of a wider knee movement through flexion and extension when compared with rack pulls. This requires greater energy output from the lower body which results in greater activation of the hamstring and quad muscles.
It also engages the core muscles, specifically the traverse abdominis. This part of the core muscle is essential to prevent rounding of the back and allows the leg muscles to consistently power the movement.
Rack pulls do not train the lower body as much as deadlifts. However, it is effective at building the back muscles, traps, core muscles, and grip. The back muscles are required to maintain strength and stability when performing rack pulls.
In both exercises, however, the degree of muscle activation and engagement is related to limb length. Taller people with longer limbs perform deadlifts and rack pulls at a slightly lower angle. This results in lower muscle activation.
One of the distinct differences between deadlifts and rack pulls is the range of motion.
Rack pulls are often called partial deadlifts because the exercise resembles the top half of the deadlift. It is relatively similar to performing block pulls where the barbell is already elevated for the lifter.
The rack pull starts with the barbell at an elevated height. The height of the elevation depends on the goal of the lifter and his target muscles. It can be elevated below the knee, at knee level, or a few inches above the knees. The elevation prevents the lifter from placing the barbell on the floor.
The partial range of motion of rack pulls allows the lifter to lift heavier loads when compared with deadlifts. This results in the stronger activation and development of the hip and back muscles and extensors.
It is often used as an accessory exercise for deadlifts where the lifter focuses on the weakest part of the deadlift movement; Usually, this lies in reaching the lockout point of the deadlift. By removing the required knee extension in deadlifts. It also produces less stress on the central nervous system while encouraging the body to recruit more muscle fibers.
The deadlift is considered a staple compound exercise for enhancing strength and gaining muscle for both the upper and lower body. Its full range of motion and maximal knee extension has great applicability in daily movements such as jumping and sprinting and lifting heavy objects from the ground.
In sports, the deadlift is known to improve vertical leap among athletes. It can also increase bone density, which is essential for performance in contact sports such as football and basketball. The overall improvement in musculature also helps in preventing muscle loss and bone degeneration among older individuals.
The deadlift is more focused on developing functional strength. Functional strength refers to the type of strength that is required to perform daily activities. This often requires toning and strengthening of various muscles in the entire body.
Rack pulls are intended to develop, strengthen, and build the back muscles specifically. The partial range of motion allows the lifter to add more weight and achieve hypertrophy for the back faster.
Since rack pulls do not attempt to promote functional strength similar to deadlifts, performing rack pulls often require equipment like squat racks. This assistive equipment is required because its removes the pressure on the lower body for much of the movement and places it instead on the back muscles.
While deadlifts can be taxing due to their total muscle activation, it is one of the most efficient exercises at increasing strength. It is a type of extension exercise that strengthens the muscles through increased testosterone levels which in turn facilitates the release of growth hormones.
Beginners performing deadlifts, however, need coaching because of the various types of deadlifts and the amount of weight optimal for performing deadlifts properly and safely.
Variations of deadlifts include sumo deadlift, deficit deadlift, and Romanian deadlift. Each of these variations requires proper form to prevent the risk of injuring the back muscles and the spine.
Currently, deadlifts rank as one of the riskier exercises when not performed properly. This means that the margin of error when performing deadlifts is lower when compared with other exercises.
Rack pulls, with their reduced range of motion and elevated barbell, are easier to perform when compared with deadlifts. It is the perfect exercise for a beginner who has low fitness experience and wants to practice mechanics.
The rack pull can be performed with an elevated barbell of up to 2 inches above the knees. The lifter can simply focus on executing the top half of the deadlift until he is ready to perform the full lift.
With lesser joint movement, lifters can perform rack pulls until failure and still land the barbell safely. It also does not put the body under tremendous pressure so it is good not only for beginners but also for people under physical rehabilitation from lower back injuries.
Deadlifts and rack pulls are both effective exercises for enhancing the upper and lower body. The deadlift, however, promotes greater lower body muscle activation through full range of motion. The rack pull eliminates much of the knee flexion and extension by beginning at the top-half of the deadlift. This allows the lifter to focus more on strengthening the lower back muscles.
Squats are one of the most fundamental weight training exercises. It is a compound movement that engages multiple major muscles in the body. Despite engaging mostly the posterior chain of the lower body like the hamstrings and the glutes, it also engages other supporting muscles.
Squats use the calf muscles in order to stabilize the knee flexion and ankle movement. It provides a supportive mechanism to the major lower body muscles to help in performing the exercise. It also provides a major push when lifting the legs at the lowest point of the movement.
The calf muscles (along with the anterior tibial muscles) are the first set of muscles that activate when the feet come in contact with the ground. It functions as the accelerator as well as the brakes of the legs when sprinting or jumping. As such, untrained calf muscles are one of the most frequently injured in the body.
The calf muscles do not need to be strong for the legs to perform their regular motion. However, strong calf muscles make running faster and jumping higher easier and more energy-efficient; The calf muscles add explosive strength to leg movements.
Athletes strengthen their calf muscles to gain an advantage over their competition. Their calf training, however, is not as simple as training other muscles in the body. Their training targets specific parts of the calf muscles depending on their fitness or performance goals.
The calf muscle is composed of two muscles: the gastrocnemius and the soleus. These muscles engage during plantarflexion and dorsiflexion or the ankle movement of the feet. Underdeveloped calf muscles can lead to lesser stability, weaker locomotive performance, and higher injury risk.
Between these two components, the gastrocnemius is the more noticeable and receives most of the force when performing activities. This gastrocnemius is made of up to 65% fast-twitch muscle fibers which are responsible for explosive movements like sprinting and jumping.
The soleus muscle lies behind the gastrocnemius and is wholly or partially composed of slow-twitch muscle fibers; It's much more resistant to fatigue. It is responsible for endurance activities such as jogging and walking.
Squats are one of the most popular compound exercises. It can build muscle in almost every major muscle in the body. Its greatest impact, however, is on the lower body, specifically the quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves.
It has significant effects in terms of balance and mobility, making it ideal for muscle coordination in performing functional exercises and activities. It also helps in preventing injuries due to falls, especially as one gets older. Performing squats regularly can trigger testosterone and human growth hormone release which can improve fat burning and promote muscle growth.
As a compound exercise, squats target the legs, glutes, and abdominal muscles which help in regulating glucose and improving insulin sensitivity. This protects the body against cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and obesity. It also improves the functions and processes of the digestive and excretory system.
One of the most important benefits of squats is its accessibility. It does not require any equipment and can be performed fully using one's bodyweight. However, using weights can significantly augment the effects of squats on the body.
The normal biomechanical effects of the squat involve the engagement of the posterior chain of the lower body. This includes the hamstrings and the glutes. The hamstrings in particular are essential for the functional movement and knee flexion when executing the squat; It helps in stabilizing the knee and preventing injuries.
While squats can be performed without weights, heavier squats increase the activation of the affected muscles. It increases the pressure on the hamstring muscles as well as the calves, specifically in terms of stabilizing the exercise.
Several variations of the squats like the jump squat and barbell squat affect the muscles differently. These variations also alter the priority muscles that are affected during the exercise. As an example, the barbell squat greatly affects the back muscles when compared with the other squat variations.
The underdevelopment of the calf muscles is at times attributed to genetics. Using weights such as barbells and kettlebells on squats increases the recruitment of the crucial calf muscles and helps in overriding the genetic component that prevents the muscular development of the calf muscles. Changing the angle of the squat also alters the engaged muscles and increases the load on specific muscles.
Despite engaging the hamstrings, quads, and glutes the most, the calf muscles also have a significant role in performing squats. The calf muscles are responsible for counterbalancing the movement of the quads and knees.
The gastrocnemius muscle of the calves acts as the main foundation for the balance of the lower body. It plays a significant role in how a person squats and the maximum amount of weight possible to squat. The tightness of the muscle fibers of the calf muscles also affects ankle and knee mobility.
Squatting regularly and with sufficient resistance from weights can increase the muscle mass and size of the lower body. Squats hit multiple parts of the body and burn massive amounts of calories, making them effective in fat loss and muscle gain.
The degree of development of the calf muscles is also related to the body type of the individual. Endomorphs and mesomorphs are the common body types that build muscles quickly while ectomorphs struggle to gain muscle mass.
Calf raises are usually used as the training exercise for the calves. It is a light workout exercise that complements heavy squats. Using weights in performing calf raises will increase the overall strength and mobility of the calf muscles. Several variations of the calf raise like the seated calf raise and standing reverse calf raise develops the soleus muscle instead of the gastrocnemius.
However, squats target the calves differently compared with calf raises. While squats do not isolate the calves similar to calf raises, it acts as a supporting muscle when performing the squat movement. It functions as the muscle that controls the overall movement. This leads to a balanced development of the leg muscles where the thigh, glutes, and calves all become bigger.
Adding certain elements to the exercise like using squat shoes or elevation on the heel can significantly alter how the calf muscles are engaged.
Performing squats not only improves the posterior chain of the body as it also targets multiple parts of the upper body, especially the core. However, the effects and role of the calf muscles in performing squats are often underrecognized. While the major leg muscles like hamstrings and glutes are the most targeted muscles during squats, the calf muscles are also engaged as it performs a crucial supportive role during the exercise.
The deadlift is one of the most basic yet most effective compound exercises. It trains various muscle groups in both the upper and lower body. Several variations of the deadlift such as the Romanian Deadlift and the Stiff-Leg Deadlift improve the engagement of specific muscle groups, particularly the hamstrings and the lower back.
The Romanian Deadlift (RDL) and the Stiff-leg Deadlift (SLDL) differ primarily in the knee angle and bar placement which causes a change in the kinetic chain when performing the two deadlifts. The RDL targets more of the hamstring and gluteal muscles while the SLDL targets the glutes and lower back.
Deadlifts improve muscle mass and strengthen the back, thighs, and hips. It improves body coordination and balance as well as improves jumping ability. The amount of weight endured for deadlifts also improves bone mineral density which decreases the risk of leg injuries.
Other types of deadlifts are considered supplemental lifts to target muscle groups that are less prioritized in the conventional deadlift. The Romanian Deadlift (RDL) and the Stiff-leg Deadlift (SLDL) are supplementary lifts that aim to change some of the fundamental mechanics of the conventional deadlift to shift the weight to certain muscle groups. These two lifts also have less knee flexion when compared with conventional deadlifts.
The RDL is considered a basic exercise for more complex movements. It reinforces the lifter's back by preventing the bending of the knees during the lift. However, some coaches would prefer more knee flexion during a RDL.
The primary benefits of the RDL are better glute and hamstring engagement and increased hip strength. This exercise also has great applicability in other lifting sports such as the Olympic weightlifting. It also helps to prevent hamstring injuries which is one of the most common injuries in weightlifting.
The SLDL is very different from the RDL specifically in its basic mechanics and range of motion. Performing a SLDL, however, does not necessarily require locked knees. It is often advisable to unlock the knees when performing a SLDL for a greater transfer of force and to keep the hamstrings activated throughout the motion.
RDL and SLDL also have distinct differences in basic mechanics and range of motion. The weight when performing RDL is usually lower than when performing SLDL. A RDL is usually performed with 30-40% of one-rep max (1RM) or the maximum amount of weight that can be lifted in 1 repetition. A SLDL can reach up to 70% of the 1RM for deadlifts.
Both the SLDL and the RDL target similar muscles. This includes the muscles that conventional deadlifts engage such as the quads, inner thigh, hamstring, glutes, traps, lats, and abdominal muscles. However, the priority muscles for the RDL and the SLDL when compared with the conventional deadlift are the glutes, lower back, upper back, hamstrings, and gripping muscles.
A RDL activates more of the gluteal and hamstring muscles when compared with the SLDL. The SLDL, on the other hand, engages more of the glutes and the lower back, and the spinal erector muscles which increase back strength.
SLDLs when done incorrectly (i.e. with locked out knees) are unable to engage the hamstring muscles at all. The lower back in a neutral position forces the lumbar erectors to carry most of the load especially when lifting the weight up and away from the ground. To remedy this, one can focus on the eccentric contraction of the hamstrings while lowering the weights by controlling the overall downward motion. Meanwhile, the RDL does not present this kind of problem. All in all, the optimal way to train the hamstring muscles both concentrically and eccentrically is to perform RDL over SLDL.
Aside from the difference in target and priority muscles, RDL and SLDL also differ in basic mechanics. The RDL has a greater knee angle compared with the SLDL. Most coaches, however, would incorporate a slight angle in performing a SLDL but not to the extent of the knee angle when performing a RDL.
The greater knee angle of the RDL engages the hamstrings and the glutes. The RDL engages the hip muscles by pulling the hips backward and pushing the hips forward during the eccentric or downward motion and concentric or upward motion, respectively. The range of motion linked to the hips during the RDL minimizes the engagement of the spine resulting in minimal spinal flexion.
The shoulder placement is also a major difference when performing the movements. The shoulders are more in front during a RDL. This is largely due to the greater emphasis on the eccentric motion as well as in the greater knee angle.
Another major difference between the RDL and the SLDL is the range of motion. The RDL only lowers the barbell to as low as the shin before going back to the concentric or upward motion. The SLDL can go as low as the barbell touching the ground. The barbell is also allowed to disengage from the body during SLDL. This, along with the lesser knee angle, allows the SLDL to have a greater engagement of the lower back muscles.
The SLDL also has a greater engagement of the lower back muscles or the lumbar spine because the barbell comes off the floor before the concentric motion. The RDL is only lowered just below the knee which produces an elastic effect when going back to the concentric motion.
The RDL is better and safer for developing the posterior chain of the lower body such as the hamstrings and glutes because of the assistance from the knees during the exercise. The greater knee angle also helps in improving timing when transitioning between the concentric and eccentric motion.
A RDL is also easier to perform for all body types and easier to learn biomechanically. The heavier emphasis on the eccentric motion when performing the RDL promotes strength and muscular development and increases flexibility for injury prevention.
RDL and SLDL are good complementary exercises for conventional deadlifts. Each of these variations of the conventional deadlift aims to shift the kinetic chain by altering the biomechanical form when performing the deadlift.
Many athletes are seen using battle ropes, commonly known as ropes, by performing a series of movements that either creates waves on the rope or slamming of the rope to the ground with great intensity. This workout tool is a simple yet powerful tool for enhancing strength and conditioning the body.
Battle ropes mostly engage the upper body muscles such as the shoulder muscles like the deltoids and rhomboids, the upper and lower back muscles, the arm muscles, and also grip. However, incorporating jumps and lunges when performing battle rope exercises can also train the hip and leg muscles, especially the glutes.
A battle rope measures 30 feet long and can be 2 inches thick. It is anchored in the middle so the individual has 15 feet of rope in each hand. It is also portable and relatively inexpensive.
John Brookfield invented the battle rope and made them an adaptable piece of equipment that can benefit people across the fitness spectrum. It is easy to learn so beginners exercises easily. There are also variations of the battle rope and battle rope movements that will challenge professionals in fitness and sports.
Battle rope exercises can be low-impact so people rehabilitating from injuries can perform movements safely and effectively. It can also be high-intensity where the individual can combine a variety of waves, slams, and whips along with lunges and squats to engage the upper and lower body muscles.
Unlike weights, the use and benefits of ropes depend on the movement of the individual. This means that the individual can adjust the grip, high point, and proximity to the anchor to either increase or decrease the engagement of the muscles.
Performing rope exercises is just as effective as weight training exercises for increasing strength and reaching muscle hypertrophy. It can even complement the effects of machines and weights in developing muscle tone and muscle endurance.
However, one of the unique benefits of rope exercises is the improvement in mobility and stability, promoting an increase in range of motion (ROM). It also promotes body conditioning to reduce the risk of sustaining injuries during stressful physical movements.
Some of the basic battle rope exercises are a lateral whip, bicep waves, outside spiral, jumping slam, and lying T. Core-specific movements include side plank wave, two-point wave, and full circle wave. For the upper body, alternating waves, lunge slams, and wrestler throws are some of the most used exercises.
The more strength an individual inputs into performing the slam and the higher the lift of the slam, the higher the energy expenditure and amount of calories burned and a greater increase in strength. Thus, ropes can be used as a recreational tool, a rehabilitating tool, or a fitness and strength-building tool.
Battle rope exercises are compound exercises used to target the upper body and can also incorporate the lower body through the addition of squats and lunges. It can also be used as high-intensity interval training (HIIT) by performing exercises quickly until the point of exhaustion.
Ropes can challenge different muscles on the body depending on the exercise, the grip, and the distance to the anchor point. It can also engage the left and right sides of the body by engaging both sides of the body equally and independently from each other. This is better performed by moving the rope in different directions. This lessens the muscle imbalance in the body, leading to better body coordination.
Alternate waves using ropes can engage not only the upper and lower body but also the cognitive faculty for a better mind-body connection throughout the exercise.
Performing rope-based exercises may seem easy, but beginners may have a hard time performing these exercises for 20 seconds without rest. These exercises burn a lot of calories leading to Excessive Post Oxygen Consumption (EPOC), which is commonly known as afterburn. As a result, the upper body muscles and arms may feel sore.
The abundance of movements using ropes, however, can be effectively used to avoid a fitness plateau. It is easy to progressively overload rope exercises by increasing work time from 20 seconds to up to 45 seconds, moving closer to the anchor point, or performing more progressive movements to make the exercise more difficult. It is also possible to upgrade to a thicker and heavier rope for added resistance.
Battle ropes can train most of the upper body muscles such as the arms, core, and upper and lower back, especially the deltoid and rhomboid muscles. This works the same group of shoulder muscles as the shoulder press. It can also train the glutes, hips, and leg muscles by practicing the basic athletic stance when performing rope exercises or incorporating jump and lunge movements.
Combining different rope movements can increase overall body coordination and improve balance. In the process, it can burn more calories than weight training and cardiovascular exercises while providing less pressure on the joints and connective tissues.
Professional trainers use ropes to train athletes to attack both major and minor body parts and address common weakness spots such as the core, hips, knees, and ankles. It can train the core stabilizing muscles in both the upper and lower body by using explosive movements and encouraging control of the rope throughout the exercise.
The battle rope uses actual physical and multi-directional movements to train and condition the various muscle groups in the upper and lower body. While it is mainly an upper body strength and conditioning exercise, various modes of exercise can engage the lower body muscles similar to cardiovascular exercises.
It is worth noting that as with all exercises, control must be observed throughout the whole movement. Too fast of a specific movement can be damaging to the tendons and ligaments due to sudden momentum changes. On the other hand, too slow of a movement may even serve as a detriment to your fitness goals
Grip refers to the ability and extent to which a person can hold on to the handle of an exercise bar or weighted equipment. Grip, or more specifically the angle of the grip, shifts the engagement of the muscle and allows emphasis on a certain muscle group over another. The supinated grip is one of the basic and also one of the most popular types of grip.
A supinated grip describes the orientation of the palms; Where the palms are facing the body of the lifter. A supinated grip emphasizes the engagement of the biceps, triceps, core muscles, pectoralis muscles, and latissimus dorsi (lats).
Grip is a crucial yet under-recognized part of weightlifting. Depending on the individual's fitness goal, the grip can alter the engaged muscle group and produce a different type of gain. Specifically, changing grips alters the length of elongation of each muscle, emphasizing certain muscle groups.
The most discussed types of grip are the pronated and supinated grip. Altering the angle of the grip when performing a repetition significantly changes the engagement of the musculature, especially when performing compound exercises and bodyweight training.
Both the basic types of grip in pronated and supinated grip provide unique benefits to enhancing functional strength and improving overall performance. Incorporating and balancing exercises that use these two types of grips not only enhance grip strength but also provide a balanced development to musculature.
Pronated grip or overhand grip refers to the type of grip where-in the palm of the hands faces away from the individual. This grip engages the back and the core muscles.
The overhand grip also greatly engages the forearm muscles and improves grip strength. It safely secures the barbell using the forearm muscles to prevent slippage when performing squats.
Supinated grip or underhand grip describes the orientation of hands; The palms of the hands face the body.
This grip engages the biceps, the pectoralis muscles, the core as well as the medial head of the tricep and the lats. A supinated grip is used in exercises like dumbbell curls, bench press, deadlift, etc. A pronated pull-up can become a chin-up through the use of a supinated grip.
It is also possible to rotate the grip in between pronated and supinated in certain fitness equipment. This changes the elbow flexor and also shifts the engaged muscle from the brachialis to the brachioradialis; This grip is called a "neutral grip."
The mixed grip or alternated grip is commonly used when performing deadlifts. Powerlifters and Olympic lifters shift to using a mixed grip where one hand is supinated while the other is pronated to allow the individual to lift more weight and ensure the barbell is secure.
The mixed grip, however, is associated with muscular imbalance due to the difference in muscle recruitment (pronated and supinated). It is only recommended to use a mixed grip for safety when lifting heavy weights.
The supinated grip is also versatile in that it engages the lat muscles better than the pronated grip. The supinated grip can handle more weight due to the recruitment of the bicep and tricep muscles as it allows lifters to pull more weight down to engage the lat muscles.
This grip can maximize the contraction and elongation of the lat muscles needed to build a stronger back. It also activates some of the underutilized, small muscles of the back similar to the traverse abdominis muscles.
When performing lat pulldowns using the supinated grip, it is important to lean back only at a slight angle and pull the handle down. Leaning too much can shift the weight to the upper back and rhomboid muscles.
It is important to actively recruit the lats and avoid solely using the biceps to pull the handle to alleviate the pressure on the back and spinal muscles.
The supinated grip is isolating in that it engages more of the biceps and core muscles than other muscle groups of the upper body. Using a supinated grip with an open grip where the thumbs do not wrap around the handle puts even more emphasis on the biceps.
The different muscle activation lies in the placement of the elbows during the exercise. The supinated grip drives the elbow in a vertical position and the forearms in a perpendicular position to the ground. This vertical motion activates and relies heavily on the biceps and the triceps to facilitate the motion.
Changing from a pronated to supinated grip removes the pressure on the shoulder girdle muscles while increasing the activation of the lat muscles during the end of the motion.
While it is possible to lift more weights when performing workouts using a supinated grip, the increase in weight should be gradual to allow the long head of the bicep muscles to adjust and reduce the risk of a bicep tear.