Pronated Grip: Purpose and How to Use

published by: Debbie Luna
Last Updated:
July 19, 2022

Hand placement and grip technique are among one of the most important factors when it comes to resistance training, as the manner in which the exerciser’s hand is shaped and its position relative to other parts of the body can dictate a number of training characteristics, altering the total stimuli of the workout.

One among these grip types is that of the pronated grip (also known as the overhand grip), wherein the hand is rotated at a 90 degree angle in comparison to the wrist, with the biceps brachii muscle group and the forearms being placed in a less activated position due to their attachment points and kinetics.

The pronated grip is utilized in a variety of resistance exercises such as the deadlift, pull up and upright row so as to alter the risk of injury and muscle group activation pattern of the exercise, usually in concerns to the biceps brachii and forearm muscles.

What is the Purpose of the Pronated Grip?

The pronated grip is used in weightlifting and other forms of resistance exercise in order to aid in the development of muscle groups such as the biceps brachii, deltoids, latissimus dorsi, trapezius and a number of other upper body muscle groups connected anatomically and kinetically to the pronated hand grip position.

In most exercises, it involves facing the hands in the opposite direction of the exerciser’s torso, reducing stress placed on the inner elbow and clavicles in factor of force being redistributed to the posterior deltoid muscle group and nearby tissues along the back of the body.

barbell deadlift movement

Apart from allowing greater activation to be placed on certain muscle groups during a number of exercises, the pronated grip can also reduce the risk of certain injuries occurring such as bicep tears, wrist torsion injuries or inner elbow impingement.

How is the Pronated Grip Used in Lifting?

The pronated grip is more often used in pulling type lifting exercises such as the deadlift or barbell row, as it is less conductive to proper force exertion in pushing exercises - though that is not to say that a few push type free weight exercises do not use the pronated grip as well.

In pull ups, for example, the usage of a pronated grip as opposed to a neutral or supinated grip places greater emphasis on the latissimus dorsi and rhomboids as the biceps brachii are relegated to a less significant role during the movement, especially in comparison to the supinated grip of the chin up.

pull up

However, the pronated grip is not always advantageous to the lifter, as it will alter which particular muscle groups are recruited as well as the angle of resistance relative to certain joints in the body, reducing total force output capacity in certain respects.

What are the Most Common Pronated Grip Exercises?

As the pronated grip is utilized in dozens of resistance exercises, we have instead chosen to list the three most common classes of resistance exercises that the majority of which make use of the pronated grip in their standard variations.

Various Rows

Among the numerous different rows, most share the same factor of utilizing the pronated grip so as to induce greater latissimus dorsi and trapezius muscle group activation, especially when the row is a unilateral vertical pulling movement such as the barbell row, hex bar row or upright row - all of which are meant to target the upper and mid back, which is enabled by the pronated grip.

bent over row

Certain types or rows or their variations may instead use a neutral or supinated grip, but this is primarily done to shift the focus of the exercise to the biceps brachii, taking away training stimulus from the back instead.

One other factor relating to the pronated grip is its marked improvement in brachioradialis muscle recruitment, a muscle along the side of the arm that is notoriously difficult to recruit; with a neutral or pronated grip allowing for it to be targeted to greater effect in row and floor pull exercises.

Presses

Exercises such as the overhead press and bench press make use of the pronated grip as it allows the barbell to remain in a more secure position without sacrificing triceps brachii and pectoralis muscle group activation.

Though variations of many presses (with the chest press in particular) can make use of a supinated grip so as to induce greater anterior deltoid head and pectoralis minor muscle activation, these muscle groups are often considered secondary mover muscles in the performance of these compound press exercises, and as such are less commonly used.

Instead, the pronated grip is more frequently seen in modern workout programs involving press movements as it not only improves muscle group recruitment as was mentioned previously - but also allows for certain biomechanics to take place that are otherwise difficult with a supinated grip, such as reduced elbow flaring in the bench press, or a full elbow extension range of motion in the military press.

Back Pulls

The most effective use of the pronated grip is in various types of pull exercises, such as the deadlift, pull up, trap shrug or reverse wrist curl, wherein the pronated grip allows for maximum range of motion and biomechanic allowance while allowing for the intended muscle group activation to take place.

barbell rack pull

This is usually the muscle groups of the upper and mid back, as well as the deltoids and biceps brachii - all of which are in line with the rotation of the wrist and position of the forearms in relation to the pronated grip.

In certain instances of floor pull exercises such as the deadlift or rack pull, the exerciser may choose to use both a supinated and pronated grip that is otherwise known as a “mixed grip”, allowing for more weight to be lifted at the cost of symmetry and equal force distribution.

Pros and Cons of the Pronated Grip

Much like any other technique or method relating to resistance exercise, the usage of a pronated grip comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages that the exerciser must learn to make use of in order to maximize the effectiveness and benefits of this particular grip type.

Pros

The pronated grip presents far more pros than it does disadvantages; with such characteristics like greater capacity for the recruitment of certain muscle groups and a more advantageous position kinetically and anatomically during the performance of specific exercises.

In exercises such as the pull up, barbell deadlift or row, the hand is placed in a pronated or overhand position so as to maximize the activation of the intended muscle groups while placing as little stress as possible on potential anatomical weak points in the exerciser’s body.

Cons

In terms of disadvantages however, it should be noted that the pronated grip is considered to be perhaps the weakest grip technique in terms of retaining a hold on a heavy object, as well as kinetic force transmission from other parts of the body.

This is the reason why many exercisers will often modify the pronated grip into a hook grip or otherwise switch to a different grip type when moving particularly heavy loads, such as in maximal deadlift sets or rack pulls.

Additionally, the exerciser must keep in mind that though the biceps brachii muscle group may still be activated to an extent with a pronated grip, the two heads of this muscle group are not trained equally, and the exerciser will be far better served utilizing a supinated or neutral grip if biceps brachii training stimulus is their main goal.

Frequently Asked Questions About the Pronated Grip

Is the Pronated Grip Safe?

Yes, the pronated grip is quite safe, and even safer than other grip techniques in certain situations such as the barbell back squat or overhead press where the joints are “stacked” in such a way that the usage of a pronated grip will reduce total shear force placed on vulnerable parts of the exerciser’s body.

While there are certain exercises that are considered unsafe to be performed with a pronated grip, these are often rare and are usually performed with the use of a supinated or neutral grip instead, such as in the case of bicep curls or similar exercises.

Can Changing Grip Type Help Progressive Overload?

Changing the grip type will also subsequently alter the muscle groups that are activated by the exercise and the extent to which these muscle groups are activated. 

As such, it is indeed true that altering the grip type used in an exercise can aid in progressive overload - though this is a rather niche case and the pronated grip is rarely ever utilized in such a manner.

One notable case of this may be in the exerciser switching from the supinated grip of a chin up to the pronated grip of a pull up, thereby subtracting the biceps brachii from the equation (in a fashion) and instead forcing the various muscles of the upper back to bear more of the resistance, thereby increasing the training stimulus placed on these muscle groups and instilling a roundabout type of progressive overload.

Are the False Grip/Mixed Grip/Hook Grip and the Pronated Grip the Same?

There is some confusion between the pronated grip and several other grip techniques that utilize a similar overhand form to it. 

However, these are not considered to be the same type of grip technique at all, as each different grip method presents its own set of characteristics, advantages, disadvantages and various other training related factors that are not replicated in the pronated grip.

In the case of the false grip or the “suicide grip”, the thumb is not wrapped around the barbell during the exercise and as such the forearm muscles are less involved in the movement, making the false grip distinct form the pronated grip.

This is also the case in the hook grip, wherein the exerciser will still utilize a double overhand grip, but will instead trap their thumb beneath their other four fingers so as to maximize grip load capacity, presenting distinctly different kinetics to the pronated grip as well.

Additionally, though the mixed grip does indeed utilize the pronated grip, it is only on one side as the other hand will instead be in a supinated form and therefore the mixed grip must be considered separate from the traditional double overhand pronated grip method.

References

1. Youdas, James W; Amundson, Collier L; Cicero, Kyle S; Hahn, Justin J; Harezlak, David T; Hollman, John H Surface Electromyographic Activation Patterns and Elbow Joint Motion During a Pull-Up, Chin-Up, or Perfect-Pullup™ Rotational Exercise, Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: December 2010 - Volume 24 - Issue 12 - p 3404-3414 doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181f1598c

2. Lorie Gage Richards, Bonni Olson, Pamela Palmiter-Thomas; How Forearm Position Affects Grip Strength. Am J Occup Ther February 1996, Vol. 50(2), 133–138. doi: https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.50.2.133

3. LEHMAN, GREGORY J. THE INFLUENCE OF GRIP WIDTH AND FOREARM PRONATION/SUPINATION ON UPPER-BODY MYOELECTRIC ACTIVITY DURING THE FLAT BENCH PRESS, Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: August 2005 - Volume 19 - Issue 3 - p 587-591

Debbie (Deb) started powerlifting and Olympic lifting in High School as part of her track team's programming; She continues to train in order to remain athletic. Inspire US allows Deb to share information related to training, lifting, biomechanics, and more.
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