Supinated Grip: Purpose and How to Use

published by: Debbie Luna
Last Updated:
November 9, 2022

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).

Importance of Grip

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.

Different Types of Grip

alternating grip
Alternating Grip (Supinated and Pronated)

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.

close grip chin up

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; In elite levels of lifting, the hook grip is also quite common as it compensates for the lack of forearm strength in comparison to the lower body.

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.

Benefits of a Supinated Grip

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.

Muscle Activation When Using a Supinated Grip

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.

curling with supinated grip
Curling with Supinated Grip

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.

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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