Pronated Grip Vs Supinated Grip For Weightlifting, Explained

Which grip position is which? Our personal trainer gives us a full explanation, exercise lists included!

Using the proper hand grip is essential when you are lifting weights or bodybuilding.

However, how you should hold the weights is not always intuitive, and beginners may be unfamiliar with terms like pronated grip vs. supinated grip or underhand grip vs. overhand grip.

These grip positions can clarify how you should be holding barbells or dumbbells when lifting weights.

So, what is a pronated grip? What is a supinated grip? Is a pronated grip an underhand grip or an overhand grip? Which exercises use a supinated vs pronated grip?

In this guide, we will discuss the different types of hand grip positions for lifters, why your hand placement and grip positioning matter for weight lifting exercise reps, types of exercises that use a pronated grip, and types of exercises that use a supinated grip.

Let’s dive in! 

A person doing a pull up with a pronated grip.

What Is a Hand Grip Position for Lifting Weights?

When we think about lifting weights, we generally focus on the macro perspective of the body in terms of the gross body positioning of the legs, trunk, and arms.

For example, what do you think about when performing a bench press exercise?

Do you think about placing your feet flat on the floor, your knees bent to 90° off of the bench, your back in a neutral position along the weight bench, and your shoulders and arms positioned properly in line with one another so that you can lift and lower the barbell?

However, proper hand positioning is noticeably lacking from the big picture of a weight-lifting exercise in your training program.

Unless you are performing bodyweight exercises, lifting weights requires gripping or grasping a barbell, the handlebar of a dumbbell, the handle or horn of a kettlebell, the bar of a landmine station bar, or even the handles of cable machines and resistance bands.

Almost every weightlifting exercise has a specific hand grip position that you should use.

There are two primary components that together constitute the proper grip for a weightlifting exercise:

  1. Hand Placement or Hand Spacing
  2. Grip Position
A pull-up.

In brief, your hand placement or hand spacing refers to how far apart your hands are if you are doing a bilateral exercise such as a wide grip or a narrow grip.

For example, if you are doing a barbell exercise, there will be a certain distance along the barbells that you should space your hands.

Essentially, your hand spacing is how far apart your hands are.

Even for dumbbell exercises, although your hands are not on the same dumbbell handle in most cases, if you are lifting a dumbbell in each hand, there are generally certain technique instructions that will provide guidance as to how far apart your hands or arms should be to maximize the effectiveness of the exercise.

Grip position refers to how you should be holding the barbell, dumbbell, kettlebell, or handle of whatever weightlifting implement you are using for the exercise.

What Are the Different Types of Grip Positions for Lifting Weights?

The hand grip positions or grip styles for a weightlifting exercise refer to whether your hands are facing up, down, inwards, sideways, etc., relative to your body.

There are several different grip positions that are common when lifting weights. 

The three most common hand grip positions are a supinated grip, a pronated grip, and a neutral grip.

Let’s look at the differences between a pronated grip and a supinated grip as well as where a neutral grip fits into the picture.

A bicep curl.

What Is a Supinated Grip?

It is often easiest to start with understanding a supinated grip because one of the classic strength training exercises, biceps curls, uses a supinated grip (unless you are specifically doing a different type of curls that alters the hand grip positioning).

With biceps curls, you are standing upright and your palms are facing away from your body as you hold the dumbbells. This is considered a supinated grip, and it is also considered the “anatomical position.“

Anatomical position refers to an established, universal framework that health professionals have agreed upon so that body motions can be described using the same starting position or language.

In anatomical position, the body is standing erect with the arms down at your sides and your palm facing forward.

In this position, the hands are supinated. If you were to grip dumbbells and keep your palms forward, you would use a supinated grip. 

Here, you can see that a supinated grip is the same as an underhand grip because if you were to wrap your fingers around the handle of a dumbbell, the dumbbell would sit in your palm, and your fingers would be curling up from underneath.

Therefore, a supinated grip is an underhand grip.

A supinated grip can also occur in positions when your body is not standing upright in the anatomical position.

For example, when you are performing chin-ups, your hands are in a supinated grip.

It can be easier to think about a supinated grip as one that occurs any time you are using an underhand grip position or one where your palm is facing up.

A front raise.

What Is a Pronated Grip?

With a pronated grip, your palms are facing behind your body in the anatomical position.

If you perform the upper body exercise, forward raises from the standing position, you use this pronated grip. 

At the top position, when the dumbbells are straight out in front of your chest, your palms face the floor.

You can see that a pronated grip is an overhand grip because when the weights are down at your sides, your hand is wrapped over the handle with your fingers curled under to hold the weights up.

When you perform pull-ups, your hands are in a pronated hand grip position, with your palms facing away from your body.

Generally, the pronated grip is the overhand position with your palms facing down.

A renegade row.

What Is a Neutral Grip?

With a neutral grip, your hands are halfway between pronated and supinated, meaning that your palms are facing inward towards each other and your wrists are in a neutral position. 

In anatomical position, the neutral hand position would be with your thumbs facing forwards, your pinkies facing backward, and your palms facing the sides of your thighs by your hips.

The benefit of the neutral grip position is that it tends to put less tension and strain on your wrists.

Some specialty barbells allow for a neutral grip. This can improve comfort and ergonomics, potentially allowing you to lift more weight while decreasing strain on your joints.

For example, some people find the trap bar deadlift to be more comfortable than a conventional barbell deadlift because the trap bar deadlift enables you to use a neutral grip vs a pronated grip.

A hammer curl.

When Should I Use a Pronated Grip And When Should I Use a Supinated Grip?

There isn’t necessarily a better grip type overall.

The best grip for a given exercise often depends on the particular muscle fibers you are trying to target.

This is because different muscles are activated when you use a pronated grip vs supinated grip because your wrist position, forearm position, and angle of elbow flexion will change.

For example, if you want to work your biceps, it generally helps to use a supinated grip, whereas if you want to use your brachioradialis in the forearms, you will get better activation with a pronated vs supinated grip.

That said, there are certainly benefits of using a supinated grip or pronated grip for certain exercises.

For example, evidence suggests that using a pronated vs supinated grip (overhand vs underhand grip) for lat pull-downs helps activate your latissimus dorsi (back muscles) more effectively.1Lusk, S. J., Hale, B. D., & Russell, D. M. (2010). Grip Width and Forearm Orientation Effects on Muscle Activity During the Lat Pull-Down. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research24(7), 1895–1900. https://doi.org/10.1519/jsc.0b013e3181ddb0ab

However, other studies have shown that in general, when comparing a supinated grip vs pronated grip position, most people have greater strength with a supinated hand grip or an underhand vs overhand grip.2Fan, S., Cepek, J., Symonette, C., Ross, D., Chinchalkar, S., & Grant, A. (2018). Variation of Grip Strength and Wrist Range of Motion with Forearm Rotation in Healthy Young Volunteers Aged 23 to 30. Journal of Hand and Microsurgery11(02), 088–093. https://doi.org/10.1055/s-0038-1676134

A lateral raise.

Exercises That Use a Pronated Grip

Many of the big compound lifts with heavy weights such as powerlifting exercises or CrossFit exercises with a barbell use a pronated grip.

Here are some examples of exercises that use a pronated vs supinated grip: 

  • Pull-Ups
  • Deadlifts
  • Back Squats
  • Clean & Jerk
  • Bench Presses
  • Barbell Rows
  • Overhead Presses
  • Lat Pull-Downs
  • Straight Bar Triceps Push-Downs

Exercises That Use a Supinated Grip

Here are some examples of exercises that use a supinated vs pronated grip: 

  • Chin-Ups
  • Front Squats
  • Standard Biceps Curls
  • Preacher’s Curls
An overhead press.

Exercises That Use a Neutral Grip

Here are some examples of exercises that use a neutral vs supinated or pronated grip: 

  • Hammer Curls
  • Triceps Push-Downs With a Rope Attachment
  • Trap Bar Deadlifts
  • Renegade Rows
  • Bent Over Rows / Dumbbell Row
  • Swiss Bar Rowes
  • Swiss Bar Overhead Presses
  • Swiss Bar Bench Presses

Playing around with your grip position can add variety to your workouts and help target different muscle fibers.

For a workout and full videos of grip exercises to improve your grip strength, click here.

A grip-strength meter.

References

  • 1
    Lusk, S. J., Hale, B. D., & Russell, D. M. (2010). Grip Width and Forearm Orientation Effects on Muscle Activity During the Lat Pull-Down. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research24(7), 1895–1900. https://doi.org/10.1519/jsc.0b013e3181ddb0ab
  • 2
    Fan, S., Cepek, J., Symonette, C., Ross, D., Chinchalkar, S., & Grant, A. (2018). Variation of Grip Strength and Wrist Range of Motion with Forearm Rotation in Healthy Young Volunteers Aged 23 to 30. Journal of Hand and Microsurgery11(02), 088–093. https://doi.org/10.1055/s-0038-1676134
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Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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