One Way To Improve ANY Upper-Body Exercise


Grip – Your new secret weapon

“How do I grip the weight on this exercise?”

I get this question a lot on just about every upper body exercise that I prescribe to clients and gym buddies. There’s no right or wrong answer. Just a series of questions to ask.

  1. “What’s the purpose of the exercise I am doing?” (Strength, hypertrophy, or both.)
  2. “What muscle/muscles am I trying to place the tension on?”
  3. “How can I grip the weight to ensure that the muscle I want to train is opposite the line of resistance?” Read more about line of resistance here.

"How can I change my grip for better results?"

I’m so glad you asked! Let’s use concrete examples from the questions above.

Gripping for strength

I know this is an article about bodybuilding. But there is a ton of research that reports that a lifter will experience hypertrophy from doing strength work. So you definitely need to know about gripping for the purpose of moving the maximum amount of weight possible.

You’ve got a few options.

• Hook Grip.

Hook grip refers to tucking your thumb underneath your other four fingers. A hook grip is typically used by powerlifters when deadlifting heavy weights. By using the hook grip, you are turning your hands into a pair of straps, which allows a lifter to lift more weights, but this method hurts your thumbs like hell.

• Thumbless grip.

The thumbless grip is used for pressing motions. It refers to not wrapping your thumbs around the bar. This grip allows the bar to sit deeper in the palm of the hand making this grip more comfortable for people with wrist issues. Can be dangerous if the bar slips out of the lifter’s hands

• The Rippetoe.

A grip that's designed for placing the bar deep into the palm of your hand. Created by Mark Rippetoe himself.

Gripping for hypertrophy

The best method I have found for manipulating grip for bodybuilding purposes is using an offset grip. An offset grip refers to holding a weight closer to one side, as opposed to grasping the weight in the middle. You may see people do this with dumbbell curls. You probably haven’t seen someone use an offset grip with cables, which is a powerful technique I recently discovered. (I’ll show you how to offset your grip with cables in a video below).

There are two options for an offset grip

1. Loading the act of rotation.

Loading the act of rotation refers to offsetting your grip so that you must expend energy to rotate a bone or joint.

This option is applicable when a muscle is responsible for the rotation of a bone or joint.

For example, the biceps are a forearm supinator (supination means that you twist your forearm until your palm is facing upward). So the biceps would be a perfect candidate for the act of rotation option.

2. Loading the position of rotation.

This option dictates that you use an offset grip to maintain the position of rotation throughout an exercise. This method lends itself to the line of resistance concept I mentioned earlier.

Muscles that are good candidates for this method are smaller muscles that require strict form. Loading the position of rotation will force you into keeping the muscle you are training opposite the line of resistance.

For example, the lateral deltoid raises the arm up and out to the side of your body, but so does the anterior deltoid. So the best way to target the lateral deltoid, and keep the front delt from taking over the exercise is to place the lateral delt opposite the line of resistance.

The issue then becomes KEEPING the side delt opposite the line of resistance. The tendency that most people have is to externally rotate their shoulders (put your right arm out in front of you and point your thumb to the right, or vice versa with your left arm) when performing all shoulder raise exercises, which heavily involves the front delt.

The best way to fight that tendency is to the load the position of internal rotation of the shoulder joint.

There are two videos below. The first is a youtube video that shows how to offset your grip with cables. The second demonstrates four exercises that take advantage of loading the position and act of rotation (2 exercises for each).