Tiny tweaks in your wrist position when pumping iron can result in impressive muscular improvements. “It is often overlooked how a simple change in hand placement can make a difference in muscular results,” explains Natalie Wolfe, NASM, CPT.

Without having to change an actual exercise, “Simply adjusting your hand/wrist position when lifting weights is a very effective method for training the targeted muscles from different angles, and placing new and different stresses on the body.” (Which is needed to take your muscles to the next level.”

The result? Your muscles gain strength from all angles, boosting stamina, strength, and muscular growth.

So, instead of hitting your muscles from one angle all the time, possibly causing a plateau, you’re challenging your muscles in every direction, forcing them to grow.

First, let’s look at the different wrist position and grip variations best for building strength.

Bodybuilder Juan Morales working out his chest with a close grip barbell bench press exercise

Grip/Wrist Position Variations for Muscular Growth

Now that you know the importance of switching up your hand position when lifting, let’s get a grip on what grip variations are most commonly used.

“Avid gymgoers should consider using grip variations such as the pronated, supinated, mixed, neutral, and hook grips for training.” Says Wolfe.

These variations can make all the difference when looking to shake things up in the gym.

  • Pronated Grip (also known as an overhand grip): Facing your palms away from you when performing a resistance exercise. Often used for bicep curls, pull-ups, bench presses, deadlifts, and squats.
  • Supinated Grip (Also known as an Underhand Grip): Your palms will be facing upward or toward you. Often used for moves like the chin-up or reverse row. (Palms facing you, knuckles facing away).
  • Mixed Grip: A combination of Supinated and Pronated grip positions.
  • Neutral Grip: A Grip that is neither supinated nor pronated, but with palms facing each other, as in the Hammer Curl exercise.
  • Hook Grip: A method of gripping a barbell by overlapping the index and middle finger over the thumb. Often used in strength-related sports such as Olympic weightlifting, PowerLifting, and CrossFit.

How Grip Variations Challenge Your Muscles

Small adjustments in hand positioning call for significant results.

The Bench Press: Wolfe explains that Most lifters place their hands just a tad wider than shoulder-width on the barbell, and in general, that delivers the best results, hitting your pecs but also working your triceps. However, if you spread your hands just a few inches wider, you’ll place even more stress on your pecs challenging your muscles even further and from another ‘angle’. On the other hand, moving your hands closer together will have the opposite effect, placing the demand on your triceps while putting your pecs into more of the supporting role.

Pulling Exercises: “Changing your grip-width during stretching exercises, such as Rows and Pullups, have a similar effect on the muscles, explains Wolfe. Going wide focuses more on your rear delts and upper back muscles, including your traps and rhomboids, while using a narrow grip forces your lats and biceps to work harder. “There are so many back muscles that just changing your grip from pronated to supinated can change the targeted muscle,” she says.

Bicep Exercises: Typically, a bicep curl is done with a supinated grip, (meaning your palms are facing towards you). “For the Reverse Curl, the hands are in a pronated grip, meaning your palms are facing away from you. Switching your grip to palms down will target your forearms and your grip strength much more than a regular Curl,” says Wolfe, again, resulting in muscular changes.

“Your grip can also be put in a neutral position when training biceps,” Wolfe says, and an example of a neutral grip exercise is the Hammer Curl as you put most stress on the forearm doing them. These are just a few examples of what happens when switching up your grip on certain exercises,” says Wolfe encouraging you not to be afraid to play around with switching it up every now and then. “There are many more exercises and body parts that can be manipulated by doing so,” she says.

How Often Should You Switch Your Grip/Wrist Position?

When your training program has grown stale and your results have slowed, Wolfe stresses that changing your grip position is one minor tweak you can use to get past a plateau. “You don’t necessarily have to change your grip position during every workout, especially if hypertrophy is your goal, “she says. “Progressive overload and time under tension are still the bread and butter of muscle growth; It’s when you hit that wall in a certain exercise that changing your grip can help you progress.”

Simply put, when you hit a wall, a plateau, and struggle to see change, change your grip position.

Wolfe’s Tips to Ensure Wrist and Grip Health

Stretch: Stretching your wrists weekly and adding a couple of grip strength exercises into your mobility regimen will help keep your wrist and grip healthy.

Wrist Straps: Wearing wrist wraps for heavier movements, like bench, bicep curls, shoulder presses, etc., will also add extra support for less wear and tear over time.

And as with everything else in exercise, listen to your body; you know when you need to rest. If you’re having pain beyond the normal soreness, take time to rest and stretch.