Yes, how you hold your weight does matter. Get a breakdown of when to use a pronated grip or a supinated grip to get the most out of your sweat session.
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Woman performing deadlift exercise with weight bar using Pronated grip
Credit: Getty Images

Even if you're a relative newbie to strength training, you've probably heard countless times just how important it is to get your form right. Perform a deadlift with a rounded back or locked-out knees, for example, and you might increase your risk of injury or struggle to reach your fitness goals. But your alignment and posture aren't the only aspects of exercise form you should keep in mind.

How you hold or grip a weight is also very important because it can influence which muscles are targetted, says Allison Tenney, a certified strength and conditioning specialist in Austin, Texas. Learn more about the key difference between a pronated grip and a supinated grip, plus when to use each.

Pronated Grip vs. Supinated Grip, Defined

Put simply, a pronated grip is an overhand grip, and your palms will generally face away from your body, says Tenney. (The exception: deadlifts and bent-over rows, during which your plans will face your body.) "You can use a pronated grip for basically every exercise — it's really the go-to," she explains. "But you're going to want to use them specifically for most of your 'pressing' exercises." For example, you might use a pronated grip to perform a chest press, shoulder press, or barbell back squat. And in the latter instance, a pronated grip plays a key safety role, as it allows you firmly grasp the bar and keep it racked — not sliding off your back, she explains. 

On the flip side, a supinated grip is an underhand grip, with your palms typically facing toward your body, says Tenney. (Again, your palms will face away from you during deadlifts and bent-over rows.) You'll often use the supinated grip to tackle certain "pulling" exercises, such as bicep curls or inverted rows, she adds. That said, some exercises can be performed with either grip, including pull-ups, lat pull-downs, and bent-over rows. Depending on which grip you use, the exercise can target different muscles.  

When to Use a Pronated Grip or a Supinated Grip

While it may be safer to use a pronated grip rather than a supinated grip in certain situations (think: squats and lunges with a barbell back-racked on your shoulders), most often, you should simply choose the grip style that helps you meet your fitness goals.

During Pull-Ups and Chin-Ups

The exact muscle groups a pull-up most heavily targets all depends on your grip. If you're performing a traditional pull-up with a pronated grip, "you're going to be engaging more of your back and core muscles and targeting your lats and your rhomboids," says Tenney. However, a chin-up — which uses a supinated grip — will activate your pecs and biceps more, research shows. Both exercises can be welcome additions to your workout routine, so when choosing between the two, consider which muscles you'd like to target that day.

During Lat Pull-Downs

As with pull-ups, using a pronated grip during lat pull-downs tends to engage the latissimus dorsi muscles more so than a supinated grip, according to research published in the Strength and Conditioning Journal. ICYDK, the lat muscles help support good posture and allow you to extend and rotate your shoulder and arm, according to the Cleveland Clinic. So if you're hoping to fix your slouching, performing lat pulldowns with a pronated grip could help you get one step closer to meeting that goal.

During Deadlifts

In general, a pronated grip may be most beneficial while tackling deadlifts, says Tenney. "You want to be engaging those lats because of how big of a pull the exercise is," she explains. "If you switch your grip, you're not going to be able to engage them as much, hence you won't be able to lift as much."

Once you start lifting heavy and your grip strength becomes a limiting factor (think: you're strong enough to lift the weight, but your grip begins to falter after a few reps), consider an alternating grip, with one hand pronated and one hand supinated, she suggests. "When you're pronated and your grip strength starts to go, your fingers start to unravel and you drop the bar," says Tenney. "When you're alternating, it just allows you to hold onto the bar better — it prevents the bar from slipping and allows you to keep going up in weight."

The Takeaway On Pronated and Supinated Grips

Both supinated and pronated grips can help you meet your muscle-building goals, and one grip style isn't inherently better or easier than the other, says Tenney. "They both have their place in your strength program — it just depends on the type of exercise and the type of goal that you have," she says.

And that's why it's key to utilize both in your workout routine. "Varying your grip can really enhance your workout and strength gains by making it more well-rounded," says Tenney. "If you're only doing one type of grip all the time, you're going to be hitting those same muscles all the time. Variety is the spice of life, so you want to be mixing it up a bit and varying your grip."