Deadlifts are a physique-changing exercise that belongs in every fitness routine. Sure, they’re challenging, but with challenge comes change. No exercise works more muscle groups than the deadlift. Each time you deadlift, every major muscle in your back, as well as muscles in your core, get a workout. The lower body gets in on the action too as you target your hamstrings and glutes. Even your upper body gets attention, particularly your forearms and shoulders.
There’s no exercise better for your posterior chain and a healthy posterior chain is what helps you avoid back, hip, and knee pain. If you play sports, the muscles that form a line down the back of your body help you generate strength and power. Being a compound exercise, deadlifts are also a fat burner, especially when you compare them to isolation exercises, like biceps curls, leg extensions, and triceps kickbacks.
Also, deadlifts are a functional exercise that teaches the muscles in your posterior chain to work together in an integrated manner. Strengthening the muscles in your posterior chain lowers the risk of back pain and counters the negative impact of too much sitting. Sitting too long tightens your hip flexors and weakens the opposing muscles, your hamstrings, and glutes. We all need deadlifts in our routine.
There are a variety of ways to do deadlifts but master the basics before trying deadlift variations. One way to change the exercise is to alter the grip you use on the barbell. Let’s look at the most common ways to grip the bar and what the advantages of each are.
Double Pronated or Overhand Grip
The pronated grip is the most common grip that people use when they deadlift. This grip is often called an overhand grip because you grasp the bar so that your palms face toward you. Many fitness trainers believe this is the best grip for a beginner as it’s the most natural and intuitive.
The pronated grip works your forearms more than other grips. This makes it effective for building grip strength. That’s important since grip strength can be a limiting factor for some exercises. You may discover that your grip strength eventually limits how much weight you can work with. Even though you built up enough strength in your back and lower body, a weak grip means you can’t lift as much in spite of your strong, conditioned back muscles and lower body. Another drawback with a double overhand is it’s easy for the barbell to roll out of your palms when you use a pronated grip. Still, this is the best grip for a beginner. However, you may find it limiting once you start using a heavy barbell.
Mixed Deadlift Grip
Some people use a mixed deadlift grip where they place one hand on the bar in a pronated position (palms face toward you) and the other one in a supinated position (palms facing away from you.) The advantage is a mixed grip keeps the bar from rolling in your hands. If it rolls the other hand catches it. So, this grip feels more secure.
The problem with a mixed grip is it can lead to muscle imbalances since you’re placing an unequal load on the muscles on each side of your body. With a mixed grip, you work your forearms and shoulders on each side differently and this can lead to muscle imbalances.
In one study, researchers measured muscle activation in the muscles in the upper back and biceps when participants did deadlifts using a pronated, supinated and mixed grip. They found that when the subjects used a mixed grip, the supinated hand was more activated than the pronated hand during the lift. The brachioradialis was also less activated with a mixed grip. You can compensate to some extent by switching the side you use the pronated and supinated grip on regularly. During one session the right hand is pronated and the next the left.
The hook grip is similar to the pronated grip with one difference – the placement of your thumbs. To use a hook grip, you place your hands on the bar using an overhand grip, but you tuck your thumb sideways onto the bar and wrap your fingers around it. It’s not an intuitive way to grip a bar and many people find it uncomfortable. On the plus side, a hook grip allows you to hold the bar more securely. That’s important as you start to increase the weight you use. You can typically handle more weight with a hook grip since it’s more secure. And, unlike the mixed grip, you don’t have the problem of uneven stress on the biceps and shoulders. Other than the stress it places on your thumbs, a hook grip is safer than a mixed grip because the pressure on your biceps and shoulders is symmetrical. The advantage over the double pronated grip is you can lift more weight..
If You Use a Trap Bar
A trap bar is a device shaped like a hexagonal. You step into the middle of the hexagon and grab the bar on each side by one of the sets of handles. A trap bar usually has two sets of handles, one higher and one lower. Trap bars make the movement a bit easier and allow you to lift a little more weight than you would be able to with a straight deadlift. Another advantage of using a trap bar is it reduces the stress on your spine. When using a trap bar, you’ll use a neutral grip. If you have poor hip mobility, the higher handles are your best bet as the range of motion is smaller than if you grab the low handles.
Now, you know about the advantages and disadvantages of each type of grip:
· A double pronated grip is the most intuitive & best for beginners.
· A mixed grip is more secure as there’s less likelihood of the bar rolling out of your hands, but it places asymmetrical stress on your biceps and shoulders.
· A hook grip takes getting used to and can be hard on your thumbs in the beginning. But it has the advantage of letting you use heavy weight securely without placing uneven stress on each side of your body.
Stack.com. “Deadlift Grip Guide: How Hand Placement Changes the Exercise”
InfiniteLabs.com. “Overhand vs Underhand Grip for Deadlifts: Which is Best?”
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