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Correct hand placement can make your barbell workout safer and more effective.
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Barbell exercises are low tech but highly effective for developing strength, muscle size and muscular endurance. To get the most from barbell exercises, you should ensure your hands are properly positioned on the bar. The position of your hands on the barbell depends on the exercise you are performing, your height, flexibility and the length of your limbs. Whichever barbell exercise you are performing, for safety, always use a full grip with your thumbs and fingers wrapped tightly around the bar rather than a "false grip" where the thumb does not encircle the bar.
Hand position on the barbell is dependent on which particular exercise you are performing. However, always keep your thumbs and fingers wrapped fully around the bar for safety.
Position for the Bench Press
The bench press is a classic upper-body exercise that targets your chest, shoulders and triceps. It is also a common test of upper-body strength. While some benchers prefer a wide or narrow-width grip, the most-used hand position is one that ensures your forearms are perfectly vertical when the bar is touching your chest. This is the optimum position for ensuring that the effort is spread evenly across your chest, shoulder and triceps muscles and generally allows for the greatest amount of weight to be used. A narrower grip emphasizes your triceps, whereas a wider grip emphasizes your chest.
Grip During Squats
Squats build strong legs and are frequently referred to as the king of barbell exercises. Many strength-training routines are built around heavy squats. To get the most from squats, the bar needs to be firmly seated on your upper back. The position of your hands plays an important part in this. Your hands should be as close to your shoulders as your flexibility and arm length allows. The narrower your hands, the more your upper trapezius flexes and the more substantial the shelf on which the bar rests will be. A narrow grip also encourages you to lift your chest and keep your shoulders down and back - both important factors for successful squatting.
Hold Tight During Deadlifts
Deadlifts are one of the most effective total-body exercises you can do with a barbell. They target your legs, hips, lower back and upper back and also teach you how to safely lift heavy objects off the floor. To ensure you legs and hips do as much work as possible and your back stays in optimal alignment, you should grip the bar so that your arms are vertical from the bar to your shoulders. This minimizes the distance the bar has to travel when you lift it up. A wider grip, called a snatch-grip, is used occasionally as a training exercise for the deadlift. The wider hand position increases the range of movement but normally at the expense of having to use lighter weights. Some lifters use a mixed grip - where one hand is supinated and one hand pronated - instead of a double overhand grip. This grip variation allows for greater weight to be lifted but possibly at the expense of an elbow or biceps injury on the supinated hand. Use this grip variation with caution.
Use Caution When Overhead
The overhead or military press targets your shoulders and triceps and can be performed seated or standing. The optimal hand position for this exercise is overhand and slightly wider than shoulder-width. Your thumbs should be just outside or lightly touching your shoulders when the bar is racked across the front of your shoulders. This should result in vertical forearms in relation to the ground.
Bend Over and Row
In the bent-over row, there are two main options for hand placement - wide and overhand or narrow and underhand. The wide, overhand grip uses a similar hand placement to the bench press. As the bar touches your chest, your forearms should be vertical. This position emphasizes your mid traps and rhomboids - the muscles between your shoulder blades. The narrower, underhand grip targets your lats or side back muscles. Your hands should be approximately hip-width apart for this variation. Whichever version of the bent-over row you choose, do not allow your lower back to become rounded as this can lead to injury.