Why A Close Hand Grip Can Boost Fitness Gains

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To keep seeing results in the gym, you don’t need a massive overhaul to your workout. Something as simple and subtle as a change in hand placement can make a big difference. The close-hand grip is one change that deserves your attention. Using it for bodyweight exercises like pull-ups and push-ups and lifts like deadlifts and overhead squats can help build smaller, hard-to-target muscles, increase your range of motion, and better your flexibility. Here’s exactly how:

A Game-changer for Mobility

To help increase your range of motion, try a narrower grip for pull-ups/chip-ups, presses, and overhead squats. The closer hand grip requires a great deal of shoulder mobility, because the arms have to travel a slightly greater distance to complete each rep. Gradually decreasing the space between your hands — whether they’re gripping a pull-up bar or a barbell — will better your mobility, and lubricate the shoulder joint (which also helps prevent injuries).

Take a look at the video below, and you’ll see an example of an overhead squat using a narrower than normal grip (for reference, my conventional overhead squat requires a grip width at the limits of the barbell for my height and arm length; here, I’ve moved my hands in almost one foot on each side). Performing the overhead squat is already a great mobility builder, and using a narrower hand grip takes its demands up a notch.

A New Way to Target Muscles

Using a close-hand grip for your go-to lifts can instantly strengthen new muscles.

Seated Rows: Using a narrow V grip rather than using a wide-grip bar changes the elbow position and can drastically affect your pulling mechanics. It’s a good way to target and build the middle of your back (lats and rhomboids).

Push-Ups/Bench Press: Bring the hands close together on the floor or bar, and the lift becomes much more triceps-dominant than it was before. In both cases, making sure to keep the elbows close to the body will act as an elbow-saver and a way to intensify the triceps engagement.

Deadlifts: Using a medium-sumo stance where the hands are located inside the shins can be the subtle shift needed to salvage the low back and hit the muscles in the inner thighs.

A Boost for Flexibility

Practicing wide, medium, and narrow grips when you’re still relatively new to lifting can set a great foundation for your joints; it teaches them to move through their full range of motion while carrying weight. That’s especially important, because most cases of injury or chronic pain begin from overuse of a certain movement pattern or lifting style. Constantly changing up your grip — especially where the wrist joint is concerned — can be a lifesaver in the weight room, and keep you more limber and functional for everyday life.

One last thing: When experimenting with a close grip, try to use all three hand positions whenever you can. This means using palms in, palms neutral, and palms out. Just as changing your grip can better your mobility and muscle balance, so too can switching hand positions — even if it means dropping the weight just a touch to get the job done.  

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