Mixing up your workout is as easy as moving your hands.

Two of the most useful tools when working out are your hands. They have the ability to change how, where and what muscles you work. The best part? All you have to do is re-grip. Turn hands this way or that, and you hit a whole different muscle, or you work the same muscle in a totally new way. Bring your hands closer together or farther apart, and again you change your exercise.

There are three main hand grips used when performing weight-lifting exercises. The first would be a supinated (underhand) grip. This is employed in various exercises including a chin-up, or a seated row. Another grip often employed is the pronated (overhand) grip. This grip is used for pull-ups, seated rows, and deadlifts. The final hand grip is the neutral grip, used in shoulder presses and dumbbell flys. In addition to how you hold a weight bar, your grip can be close or wide.

I realize that a chin-up and a pull-up are the same motion. The difference is how you grip the bar. This key factor makes all the difference in the world. A pull-up works your latissimus dorsi muscle, while a chin-up works your biceps while at the same time changing how and what back muscles are worked. When performing a chin-up you work your lower mid back closer to your spine due to the closer grip of your hands. The pull-up exercise works your mid back also, just differently. The wider grip works out farther from the spine, while working your upper mid back. Now that you’re thoroughly confused, go through the motions of each exercise. Pretend you are pulling yourself up. Now, adjust your hands to mimic the motion of a chin-up. Squeeze the muscles as you do it and feel how the different hand grips work out your back.

Another fun exercise to manipulate would be the deadlift. Normally, an underhand grip is used for this. When you switch it up and instead use an overhand grip, you can engage the hip extensors more.

These same ideas can be applied to other exercises also. Let’s look at a push-up for example. I realize there is nothing to grip here, but think about hand placement. If you put your hands directly under your shoulders, you work the chest, biceps and a little triceps. Now, move your hands together more, try to make a diamond shape with your thumbs & forefingers. This is going to work more of your arms, emphasizing your triceps. If you do the opposite, moving your hands out so they are wider than your shoulders, you will feel more activation in your chest.

The fact is, if you use different hand grips and placements, you get a better, more efficient workout. You can use a different grip or placement for each set to save time and still reap in the benefits. Or use one grip one day and another the next to isolate that movement and muscle. For more information, contact the Wayne County YMCA at (570) 253-2083 or visit us online at ymcawayne.com.