Our bodies are amazing, adaptable, & evolutionary machines. Fitness at its basis is creating a system of designed stimulus to the body to create a desired change. This is done through the rule of - specific demand equals specific adaptation. If you continually work your Kettlebell swings and presses your body will start to adapt to all your work. This is the wonderful law of specificity that all successful training is based upon. A common aspect of the law of specificity that is either for- gotten or omitted is that the body not only adapts to what you do but also to what you do not do.
In your kettlebell training the most common grip in your training, if not all of your training, is an overhand grip. In fact this is the most common grip used in most techniques in all styles of training. What this results in is an internal rotation of the arms and shoulders due to the development and over use of this particular movement pattern.
An athlete who has good lat activation usually can minimize the negative effects of this to a large degree but not fully. This is where including into your training programming an equal opposite range of motion movement to give the body a chance to "unwind" from the most common range of motion that your body trains in. If we look at the famous drawing of a man by Leonardo DeVinci we can note that the man's arms are externally rotated outward and opening up the chest and shoulder girdle. This position is opposite of what we see in both sedentary shapes people take from their desk jobs or from an overuse of pressing in their training.
Our goal today is to 'unwind' and balance ourselves out from all of our internally rotated and overhand grip activities.
Why Take the Reverse Grip
To balance out our overly pressed shape a simple method is applied which is a reverse grip, or more commonly known as the underhand grip. You may recognize this grip as your hand placement for your chin-ups or under- hand rows. This simply means that your thumbs are externally rotated out and your shoulder are packed down into their socket and you elbows are facing toward your rib cage.
Now this grip is also used for a conventional bicep curl, but, please note, for the sake of our intention of balancing our pressing work be sure to not over emphasize your biceps; rather focus on your back by thinking of your grip and elbows as the driving engines in the following movements we will discuss.
The reverse grip can be used in both pushing and puling actions and should be. It is a very interesting grip that can provide you a lot of feedback in where your kinetic lines may or may not be leaking power. So use these variations more deliberately pay attention to any differences in your body and your techniques.
6 Functional Fitness Exercises
Here are a few reverse grip variations that can be implemented starting from most simple to most difficult, all of which can be done with bodyweight and/or kettlebells.
1. Reverse Grip Plank & Reverse Grip Push Up
Assume a plank position but externally rotate your hands so your fingers are fac- ing behind you. Once you build some stamina and strength in this position you can progress to a reverse grip push up.
2. Reverse Grip Kettlebell Deadlifts
As the name states take your single or double kettlebell deadlifts with the re- verse grip applied. Nothing else changes except the grip and the awareness of your shoulders and back muscles in the pull.
3. Reverse Grip (Underhand) Rows
A classic lift that can be done with a barbell, dumbbells, or kettlebells. Palms face our, shoulders packed down, as you row your tool from just above your knee into the hinge in your hips. Again; shoulders down and drive your elbows behind you and keep them close to your rib cage.
4. Aussie Rows / Body Rows
Aussie rows are a great move to have in your arsenal. They can be done from low hanging rings, or a low set bar. Sometimes a low racked barbell works perfectly. Get underneath your ring or bar, take your reverse grip, adjust your body so the bar is right under you pec line, keep legs straight with hips in line with shoulders. You are essentially in perfect push up form upside down. From here, as with all the previous moves, drive shoulders down and drive your elbows behind you.
The Aussie Rows require a bit more glute and core activation to maintain that straight line form the top of you head to your tail bone. The difficulty of these can be adjusted simply through changing the angle of the incline. The more up- right you are the easier, and the more horizontal you are the harder. Sometimes getting a prop to put your feet on is the best way to get fully horizontal when you are ready to try is from that angle.
5. Elevated Reverse Grip Push Ups
Using two dumbbells, parallel bars, or kettlebells take your push up position with palms out and do your push ups with some added depth. Make sure your shoulder mobility is on point before doing these, and like your reverse grip rows keep elbows close to the rib cage. This movement is the equal opposite of your Aussie rows.
6. Strict Lean Back Chin Ups
Once you have mastered the fully horizontal Aussie Row then chances are you are ready to progress to the strict leaning back chin up. In pull ups or chin ups most people think these are done with a complete vertical pull. But the most powerful variations of these exercises are done with a slight lean back behind the bar. This allows you to pack the shoulders better and activate more into the all back muscles just like all your rowing exercises.
If you have not noticed yet, all of these movement patterns are translate into one another and build upon the last. Pretty cool. When the technique is solid, and the mechanics match, then you start to see how your exercises improve each other when done properly.
To execute this move: Grip the pull up bar in your reverse grip, pack your shoulder down and allow the natural pop out of the chest to happen. You will notice you do have to lean back slightly to get the full range of this. Once in this position keep your legs close together (straight or bent but not crossed). Like your Aussie rows still lock your glutes and abs tight, then like all your other rows drive the pull up bar down to your chest, pulling the elbows behind you, and aiming the pull up bar as deep below your collar bone as possible. You can play with the grip width (narrow, mid, and wide) and note any differences from them. Your glutes and core must be on through the whole pull upward and negative phases. This is for maximum tension (for the gains, bro), and so not to dumb into the lower back by releasing then the body going into a hyper crescent moon shaped arch.
Programming Kettlebell and Bodyweight Movements
Once you get good with these of course you can even add some weight to them (for the gains, bro). Implement all of these, or your select favorites to your training and enjoy the carry over that you get from expanding your bodies range of motion vocabulary. Match them with their equal opposites, (i.e. Reverse grip push ups and kettlebell swings, or kettlebell presses and reverse grip Aussie rows); or make them their own workout all together in any fashion you choose strength or conditioning focused. However you choose to program it...gains are sure to be had by all.
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