Gym Equipment – Wide vs. Narrow Grip

Andre Noel Potvin shares and compares exercise movements using the wide grip vs. the narrow seated row technique.

First of all, I want to clarify that no exercise is good or bad, it is just higher vs. lower risk; more effective vs. less effective; more appropriate vs. less appropriate for each individual client. However, with that being said, sometimes the way we use the equipment attachments or the position of our body/limbs can make the exercise more effective for YOU!

Back Exercise – Wide vs. Narrow Grip LatPulldown or Seated Row

When I am in the gym, a commonly asked question is “Should I use a narrow grip (V-Bar), mid grip (Dorsal Rowing Handle) or wide grip (Lat Pulldown Bar)?” The question is an excellent one, and the answer involves an understanding in kinesiology.

Effectively Targeting the Latissimus Dorsi

The answer involves how wide the grip is and how the hands are turned. When you pull down using a narrow grip, with the hands semi-prone and moving in the sagittal plane, the latissimus dorsi aka the “lats” are effectively worked.

Gym Equipment – Wide vs. Narrow Grip Seated Row

When performing the Seated Row exercise with a narrow grip “V” handle, larger individuals will have a tougher time retracting their shoulder blades and keeping their arms in neutral alignment.  The problem with the narrow grip seated row comes when the participant has a wider than usual rib cage or trunk girth.  When the participant pulls the handles to his/her belly, due the breadth of the thoracic cavity, the elbows tend to flare out, which in turn, forces the shoulders to roll in. Due to the head of the humerus turning in, the subscapularis (deep shoulder internal rotator) tends to get a lot of work while the latissimus dorsi, rhomboids and mid-trapezius are not getting fully utilized.

The V-bar is, therefore, most useful for people who have a chest girth less than 38 inches. When you have a thoracic cavity or rib cage that is larger than this, then you need to go to a wider grip handle. The wider bar will allow you to pass through the appropriate range of motion keeping your arms neutral and stimulating the latissimus dorsi, rhomboids and mid-trapezius more effectively.

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Happy Training!

Andre Noel Potvin – MSc,  BCRPA-TFL, Clinical Exercise Specialist