Exercise technique is universally recognized as a key element in weightlifting. It can help improve the safety and effectiveness of a movement and it can help shift the weight onto certain muscles and ensure the desired results are obtained.
You don't have to look far to find a range of different lifting techniques, all of which are designed to help amplify the effects of a given lift.
These can include foot or hip positioning, angling of a bar or dumbbell, or even the position of the bar on the back.
However, one often overlooked part of lifting technique is the grip that's used. This can have a significant impact on what muscles are worked and how hard they are stressed.
They can also help improve stability and grip strength in more complex lifts like power cleans and snatches.
This is because the bar can often accelerate and rotate at fast speeds. So, different grips can offer different benefits for a variety of exercises.
But, certain grips can also act against you, which can lead to a sub-par performance in the gym or competition or, in worse cases, safety issues.
For these reasons, we put together a comprehensive guide on the different grip types used and the best times to use each of them. Special attention is also paid to the hook grip.
This is due to its popularity in many lifts and its necessity in Olympic lifting.
This is the most commonly used grip for nearly every weightlifting exercise. It involves closing the hands around the bar with the thumb and fingers on opposite sides. In this grip, the knuckles also are away from the body. An example of this grip can be seen below.
This type of grip offers a large amount of versatility during a lift. It can offer mobility throughout an exercise, allowing lifters to bend the wrists and rotate the bar.
It can also offer a high level of stability, with lifters able to squeeze the bar to reduce movement throughout the lift.
Due to its versatility, this grip is useful for both pulling and pushing exercises. It is also a common grip for deadlifts and Olympic lifting. It does hold a slight advantage for pushing exercises due to the added mobility afforded.
This grip is a popular option for those doing pulling exercises, like pull-ups or rows and can take a lot of strain off the front shoulders. Here, the palms face away from the body and the thumb is clasped around the fingers as seen below.
It also offers a slightly greater degree of stability and can help strength by involving the biceps and back. It is also used in some cases for lower body lifts like the deadlift.
But, it can create less mobility and can be difficult to use with heavier loads due to the greater strain on grip strength. This makes it a rare grip to use for deadlifts and one that is almost never used for Olympic lifting or pushing exercises.
This is a very popular grip style for deadlifts, where one hand is placed in an overhand position, and the other is put in the underhand position. This hybrid still prevents the bar from rotating in the hands. This can then increase strength throughout most deadlifting movements.
The grip can also be used to help develop one side of the back for those suffering from a weakness or imbalance. However, the use of this grip is limited to deadlifts and some rows. This makes it of very little use for most CrossFit athletes or Olympic lifters.
Open-Thumb or “Suicide” Grip
This grip is like the overhand grip, except the position of the thumb. Here, the thumb is placed beside the fingers, leaving the palm open. In exercises like the bench press, this can increase muscle involvement in the upper chest and may help improve strength.
It’s also a useful grip for pull-ups, as it can take stress off the front shoulders and make it easier to achieve a larger range of motion.
But, this can also be a very dangerous grip style to use. This is because the bar can easily slip from the hands, causing some potentially life-threatening injuries.
Finally, the hook grip is an often underused and unknown grip style. It is most commonly used for Olympic lifters and some powerlifters during a deadlift. This is because the hook grip adds stability during a deadlift, without requiring a tight grip on the bar.
This can save energy during an explosive lift and make sure the bar travels in a path that allows for the best leverage and power. This lift can also be used to help develop grip strength.
As such, it is also the best grip for heavy CrossFit lifts, both to conserve energy and allow for the best power output in each lift.
As seen above, this grip is used by closing the thumb first around the bar, before enclosing the index and middle finger around it. The ring and index are closed around the barbell itself. This allows for a greater level of control on the bar with less effort, allowing you to focus on your lift more.
Because this grip is often the most underutilized, particularly by CrossFit athletes, and can offer the most benefits for this sport, it will be looked at in more depth below.
The Hook Grip: When and Where To Use It
As mentioned above, the hook grip allows for greater grip on the bar, and higher stability. It also focuses the bar to move through a straighter path closer to the body. This gives deadlifts and Olympic lifters more leverage during the pull from the floor.
This means that higher loads can be lifted with less effort, which can lead to an increased level of strength and power. It will also mean better performance in competition.
Releasing the hook grip is also a useful technique during Olympic lifts. This is where the thumb is removed from under the fingers and placed in an overhand grip position.
This technique is usually easy to do, and is performed at the shoulders when performing a clean, and offers better comfort in a snatch.
The hook grip is best used during Olympic lifting and heavy deadlifts to optimize performance. However, there is an exception to this rule. In some high-volume CrossFit workouts, an overhand grip might be a better option.
These include workouts where a high amount of cleans or snatches are required for intervals. This is because speed takes precedence over control or strength and the hook grip might slow you down.
The overhand grip, on the other hand, will allow a slightly quicker transfer of the bar from the hips to the shoulders. It will also allow a faster return. This can help increase repetitions during your intervals.
But, for any heavy lifting, the hook grip still offers the best option.
Take Home Points and Tips
Different grips in weightlifting all carry their own unique benefits and drawbacks. The use of the hook grip, however, is often underused and the best option for many CrossFitters.
If you're new to using a hook grip, there are some tips that you should consider to make sure that it’s used efficiently and comfortably.
- The hook grip is the most useful for heavier deadlifts and Olympic lifts like cleans and snatches.
- You should always practice this grip early, and with lighter loads. This will help you get used to the grip and stretch the thumbs to allow more comfortable gripping with heavier weights.
- If you find the hook grip too uncomfortable in the beginning, you can use tape to reduce discomfort. Here, you can tape across the thumb with lifting tape to reduce rubbing and improve grip. Using lifting grips can also offer a great alternative.
A tutorial on using athletic tape to wrap your thumbs can be found here.
- If you're using lifting tape, be sure to tape away from the thumb, so it will tighten as the bar is lifted. If you're struggling with grip, chalk can also offer relief.
- The hook grip can be combined with alternate style gripping, as well as overhand gripping, for added strength in a deadlift or row.