Is Hook Grip Deadlift Worth It?
There are several ways to grip a barbell and hold a deadlift. There is one way in particular that allows individuals that struggle with grip strength to lift HEAVY weights. That’s a hook grip deadlift.
Hook grip is the go-to grip style for weightlifters, crossfitters, and some competitive powerlifters. It’s not just used for hook grip deadlifts, but also snatches and cleans.
The hook grip allows athletes to perform dynamic movements without worrying about the barbell slipping from their hands. Although there are arguments that it is uncomfortable, not suitable for small hands, and bad for your hands, there are a lot of benefits to it too.
In this article, we cover what hook grip is and if it is really worth using this grip style for deadlifts and other movements.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
What is Hook Grip?
Hook grip is a double overhand grip on a barbell where the thumb is pressed against the barbell by the overlap of the other fingers on your hand, thus establishing a “hook” with the overlapping fingers.
The hook grip helps establish a tighter and more secure connection between the fingers and the barbell because instead of just the thumb being used to hold the grip in place, you are using 2-3 fingers. The amount of fingers you use to overlap your thumb will depend on your hand size, your comfort level with hook grip, and the movement you are doing.
Hook grip is most commonly used in olympic weightlifting movements like the snatch and cleans. Hook grip is also sometimes preferred by powerlifters for deadlifts since it can provide a more secure grip compared to mixed grip. Both weightlifting and powerlifting do not allow straps to be used in competition, so hook grip was adopted to maintain a secure grip on the barbell in competition.
Hook Grip for Powerlifting
The deadlift is the key powerlifting movement where the hook grip is needed. The other two lifts in powerlifting, the squat and bench, do not use a hookgrip since the power needed for these lifts does not require extraordinary grip strength.
Powerlifters will use hook grip deadlift for a number of reasons, especially as they practice their competition lifts.
A regular double overhand grip is not an issue in terms of rules, but can become an issue as powerlifters approach maximal lifts. Double overhand grip does not provide the same security as hook grip. It all goes back to the amount of pressure applied to the connection point - 2-3 fingers worth of pressure provide more than just a thumb.
So then why don’t all powerlifters just use mixed grip? That’s legal right? Yes it is, but there are reasons why powerlifters still prefer a hook grip deadlift over a mixed grip deadlift. The main one stems from bodybuilders - lat imbalance. Some athletes may experience uneven growth in their back because of doing mixed grip for an extended period of time.
Another common argument to mixed grip, is that some powerlifters may not be able to get into a good starting position with mixed grip. An example of this stems from one of our own powerlifters, Swole Kyle. Kyle prefers utilizing hook grip deadlift over a mixed grip deadlift because he can get into a more balanced position since he competes at a higher weight class.
Hook Grip for Weightlifting
Weightlifters are most well known for consistently using hook grip in their training. There are two main reasons, the obvious one being able to maintain a secure grip while moving the bar from the ground to overhead.
The second reason is because hook grip actually reduces the ROM of the wrist, so that a weightlifter’s wrist does not bend back too much overhead. This is especially helpful in the snatch when the weight has to be moved from the floor to overhead in a single movement.
Hook grip will actually help stabilize the wrist in a limited position instead of overextending for a better catch position.
Hook Grip for Athletes
Athletes should know how to hook grip! Not specifically for deadlift, but for snatches and cleans. Since these movements are used so much in sports performance to help build power and speed, it’s important athletes know how to safely use hook grip.
Athletes should also know how to hook grip for injury prevention. Even though athletes might cake on lifting chalk, we still constantly see bars slip out of their hands when doing standard double overhand grip.
Hook grip still helps develop grip strength, while allowing athletes to perform dynamic lifts like snatches and cleans safely. Even in crossfit, athletes will get more benefit from utilizing hook grip for their olympic movements compared to standard grip technique.
How To Properly Hook Grip
When you’re setting up for a hook grip deadlift, start placing your hand on the bar so that the barbell is going straight across the middle of your open palm.
Next, you want to take your thumb and curl it under the bar - think about grabbing the bar with just your thumb.
A big mistake people will make is by bending their thumb, and having the side of their thumb pressed against the barbell. DO NOT do this, it will hurt like CRAZY when you go to pull. Make sure that the barbell is cradled comfortably in your thumb.
Once the bar is cradled in your thumb, overlap your index finger and middle finger over your thumb. You want to have the middle segment of your middle finger overlapping the area in between your thumbnail and middle thumb joint.
DO NOT overlap your middle finger over your thumbnail, otherwise that will be very painful when you pull as well.
If you have larger hands and you feel like your grip is not as secure as you would like it to be, you can overlap a third finger over your thumb. Now your hook grip is set to deadlift, snatch, or clean. Take into consideration that as you sweat you may need to apply lifting chalk to your hands, thumb, and other fingers to keep the grip secure.
Does Hook Grip Hurt?
Hook grip is uncomfortable when you start using it. Like anything you do, your body will not be used to it until you do it regularly. After some practice, doing a hook grip deadlift, snatch, or clean will not hurt.
Hook grip deadlift specifically can hurt because you will go heavier with a deadlift than you would a snatch or clean. But it also depends on the bar you use. Using a deadlift bar or power bar will hurt more because the knurling on the bar will be more aggressive. In comparison, an Olympic weightlifting bar does not have as aggressive knurling, so hook gripping can be more comfortable.
There are two ways that hook grip deadlift can hurt. The first is incorrect thumb position. If your thumb is not cradling the bar, and instead, the side is pressed into the barbell, it will put a lot of pressure on your thumb.
The second way is that early on, the skin on your thumb is not used to doing hook grip. Your skin is vulnerable to ripping or tearing due to the friction between the force of the weight and the knurling in the bar. To minimize tearing skin, use thumb tape that's hook grip safe and chalk for training.
Even though using thumb tape is not legal in competition for powerlifting, it is still good to have it to reduce thumb related injuries in training while performing the hook grip deadlift.
You can also use lifting straps the majority of the time unless you are preparing to compete.
Different Types of Deadlift Grips
Mixed grip deadlift is the use of one hand gripped overhand on the bar and the other hand gripped underhand on the bar. Mixed grip is the second way that powerlifters will deadlift in competition aside to hook grip deadlifts.
Mixed grip has benefits of its own compared to hook grip. With a mixed grip, you can minimize the rolling of a barbell since you are pulling it overhand and overhand. Mixed grip is also more comfortable for deadlifts, making it easier to do more reps.
Double Overhand Grip
Double overhand grip, as mentioned earlier, is when the athlete is grabbing the bar with both hands overhand, but not in a hook grip. This is when your pointer and middle finger are directly connected to the bar and the thumb is used to hold the grip together.
This deadlift grip requires more grip strength and limits the amount of weight someone can pick up compared to mixed grip and hook grip deadlift.
To do a neutral grip deadlift, you need a trap bar or dumbbells. This is a standard overhand grip, but instead of your arms in front of you, they are beside you. This is really just another way to do deadlifts that uses more vertical leg drive rather than lower back pulling power, but that’s information for another blog.
If you are an athlete, weightlifter, crossfitter, or competitive powerlifter, hook grip is worth learning. Hook grip is an effective way to lift more weight without needing to specifically train grip strength.
You don't have to train hook grip all the time. Straps are a great alternative for heavy training lifts, but you need to make sure you get enough practice with the hook grip if you plan to compete since straps are not allowed in competition.
If you are a bodybodybuilder or just trying to stay in shape, you can live without it. You’re better off just using lifting straps. And if you’re really worried about slacking on your grip strength, you can do grip-specific training with Garage Grips or other grip exercises.
To make your hook grip more comfortable going forward, look into using thumb tape and lifting chalk. These two gym bag essentials will help minimize skin irritation and injuries to your thumbs from lifting. Once you’re stocked up, then you’re ready to smash some insane weights with your new grip set up. PEACE!
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Welcome to the Garage Strength Blog, where it is my goal to provide you with the experience and knowledge I've gained in the strength and conditioning world over many years of learning from both successes and failures. I train elite-level athletes in a multitude of sports from the high school to professional levels, already producing 5 Olympics and 30+ National Champions. If you want to be the next champion I train, check out my strength programs below!
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