When you first begin to learn how to deadlift, you’ll encounter a number of different types of grip as your legs and back begin to lift more weight off the floor than perhaps your hands can either hold onto or are used to!
Most people will start with a double overhand grip, which is a grip where your fingers wrap around the bar and your thumbs rest on the sides of the bar. But as you begin to get stronger and lift more, your deadlift could become too heavy and your original double overhand grip might start to fail.
If that’s the case, there is another grip that you could try: The Deadlift Hook grip.
What is the Deadlift Hook Grip?
In the Hook Grip, you wrap four fingers – your index finger to pinky – over the top of the barbell and then trap your thumb under them so that your thumb wraps around the bar under your fingers.
In particular, wrapping your index and middle fingers over the top of your thumbs and keeping it there throughout the lift keeps the bar staying in place and lessens the chance of you losing your grip. This is because your thumb creates a platform for your fingers to hook onto, allowing you to pull your thumb further around the bar.
As a precaution, while the hook grip is Olympic approved – it does require hands of at least average size, those with smaller hands or thumbs may find it more difficult to hold their thumbs in place, so see how it feels for you.
As mentioned, the Hook Grip is Olympic approved because it is a method that Olympic weightlifters use. Olympic lifters were the first to adopt it due to being unable to wear straps in competition. Therefore, one way to think of the Deadlift Hook Grip is that your fingers should act like a pair of straps when you pull on the bar.
Is the hook grip good for deadlift?
The hook grip is a good technique when it comes to deadlift. The primary benefit of hook grip is that it is as strong (maybe stronger) than mixed grip, but without the asymmetry of mixed grip.
The added friction of the thumb against the bar also makes the deadlift hook grip slightly better, and subsequently stronger, when compared to a mixed grip. As in the mixed grip one hand is supinated and one hand is pronated, hook grip is often used as an alternative to mixed grip. The balanced level of stress on the shoulders reduces the risk of injuries to the biceps, as well as making it easier to keep the bar on the legs, preventing slips and drops.
Another noteworthy benefit is that it can improve a lifter’s positioning. If the grip is performed correctly, the lifter will experience the feeling of being able to sit back in a position where they can tap into increased power from the hamstrings – one of the strongest areas of the legs.
Is hook grip bad for thumbs?
A common complaint surrounding the hook grip is that the lifter’s thumbs start to hurt. In a lot of cases this is because lifters are resting their thumb flat against the bar, and crushing it under the weight of their fingers. So to counteract this, make sure your thumb is wrapping around the bar under your fingers! This reinforcement of the grip from the index and middle fingers creates the hook-like sensation where the method gets its name.
Thanks to the fact that you are placing a significant amount of weight on your trapped thumb, the lift may well feel uncomfortable at first but this is not a reason to give up on it.
To adapt to the sensation, I recommend trying to use the hook grip for all your warm-ups. If necessary, you can put tape around your thumbs to give them a bit of cushioning whilst you adjust. Try to avoid squeezing down on your knuckles or your thumbnails too, ideally your weight should be pressing onto the top of the thumbs.
Finally it may sound obvious but even if it hurts, it’s vital to not let go of the bar during the working set. Doing this could risk tearing the skin on your thumb, or worse.
Is the hook grip better?
The hook grip cannot be classed as better in the sense that it is superior to other lifting techniques, but rather that it is a securer lift for heavy singles or competition lifts.
Some lifters in particular have worries around the asymmetry of the mixed grip. In a mixed grip, because you rarely alternate which hand supinates and which pronates, you can risk unevenness in the muscle growth of the lats, traps and lower back.
This asymmetry can drive extra force through the bicep of the supinated arm, risking the danger of tearing the bicep. Plus, there is also the issue that when you pull, it’s easier to end up twisting the hips/lower back (which is very bad) as the pull is uneven.
In the hook grip, this worry is alleviated as by nature the hook grip offers a more symmetrical and much securer pull, making drops and injuries much less likely.
However whether it’s better depends entirely on what you seek from your lifting techniques and potentially your hand size! The lift requires average-sized hands and most likely above-average thumb and finger mobility. If you find it difficult to adapt your thumbs and first two fingers to the positioning required for a solid hook grip, you are likely to struggle getting comfortable with the hook.
How do I hook grip?
If you’re ready to give it a go, the technique is as follows.
- Start by wrapping your thumb around the bar, and then enclosing your fingers over the top of it. Your thumb should be trapped – or pinched – between the fingers and the barbell.
- Make sure you’re not squeezing over the knuckle, and ensure the top of your thumb is pressing into the bar.
- Perform a normal deadlift.
- Do not let go of the bar when performing a repetition even if you feel it is uncomfortable. Wait until the barbell is safely back on the floor and you can unentangle yourself safely, at no risk of sudden injury.