Posted May 18, 2017

Deadlift Grip Considerations

Everyone loves a good deadlift. Your grandma phones on Sundays to ask how your deadlift is progressing. Your dog/cat cuddles up to you harder if you have a solid pull that day. They can sense it. And really, who doesn’t want to make grandma and your pets proud of you on a daily basis? Psychopaths. That’s who doesn’t want to make Grandma and pets happy.

Because deadlift mastery is so crucial for extended inter-species happiness, we’re going to spend a good chunk of todays post looking at how you can grip the bar to rip it off the floor more effectively.

The most common grip you’ll see with a heavy pull is a mixed grip, where one hand is overhand on the bar and the other is underhand. While this is a great option to help prevent the bar from rolling out of the hands, it can present it’s own issues, specifically the asymmetry of one shoulder internally rotated (overhand side) with the other shoulder externally rotated (underhand side), which can then cause some compensatory rotation from the torso or trouble with the core to lock into place effectively.

Dr. John Rusin wrote a great article on the topic of the mixed grip, and it’s worth a read. There is research that shows a significant increase activity of the biceps brachii and mean elbow angle in the supinated grip position, with increased activity of the brachioradialis with the overhand grip. Considering the mixed grip has been related to an increased risk of tears to the biceps of the underhand grip arm, it’s worth noting that there’s consistent evidence that it may be a causative factor.

Part of the reason for this risk is the fact that you can lift significantly heavier with a mixed grip than you can with a double overhand grip. Typically, I can manage up to about 90% of my 1RM with a double overhand grip, but if I want to challenge anything heavier, I either have to use a mixed grip, or switch to something like straps or hook grip (which sucks the very essence of life from your soul when you first start. More on that later).

If your grip sucks for double overhand, you could opt to use straps, which aren’t considered legal in many powerlifting federations, however are completely legal in many strongman lifts. Also, if you’re not competing in strict powerlifting meets, do you really care what’s legal in a federation you’re not competing in? That’s like saying eye gouging is illegal in WWE but you’re in a bar fight and trying not to die.

Here’s a few ridiculously strong human beings using straps for their lifts. Argue with them if you want.

Last but not least is the hook grip. Initially used in olympic weightlifting to help reduce the chance of the bar slipping during the initiation of the first pull phase, the hook grip has been instrumental to a lot of successful lifters pulling ridiculous weights from the floor and putting them overhead. Anytime I start feeling proud of my accomplishments in the gym, I watch some of the womens olympic weightlifting videos on the internet and see women half my size out-lifting me.

The hook grip is becoming increasingly popular in powerlifting meets as it prevents the bar from rolling in your hands like a traditional overhand grip would, and also reduces potential strain through the biceps.

Elite FTS has a great deadlift resource that outlines a lot of features of the deadlift for successful progress, and towards the bottom of the page there’s the following pics for how to set up a hook grip:

Because the position of the thumb as it’s rotated around the bar is less than usual, this can be quite an uncomfortable grip when you’re getting used to it. Essentially, you have to pivot the thumb harder than Ross trying to get a couch up the stairs in Friends, and then have the entire weight of the bar pressing down on it with the hopes that your index and middle finger can keep it from being ripped off your hand.

Some forums around the interwebz have people reporting thumb pain for 2-3 days following a hook grip session, and a few even reporting thumb numbness, so there’s definitely a specific technique that should be dialed in when using this grip, and some bad things that can happen as a result of poor set up or execution, but you know what’s worse than thumb pain? Weakness.

If a sore thumb is all it takes to get to immortality and near Norse God status with your deadlift, maybe it’s worth it.

Now go tell your grandma about how strong you are and let your pets snuggle into your still-intact biceps for love and adoration.

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