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What Is Hook Grip and Why Have You Never Used It?

Grab hold of your strength training and learn the ins-and-outs to this effective lifting technique.

gripping the barbell
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Picture this: You're lining up to deadlift a new PR. You've done all the accessory work and put the time in to make this workout milestone. Your outfit, your music, your mindset, all locked in for this successful lift.

You grip the bar, begin to pull, and as you slowly bring the weight to your knees, you feel the bar slipping from your fingers. As you try and regain control, the knurling leaves your fingertips, falling back down to Earth, taking your muscle-building dreams along with it.

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While we all dread this lifting letdown, it's more common than you think, especially when you muscle up to higher totals. Your grip can be your weakest link in the kinetic chain, leading to missed lifts and less progression in your training. To strengthen your connection to the barbell, you can utilize a number of tactics to make sure you stand tall with a completed rep rather than sink in defeat. One such method is the hook grip.

As an alternative way to grab hold of the barbell, a hook grip can be an effective tool in your training arsenal. But what is this grip method and why isn't it as common as other tactics like overhand or mixed grip? Here's the skinny on this effective grip technique, when it's most useful and how employing it can give your next deadlift a little more bite.

What Is a Hook Grip?

The "hook" portion of the hook grip name comes from where your thumb is placed. Rather than resting over your fingers — which is what you'd see in a traditional overhand grip — your thumb wraps underneath the bar and is pinned in place with your index or middle finger.

This unique thumb placement serves two purposes, in theory. For one, it creates an additional platform for the barbell during heavy pulls. Instead of relying on just your fingers to grasp and control the barbell, your thumb comes underneath in the opposite direction, giving multidirectional security to combat barbell spin.

Secondly, your thumb gives your index and middle fingers an additional ridge to dig into for extra security. You're able to tighten your grip more easily when hooking your thumb rather than clamping around a metal barbell, which has no give. It can be a more effective use of energy, and when you're trying to be as efficient as possible on the deadlift platform, every little cut corner can help.

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How and When to Use a Hook Grip

To employ a hook grip, there are only a few steps:

  1. Place the webbing of your hand between your thumb and index finger against the barbell.
  2. Wrap your thumb underneath.
  3. Close your grip by wrapping your fingers over the bar, with your index and middle fingers digging into your thumb.
  4. Lock in your grip by pulling your thumb around the bar rather than smashing it into the surface.

This new hand setup can be awkward at first, especially for those that have used a traditional overhand grip for their entire fitness careers. You also might think that the hook grip is slightly painful in your first sets, but this is due to the new pressure you're applying to your thumb. Be sure to pull on the digit — not the nail or knuckle — and don't just crush your thumb into the bar: that doesn't help support the grip technique and just leaves you questioning your decision to change your method altogether.

If you're having trouble locking in your thumb, consider wrapping it with elastic athletic tape. Especially helpful for those with smaller hands, wrapping your thumb can give a little more friction to your setup and help lessen any pains you may feel in the grip. We'd recommend this colorful lineup from Mooerca, but any elastic sports tape should suffice.

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If you do decide to tape your thumb, ensure your athletic tape is elastic. Rigid sports tape can limit your thumb's flexibility and make it unable to adjust to the spinning barbell during lifts.

The hook grip can be an effective tool in any pulling exercise. Outside of the aforementioned deadlift, you can use this grip alternative in farmer's walks with dumbbells, rows, pull-ups and more. The hook grip is also popular in Olympic weightlifting disciplines for movements like the snatch or clean and jerk. The added control of the bar can help you maintain focus for completing the lift, rather than worrying about your grip failing as you explode through these modalities.

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The Benefits of Using a Hook Grip

You might be sitting there thinking that it seems pointless to learn a new training method when normal overhand grip has gotten you so far. Don't fix what isn't broken, right? Well, get accustomed to hook grip and you'll see your method might've been broken all along.

Barbell security: When lifting, barbells want to spin (yeah, physics) and with an overhand grip, you're only defending this roll from one direction. This is why when your grip fails, your final moments often see you grasping with the tips of your fingers. The hook grip adds more security by approaching the bar from two angles — one with your thumb and the other with your fingers. This helps lessen the bar's tendency to spin for more stability and control.

You can also defend against barbell spin with a mixed grip, but this technique raises two red flags. For Olympic lifters, you can't snatch or clean with one supinated arm — your palm facing out — which limits you to pronated modalities. Additionally, having one arm supinated can leave your bicep vulnerable to unnecessary stress, which can tear or damage the tendon and leave you sidelined with a nasty injury. Pronated grips can help lessen bicep strain, keeping the tendons in a safer position.

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It will take some of the strain out of your forearms: especially when you're moving heavy weight. Think about the last time you maxed out with a traditional overhand grip. You probably spent a lot of energy clenching your fists around the barbell, which could've been better spent in your legs and back to actually move the weight. Once you become accustomed to the hook grip, you can lessen the energy needed to maintain your grasp, allowing for less forearm fatigue — and higher PRs.

The hook grip can be an effective new trick for any old gym hound. With added barbell security, improved grip and a more efficient energy transfer, this lifting technique can help put the bite back in your heavy pull days. It takes some getting used to, no doubt, but you should find this grip is worth the learning curve.

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