Small or micro changes can lead to big results. The easiest micro change you can make is to vary your grip. Just by changing the orientation of your hands, you can make a familiar exercise feel totally new to you. You can hit new fibers while working the same muscles, break through a plateau, even out muscle imbalances, lift more weight, and prevent overuse injuries. So, you can take a familiar exercise such as the deadlift, and take it to the next level with grip and hand placement variations.
The deadlift is one of the most effective exercises. When performed correctly it can stimulate muscle growth and significantly develop your posterior chain. Not only that, but it can enhance your grip strength. Many deadlift variations involve hand positioning and grip styles, and learning about it is important for every athlete. There are 3 main grip styles you can choose from: overhand grip, mixed grip, and hook grip, so let's see what these grip variations have to offer.
This is a lifter's default grip: with both palms facing you. It is also an 'instinctive' grip, and how you are most naturally inclined to grip the barbell. It's the best grip to start lifting with and use it to master your deadlift. This grip challenges your strength, which gives you a great forearm workout. Additionally, it allows you to keep the bar close to your body, which is ideal for proper shoulder and upper-back position. Even if this is a very safe grip that builds up your grip strength, it can quickly become a limiting factor to your performance. And that's when you need to consider the mixed grip.
From the overhand grip, turn one hand around to face away from you – that is the mixed grip. It's a strong grip, thanks to the interplay between your hands. Because it allows for greater grip strength, you'll be able to lift more weight. A good trick is to switch your hand positions on alternating sets in order to prevent muscle imbalances. However, keep in mind that the mixed grip increases the risk of injuries such as biceps tears. Be sure to pull the bar tight and drag it up your shins as you lift, to prevent the bar from drifting away from your body.
Strengthen your overhand grip by tapping your thumb in between the bar and your first 2 fingers. Doing this takes your overhand grip to a hook grip. It's just like a hook supported by the index and middle fingers that create a hook on the bar. Powerlifters and experienced lifters alike use this grip style because it promotes excellent grip strength and reduces the risk of biceps tears. So, it's stronger than the overhand grip and safer than the mixed grip.
But it is an awkward hand position if you are not used to it, and it does hurt a lot. Many lifters say that it almost feels like their thumbs are going to dislocate from the load. Over time, you can get used to the pain or just ignore it. You can try athletic tape on the thumb and wear workout gloves when you first try this grip style, for more comfort and reduced pain.
Improve your Deadlift Grip Strength
Another fundamental component of deadlifting is grip width, or how wide you grab the barbell. There are many different variations, and usually, hand placement is connected to feet position as well. For the standard deadlift, your hands should be just outside your knees. That can change depending on how wide apart you place your feet. Here are 3 of the most effective grip width styles:
- Deadlift: hands placed just outside your knees.
- Sumo Deadlift: hands placed inside your knees, a foot apart.
- Snatch Grip Deadlift: index fingers placed on the outer rings of the barbell.
You need to improve your grip strength in order to lift more weight and aid your deadlift performance. Since the deadlift doesn't focus on building grip strength alone, because it is a total body strength exercise, there are things you can do to improve your grip.
- Wear workout gloves: this suggestion is simple and effective. Simply get a good pair of workout gloves to protect your palms and provide you with more comfort when you vary your grip style, such as when switching to a painful hook grip.
- Eliminate the chalk: if you already wear workout gloves when you lift, then you can skip this. However, if you do use chalk, consider replacing it with gloves or giving it up. Lifting without chalk simply makes your grip put more effort into the lift, therefore building grip strength faster.
- One-handed barbell deadlifts: these are pretty good to help develop your hook grip. It is a shorter range of motion movement, which makes this a partial lift that you can do with a number of tools, not just barbells.
Start strengthening your grip by mastering your overhand deadlift grip first, and work your way to the hook grip for increased strength and heavier lifts. Making this small change in grip style can help you make a big change in your performance style, such as taking your deadlift to the next level and enabling yourself to perform other deadlift variations.
Remember to wear workout gloves when you first try the hook grip because despite it being exceptionally effective, it can be extremely painful. Whatever grip you decide to use for your next deadlift, remember to give yourself time to get used to your new hand position and to allow your body to adjust to hitting new muscle fibers. You will experience amazing results once you get a grip on it!