Deadlifts - The King of lifts. While this is how deadlifts have been regarded for many years, some may not agree. However, there is hard to argue otherwise when considering this exercise’s repetition and gains.
For most of us, a deadlift is a lift for which we shift the most weight. This is why the general answer to the question “how much do you deadlift?” is usually “A LOT!”
Nevertheless, a deadlift still has to be performed correctly. When done properly, it is an excellent posterior chain developer and can boost muscle growth significantly. Train the deadlift carefully and smartly, and all of your lifting scenarios will improve, especially your grip strength.
If you have experienced it, dropping a deadlift can be demoralizing. However, most of the time, this is because of the grip. An effective grip allows you to connect to the bar. A weak grip will prevent you from deadlifting maximal weights. Therefore, you must know how to maximize your deadlift grip to reach your goals.
There are three main styles of grips to choose from:
- The hook grip
- The double overhand grip
- The mixed grip
In Today’s article, we are going to look at each of these grips and explore what they all have to offer. By the end of this blog, you will be able to structure a proper grip routine every time and find the most effective grip for you and your technique.
Key to Maximizing Your Deadlift Grip
The most important thing to do is to hold maximal weights for longer than usual at the top of each rep. When you finish your lift, you should squeeze and hold the bar in your hands for 10 seconds. This is the most specific method for improving and increasing your grip strength.
Knowing this is not enough, however. You will also need to choose an effective grip. Let’s take a look at the three types of grip styles below so you can pick the right one for you.
Types of Grips for Deadlifts
There are three main grips for deadlifts: Hook grip, double overhand grip, and the mixed grip. The grip refers to your hands wrapping around the deadlift bar. It is simply the connection between your body and the bar.
The three types of grips have pros and cons so some may suit someone but may not be right for you.
The Double Overhand Grip
This is when you have two hands over the deadlift bar. Most of the time, the double overhand grip is what powerlifters start off with. It is the most natural hand position of the three grips and has no steep learning curve. This grip also allows you to gain larger levels of strength.
When deadlifting, you may sometimes notice that the barbell begins to spin. This is due to their design where a bearing allows them to rotate on occasions.
When under maximal loads, the double overhand grip can give up quite quickly. This is because the bar rotates so much, it moves out of your hands. Nothing can stop this rotation when you use a double overhand grip so the bar will start slipping and continue to do so.
This style of grip should suit most people but there will come a point when it becomes too difficult for competitive powerlifters.
The Mixed Grip
This grip sees you hold one hand over the bar and the other under it. Unlike the double overhand grip, the mixed grip stops the bar from rotating in your hands. This allows you to hold onto heavier weights. The mixed grip should be implemented if you’re failing under maximal loads when using the double overhand grip.
In general, people use their dominant hand (stronger) as the overhand and their non-dominant hand as the underhand. Your dominant hand is what you primarily use for day-to-day tasks such as writing.
As with the other grips, there are cons when using the mixed grip too. Sometimes, a powerlifter can create an imbalance when using the same mixed grip over and over again.
If their right hand is down and their left hand is up, this will create an imbalance after some time. Therefore, you should switch hands whenever it is possible. Many lifters like to switch their hand position while warming up.
Then, when they come to the heaviest sets, they will use their most dominant hand position for extra support and strength.
One huge concern when using the mixed grip style is risking a torn bicep. Nonetheless, if this happens, it is usually down to improper or poor technique. You should keep your arms straight and avoid any jerking movements with the deadlift.
If you do this, you limit or prevent the risk of tearing your bicep. Whenever you bend your elbow on the underhand arm, a significant amount of stress is put on your bicep. Just keeping your arm straight throughout this entire range of motion will reduce the chances of any bicep tearing occurring.
The Hook Grip
The hook grip is when you hook your thumb under the bar. You then wrap 1, 2, or 3 fingers over your thumb. Generally, you should be able to move your index and middle finger over your thumb and sometimes, even your third (ring) finger but this depends on the size of your hands.
Both hands are overhand while the thumb is somewhat sandwiched between your fingers and the deadlift bar. This hook grip is great at preventing the bar from rotating. And, at the same time, it also prevents any kind of imbalance between your right and left arm.
Despite being stronger than your standard overhand grip and safer than the mixed grip, there are some cons to the hook grip:
- The hook grip can be very painful on your thumb. This is because of the large amount of pressure between your fingers and the bar. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to avoid this pain other than to build your thumb’s durability and strength over time. This is why many powerlifters stop using the hook grip quite early on. They tend to turn to a mixed grip due to the sheer amount of pain.
- A hook grip is very hard to do for lifters with short fingers. This is because they can’t wrap their fingers around the var and then grab their thumb. If you have longer fingers, then the hook grip may be the one for you.
How to Grip a Deadlift Bar Correctly
Whichever grip you choose, you must ensure that you are gripping the bar with proper form and in a correct manner.
Let’s take a look at some tips to ensure you grip the bar in the best way possible to limit any risks of injuries.
Have an Even Grip and Hold the Bar Straight Down
Firstly, you must grip the bar evenly with your grips being in line with your shoulders. Your body should be centered over the bar. When you place your hands on the bar to grip it, make sure they are the same distance apart from each other.
Many novice weightlifters make a mistake at this first hurdle and this leads to poor form and unnecessary strain on their arms and back. If your grip is too wide, it can cause a deadlift weakness at your knees or off the floor
Try to grip the bar right where the knurling begins for both of your hands. This means they should be the same distance apart. It is also possible to use the knurling or the rings to gauge your distance. This can be done by measuring them with your thumbs.
Your grip distance can vary depending on your stance and overall size. Typically, your hands should hang down, straight from your shoulder.
Place the Deadlift Bar in the Center of Your Hands
This is where you need to decide which grip you are going to use. Try to grip the bar at the center of your hands. The bar should rest near the base of your fingers.
As you begin to pull the bar, the bar should start to slide and then lock into a certain position. However, if you have short arms, this could be quite a challenge.
As with most grips, this differs slightly for all of us. Nonetheless, if you find that the bar slides away from you as you lift, it could be a sign that you are gripping it too high up in your palm. If the bar is slipping to your fingertips, you may need to grip it a little higher. Simple play around with the bar until you find the perfect feel for it.
Try Squeezing the Bar
Once you have found that sweet spot with the bar in your hands, you need to squeeze hard. Do not stop squeezing until your set is finished.
The grip is active. This means you must use your muscles and squeeze the bar as hard as you possibly can. Imagine you are leaving an imprint of your fingerprint on the bar. Yep, that’s how hard you need to squeeze.
When you have chosen a grip to use, commit to it. Try and stick to it for a while, even if it feels a little uncomfortable or harsh at first. Many beginners fall into the trap of thinking another grip is easier so they switch from one to another, and then back again, and so on. As with most new experiences, you need to give it time and try over and over again before you decide it is or isn’t for you.
The Best Grip for a Deadlift
Everyone is different. We all have different hand sizes, finger sizes, and, therefore, grips. Overall, the best grip for you is the one that allows you to lift the most weight.
Despite many variations in hand sizes, most people use a mixed grip on competitions. This is because it tends to be the most natural progression from the beginner double overhand grip. After this, some may move on to the hook grip for variation.
To find the best grip for you, do the following:
- Begin with a double overhand grip. Continue using this until you reach a weight where your grip is no longer strong enough to hold the bar.
- From this point on, attempt a mixed grip or a hooked grip a few times. But, remember, you must commit to whatever grip you choose. If your hands are on the smaller side, you may find a hook grip is a little too difficult as you can not grab onto your thumb. Therefore, a mixed grip is generally a better option for smaller-handed individuals.
Training Your Grip
Once you find your preferred grip, the work doesn’t end there. You need to train your grip until it feels comfortable and correct for you. The best way to train your grip is by performing an extended hold with the barbell.
Even when you know how to grip for deadlifts, the grip can sometimes fail. If this happens, you must know how to train it to become even stronger.
When performing at a competition, you only need to be concerned about holding one rep. You then wait for the referee to give you a down command. Therefore, the best way to train your grip and make it stronger is to try and grip your last deadlift for an extended hold, usually around 5 to 10 seconds.
For instance, if your workout is usually 5 sets with 5 reps, you should hold the bar at the top on your last rep for an extra 5 to 10 seconds. Only then should you put the weight down.
There are other methods of improving and training your grip. When you reach the end of your deadlift session, try the following:
- 1st week: 70% of 1RM - 10-second hold - 3 sets
- 2nd week: 70% of 1RM - 15-second hold - 3 sets
- 3rd week: 75% of 1RM - 10-second hold - 3 sets
- 4th week: 75% of 1RM - 15-second hold - 3 sets
You should only increase the weight if you can complete all three sets of holds successfully. If you find it is too heavy, begin with a lower working weight (something more like 60% RM). From here, you can work your way up.
The most important factor here is to build some form of progression every week so you can measure it. Every week, you should notice that your holds on regular deadlifts are feeling easier. We highly recommend using a timer or ask a friend to count down out loud as you lift so you can not cheat. Trust us, when you’re holding maximal weights, 10 seconds can feel like 4 hours!
Important Grips Factors to Think About
Just because you have found the right grip for you, it doesn’t mean you can perform a deadlift without any risks. Here are some of the most important factors to consider when gripping your barbell.
Your hands will go through a lot when gripping the bar for deadlifts. This is why you must have a suitable hand strengthening and hand care regime in place.
Hand strengtheners are great for boosting your grip strength. The best hand strengtheners can improve your hand accuracy and help prevent any injuries that might happen due to a weak grip.
It is also important to remove calluses that have grown too large on your hands. We suggest using a good moisturizer for your hands such as Bag Balm. If you tear any calluses in your hands, it can set your deadlifting and training back a while. It could also lead to you dropping a deadlift which is never a good scenario. By simple hand care maintenance, you can mitigate these risks.
Ensure you gain proper rest between deadlift sessions as well as other days when your grip has been challenged. While it can be hard to rest your hands, you should try your best. Otherwise, they will become beat up and your grip will suffer.
If a bar has better knurling, it will be easier to grip due to more friction on its surface. When competing, lifters often use baby powder but if the powder gets onto the bar, it will become very difficult to maintain any grip.
To combat this, you should chalk your hands before lifting. You can also ask the head referee to wipe down the bar for every attempt. While they do this automatically for all third attempts, there is no reason why they can’t for your first and second attempts too.
Your Kinetic Chain
Your whole body is one kinetic chain. This can be the reason why your grip may fail on deadlifts at times. For instance, if your entire body lacks tightness, your grip may become loose no matter how strong it is.
Therefore, you must ensure that your lats, core, and legs are tight before you pull the barbell off the floor. Remember, your hands are acting like hooks for your body as they help you lift the weight off the floor.
Examine your whole deadlift and ensure that your movement is correct and sound. Sometimes, it’s not your hand’s fault but the rest of your body.
The grip style for deadlifts is just as important as your body’s form. Once you have selected your grip style, you must make sure that the bar is placed correctly in your hands. Ideally, you want an even grip with your hands on the bar and straight under your shoulders.
Before you try and lift the bar from the floor, you should think about squeezing it as tight and hard as possible, as if you’ll be leaving fingerprints on it.
You can achieve a stronger grip by practicing strong holds at the end of every deadlift rep. The key is to be patient and keep going! You must commit to your grips and to a training regime. In time, you will find your grip is stronger than you could ever imagine so you can progress with deadlifts going forward.