Should You Be Pressing With a “Bulldog Grip”?

Missing presses due to the wrists losing position? Try out the bulldog grip!

There are a lot of ways to grip a barbell, and not every grip is created equal — so what’s right and what’s wrong? 

When it comes to the overhead and bench press, the best grip to use will be the grip that allows you to press without the wrists losing their position. For example, if you’re gripping the barbell and you notice that the wrists begin to extend as you press through your bar path — that’s when the hands bend backward instead of being stacked over the wrist and forearm — then chances are it’s time to switch up your grip style. 

Poor gripping mechanics can lead to two things,

  • 1) Missing reps due to the wrists causing a lack of consistent bar path
  • 2) Wrist discomfort

If the wrists are excessively extending during presses day-in and day-out, then that accumulation of force on them will eventually add up, and that’s exactly why it’s so important to dial in a consistent grip to keep you steadily progressing.

As weight gets heavier, few things can be as frustrating as missing presses due to the wrists.

Enter the bulldog grip. 

How to Bulldog Grip
Photo from WilleeCole Photography / Shutterstock

What Is the Bulldog Grip?

The bulldog grip — named after its resemblance to a bulldog’s feet when standing — is a grip style that positions a barbell lower in the palm to optimize pressing potential.

You might not like this, but your bulldog is probably more mechanically proficient than you in the bench and overhead press. 

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⭕️THE BULLDOG GRIP⭕️⁣ ⁣ The bulldog grip is one of the things you should learn when really trying to maximize your performance and force out put. ⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ Nonetheless this is why it's always taught in a powerlifting context where the goal is maximizing strength and the numbers lifted with the big threes. ⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ This is why, if you want to get your bench to the next level, you need to add this tool to your arsenal. ⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ The Bulldog grip is called like this because of the slight internal rotation if the hands, which resamble the paws of a bulldog. ⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ The reason behind this is to allow the barbell to sit directly over the wrist joint, therefore eliminating the moment arm (MA) from wrist-to-barbell which can be seen on a normal grip. ⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ This allows a much more stable and efficient force transfer from the elbows up, which can result in a stronger bench press. ⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ Now, this does not mean you'll have to change everything else!⁣ ⁣⁣ The elbow angle remains at ~75 degrees and your shoulder blades stay tucked down and back together. ⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ It might feel awkward at first, but as you continue training it, it gets better and better. ⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ HOW do you grip your bench? Give the Bulldog grip a go if you're looking to maximize force output out of your BP! ⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ 🔥🔥🔥Tag somebody who needs to see this! #pheasyque

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The wrist position in a great press will have:

  • the barbell sitting in the meat of the hands over the radius(that’s the bone in the forearm on the thumb side)
  • the wrists stacked over the elbows, and
  • the barbell over the wrists.

By turning the hands slightly inwards, the barbell can then sit lower in the palms over the radius, which can help with power production when pressing. In addition to power production, the bulldog grip can also help you be mindful of elbow positioning throughout the press. Since the bar is sitting lower in the palms, if the elbows flare, then you’ll notice right away with this grip style, so it’s useful for self-cueing proper pressing mechanics

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BENCH PRESS GRIP . The name I've seen the most for this grip is the Bulldog grip and I am a huge fan of it. This is definitely a more nuanced tip and it will not work for everyone, but it's worth giving it a try. It's helped me a ton by teaching me not to over tuck my elbows, not to move my wrists during the press, and to keep a tighter upper back during the bench. . HOW TO SET UP First, find grip width and squeeze your thumb and pointer finger together. Then externally rotate your hand so the bar sits diagonally across your hand (second picture). After that, just wrap your fingers around the bar without changing your hand position. . BENEFITS -Bar sits directly over the bones in the forarm (third picture) -Less tendency to over tuck elbows -Can potentially shorten range of motion due to the bar being lower . DRAWBACKS -Potentially harder on the wrists. Just wear wrist wraps and you'll be fine. -Can be tricky to learn . #CFEtraining #benchpress #grip #benchgrip #bulldoggrip #japgrip #tips #tricks #nuance #powerlifting #powerliftingmotivation #fitness #fitnessmotivation #uspapower #thresholdtf

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How To Perform the Bulldog Grip

  • Grip the barbell with a grip width that’s slightly wider than shoulder width (this can vary slightly from athlete-to-athlete). 
  • Slightly internally rotate the hands (think about keeping the forearm straight and turning the thumbs towards the ground, as if you’re waving with a straight, stiff hand).
    – For a visual reference, the barbell should be aligned with the line on the palm that runs roughly perpendicular to the fingers.  (If you’re into palmistry, that’s called the “heart line.”) The goal is to position the barbell as close to end of the palms (over the radius) as possible without losing control of the barbell. 
  • Tuck the elbows and contract the lats. 
  • Grip the barbell with the ends of the fingers. Do not wrap the fingers fully around. If this is done correctly, there will be a slight gap between the finger pads and the barbell. 

For a quick visual on how to do this, check out the great video below from Dr. Jordan Feigenbaum from Barbell Medicine. 

How to Use the Bulldog Grip

If you’re brand new to this grip style, then be aware that it’s going to feel uncomfortable when adjusting. Since the fingers are not wrapping entirely around the barbell, this grip can feel unnatural at first, so it’s a good idea to ease into it. 

Start by implementing this grip style with your warm-ups. It’s a good idea to perform multiple reps with just the barbell using this grip. After you gain comfort with this grip style and an empty barbell, keep your working sets slightly lighter to adjust for the difference in feeling. 

Basically, if you’re planning to start with this lifting style, it’s best to ease into it. Get very comfortable with light weights before moving on to working sets and higher intensities.

It might be wise to perform a hypertrophy block with this grip style to get in multiple reps and avoid gaps in proficiency due to pushing intensity too quick on a brand new grip style. 

Wrapping Up

The bulldog grip isn’t for everyone, but it’s worth experimenting with if you find yourself missing presses due to wrist issues. If you decide to make the switch to the bulldog grip — be patient. This grip style is going to feel uncomfortable at first, but with time it will feel more natural!