Ah, the hook grip. The incredibly secure grip style that you keep hearing so much about. In the past (pre-Instagram age), hook grip was thought to be more of a weightlifting style grip, but now we’re seeing more athletes than ever utilize this grip to pull new PRs.
The hook grip is a useful skill for every strength athlete to practice and it comes with multiple benefits. In this article, we’re going to cover how to hook grip, the benefits that can come along with this grip style, and two drawbacks that should be acknowledged.
How to Hook Grip
As the name suggests, the hook grip creates a natural hook out of the hand for lifting purposes. The thumb, index, and middle finger all work together to create what feels like a natural lifting strap. This grip style is so secure because the fingers wrap around the thumb protruding off the barbell, which then creates an equal amount of spin to keep the barbell from rolling in or out of the hand in one direction.
- Step 1: Press the area between the thumb and index finger into the barbell.
- Step 2: Wrap the thumb fully around the barbell.
- Step 3: Wrap the index and middle finger over the thumb.
- Step 4: Pull the lats back and slack out of the bar to maximize surface area for finger + thumb contact.
One thing to note is that hand size does unfortunately matter to some degree with hook grip. Athletes with longer fingers and more mobile thumbs tend to fair best with this grip style.
Smaller handed athletes, if you find that you can’t wrap both the index and middle finger around the thumb due to your hand size, then wrap what you can and adjust accordingly. Make sure you really focus on step one and minimize the amount of area between the barbell and your hand. Also, improving thumb mobility could be useful.
Benefits of Hook Grip
1. Useful In Competition
The first and largest benefit that comes with using the hook grip is how secure it is. After the acclimation period, the hook grip is virtually — at least in my opinion — as secure, if not more than the mixed grip. The bar security that the hook grip promotes is useful in both heavy working sets and competition.
The hook grip is basically the body’s natural equivalent of a lifting strap. For this reason, athletes in every strength sport can compete with the hook grip due to its security and this goes for powerlifters, weightlifters, and strongman athletes.
2. Jack of All Trades
Another major benefit that comes along with hook gripping is how it can be used in training for every strength sport. This grip style can be used with success in every lifting style, which makes it a jack of all trades. This is great during a workout, as there’s no switching grip styles between sport-focused movements, so if you like to train things like heavy cleans, deadlifts, and rows all in the same workout, then you hypothetically can use hook grip for all of them.
3. Upper Body Symmetry
Mixed grip is fantastic at keeping the bar secure during heavy deadlifts, but there’s a caveat to using this grip for multiple years, and that’s upper body symmetry. Look, I’m not going to say that this grip instantly leads to upper body imbalances, although, over time when not accounted for the mixed grip can lead to slight imbalances of the upper back. There’s no need to fear mix gripping for this reason, but it’s not a bad idea to account for potential imbalances, especially when pulling heavy often.
Hook grip is great because it eliminates any chances of upper body asymmetries, as both sides of the body will have the ability to pack evenly. On top of that, there will be no more debate on when to switch from double overhand to mixed grip when warming-up. Double overhand to hook grip is a seamless transition that will help keep mechanics consistent.
4. Decrease Chances of Bicep Tears
Besides asymmetries, mixed gripping can also increase one’s chances of tearing a bicep. Bicep tears when mixed gripping are by no means a common injury, but they are more prevalent with this the mixed grip. The mixed grip utilizes an open palm, which then increases the amount of stress the bicep tendon endures and can put the tendon’s integrity at risk.
There are multiple reasons why a bicep could tear during a deadlift and it’s important to note that main cause of such an injury isn’t always in the bicep — for example, poor hip mobility can affect alignment of the spine which can increase the risk of a bicep tear. But in any case, the hook grip can be a useful grip style to help limit one’s risk of any potential bicep tears when pulling heavy weight, which can be major setbacks for lifting careers.
Two Drawbacks to Hook Grip
Like with anything in the world that’s great, the hook grip does come with a couple drawbacks.
1. Acclimation Period
There is no beating around the bush here, but using the hook grip is fairly uncomfortable when first starting out. Typically, athletes will experience mild pain on the thumb due to the pressure the barbell places on it. Now, this discomfort does decrease over time, although, not without constant practice and acclimation. If you’re brand new to using a hook grip, then account for a 2-3 month acclimation period.
For anyone just starting out, there are a couple ways to decrease discomfort on the thumbs and to acclimate to this grip style in a progressive manner.
- Try using thumb tape to limit direct pressure.
- Work with hook grip on lighter sets to get used to the pressure.
- Perform holds at the top of lifts using hook grip.
The best advice for anyone new to the hook grip is to use it knowing that it’s going to be uncomfortable and a little painful. It gets better, and as your lifting experience increases, the discomfort in the thumbs decrease.
2. Clunky Text Thumbs
Alright, this point might be a little subjective, but after years of hook grip my thumbs seem to be a bit worse at texting. Sorry, mom — that’s totally why I didn’t text back. After years of using hook grip, the thumbs develop thicker skin to accommodate for heavier loads, and it does make texting a tad tougher when it comes to pure accuracy.
Now, obviously, you can still text perfectly fine if you’re always doing hook grip and this point is more so for jest. Yet, there is truth to the thicker, more callused skin around the thumbs and their accuracy when quickly firing off texts.
The hook grip is a phenomenal method for promoting a secure grip on barbells and dumbbells. It’s a grip style that can be used by every type of strength athlete and it is useful in competition. There is an uncomfortable acclimation period, but after an athlete conquers this time frame — the sky is the limit with this grip style.
Editor’s note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein and in the video are the author’s and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.