Determining which grip you should use on your deadlifts and pulls may seem like a straightforward answer, however that may not always be the case. Depending on the purpose of the pulling movement, varied grips may be more beneficial to use over the other, especially when looking at specificity to weightlifting, powerlifting, competitive functional fitness, and general muscular development and performance.
Below we will discuss common (and one less common) deadlifting/pulling grips, and determine which one(s) may be best for you and your training goals.
Mixed Grip Deadlift
One of the most common grips taken by powerlifters and deadlifters is the mixed/alternated grip. With this grip the athlete takes a slightly wider than shoulder width grip (generally speaking, the width is depended on individual anatomical structures, often a width that allows for retraction and packing of the shoulder blades and lats).
The dominant hand is typically placed on the barbell in the pronated (palm down) position, with the other taking the supinated (palm up) position.
The benefit of this grip is that it is extremely effective, allowing athletes to “trap” the barbell and not allow it to roll out of the palm.
One potential risk of using a mixed grip is the asymmetries and muscular imbalances that can arise from being in this unbalanced pulling grip. With one hand pronated and the other supinate (palm down/palm up) the muscles in the arm, biceps, pecs, shoulders, and lats can be loaded asymmetrically, causing unilateral deficiencies over time, such as; poor scapular control, excessive internal rotation, spinal lateral flexion, etc.
Thankfully, many of these issues can be alleviated with balanced grip and deadlift training (like switching between grips), incorporating loaded carries, and dedicated movement practice.
Double Overhand Deadlift
The double overhand grip is similar to the mixed grip, with the exception being that both hands are in the pronated grip position (palms down).
Weightlifters do nearly all of their pulling using this grip, as it has direct application to their sport (snatches and cleans). The double overhand grip will help to develop balanced pulling mechanics (no asymmetrical loading issues like the mixed grip).
This grip can work to enhance grip strength and a balanced back, which can create long term strength and performance improvements for nearly every athlete.
The double overhand grip can hinder maximal grip strength, especially when never trained. Often, this “risk” can be the sole reason why coaches and athletes perform this grip variation (powerlifters, weightlifters, and general fitness): to improve grip strength, lat engagement, and have a more direct carry over to Olympic lifts.
Double Underhand Deadlift
Less known and see in formal deadlift training is the double underhand grip. Julio Gutierrez, a NYC-based strength coach and Founder of Deadlift and Cigars, embraces this grip primarily during warm-up sets and when teaching beginners how to deadlift.
The supinated grip can limit maximal grip strength, inherently teaching better external rotation at the shoulder, scapular stabilization, and lat engagement, which is critical in deadlifting. This can be used to help lifters create better positioning and tension in the set up and pull.
The limited grip strength can be an issue, as well as having zero face value grip-specifics to the competitive powerlifting and weightlifting lifts. There’s also an increased likelihood of biceps pulls and tears. When used correctly however, this grip may improve all other grip variations.
Hook Grip Deadlift
The hook grip can be added to any of these aforementioned grip variations to improve overall grip strength and endurance.
This is highly specific to weightlifting, and some powerlifters may also find the hook grip to increase maximal strength.
While the hook grip doesn’t carry many risks — though note there have been reports of tendon stress in the thumbs and wrists, so still use caution — if the goal of the exercise is to increase grip strength, using the hook grip may undermine the true goal of the deadlift (in this instance to increase grip strength). In the event, however, maximal loads are the end goal, one may find it helpful to incorporate the hook grip with any of the above grip variations.
Deciding which grip variation to use should be a thoughtful process, as each possesses benefits and risks that coaches and athletes should be aware of. By selecting the appropriate grip variation based on the goal of the exercise (for example, why deadlifts are not the same as clean pulls), specificity and overall training stimulus can be better individualized to an athlete’s goal.
Editors note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein are the authors and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.
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