Deadlift: Straps, Mixed Grip, or Hook Grip?
Current Best: 215lbs
In a month or two, my deadlift should be able to surpass my grip strength. As someone who’s dealt with wrist-joint instability for the past few years, it’s exciting that I’ve gotten to the point where I can potentially hold onto a bar weighing in the mid-to-high 200 lbs. Good things come if you’re patient, guys.
Anyway, now I’ve got to decide what to do about gripping the bear during deadlifts. I’ve been using the standard double-overhand grip, which is hell for the forearms by the way. Obviously, the strength of the glutes and hamstrings will surpass the strength of the flexors in my forearm – the sheer size of the leg muscles should be a dead giveaway. So anything I will do will make up for the fact that I cannot hold onto the barbell.
So what is the best approach for grip and the deadlift?
Well, there are three choices when it comes to grip and the deadlift: straps, mixed grip, and hook grip. Let’s go over the three.
When your grip fails with deadlifts, you can use straps. These bad boys wrap around your wrist, then wrap around the barbell. Essentially, the barbell hangs from your wrist and your grip strength becomes less necessary during the lift.
You obviously have to grip the bar still to ensure the strap doesn’t loosen and roll-off, but it makes sense that you aren’t hanging on to the weight for dear life as you would with a plain ol’ double-overhand grip.
If you look closely at the photo above of the powerlifter deadlifting, you can see that one hand is pronated and the other hand is supinated – this is called using a mixed grip. That’s all it is. Just turn one of your palms up and you’re good to go.
How the mixed grip works is pretty cool. In the double-overhand grip, when your grip begins to fail, the bar rolls out of your fingers. Your grip strength prevents the barbell from rolling out (until your deadlift numbers start to get heavy). When you use the mixed grip, as the barbell rolls down the one hand in the overhand position, it rolls up the other hand that’s in the underhand position. So when your grip becomes a limiting factor, the mixed grip provides a “fail-safe” during the deadlift.
Possibly the most intriguing of all three grips is the hook grip. To perform it, the lifter must use a double-overhand grip, but place the thumbs UNDER the pointer- and middle-fingers. I find the hook grip to be oddly similar to the double-overhand grip with straps.
In the mixed grip, you are double-overhanded with straps that complete a “loop” around the bar. In the hook grip, you are double-overhand with your thumbs that also complete a “loop” around the bar. It’s grossly over-generalized, but oddly similar.
What’s Best? Straps vs. Mixed Grip vs. Hook Grip
Well, I can’t honestly tell you what’s best, as not only am I a novice in this lift, but because there are also tons of other people who will give you different answers on what’s the best grip-technique for the deadlift.
I did figure out the best choice for myself though.
Right off the bat, I crossed off the hook grip as a possibility. My thumbs are arthritic, but thankfully have improved over the past summer. I will NOT risk ruining this progress by squishing my thumbs with a heavy-ass barbell.
I started out with the mixed grip (or, started out thinking I’ll use the mixed grip when my double-overhand grip fails). What attracted me to this grip-technique was that it doesn’t require anything special to do it – just turn one hand out and you’re ready to go. With straps, you’ve got to have a separate implement (e.g., the straps themselves) in addition to the barbell and your own grip to use this style of lifting.
Second thoughts began to roll around when I heard how common tearing a biceps tendon is with the mixed grip. When the one hand is turned out, the biceps is loaded and transfers the force, whereas the palms-down hand doesn’t have the biceps loaded.
What happens if you start out the deadlift with your elbows bent ever-so-slightly with a mixed grip, is a loaded biceps that is forced to lower the weight. Basically, the weight is so heavy, the elbow simply must lock-out. This lowering movement is called eccentric contraction. Eccentric contraction seems to be the most damaging to muscle fibers and tendons, as evident in the video above. Curling a 600-lb barbell = popped biceps.
With all of the injuries I’ve experienced before, I wised up and decided to take the cautious route and bought myself some straps. You’ve got to choose your battles and not have a huge ego.
No, my grip strength won’t go wayside once I start needing the straps, nor will my forearms be always puny. I won’t really need them until I add another 50-60 lbs to my deadlift. However, to mitigate those issues I’ll be reserving the straps for the heaviest sets of my lift, as well as beat the hell out of my forearms through other pulling exercises (such as pullups, rows, and static barbell holds).
Who knows if I’ll change my mind in the future regarding grip and the deadlift, but at least until then I’ve got these sweet straps from IronMind called the “Sew-Easy lifting straps”.