Hey everyone and welcome to my article on the pros and cons of different grip styles for the deadlift. This has been one of the most popular questions I have been asked over the ten years I have worked as a personal trainer and ironically it is not something they really teach you in detail in the top personal trainer certification programs. One of the many reasons I advise people to learn all of the different types of grips is that we are all completely different from one another and thus one style of grip is not the best for everyone.
Some people might ask me, why don't you just use straps or hooks so you don't have to worry about your grip? Although straps and hooks have their place in a training routine, I personally like to build behemoth-like grip strength to go along with my monstrous deadlift. There's nothing quite like the feeling of doing a lift completely on your own without any accessory equipment. That is why I have spent years perfecting the three grip types that I will be talking about in this article.
In addition to the three styles of grips, I also highly recommend the use of lifting chalk or liquid chalk. Chalk will significantly improve the grip you have on the barbell. This can be a complete article on its own so I will not be talking in depth about it in this article. I am just assuming that you will be using some sort of chalk in addition to the grip styles I will be talking about.
I will be going over the pros and cons of the double overhand grip, the mixed grip (or alternating grip) as well as the mysterious hook grip. Let's not waste any more time and jump right into it!
Double Overhand Grip
This is the style of grip I recommend for people that are just starting out with the deadlift. Although it is considered the weakest grip out of all three of them, it builds your grip strength more than all three as well. To start this position you will place both of your hands on the bar with your palms facing down. Your thumbs will wrap around the bar but be on the outside of your other fingers.
This grip variation is the weakest because the bar can easily roll out of your palms. I still use this variation while using lighter weight in order to build my grip strength. After a couple months of incorporating deadlifts into your routine you'll notice that the strength of your legs and back are far greater than what your grip strength can endure while using this grip type. That is when you will need to move over to one of the next two types.
The mixed grip is the next logical step after the double overhand grip. This is because your hands will be gripping the bar in an identical fashion with your thumbs outside the rest of your fingers. The only difference is that one hand will have its Palm facing down while the other will have the Palm facing up. This is why it is called the alternate or mixed grip.
I typically like to recommend people to use their dominant hand to be the one where the Palm is facing upwards and have their non-dominant hand palm facing downwards. Although I do suggest you try both ways to see which one feels more natural to you.
The reason that this grip style works so well compared to the double overhand grip is due to the fact that the bar cannot roll out of your hands so easily. As the bar rolls out of one hand it simultaneously rolls into the palm of the opposite hand and vice versa. This makes the bar very secure and much less likely to slip out of your hands.
Although this is a fantastic option when it comes to being able to grip the bar, there are some downsides to the mixed grip. The first downside is that it can put uneven stress on your arms, joints and back muscles. This can lead to disproportionate growth on one side compared to the other. Another downside is due to the fact that the underhand grip arm tends to place lots of tension on the bicep tendon. This can lead to bicep pain or even tears in extreme circumstances.
Finally we are onto the last grip type. The infamous but highly misunderstood hook grip. When properly learned, you will be able to hold the most amount of weight compared to the previous two styles of grips.
The hook grip is performed with both Palms facing down just like the double overhand grip. In fact if you are looking at somebody performing the deadlift from the front, it will be hard to tell if they are doing the double overhand or the hook grip. The difference is that instead of wrapping your thumb around the bar, outside of your 4 fingers, you will wrap it around the bar and towards your fingers. The goal is to be able to completely wrap your index and middle finger around your thumb in order to “hook” it in place. When you lift the weight off the ground, the weight of the bar will push your thumb against your index and middle fingers strengthening this lock.
Although you will be able to handle more weights with this style of grip, there are some downsides to the hook grip as well. The first downside is that you need fairly large hands in order to be able to lock your index and middle fingers around your thumb especially if you are using a thicker bar. The second downside is that it can be very painful to learn at first. It took me a couple months before I developed a good callus on my thumb. During the first few weeks it hurt so bad that I felt like my thumb was going to fall off my hand. I had to lighten the load of my deadlift in order to learn this style of grip, but in the end it was completely worth it! One suggestion I have is to buy self-adhesive nonwoven bandage tape to protect your thumb. This stuff is very flexible and allows your thumb joints to move freely. I don't suggest trying medical tape as it's too rigid.
Well that's about all of the advice I have for the different types of deadlift grip types. These grip types can be used for tons of other exercises as well, not just the deadlift. As a beginner, I would recommend starting off with the double overhand grip in order to really make gains on your grip strength. Once you can't support the weight with that style you can switch over to the alternate or mixed grip style. If you have no problems with feeling your bicep tendon using this style of grip, enjoy using it to your hearts content. For those of you that want to learn the best grip style for longevity, I suggest taking the time to learn the hook grip. If your thumb doesn't fall off in the first month, you will then possess the best grip type for the deadlift! Either way, I suggest staying away from straps at the beginning. You want to build that titan-like grip strength to go with your powerful physique! Now get out there and start training!
About The Author
Tyler has been working as a certified personal trainer for over 10 years specializing in strength training, weight loss, and functional training.