I remember when I was introduced to the hook grip by my CrossFit coach, I didn’t like it that much. I wasn’t willing to practice it while doing my snatches or cleans. Not because I didn’t believe in my coach’s advice or think that it wasn’t useful, but because it felt weird and it was very uncomfortable! After a couple of months, thanks to my coach’s insistence, this type of grip became part of my training. I didn’t even have to think about it before holding the bar. And my coach was right. It helped me get a more stable and stronger grip than with a traditional grip. I was able to lift a few pounds extra!
The truth is that it will take time to get used to the discomfort, and maybe at the beginning (or always) you will need to cover your thumbs with tape. But it’s absolutely worth it.
We want for you to seriously consider adding hook grip to your lift technique. We want you to improve your barbells skills and be the best version of yourself. Hopefully, when you finish reading this article, you will see the hook grip as an ally in the fight for achieving more personal records on your snatches and cleans.
Hook Grip Technique
What is a Hook Grip?
In Olympic weightlifting, the hook grip is a method of holding a barbell by gripping the thumb between the barbell and the remaining fingers. It is mainly used in the snatch and the clean.
Another definition of hook grip says that it’s a pronated (palms facing the lifter) grip in which the thumb is trapped between the bar and usually the first and second fingers, depending on hand size. Some athletes use four fingers to trap the barbell and the thumb, in my case I feel comfortable using just the index and middle fingers. Whatever the case, Greg Everett, owner of Catalyst Athletics and coach of the USA Weightlifting National Champion team, advises that “it’s very important that you do not simply smash the thumb flat against the bar. Instead, you grab it with the fingers and try to pull it around the bar. The mistake of just pinching the thumb against the bar is usually what causes new lifters to believe the hook grip makes no sense—it’s just uncomfortable and doesn’t feel strong”.
What does a Hook Grip look like?
For setting the hook grip, Greg Everett recommends to “press the webbing of the hand between the thumb and index finger against the bar; wrap the thumb about the bar as far a possible; grab the thumb with the index and middle fingers; use these first two fingers to pull the thumb farther around the bar and grip the bar with the remaining fingers”
Credit: Catalyst Athletics
Why use the Hook Grip?
Now that you know what the hook grip is and how to correctly set your hands on the bar to perform it; have a look at the reasons why you should use it in all the workouts that involve cleans and snatches.
- Powerful and safe hook on the bar.
The reason why hook grip is a strong hook is because it creates a system that balances the tendency of the bar to roll. Think about it, when you are holding the bar in a hang position, the bar will try to roll from the thumb in one direction. But, with the fingers latched on to the thumb, the bar has very little opportunity to spin and cause you to lose your grip. You don’t want a heavy barbell to go flying out of your hands!
- The hook grip optimizes the position of the hands
Since the hook grip creates a secure hold, the muscles in your fingers, wrists and elbows are less tense. This fact improves the transmission of the power coming from your legs and hips to the bar and also, the speed of your lifts. Therefore, your reps will be more fluid.
Normally, when we lift weight, our brain sends signals to the forearms as a precaution for a potentially dangerous lift. Then, the brain as a safety mechanism decreases the amount of power coming from your muscles. The hook grip reverts this mechanism allowing you to lift heavier weights.
You will save a lot of energy and decrease the chances of wearing your grip out in the middle of the workout. It will also mean better performance during a competition.
By allowing the bar to move through a straighter path closer to your body. This gives you more leverage during the pull from the floor. You will be able to lift higher loads with less effort, which can lead to an increased level of strength and power.
Tips for mastering a hook grip
These tips can make sure that you are using a hook grip efficiently and comfortably.
Normally, the hook grip is most useful for Olympic lifts like cleans and snatches. Some people may use them for deadlifts in the right situation.
- Be sure that you’re doing it correctly. Don’t just squeeze your thumb between your fingers and the bar.
- Practice this grip with lighter loads. This will help you get used to the grip and stretch the thumbs to allow more comfortable gripping with heavier weights.
- If you find the hook grip too uncomfortable, you can use Hook Grip tape to reduce discomfort. Make sure you use elastic tape so your joints can move freely. Some athletes say this helps improve the feeling of grip security because you generate more friction with your thumbs and the barbell.
- For adapting faster and easier to this grip you can use the hook grip every time you’re pulling a bar. The good side of this is that your thumbs will stretch out a bit and your hands will become trained to the position.
- Experienced lifters like to submerge their hands in ice water for 5-10 minutes after training to help reduce pain and inflammation. This can help prevent soreness while learning the hook grip.
- Also for recovery, you can use a massage ball (or a golf ball). Place the ball on a firm surface and put it under the palm of your hand. Then just roll the ball underneath your hand with gentle pressure, making sure to focus on the tender spots.
Are you ready to practice your barbell movements using hook grip? Remember that mastering this grip not only depends on the technique, but also on your grip strength, hand size and shape. Different kinds of athletes are able to maintain different levels of gripping effort, that’s why your goal should be to grip only as tightly as necessary.
I know holding a hook grip at the beginning is uncomfortable. But if you are consistent in using it, you will condition your hands appropriately and over time the grip will be a natural part of your movement and you won’t have any trouble. In fact it will be the opposite! It will allow a more stable and efficient pull. Trust us on this one, it will become more comfortable than a conventional overhand grip.
Don’t hesitate anymore and use a hook grip to power your lifts and optimize your performance!
Check out our recommendations for the best Hook Grip Tape HERE!
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Giuliana is a yoga instructor and Crossfitter from Peru who is currently living in Chiang Mai, Thailand with her Crossfit Coach (and husband) Tim.