If your coach is anything like many coaches, you’ve heard non-stop about maintaining your hook grip when doing snatches and cleans.
But if you’re anything like, well, many CrossFitters, you fudge your hook grip from time to time because it just hurts. You feel as if you’re crushing your thumbnail, your grip fails, and the bar bites into your skin.
Knowing how to properly hook grip – and using hook grip every single time – is important to executing better, heavier lifts. And if you need some help protecting your thumbs from the soreness that comes from hook gripping, finding hook grip tape to keep in your bag can make a big difference.
Why Is Hook Grip Important?
When doing movements that require you to quickly move the barbell over your head – snatches, clean and jerks, thrusters, and clusters, for example – hook grip helps keep the bar in your hands when you go overhead.
If you don’t hook grip, the explosiveness you get when moving the bar overhead can cause you to lose your grip and send the bar flying behind you, or crashing onto your head. This can be dangerous even at light weights, but it’s especially perilous if you end up letting go of the bar when sending 100 or more pounds over your head.
Your thumb helps keep the barbell locked into place in your hands during the pull, especially if you get a great deal of acceleration.
In other words, hook grip is important for your safety and the safety of others working out around you.
Sometimes, you may not use the hook grip, especially in a WOD that calls for a high rep scheme of snatches or cleans and jerks that require you to quickly cycle the bar. Some athletes find it more difficult to move quickly with hook grip, but it’s best to work hard to keep that hook grip even in these situations for everyone’s safety.
How to Hook Grip Safely
When you first start learning the hook grip, you may be tempted to stop very quickly. It definitely is not the most comfortable way to hold the bar, but if you push through and keep using hook grip, it gets easier.
After a few weeks of consistently hook gripping, your body naturally adapts to the new grip. Your pain and discomfort decreases, and you’ll find yourself just reaching for the bar with a hook grip out of habit.
To hook grip, you can use either two or three fingers to help grip the thumb. Most people choose to use two fingers.
Here’s a step by step guide to hook gripping:
- Set your feet in position and bend down to grip the bar. Make sure your palms are facing you.
- Wrap your thumb around the bar, then cover your thumb with two or three of your other fingers, depending on your preference.
- Use those fingers to help “lock” your thumb into place and pull it farther around the bar and into your hand.
- Try to keep your grip solid, but not so tight that you fell as if you’re crushing your thumb. The looser you can keep your grip, the more relaxed your arms will be and the better you’ll be able to transfer the force from your legs to your arms.
- Lift, and hold onto the bar!
What Is Hook Grip Tape?
Hook grip tape is used by athletes who want a little extra protection or even grip when hook gripping.
Using hook grip tape can help your middle finger get more purchase on your thumb, keeping it locked in place for your entire lift. This is great if you’re lifting heavy, or if you’re at all worried about your grip slipping during your second pull.
For many athletes, though, hook grip tape is about their personal comfort and protection.
To properly tape your thumb for hook grip, use non-elastic athletic tape. Using elastic tape can cause you to wrap too tightly, which limits your range of motion in your joints. Or, you can use tape specifically made for hook gripping.
If you’re using standard athletic tape that is wide, tear it down the middle so you have two thin strips. You want to work with thinner strips instead of wider ones so you can better control where you’re putting the tape.
Here’s how to use hook grip tape for better, more comfortable lifting:
- Tear an approximately 18-inch-long strip of your chosen tape. If you split a piece of athletic tape in half, find somewhere to carefully stick the second piece until you need it.
- Place the tape on the underside of your thumb, near the base of your finger, with the rest facing toward you.
- Bend your thumb slightly and keep it bent. This helps you maintain motion in your finger.
- Wrap the tape around the bottom portion of your thumb once.
- Skip your thumb knuckle and wrap the top portion of your thumb, working up until you reach your nail bed.
- Once you’ve wrapped your nail bed once, continue wrapping your thumb back down toward the base, skipping your knuckle.
- If you have enough tape, wrap it again one more time, avoiding the knuckle.
- Finish the tape by attaching it on the back of your finger, away from where the bar will rub, so it doesn’t rub off with friction during your lifts.
If you wrapped your thumb well, you should be able to grip the bar better and protect your thumb from tearing during heavy or repeated lifts.
Hook Grip Tape Recommendations for Weightlifting
There are tons of great brands and types of hook grip tape available. Here are some of our favorites:
LYFT-RX tape is flexible and easy to use, and comes with more than 400 positive reviews on Amazon.
This one’s Amazon’s Choice for a reason: It’s perfectly sized for the right width on your thumbs, and is flexible while also being sweat- and chalk-proof.
This great thick tape. The adhesive is perfect it keeps the tape from slipping or bunching, but when I pull it off there is no residue or stickiness left on my hands. It works well to help with grip and keep me from getting irritation on my hands. – Sarah Verified Amazon Review
This tape is slightly wider than many other brands, allowing you to wrap most of your thumb with one strip. Even though it will likely cover your thumb knuckle, the stretch in this tape means you won’t lose any mobility.
This tape comes pre-cut so you never have to worry about using scissors or whether the tape will actually tear with your teeth or just shred.
This tape is the official tape of USA Weightlifting and comes in a variety of colors to suit your style.
Learning to properly hook grip is important to lifting weights and doing CrossFit. Without a great hook grip, you can’t safely move heavy weights, limiting your power and ability to get stronger.
If you’re wanting to learn how to hook grip but can’t handle the wear and tear it puts on your thumbs, try some of our hook grip tape recommendations and lift away!
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Michelle Tipsword is a professional writer who tried CrossFit on a whim in May 2019 and hasn’t looked back since. When she’s not writing or at the box, she can be found with her husband, kids, or cats, usually drinking coffee.