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The Hook Grip
By Lynda Piper-Roche
“I hate the hook grip“
“My hands are too small”
“It hurts my thumbs”
The hook grip in weightlifting is the way in which an athlete grips the barbell, which is first gripped with the thumb, and then the remaining fingers grip both the thumb and the barbell. It is used in Olympic weightlifting movements (e.g. The Snatch and the Clean).
The hook grip is essential to kicking ass at many barbell movements. I am certain that many of you, like myself at first, cannot or could not stand the hook grip. You think it is bothersome and pointless. You may even be afraid you might tear off your thumbs or that your fingers are too short/hands are too small. You’ll get used to it. Believe me. (I have hobbit hands, and I can do it!) Your hands will adjust. And then you won`t be able to live without it.
The hook grip is considered to be a more secure grip compared to a grip where the thumb remains outside the other fingers. Also, the history of this sport reveals that athletes who use the hook grip can lift more weight compared to those who don’t!
I learned the hard way, during an “unbroken” heavy barbell complex. If I had switched to the hook grip while bringing the bar back down (from the front rack positon down to my hips) I could have held on for longer. Also, all of my efforts were wasted on that set of the barbell complex for that weight. Furthermore, I would have avoided dropping the bar onto my thighs (or trying to catch the bar with my thighs somehow) and ending up with two ridiculously massive bruises! And since that day, I have always used the hook grip. And I love it.
The following is an excerpt from Greg Everett’s Olympic Weightlifting: A Complete Guide for Athletes & Coaches:
The Hook grip is 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. For the pull of both the snatch and the clean, this method of gripping is a necessity to maintain control of the barbell during the violent second pull and the powerful turnover of the snatch.
It’s important to understand that the thumb is itself wrapped around the bar inside the fingers and not simply pinned perpendicularly to the bar. This arrangement takes advantage of the greater strength of the thumb relative to the fingers–with the thumb wrapped over the fingers as it would be in a conventional grip, it will typically reach only the index finger and have a weak purchase on it.
By wrapping the thumb around the bar directly, we create a powerful hook on the bar, which can be reinforced by the grip of both the index and middle fingers, which serve more to support the hook of the thumb than to grip the bar directly. With two fingers over the thumb rather than only a weak section of the thumb over one finger, we also create far more friction to secure the grip. In short, the Hook grip optimizes the anatomy of the hands for this application.
It’s going to hurt until you get used to it. This discomfort can be overcome by regular training. Here is how to suck it up:
• Chalk helps
• Get some tape for your thumbs
• Use it on for all barbell pulling movements. Snatches, cleans, deadlifts etc. The more you use the hook grip, the faster you will adapt to it
• Remember to release the hook grip when receiving the bar
Once you get used to the hook grip you will wonder why you didn’t use it before! So watch out as us Coaches will be keeping an eye on your thumbs!!!