So you want to know which is the best grip for deadlifts. With 4 common variations to choose from, it can be hard to know which one is best suited to you. Keep reading to find out…
I think we can all agree that the deadlift is by far the best exercise you can do for pretty much working the entire body.
Whether you are aiming to build strength, power, or a muscular physique, including those sought after beach muscles – your abs, then the deadlift can get you there.
However, a widely debated topic that not many can agree on, is the best way in which you should grip the bar when deadlifting.
Some may say the answer is simple. “Choose whichever grip allows you to move the most weight”. However, this answer is extremely flawed and here are the main two reasons why.
Without a doubt, the biggest killer to peoples progression in the deadlift is a lack of grip strength.
So you wish to build a hugely strong and muscular posterior chain, and of course, the deadlift is the best way to do this. However, if you have a lack of grip strength, sadly your wish will never come true.
Of course, learning to deadlift with proper form is of the utmost importance when trying to increase and improve on those numbers.
However, equal to this is making sure your grip strength can keep up.
Now there are many reasons why someone’s form can fail during a set of deadlifts, but one of the biggest ones is grip weakness. If you are struggling to hold onto the bar, then you will naturally want to compromise to try and complete the lift, usually by your hips flying up way before your shoulders start rising, or by rounding your lower back. This, unfortunately, is a one way street to injuring yourself.
In both the short and long term, taking shortcuts like compromising on your form to try and lift the weight is dangerous and even more so when you try to hit your max numbers.
Proper form and improving your grip strength should be your two main focuses when learning to deadlift.
A Quick Look At The Different Grip Variations
You will already know there are four grip variations you can use.
- Double Overhand Grip
- Overhand Understand Grip
- Double Overhand Grip With Straps
- Hook Grip
It’s incredibly important to know which grip variation is best for you. There are a few factors to consider before deciding.
- How strong is your double overhand grip?
- Are you attempting a max lift?
- Are you an advanced dead lifter or a complete beginner
There are of course other but these will be the main factors to consider.
Within this article, we are going to cover the fundamentals of gripping you need to take note of, before even looking at the different variations. Also, we will look deeply at each grip style and cover all the pros and cons of each one.
Deadlift Gripping Fundamentals
The next 3 things you will learn, will give you a solid foundation for deadlifting. Get all 3 right before looking at any type of grip variations. Don’t run before you can walk.
Every Rep Should Be Done In Perfect Form
The deadlift isn’t as simple as picking up a weight and putting it back down. Now although that is essentially what you are doing, to avoid injury and get the most out of this movement you need to understand it’s an incredibly technical exercise and will require each part to be mastered and executed correctly.
Just like grip weakness can compromise your form, the exact opposite is also true. Poor form will compromise your grip. Going off course at any stage of the movement will increase the length of time you have to hold onto the bar, therefore working your grip much harder.
Learn proper form before anything else.
Do Not Grip The Bar With Your Palms. Grip With Your Fingers Instead
This is an easy grip mistake to make, but many people do. When setting up to deadlift you will naturally want to place your palms around the bar. This will place the bar much closer to your wrists.
What happens next is, the second you start moving the bar up off the floor, it will roll straight into your fingers.
This may not sound like such a big deal, considering I am telling you to grip with your fingers anyway, however, that slight roll of the bar from your palms into your fingers will cause issues. It will throw off your form, tempo and balance, causing the much less efficient then it should be.
Make sure you grip with your fingers and not your palms before you even start to move the bar.
Squeeze That Bar Like Your Life Depended On It
If you don’t do this, then you stand no chance at all, when it comes to deadlifting those heavy numbers.
By squeezing that bar as hard as you can you will increase both strength and force production, therefore improving your lifts.
It may sound obvious, but it’s an extremely common mistake by just loosely holding the barbell.
It’s now time to look at the 4 grip variations.
4 Deadlift Grip Variations
Having a weak grip when deadlifting is definitely going to be a huge factor in limiting any progression. Being able to stop the bar from rolling out your fingers through having strong forearms and hands will be a big advantage for you, and as I have previously said, this is something you need to work on before looking at all the different grip variations.
However, once you have mastered perfect form and have excellent grip strength, the gripping technique you chose can also be a factor in limiting your progression. Even more so for advanced lifters.
The reason grip technique is much more of an important factor for advanced lifters, is because, after a year or two of deadlifting, you will be hitting weights that will be much too high even for someone with an incredibly strong grip to handle.
Once you are at this stage of your deadlifting journey, then the correct grip technique is just as important as perfect form and grip strength to you seeing continued results.
Double Overhand Grip
A double overhand grip is 100% the most natural feeling grip of the 4. If you didn’t know about the other variations, it’s the grip you would use without thinking.
The technical name for the double overhand is the “pronated grip.”
Execution is easy. Your palms will be down facing your shins and both the fingers and thumbs will be wrapped around the bar.
Remember from above to grip with your fingers, not your palms.
If you are new to deadlifting, then this is the only grip you should be using. It’s comfortable, the weight will feel even through the entire body making it easier to learn the correct technique, it will help you develop grip strength and finally at this stage, you won’t be able to move enough weight to warrant the use of another grip variation.
The issues with this grip variation generally start once you can lift at least 1.5 times the weight of your body. Of course, each individual is different, but this is usually the point where the weight is so great that regardless of your grip strength you will have an issue with the bar rolling out your fingers making it impossible to progress any further.
Once you reach these types of weights, you can start to look at either the double overhand grip with straps or the overhand underhand grip.
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Double Overhand Grip With Straps
Some say using straps is cheating, some say it isn’t. I’m 100% with the latter on this.
You will know by now that I recommend beginners only ever using the double overhand grip (without straps) and this will always be true. If as a beginner you go straight into using straps from the get-go, you will never develop any kind of grip strength and this will have an adverse effect on your entire deadlift.
Straps are usually made from leather or cloth and when using a double overhand grip, you can wrap them around the bar, helping to keep it nice and tight in your fingers, taking most of the worry about dropping the bar away.
However, I must add if you have zero grip strength, then even straps could fail you and affect your entire deadlifting form.
Once you get to the stage of using straps they will take all the focus away from your grip and allow the rest of the body to work even harder, therefore allowing you to carry on progressing and improving.
Once you get to a certain level, use straps to your advantage. Even if you compete in powerlifting competitions where they are not allowed, at some points in your training they can still be used and benefit you. They will help you develop your posterior chain even further, so when it comes to doing the deadlift in competition without them, your entire body will be more than capable of lifting the reduced weight.
If you really are against using straps though, then they are not the only deadlift grip variation that can help you hold onto the bar to lift the increased weight. Another option is the Overhand Underhand grip.
This is exactly what we are going to look at next.
Overhand Underhand Grip
With the double overhand grip, you have both palms facing your shins. To turn this into the overhand underhand grip, you simply switch one hand around so your palm is facing away from your shins.
A simple rule of thumb is to have your weaker hand in the underhand grip position.
Making the simple adjustment of turning your weaker hand around can have a huge impact on the amount of weight you can lift. You will easily be able to lift a lot more weight then you could using the double overhand grip (without straps), as using this variation will help prevent the bar from rolling out of your hands.
I have a client who can deadlift 205kg for 1 rep using the double overhand grip without straps but struggles to get the bar very far off the floor when going up just another 5kg using this same grip.
The minute he changes to an overhand underhand grip, he is able to rep 210 kg for 6 reps without any struggle. This shows how powerful this grip can be.
However, it’s not all bells and whistles and there are some downsides and issues with this grip.
- This grip can put incredible stress through the bicep of the palm facing upwards. If you have a weak or injured bicep it can make using this grip an uncomfortable and difficult experience.
- When first attempting this grip, or when using to shift a heavyweight, you may find your body starts to rotate to one side. If this continues you will start to create imbalances between your right and left side.
I have never personally torn a bicep when using this grip variation, but most of the stories you hear about this kind of injury, come from doing the overhand underhand grip due to the immense weight going through the muscle. This is very rare though. If you do have any kind of issue with your bicep, however small, then stay away from using this grip and opt for the double overhand with straps.
Heres a quick tip for you. If you are going for 1 rep max lifts using this grip, then always have your stronger hand faced down. However, when using this grip in your normal training sessions, either rotate your hands between sets or between workouts. This will keep the strain through the biceps nice and even and help prevent muscle imbalances caused by your body rotating the same way every time.
The Hook Grip
It’s always impressive when you see someone deadlift an extreme amount of weight using the double overhand grip without straps. Now although some will be using the standard version, what you have actually seen, is someone using the sneaky hook grip. I say sneaky because at a glance it looks identical to the normal double overhand grip.
Let’s take a look at the hook grip.
From this close up shot, can you see the one difference. Your fingers and thumb are wrapped around the bar with the stand double overhand grip, but your thumb is placed in a sideways position on the bar followed by your fingers wrapping around it.
A small and subtle difference that has a huge impact on the amount of weight you can lift.
With your thumb in this position, it will make it very difficult for the bar to roll out your fingers.
Do I use this grip personally? “No, I don’t”.
At the risk of being called a wimp. It hurts. And when I say it hurts, I mean it REALLY hurts.
Although you may possibly build up a tolerance to the pain, you will have to go through the severe pain of your thumb being squashed by the bar. The heavier the weight, the worse the pain.
If you attempt to use this grip consistently it will surely make your training sessions a less than enjoyable experience. It’s just not needed considering the other grip options available to you.
Although this is purely opinion based, it wouldn’t surprise me if eventually, you would cause some permanent damage to your thumbs by overusing this grip.
It’s an even worse choice of grip for men with smaller hands and fingers and woman, due to the fact it would be extremely tough to wrap your fingers around both the bar and your thumbs.
As you can probably tell I am not a fan of the hook grip.
What Is The Best Grip For Deadlifts Key Takeaways
- Before looking at the different grip variations, make sure you get the fundamentals right first.
- Execute each rep in perfect form. This will make the movement more efficient and help you avoid injury
- Do not grip the bar with your palms. Instead, grip with your fingers
- When lifting squeeze the bar as tight as possible as if your life depended on it.
- There are 4 grip variations. These include the double overhand grip, double overhand with straps, overhand underhand grip and the hook grip.
- As a beginner always starts with the double overhand grip. Keep using this grip until you are able to lift 1.5 times your body weight, and having to stop sets before you can complete the final few reps due to the bar rolling out your fingers.
- Always use the double overhand grip for warm-up sets and if you are training with lighter weights and more volume, continue to use as well.
- When you are trying to lift at least 1.5 times your body weight, change to either the double overhand with straps grip or the overhand underhand grip. Its personal preference and you will soon learn which one you prefer.
- Unless you are competing in powerlifting competitions, avoid the hook grip. It’s a painful experience which will easily suck the enjoyment out of your training sessions.
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Hi, I’m David and I believe absolutely anyone can achieve the body of their dreams. I’m a qualified health and fitness coach and have been helping clients achieve their dream bodies for 15 years. Whether you are looking to get beach body ready, compete in a bodybuilding show or simply to improve your confidence and wellbeing, I can help.