Olympic weightlifters use a special grip that is relatively unknown and rarely taught to the average lifter. This special grip is known as the hook grip and is used on both Olympic lifts and practiced when training with different broken-down elements of these two lifts such as the “pull” portions.
There are only two Olympic lifts that meet true Olympic-standards and these two lifts are the clean and jerk and the snatch. In both of these lifts, the hook grip is designed to stop the barbell from turning while gripped in the hands. The nervous system is smart and will sense danger. If the body feels that the grip being used is too weak for the weight being lifted, it will not allow the muscles to “fire” aggressively as an attempt to protect the body. In other words, the nervous system acts as a built-in safety mechanism. Therefore, if we secure the grip to meet the weight, we rewire this protective mechanism and give the body a sense of security and stability.
What is wrong with the conventional grip?
The more conventional grip of thumb over fingers; while it can produce more force is not the most secure grip. Here again, we must convince the body that it is capable of not only pulling but also holding a load. With the hook grip the thumb wraps around the bar first and is held in place by the pointer and the middle fingers. These two fingers wrap around the thumb. There is nothing more convincing to the body and to the mind than this solid, locked-in grip.
Okay I’m hooked! Now what?
There are two ways to “unhook.” First, this can and most often does happen naturally. As a lifter flips their palms up in transition from pull to catch, the thumb automatically pops out from beneath the other two fingers. Some lifters prefer to unhook the thumb only after the first portion of the clean and jerk (after the squat) as they prepare for the jerk portion of the clean and jerk. The majority of lifters will use a conventional grip to complete this lift. During the snatch, the thumb automatically pops out mid-lift and the bar is caught with a released thumb. The final grip is conventional as the bar is caught overhead.
Doesn’t that hurt?
Yes. Well, at first that is. As one begins to implement this grip, there can and most often is some discomfort. With practice, this will pass. Some thumb bruising is normal but will also pass with time. A second issue many face at the start is a sense of insecurity with the very grip that is designed to be most secure. However, after much repetition these same lifters soon find that there isn’t a more secure feel for the bar. Eventually this hook grip becomes so natural that any other grip feels weak and uncomfortable. It is worth the wait.
When do I use the hook grip?
Use this grip with both Olympic lifts and practice the hook grip on all broken-down pull elements of these two lifts such as the deadlift, the clean pull, and the snatch pull. The snatch-grip deadlift for example is excellent practice and builds confidence for the lifter as he/she adjusts and re-wires the nervous system to trust the grip’s strength. Boxes are especially helpful when practicing the pulls of both lifts.
[highlight color=”#f4f45f” rounded=”no” class=”” id=””]Coach’s Tip: Start with lighter weight and slowly build up the weight on the bar as you feel more confident to do so. Do not sacrifice technique in the process. It will all come together with practice and the final result will not only be a stronger grip and therefore more confidence with heavier weights, but a true and proper Olympic Lifting technique.[/highlight]
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