How to properly hook grip the bar
I have written multiple articles and filmed dozens of training videos on that special element of weightlifting: the hook grip. As a rule, this presents a problem for beginners, as not everyone has a correct understanding of why and how to properly form the hook grip.
Weightlifting textbooks say: The hook grip is pronated (with palms facing the athlete) with the thumb sandwiched between the barbell and the pointer and middle fingers (not always, but I'll talk about this a bit later). The main purpose of this grip is to maintain control of the barbell in the snatch and the clean.
A vital hook grip detail is hidden from the view: not only does the thumb press against the barbell while inside the grip but it also is wrapped around the barbell. This is the main hook grip’s difference from a power grip where the thumb is placed above the rest of the fingers.
As the athlete’s fingers wrap around their thumb from above, it is crucial to ensure the fingers also hook around the barbell as tightly as possible, too. This detail is extremely important: the fingers are not just pressing down on the thumb, but also COVERING it. I am specifically emphasizing this twice, since beginners are especially prone to making this error, and, therefore, we often hear the opinion that the hook grip is simply senseless, inconvenient, and unreliable.
Here’s another explanation: the thumb creates a “protrusion” on the barbell that the rest of the fingers can catch on to, a sort of a hook that the athlete fortifies with two more fingers.
As an active athlete, I honestly did not think about it to the full extent, and only when I started working as a coach did I realize that the hook grip is a system that does not let the barbell roll out of the athlete’s hands. In the case of a standard overhand grip, the barbell is resting on the fingers. There is always a risk that the formed fist will simply open. In powerlifting, athletes often use a mixed grip to deal with this issue. The alternated grip is a method of holding the barbell where one hand is pronated and the other supinated. This grip type is quite reliable since the wrists are facing different directions which stabilize the bar and prevent it from rolling out. There is just one caveat: the mixed grip is not suitable for competitive athletics.
The hook grip works similarly. The thumb will prevent the barbell from rolling out of the grip in one direction, while the rest of the fingers will keep the barbell secure in the opposite direction.
Finally, the bottom line: biomechanically, the hook grip allows the athlete to tightly hold the barbell without straining the arm muscles too much, especially those of the forearms. As coaches often tell the beginners, the hook grip allows one to relax the arms as much as possible, which improves the transfer of leg power impulse into the barbell during the final acceleration phase, and also allows one to go faster while diving under the barbell.
It is paramount for the athlete to work out and sense the optimal grip strength — enough to adequately relax arms and, at the same time, to prevent the barbell from rolling out of their hands at the explosive stage.
This skill largely depends on the size of the athlete’s hand and the length of their fingers. Some athletes with large-sized palms can wrap as many as three fingers around the thumb, while athletes competing in lightweight categories are limited to pressing their thumb with just their index finger (for this reason, some of them even resort to a little trick and let their thumbnails grow out).
For those who are worried about the size of their palms and the length of their fingers, let me remind you that Halil Mutlu (the three-time Olympic weightlifting champion) performed a 138kg snatch while weighing 56kg and being 150 cm tall, all thanks to the hook grip.
The vast majority of newcomers will be uncomfortable and feel painful sensations as they start learning the hook grip technique. I felt so inconvenienced that at first I even thought my coach was just testing my character to see if I can endure pain.
Of course, the easiest way to get used to the hook grip is to use it every time you lift the barbell. Over time, your hands will adapt, and this grip will feel natural and comfortable.
I also recommend using liquid lifting chalk and wrapping your thumbs with a lifting tape, as this will significantly increase the grip strength and help keep the skin intact.
Remembering my preparations before the competitions, I recall very well how the skin on the palms of my hands burned due to increased workload. During these phases of training, it is especially important to alternate between the hook grip and using lifting straps.For those who are just getting acquainted with weightlifting, I will reveal a secret that your hook grip skills are best tested in international competitions when you lift your maximum. And the sharp knurling on the brand new barbell that has just been unpacked prior to the competition gives your hands that special indescribable sensation.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A HOOKGRIP AND A REGULAR GRIP?
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Aleksey.. :D ‘Special and indescribable’… not so special and certainly described as OUCH! I have a relatively new Oly bar and I know what you mean. If you lift really heavy (its relative to abilities), your grip strength on a sharp bar, on the side of your thumb is always gonna be a test of the skin there. So, use wrap and chalk.. Both good investments!