Updated: Jan 21, 2022
When it comes to deadlifting, there are three grip styles that you can choose from. Each one has their own unique benefits, and different people will each have their own preferences and ideal grip styles, depending on a number of different factors.
The grip style that you choose can make a world of a difference in your deadlifting, whether that affects the engagement of your forearms, asymmetries that you form, and your overall deadlifting capacity. The grip style that you choose to lift with is very important.
However it can often be hard for people to know the difference in the benefits between the grip styles, and for them to know which one they should be using.
That's why in this post, I'll be going over the advantages and disadvantages of each grip style, helping you pick the ideal grip style for you, and giving you a couple pointers at the end if you're still a little unsure. Sound good? Let's get into it!
The Three Main Deadlift Grips Are:
Double Overhand Grip
The first and probably most basic deadlifting grip is going to the double overhand or pronated grip. It's the classic grip that most people will first use when they begin deadlift. Why? Because it's the most simple and straightforward. You simply grab onto the bar with both palms facing downwards.
The double overhand deadlift grip looks like this:
Video by T Nation
Advantages of the Double Overhand Grip
Builds the Most Forearm and Grip Strength
The double overhand grip is the best of the three grips when it comes to building forearm muscle and grip strength. This may mean that the double overhand grip is the best choice for people looking to maximize the use of their forearms, and build as much grip strength as possible.
Building a strong grip is important for most people to becoming the best athlete that they can be, and doing your deadlifts with a double overhand grip is a great way to do so.
This may also mean that the double overhand deadlift is the best choice for beginners, who may not necessarily have built up a strong base in terms of grip strength yet. Doing your deadlifting with a double overhand grip will ensure that you build up this forearm and grip strength as quickly as possible.
Easy to Learn and Master
Another great advantage of the double overhand grip is the fact that it's the most simple grip out of the three we're discussing in this post. If you were to ask a random person who's never lifted before to deadlift, chances are, they'd grab onto it with a double overhand grip.
Why? Because it's the most simple and straightforward grip. Plus, it's the most comfortable to start with. It's the exact same grip you take when you're bench pressing (unless you're using a thumbless grip). Plus, it's the same grip your take when you do common activities such as cycling.
Due to these reasons, the double overhand grip is the easiest grip to learn and master. It's commonly used, and is familiar to most people.
This may once again mean that the double overhand grip is the best option for beginners, as the grip is by far the most comfortable to start with, and the most straightforward. Less confusion will be better for beginners.
Avoid Potential Asymmetries
The double overhand grip also reduces the chances of you developing asymmetries in your body, and especially your lats. By taking the same grip on both hands, you're activating all the muscles in both sides of your body in the same way, reducing the chances of developing asymmetries in your body.
This is definitely an advantage, as developing large differences in muscle size between your left and right side of the body can have a negative effect on both your training performance and your physique if that's something you care about.
Minimal Risk of Bicep Tearing
This is a less well known advantage, but it's still good to know about. Compared to other grips, the double overhand grip puts less strain on your biceps by putting them in a pronated position instead of a supinated one, where the biceps will be more engaged with the weight.
Especially under heavy weight, there is a chance that your bicep will actually tear. While this is quite rare and only happens in extreme cases, if it does happen, it can put you out of training for a very long time. Taking a pronated (overhand) grip will reduce the involvement of the biceps, and reduce the chances of you tearing it under the weight you're deadlifting.
Disadvantages of the Double Overhand Grip
Bar Can Easily Roll Out of Your Palms
The first disadvantage of the double overhand grip is that it's not as secure as the other grips. By this we mean that when the weight starts to get heavy and your grip starts to fail, the positioning of your hands will slowly allow the bar to roll out of your palms, and you'll lose the rep.
Many people begin their deadlifting career with the double overhand grip, but switch to other options once they reach weights that their raw forearm strength cannot tolerate anymore. Your legs and back are going to be much stronger then your grip, and grip failure is bound to happen at some point when you start lifting heavy enough.
Weakest Grip of the Three
Due to the bar being able to roll out of the palms much more easily, the double overhand grip is overall the weakest grip out of the three. This is not really a problem for beginners who aren't going to be deadlifting too heavy yet, but intermediate and advanced lifters will eventually look for other options that provide more stability and security for the bar in your hands.
When we're testing for one rep and set maxes, we want out entire body to be the limiting factor of the weight that we lift. We do not want our grip and forearms to be the limiting factor of the weight we lift.
So Who Should Use the Double Overhand Grip?
Well, if it hasn't been made clear by now, the double overhand grip is the best choice for beginners, and can be a viable option for intermediate to advanced lifters at times if they specifically want to build up their forearm strength and size.
Due to it being the easiest one to learn, it's great for people just learning the basics of lifting, and want to avoid as much confusion as possible to begin with. This is the one we'd recommend you start out with, and for all you intermediate to advanced lifters out there, we'd still recommend doing a couple of your warmup sets with the double overhand grip every now and then.
Next up on this list is the mixed or alternate grip. This is an extremely popular option among intermediate and advanced lifters who need more grip security than the double overhand style can offer. It's popular due to the fact that it doesn't allow the bar to roll out of the palms as easily by pretty much shifting it from one palm to the other.
This grip has you grabbing onto the bar with one hand (usually your weak hand) pronated, and the other (usually your strong hand) supinated.
Video by Mind Pump
Advantages of Mixed Grip
We mentioned above that this grip style is more secure than the double overhand grip, due to the lowered risk of the bar rolling out of your hands when the reps get heavy. We said that it pretty much shifts the weight of the bar from one hand to the other. Basically, as it rolls out of the palm of your pronated hand, it'll fall into the palm of your supinated hand, and vice versa.
This stops the bar from ever rolling out of both palms, and you're much less likely to drop the bar and lose the rep when you start lifting heavier weight.
You Can Lift More Weight
Since the mixed grip is more secure than the double overhand grip is, you're generally able to lift more weight with it. You won't have to worry as much about your grip failing, and instead can focus solely on firing up the larger muscle groups of your legs and back, to ensure you get the rep fully completed.
This is why you'll see powerlifters using the mixed grip in competitions. Their whole sport is centered around lifting as much weight as possible. And by taking a mixed grip that's nice and secure, you're able to focus on lifting as much with your entire body, as opposed to tying to hang onto the bar with your forearms.
It would also make sense that if you're trying to go for a new one rep max, you should be using an alternative to the double overhand grip. You can warm up with your double overhand grip to ensure that you don't neglect it too much, but your one rep max test should be done with the mixed grip or hook grip to ensure you can lift as much as possible.
Quite Simple to Learn
Similar to the double overhand grip, the mixed or alternate grip is quite a simply grip style to learn. It's not as straightforward or commonly seen in other areas of life as the double overhand grip, but it's still pretty straightforward.
Unlike the hook grip that we'll discuss below, the mixed grip has you simply grabbing onto the bar by curling a fist around it, with the only thing differentiating it from the double overhand grip being that one hand is supinated, and the other is pronated.
Since this grip is simple to learn, it's quite easy to transition over from a double overhand grip to a mixed grip once you start lifting heavier weights. There's not much of a learning curve to it.
The last advantage of the mixed grip would be the fact that it's comfortable, like the double overhand grip. Compared to the hook grip, the mixed grip is extremely comfy, and the bar sits nicely in your hands.
You won't have to worry about pain in your hands when you first start, at least as long as you were fine with the double overhand grip.
Disadvantages of Mixed Grip
May Lead to Asymmetries
One of the major disadvantages of the mixed or alternate grip is the fact that you could develop muscular imbalances over time if you lift consistently for a long time. Since you twist one arm around to supinate it, but keep the other pronated, you're engaging the muscles of the lats in a different way, which can lead to muscular imbalances between the two sides of your body.
You put uneven stress on your arms, back and joints, and could look to switch up the supinated and pronated hands every once in a while to combat this and prevent muscular imbalances.
Increased Risk of Bicep Tears
Lifting with a mixed grip also places a large amount of stress and weight onto the bicep of the arm that is supinated. This can lead to bicep pain over time, or even possibly a bicep tear in more extreme cases.
This may mean that taking a mixed grip can be more dangerous in terms of your bicep health, and that you should be weary before attempting to lift a weight that you cannot tolerate yet. Well, that's a good idea in any weightlifting activity. But with a deadlift, and especially a mixed grip deadlift, you have to be that much more careful.
So Who Should Use the Mixed Grip?
The mixed grip is a stronger, more secure option for those who have been deadlifting for a while, and have built up to a weight that their raw forearm strength cannot tolerate anymore.
Generally, this won't apply to beginners. It will more likely apply to intermediate and advanced lifters who need more out of their grip to reach higher numbers in the deadlift.
It's a great choice for people who are being limited by the double overhand grip, but either do not like the hook grip, or find it too painful. Basically, it's the next step up from a double overhand grip as you progress in the gym.
The third grip style we have in this post is the hook grip. This is most popular among powerlifters, but otherwise you won't see it all that often in average lifters. The hook grip si the strongest and most secure grip you can have on the barbell.
This is because, the positioning of your fingers and hands essentially creates somewhat of a wrist strap, but with your own hands instead. The hook grip is known to be quite painful, even to people who have quite a bit of experience with it. You could try to play around with it, and see if it's the right one for you. It is the strongest, after all.
The hook grip has you wrapping your thumb around the bar, and then wrapping some of your other fingers around it, to effective create a secure 'hook' with your hand.
It looks like this:
Video by Alan Thrall
Advantages of the Hook grip
Strongest and Most Secure Option
Like we mentioned above, the hook grip is by far the strongest and most secure grip choice out there for the deadlift. By wrapping your thumb around the bar, and tightly wrapping your other fingers around it, you effectively create a hook, where the chances of the bar breaking this 'hook' are pretty low if you're using sensible weights.
When you lift the bar off the ground, it'll push down against your thumb, and be tightly locked in by your index and middle finger, which should lock the bar completely in place if you're doing this correctly.
This increased gripping security can often mean the difference between hitting a new one rep max, and going home disappointed. So try it for yourself, and play around with it. If you don't like it, don't feel that you have to stick to it. But give it a good shot at least. It could seriously be the difference between you breaking plateaus and records.
Avoid Potential Asymmetries
Since you're grabbing onto the bar with an even grip on both arms, you're not going to develop asymmetries in your back and arms over time like you could do with a mixed or alternate grip.
This is a great advantage if your physique is something that you care deeply about, and should definitely be taken into consideration when you're picking a grip style.
A large lat imbalance can completely ruin your physique from the back, or even the front if your back is big enough. It's not something that you want to experience.
Minimal Risk of Bicep Injuries
Like the double overhand grip, you grip onto the bar with internally rotated shoulders, which pronates the hands and reduces the involvement of the biceps during the movement. This decreases the chances of you suffering a bicep tear, which can prevent you from training for upwards of 4 months.
While the chances of you suffering an injury like this are quite low to begin with, you still have to be careful. Think of it like getting into a bad car crash. While the chances of it happening are low, and hopefully won't ever happen to you in this lifetime, just having it happen once can put you out of normal activities for a very long time.
So never try to lift too heavy on the deadlift. Always be sensible with the weights you pick.
Can be Safer For the Back
The hook grip can also be safer for the back during the deadlift. By this, we mean that taking an alternate grip can actually cause you to twist your torso during a heavy rep to make up for the weight that might be twisting side to side with a mixed grip, or 'helicoptering' as it's called.
Over time, and especially under heavy loads, this twisting and turning of the torso can lead to lingering back pain, and affect your ability to perform everyday tasks like walking up and getting up from a seat.
Many people do experience this, including people like Omar Isuf, who is a well known weightlifter on YouTube, and has built up a following of 845,000 subscribers as at November of 2021.
Disadvantages of the Hook Grip
Can be Pretty Painful
The first, and probably biggest disadvantage of the hook grip is the fact that many people find it to be pretty painful when they first switch to it, and therefore find it hard to commit to. The hook grip places quite a lot of pressure specifically on your thumbs, and it's sometimes too much for people to tolerate.
I have lifted with the hook grip before, and yes, it is pretty painful at the start. However its's important to know that this is normal, and everyone experiences this pain when they first switch to the hook grip. It's like any combat sport. Getting hit might hurt at the start. But you'll eventually get used to it.
Higher Risk of Skin Tears
Since you place so much pressure specifically on the thumbs, you're more likely to tear some skin off your thumbs. Noe, this isn't too bad, but it can add to the pain of hook gripping, and is sometimes another limiting factor of being sticking and staying committed to the hook grip.
You'll see many professional and top powerlifters who use the hook grip showing their bloody thumbs to the camera, and it definitely does happen. The hook grip is not the friendliest on your hands, and you're going to have to get used to it.
To reduce some of this pain and tearing, you could try wrapping your thumbs and hands in some flexible tape. This will take some pressure off your bare hands, you'll be able to lift in the exact same manner, without facing as much discomfort.
You Need at Least Average Sized Hands
The hook grip does also generally require pretty large hands. As you're wrapping your thumbs around the bar, and then covering it up with your other fingers, you need quite large hands in order to pull this off, and create that strong 'hook' that this grip style offers. If your hands are too small, you may not be able to fully enclose your fingers around your thumb, and the hook will not be as secure.
Your hand size is not something that you can change, and therefore this can be an extremely limiting factor to some who want to utilize the hook grip. There's not much that you can do if your hands aren't big enough.
Forearm Strength Plays the Smallest Role
Lastly, the hook grip does also require the lest forearm and raw grip strength to pull the weight up off the ground. This doesn't necessarily affect your training, but this does mean that you won't be building as much forearm strength and muscle as you would otherwise using the double overhand or mixed grip.
If you're somebody who's not too worried about lifting that extra little bit of weight, and instead wants to ensure that you're becoming the best athlete you can possibly be, the hook grip may not be the best choice as it does not engage the forearm muscles as much.
So Who Should Use the Hook Grip?
The hook grip is most suitable for intermediate to advanced lifters who cannot get enough out of their raw forearm strength, and need that extra grip security to ensure that they can lift maximal loads.
It's also for the people that don't want to develop asymmetries, and are perhaps a little more cautious about risking bicep tears and back injuries over time. It's quite an advanced grip style, and we'd only recommend this to intermediate to advanced lifters with at least a year and a half of lifting experience use this grip. Otherwise, the double overhand or mixed grip may be the better option depending on how quickly you progress in the gym.
Still Not Sure?
If you're still a little unsure about the grip style that's ideal for you to be using, the best thing we can say is: give them all a try!
Most people will have played around with the double overhand grip before. But don't be afraid to give the mixed grip a try either! It's definitely providing something new, and could be the catalyst of new gains and breaking new records.
And just because you hear people (including us!) saying that the hook grip is painful, or others telling you that the mixed grip causes imbalances doesn't mean you shouldn't use them.
Not everybody finds the hook grip all that painful. And not everybody experiences muscular imbalances. It's all individual, and the best way that you can find your ideal grip style is to simply give them all a try.
This should go without saying, but it's important that we stress this. When you're testing out a new deadlift grip, or anything new in fitness, start with light weights that you're completely sure you can handle. Maybe half of your one rep max. Maybe even less. You do not want to injure yourself.
Attempting to lift heavy weight that you usually do with a new grip can lead to injury, such as thumb tears on a hook grip, or a bicep/back injury on the mixed grip if you're not sensible. So give these new grips a try, but be careful with it. I have injured myself in the past, and I would hate to see you doing the same.
Wrapping It Up
To conclude, the deadlift grip that you pick can have a huge influence on your lifting capacity, and your overall workout performance. It's important that you weight the pros and cons of each, and pick the one that's the most ideal for you to be using.
Look to give all of them a try at some point or another, and you'll quickly find one that resonates with you and your goals!
We hope you've enjoyed reading through this post, and have been able to learn something from it. If you did, consider sharing it with your friends!
Whatever you do, don't do what I did and think that you're limited to just one grip type. It's never too late to switch things up, and I'd hate to see you fall into the same trap.
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