Deadlift Grips and Straps: What and Why?
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The deadlift is one of the most important movements for building raw strength in the hips, legs, and back. However, it also requires – and builds – a strong grip.
Today we’re taking you through the grips that you can use for a deadlift. This includes their benefits, drawbacks, and how you can use them in your own training.
Stick around if you’re ready to improve your pull and make the most of your strength training!
- Double overhand
The double overhand grip is the “just do it” of deadlift grips. It’s the most common one you might think of if you’re not familiar with heavy deadlifting and powerlifting.
It’s also the most difficult form of grip for a deadlift. The risk of the bar rolling out of your grip is relatively high and the demand on the muscles of the forearms for this kind of movement is very high.
The benefit of this is exactly that: it builds grip strength by giving you no alternative. You aren’t going to demonstrate maximal strength in a double overhand deadlift because your max lift will be limited by grip.
However, this very feature is why you should perform some double overhand deadlifts. They train the muscles of the forearms against the bar’s attempts to roll away. The double overhand deadlift is a skill to train, and it will build forearm/grip strength more effectively than any other grip we’re going to discuss.
If you want to pull big weights, however, this is not the best choice. The demand on the grip means you’re not going to max out the strength of your bigger muscles and, when you’re pulling a 1-rep-max deadlift, this is going to be a problem.
The mixed grip is the classic attempt to get around the grip issue and lift more weight. Because the grip of the hands is alternated – one over- and one under-hand grip – the bar doesn’t attempt to roll in one direction out of your hands.
This can reduce the loss of grip in the deadlift, allowing you to lift more weight. This is a great choice and it’s why we’ve seen the powerlifting world rely on the mixed grip for the last few decades – it’s an easy to learn, easy to implement solution.
The grip is still trained in a mixed grip deadlift, just less than in a conventional double-overhand. This means you can train the grip strength with either of these variations, or a mixture. We recommend giving active attention to grip training, however, since it’s easy to get lazy when using mixed grip and it will only show up during heavier attempts.
If you’re looking for the strongest, most time-tested grip of all, however, then you need to consider hookgrip…
Hookgrip is the grip that Olympic weightlifters use to hold the barbell during the snatch and clean. Its a type of grip where the thumb is tucked under the fingers, ensuring that the barbell cannot easily slip from the hands while also keeping both hands in an over-hand grip.
This is a great alternative for most powerlifters since it does a number of important things.
First, it obviously reduces the grip challenge about as much as possible. If you can’t hold it with hookgrip, you can’t hold it at all. It’s the most advantageous position for lifting a barbell when it comes to grip strength/reliability.
Second, it removes the rotational bias you can easily develop/see in mixed grip lifting. It’s usually not a huge concern, but it does play into the way that many powerlifters train and can be seen in many deadlifts.
However, this reduction of grip requirement comes with an equal amount of grip training you’re not doing. The hookgrip presents a great way of demonstrating strength without an equal method for building strength.
For this reason, there’s value to using the hookgrip for a heavy deadlift, but less value to training it as the only kind of deadlift you’re using. It makes more sense as a competitive powerlifter, for example, than a regular gymgoer.
The grip strength development is important for a well-rounded physique and while the hookgrip is an amazing tool, it does overlook this.
Lifting straps exist as a way of giving your hands/grip a break and providing a way of training with heavy loads. If you’re more concerned with the strength of your legs, back, core, and glutes, you can use straps to remove the limitation of grip.
This is a common tatic if you’re not interested in the specific application of grip to deadlifts, or if you train grip in other ways. For example, a Judoka or Jiu Jitsu player will develop grip specific to their sport or with specific movements (e.g. gi pull ups) and deadlifts are for hip/leg strength.
Equally, you don’t need to deadlift for grip all the time. If you’re a powerlifter running a higher volume program, you don’t need to deadlift with a competition grip all the time and you can focus on higher-rep work, more often, if you integrate straps into some of your sessions.
Straps are also totally reasonable the other way around – if you’re tiring your grip during workouts, it can be a sensible idea to use straps on accessory work where grip is fatigued. There are plenty of situations where straps can be helpful.
Straps usually come in one of two forms: open-loop and closed-loop. Open-loop straps are looped to the wrist but have a single, piece of material for tying to the bar.
Closed-loop straps, the kind you’ll see in Olympic weightlifting, are basically just a big loop of material that is teardrop shaped. These perform the same function but, because the wrist isn’t tied in as tightly, they can be released more easily.
Figure eight straps provide a way of holding onto the bar with reduced grip demand to the max. With two loops that overlap to provide maximal security against the bar, they remove almost all of the grip demand.
Figure eight straps are popular in strongman circles for this exact reason where world records are often pulled with figure eights. Simply put, when you don’t want to worry about missing because of grip, figure eight straps provide the most stable attachment to the bar.