Four Backing Up One Is Better Than One Backing Up Four

One of the athletes at the gym threw that line at me after I went through the use of hook grip in one of our daily WODs recently.  (Thanks Nicky!)  I loved it. It is a very simple and true illustration of the hook grip and sums up why we use it.  

It’s Open season and you can bet (maybe not 100% confidentially but...) we are going to have barbell movements for reps sometime in the next four weeks.  With that on the horizon, having “hook grip” in our bag of tools to use is a very big benefit.  The picture attached explains it real simple-like.  With conventional grip, we are relying on our grip strength alone to hang on to the barbell.  We have one thumb and four fingers in an open circuit relying on muscle to close, and keep closed, that circuit.  However, once we establish hook grip, the circuit is closed and tension keeps it there.  In “hook grip” we are wrapping our thumb on the bar first.  From there, our index finger and middle finger “hook” over the thumb.  Just the same as a cam-lock works on an adjustable ring strap; the more force that is applied to “open” that circuit, the harder it closes.  This saves us from relying on the muscles of our grip to hang on.

Cycling a barbell alone can get to be extremely taxing on the grip without the use of hook grip.  DT anyone?  A lot of the time we are asked to cycle a barbell and then do some type of gymnastics movement hanging from a bar.  Grip compounded on grip.  Being limited by our grip sucks.  The entire rest of our body wants to go and has more in it, but we just can’t hang on anymore.  Hook grip helps to fix this.  

If you are new to hook grip, it’s not going to be comfortable.  Just the same as we need to build up our hands for high volume pull ups, the same goes for hook grip.  When you first start using it, your thumbs are going to ache.  No way around it.  In a recent WOD at 306, I suggested introducing it for one cycle or one round of barbell movements.  Ease in to it at a lighter weight.  Your thumbs will toughen up and adapt.  Slowly start using it more and more.  Another good idea when you are starting out is to use a 35 pound bar.  These are 1mm narrower in diameter than the 45 pound bar, making it easier to get a full, deep “hook” for beginners.  Another great idea is taping the thumbs. Some people like to tape the entire thumb.  Some (myself included) just tape from palm joint to thumb knuckle (middle of the thumb).  Play around with what works best for you and what is most comfortable.  When you’re trying it out, don’t wrap the tape too tight.  Taking away the flexibility of the thumb joint makes it even more uncomfortable.  I’ve developed a pretty good technique through the years so if you’re lost and want some pointers, track me down at the gym and I’ll be happy to show you!

Another benefit of hook grip specific to the clean is it helps disengage our forearms.  One of the most common movement faults with the clean is doing a “reverse bicep curl” to get the bar up to front rack position.  While there a lot of ways we can help correct this, the use of hook grip helps.  Reason being, hook grip helps to relax the forearm.  With conventional grip we are relying the muscles in our forearm to maintain grip. This of course engages the forearm and encourages using those muscles in contraction.  Hook grip keeps them relaxed and promotes a more vertical pull by stopping the contraction.  Perks!

If you haven’t established and starting using hook grip yet, now is the time.  Build up the tolerance slowly. Figure out the taping procedure that works for you.  Do a few sets or reps here and there for now. Slowly work it in more and more.  Once you have it, you won’t go back and you can thank me then.  

Don’t let grip hold you back in your WODs.  Your welcome for hooking you up (see what I did there?)!