In part 1 we discussed how I decided that hook grip was the best option for me as a powerlifter.
In today's article, we'll be discussing how YOU can decide what grip you should use. I'll get as much done on this part as I can this week but we may have to extend to doing a few more parts before we begin to scratch the surface on this subject.
First, we should cover the risks and drawbacks of hook grip.
THE RISKS OF HOOK GRIP
For this reason, I would go to a double over or strapped deadlift if competitions aren't on your agenda and even when you are training with hook grip to keep it to the minimum you can get away with.
Here we have some simple guidelines as to when hook grip can be an unnecessary risk
DO YOU HAVE ENOUGH ACTIVE EXTERNAL ROTATION OF THE HUMERUS?
"The 47 limits of normal motion of the joint are defined by both active and passive restraints, leading to large variation in the range of axial rotation between individuals."
Don't ask me what the 47 limits are because I don't know, but the take-home point is that everyone has a different amount of both active and passive internal and external rotation of the humerus.
In English, this means we all have different amounts of mobility of the upper arm. Some people can turn their palm completely over without any restriction at all whereas others (like me) have a very poor ability to turn the hand over leading to a increased tension of the bicep while deadlifting or performing any other kind of underhand grip exercise.
Here's a great video from MIND PUMP TV explaining internal vs. external rotation to hopefully make the concept a little clearer.
For a relatively safe under/over grip, you should be able to comfortably supinate both arms into the anatomical position without it feeling 'tight' on the bicep tendon or without having to point your little finger upwards in an attempt to get enough range of motion.
As the video above shows that external rotation of the shoulder turns the thumb to point away from the body. If you can't perform this action without pointing the little finger upwards or just running out of range of motion then hook grip should be considered, especially if you are training for competitions
DO YOU HAVE A HISTORY OF BICEP TEARS AND STRAINS?
The number one predictor of an injury in the future is previous injury. If you've strained your bicep while performing under/over I would immediately start to experiment with one of the double overhand grips.
What we have to say from the outset is that if you've pulled your bicep while deadlifting it could well have been a technical issue. There are many people out there who don't have their arms locked while deadlifting. Many people who bend their arm in an attempt to curl their deadlifts as well.
Regardless of whether you under/over or not bending your arms at any point in the movement puts much more stress on the biceps than necessary and should be removed as a habit as quickly as possible.
If you remove the arm-bending issue and suddenly you notice your under/over grip feels much better or there is a lot less tension on your bicep then you don't necessarily need to switch to hook grip or another grip.
If there is still an issue with your bicep or if you are still unsure with your under/over grip the safest option is to go for a variation of a 'double-over' grip.
DO YOU HAVE MUSCLE IMBALANCES CAUSING PERFORMANCE ISSUES DUE TO PERFORMING AN UNDER/OVER GRIP?
If you perform lots of volume with an under/over grip and you don't or can't swap hand position regularly then you will probably see muscle imbalances in the following areas:
a bigger bicep on the 'under' side
a bigger lat on the 'under' side
a lower shoulder on the 'under' side
Ideally, we'd like to avoid these imbalances. It's not just because these imbalances can potentially lead to pain but the imbalances can lead to issues such as having to lay wonky during the bench press because of the pronounced difference in musculature on the left and right-hand side as Alan Thrall has spoken about on his Youtube channel. We'll put in that video below so you can listen to how under/over imbalances affected him.
When the under/over grip is effecting your other lifts in such as way, it's time to either modify how you use the under/over grip to minimise risk of to stop using the under/over grip for good to give you a greater chance of staying injury and pain free for as long as possible.
Do you have obvious muscle imbalances because of under/over grip?
If you do I would suggest learning to switch your under/over-hand regularly. I have to add that for many people who only under/over one way normally find switching their hands to be a disaster. If you are one of those people either hook grip, a double-overhand grip or using straps for the majority of your training will probably be the best strategy for staying injury-free and being as strong as possible.
If you don't have imbalances due to under/over grip then fantastic news, you are probably onto a winner. Keep it up.
NO MATTER WHAT YOU TRY DOES THE BAR ALWAYS ROTATE AWAY FROM THE SHIN ON THE SAME SIDE AS YOUR 'UNDER' HAND?
As I said in part 1, this is what happened during every single rep while I slammed my head into the under/over wall for numerous years.
I tried every stretch and mobilisation I could to stop it happening and absolutely nothing worked. Once I made the switch to hook grip for the second time, this has completely disappeared and my spine and deadlift have never been better.
The swing away from the under-side is something we see with a lot of people who are performing the under/over grip not because it is right for them but because they aren't aware that other grip options are out there that are more in-line with their anatomy.
So if your deadlift swings more than the '60s, a double-overhand grip variation for all or at least the majority of your training is strongly recommended by me.
DO YOU STRUGGLE TO SWITCH YOUR UNDER/OVER GRIP?
As I said above, many people struggle to switch their under/over grip without it being a disaster. If you use an under/over for most of your deadlifts and you can't switch over then your muscle imbalances will probably be more pronounced.
If the muscle imbalances are more pronounced then the chances of other lifts being affected by this are higher.
I would say that for these reasons, if you can't switch your under/over grip at will without it feeling awful and alien then having a modified strategy for exactly when you under/over or transitioning away from under/over entirely may be your best strategy for your best results in the gym or on the powerlifting platform.
This week we managed to discuss the assessments I use for deciding what grip people should or could use in training.
In part 3 we'll discuss about what to do with the results of these assessments and how to apply the lessons learned in your training. I'm not sure if part 3 will be the end of the series. The way these are going I would probably guess not!
See you next time and thank you for taking the time to read this article.
The Heavy Metal Strength Coach