Ask Greg: Trouble with the Hook Grip
Andy Asks: I have just purchased and am reading through your book now. Its is a great teaching tool. Thanks for it! I was curious about the hook grip you teach. I think i understand the technique, however it not really working out. The strength of the grip for me is very weak. I have been using it a month and just have trouble keeping that grip. Do I just need to give it more time? I have pretty stubby fingers. Is it just not optimal for everyone? I'm like 5'9- 5'10 (depends on who's asking). 83kg.
Just thought I'd try and ask an expert. I understand it's value in that it can provide for more gains in multiple lifts. So i would like to get it down. Would it be more practical to do this in a volume phase of work to be able to work with decreased weight? Thanks again.
Greg Says: The hook grip can be tricky initially, especially for individuals with smaller hands, and even more so for those smaller handed individuals whose hands are also thick. The short answer is: Make it work. There's a reason that every weightlifter in the world uses the hook grip, and that's simply that when you're accelerating a barbell as you do in the snatch and clean, you cannot maintain your grip without it.
When you start feeling sorry for yourself, just remember that there are 56 kg (124 lb) men who snatch and clean with the hook grip on the same 28 mm barbell that the rest of us use. Halil Mutlu snatched 138 kg at 56 kg. If someone with hands that small can hold onto a weight that big with a snatch grip, you can find a way to manage.
First, when you're first setting your grip, push the webbing between your thumb and index finger into the bar as deep as possible, and then wrap the thumb and fingers. This should help you get a bit more reach with the thumb.
Also, be sure that you're doing it correctly. Don't just pinch your thumb between your fingers and the bar--wrap your thumb around the bar, then grab your thumb with your first two fingers and pull it farther around the bar.
For most people, there is some stretching that needs to occur before the hook grip feels really secure. The best way to accomplish this is to simply use the hook grip every time you're pulling a bar. Your thumbs will stretch out a bit and your hands will become conditioned to the position, and it will eventually start feeling much more comfortable.
You can also stretch directly with what I call the girl punch stretch (no offense intended - none of my female lifters would ever punch someone this way). Make a fist with your thumb tucked tightly inside and ulnar deviate your hand; that is, tilt your hand away from the thumb side. You should feel a stretch around the base of your thumb and probably a little up into your wrist as well. You can also flex the wrist from this position to get an additional and somewhat different stretch.
If you really want to torture yourself, you can do heavy deadlifts with a hook grip. This will stretch your thumb out and strengthen the grip with less chance of a sudden slip than you would have in a snatch or clean, but it will also be painful (most people feel like their thumbnails are being crushed in a vice).
Finally, you can try taping your thumbs. Make sure you use elastic tape so your joints can move freely. Sometimes tape will have a bit more friction against the bar and make your grip feel more secure.
In any case, keep using it as much as possible and as frequently as possible and it will improve.