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Deadlift grip issues

Posted: Fri Sep 07, 2012 5:20 pm
by asparagus
The past couple of weeks I've been messing around with my deadlift grip. I've been using over/under for my final heavy set up till now, but read about possible muscle imbalances from using the same uneven grip consistently and thought it might be a good idea to even it out. I've tried the hook grip before, but on lighter weights so my grip wasn't as much as a factor. It still hurt, was uncomfortable, and didn't feel right so I gave it up. I generally pull double overhand grip until I get over 315 lbs. I don't use straps and never will. I might use chalk in the future, but for now I have no intention of using it. My hands are dry enough as it is.

During my previous deadlift session I tried switching the hands I use for over/under and my form was really bad. My posture was completely skewed and my left should was much more forward horizontally than my right shoulder at lockout. It might be due to flexibility issues, but I have decent shoulder flexibility so I'm not so sure that was the issue. It could also be lack of practice, since I've never done it before. This was an attempt to try to balance any uneven development - my thinking was that if I alternate my grip week to week I won't have to worry about imbalance. I might still try this in the future, but train my off-hand grip a little before jumping into a heavy set.

Here's an excerpt from my training log today (Deadlift day):
I tried the hook grip today, with poor results. It seems that my hook grip is actually weaker than my double overhand. I'm probably doing it wrong, but it's uncomfortable as hell, painful, weak, and just plain doesn't feel right. I used it on my first two sets, which were very light but my grip was crap and it was difficult keeping the bar from slipping down to my fingers. Then I switched back to DOH grip for the next two and they went as normal. I then tried hook grip again on my last set and I could barely get the first rep down to the floor again before my grip gave out. I thought it might have just been bad thumb position so I quickly adjusted and went again, but as soon as the bar left the floor it slipped into my fingers and stayed there for the whole ROM. I gave up on it and switched to over/under but my momentum and concentration were gone. The rest of the lift went like crap - my form was off, my breathing was off, I had to pause twice to balance myself to finish the set whereas normally I'd just bang it all out in one go. I might just be stuck with over/under on my work sets...

... Unless I can find out what I'm doing wrong and fix it in a way that doesn't make my grip worse. I have looked it up, watched videos, looked at diagrams, read discriptions, etc. and I seem to be doing it properly.

Does anyone have any tips on it, or can possibly answer some questions:
Is it supposed to feel completely unnatural?
Is it normal for your grip to be weaker until you get used to using it (in case I am doing it correctly)?
I know it's supposed to hurt until you get used to it, how long did it take you to adjust?
Is it supposed to shred the skin off the inside of your thumbs?

Anything would be helpful, thanks!

Re: Deadlift grip issues

Posted: Fri Sep 07, 2012 10:18 pm
by VeganEssentials
It's tough to switch the mixed grip hand positions from one way to another, it just makes me feel off balance and doesn't do much to keep my form solid.

Hook grip is great, but it takes time to get your thumbs used to the pain level that comes with heavy weight. I hook gripped a 1-arm deadlift with 375 once, and I was sure my thumb was about ready to explode midway through the pull. It works, but expect to take about 5-10 sessions of deadlifting with it before you'll adapt to it, though athletic tape around the upper thumb joint can help a little. Also, with hook gripping, DON'T just let the weight of the bar fall on the thumb pad as you pull - part of alleviating the pain factor is to wrap your thumb around the bar first, then tuck it in deeper at an angle instead of straight, so that you can feel the bulk of the pressure in the middle of the thumb joint where it will cause the least discomfort. Again, takes some practice and getting used to (and yes, you'll often shred the skin at the base of the thumb pad, that's just how it goes), it's just a matter of time.

Though, overall, if you're only deadlifting once per week and aren't using a mixed grip for anything else like shrugs and such, most people aren't going to have imbalance issues over the course of a few years of deadlifting. Lots of people have pulled mixed grip for decades and stay balanced, most of that comes from keeping ALL upper body in proper check, making sure not to neglect chest, shoulders, traps, lats, rear delts, rhomboids, etc. with all the other good stuff like heavy benching and rowing, overhead pressing, etc. More often is a general muscular imbalance that will cause problems vs. just using the mixed grip for deadlifts, so as long as you're maintaining everything else properly and don't feel like things are "off" on any of your lifts, you should be good to go.

Chalk WILL make a difference, not always a huge amount (it doesn't magically add anything to grip strength), but ANY perspiration or oils on the hands will reduce the effectiveness of your grip and will reduce how well you can hold on. Chalk simply takes out the X factor of anything that could reduce how well you can hold on, so if your gym allows it, it's a good thing to keep handy.

Otherwise, you can just work to incorporate extra grip work into your routine a few times per week. I always suggest it at the end of the workout, a few sets of static holds in the rack (basically, set the pins for a really short 1-3" deadlift, pull to lockout, and hold it for time). I loved doing 3 sets at the end of my upper back and deadlift days each week, load up your 1 rep max deadlift, and hold that sucker until it drops out of your hands. If getting the weight up gets tough, you can also use your thighs as a support to get the bar up a bit by pulling it back into your body vs. trying to do a normal short-ROM deadlift. You can build ANY type of grip this way, either mixed grip, double overhand or hook, do this twice weekly until you can hold your max DL for 30 seconds without any problem, then start adding weight. If that's too heavy and you want to build your double overhand grip, try something like 70-80% of your max until you can hold it for 30 seconds, then work toward 1 minute, add weight once you get to your goal.

Definitely not rocket science in this, sometimes you can get ahead with things like grip by throwing precision programming out the window and just beating your body into submission with heavy weights. Once you get to where you can whistle your way through multiple sets of holds with 500+ lbs., you'll have a grip that won't fail you when you need it most :)

Re: Deadlift grip issues

Posted: Sun Sep 09, 2012 10:28 am
by chewybaws
Agree with everything VE says.

I can't particularly remember why I switched to hook grip. I could pull 240kg off the blocks with mixed grip (and 227.5kg off the floor), so it wasn't particularly an issue, I think I tried it for rows and when I was trying shrugs out (hate them) and just liked the symmetry. Hook grip I've done 230kg off the floor, 230kg triple off blocks, 130kg each hand farmers walk for 7 metres. Very very solid grip.

It still hurts, skin on thumbs always a mess as well. But the same with anything, it gets more natural the more you do it. Love hook grip.

I recommend using chalk for the same reason VE says. Your grip without chalk will still improve, don't worry.

Re: Deadlift grip issues

Posted: Mon Sep 10, 2012 5:29 pm
by asparagus
Thanks for weighing in on this guys, I appreciate it much!

Some great tips here, thanks VE! I will definitely try the grip training and maybe look into some chalk. I agree with you Chewy on the symmetry aspect too. I'll try working my way into it over time with light weights and try to get used to it.

Re: Deadlift grip issues

Posted: Mon Sep 17, 2012 5:41 pm
by Busomjack
I can't even imagine doing anything other than the alternate grip. I have tried and it feels like the bar is going to slip out of my hands. I figure there is a good reason why the NSCA, NASM, ACSM, and ACE ALL recommend the alternate grip.