When and Why to use the Hook Grip
Every few weeks or so, I catch a seasoned athlete not using hook grip on a snatch or clean. They'll be pulling early, or throwing their hips into the bar, or jumping forward, or missing the bar forward. Any of those faults are sometimes corrected just by adding the hook grip. Sometimes they even PR after using the correct grip. The athlete is amazed, and promises to always use hook grip forever and ever.
At CrossFit Fargo, we teach new athletes the hook grip in week 1 of Virtuosity (or beginner program). It's THAT important for good lifts!
What is the Hook Grip?
Hook grip requires the palm to be pressed into the bar, so that the bar is sitting between the thumb and the first finger. The thumb is wrapped around the bar, with the first fingers placed over the thumb, creating a "hook" on the bar. Typically, an athlete will have the first two fingers over the thumb, with the second two fingers placed directly on the bar. The hook grip can be described as more relaxed than a standard grip.
When is Hook Grip used?
The hook grip is used for lifts where the barbell is being pull away from the ground: snatch, hang snatch, clean, hang clean, deadlift, RDL. It isn't typically used for pressing lifts or squats such as the jerk, push press, bench press, front squat, back squat etc. This is because the hook grip can limit mobility and/or stability in those positions.
Why use Hook Grip?
The hook grip is better than a traditional grip for the snatch, clean and deadlift for a multitude of reasons.
1. The bar is "trapped" in your hands, eliminating the tendency to have a death grip on the bar and hold excess tension in the arms.
2. It prevents the load from slipping out of your fingers, especially at heavier weights.
3. It allows the bar to travel in the direction you want it to. No hook grip = the bar may travel away from your body.
4. It helps prevent pulling early.
5. Hook grip makes breaking the bar from the ground easier.
When performing a snatch or clean, your hook grip will naturally release once the bar reaches the overhead position for the snatch or the front rack position for the clean. This is desirable for mobility and stability in these positions. If you have been snatching and cleaning for a long time without releasing the hook grip, it can take some practice and timing to learn how to release the hook grip.
Chad Vaughn talks about it in this video
If you have been lifting for a long time using standard grip, for the sake of all that is good in weightlifting, I implore you to start using hook grip ASAP! Many will complain that it feels uncomfortable, awkward, and that it tears up their thumbs. Starting at lighter weights can help you get used to hook grip without crushing your thumbs. Over time they will "stretch out", toughen up, and get accustomed to heavier weights. Also, taping your thumbs helps reduce discomfort significantly. It takes only a few weeks to get used to hook grip if you're regularly training.
When deadlifting, oftentimes athletes will automatically go to a mixed hand grip with one hand supinated and the other pronated. I advise using the double-overhand hook grip (as you would in a clean) as long as possible, moving to mix grip only when the other starts to fail. Using double-overhand hook grip in the deadlift transfers over to the clean and snatch. It also helps avoid asymmetry in the lats due to mixed grip deadlifts.