CrossFit has exposed me to so many new things. So many things I never thought possible. I must admit, prior to my engagement to the world of CrossFit (had to say engaged.. my wife would kill me otherwise) my activities with a barbell consisted of maybe some bicep curls (true story bro.. I was THAT guy). I avoided bench press like the plague because I sucked at it, and I didn’t do any sort of strength exercise below the waist. Nope. I never squatted. Ever. I was your stereotypical “Captain Upper-Body”.
Sad, but true.
Then I drank the (CrossFit) kool-aid. I was reading about and learning new exercises called Cleans, Clean & Jerk and some weird movement called a Snatch??!! (really??) AND I was learning the difference between a back squat and front squat.
I, just like most of us, who are not familiar with the Olympic lifts, thought these names were quite odd. And to be honest a bit “racey”. I mean Jerk…?? Snatch…?? What in the world do these things have to do with fitness??!!
Thanks to Google & CrossFit, my ‘racey’ thoughts soon disappeared. I searched all this stuff on Google, and then visited the CrossFit mainsite website where they had a plethora of demonstration videos on all these crazy-named movements. Heck, I learned that the term ‘Olympic” movements wasn’t just a catchy umbrella term – we actually had weightlifting in the Olympics!!!! Go figure?
As always, I’m late to the party. (another DOH! moment for me)
In the midst of learning these movements with quirky names I came across a blurb that talked about this odd thing called a “Hook Grip”.
…more weirdly named stuff….
I come to find out that this HookGrip is synonymous with any and everything concerning Olympic weightlifting.
Hook Grip: (wikipedia)
In Olympic weightlifting, the hook grip is a method of holding a barbell by gripping the thumb between the barbell and the remaining fingers. It can be used in multiple weightlifting events, including the snatch and the clean and jerk. It can also be used in powerlifting, in the deadlift, for example.
The hook grip is more secure than grips in which the thumb remains outside the other fingers, like the closed grip or the natural grip. During a snatch or clean, the lifter can exert forces up to 2-3 times the weight of the loaded barbell at rest, and the hook grip allows an athlete to maintain a grip on the bar during the phase of highest bar acceleration, the second pull. The hook grip does this by preventing the bar from rolling in the hands, whereas the bar would have a tendency to roll towards the fingertips in a normal overhand grip.
The hook grip may not be suitable for beginners because the thumb or thumbnail may suffer pain, although this can be overcome by regular training and gradually working with heavier loads with the hook grip. Many Olympic weightlifters tape their thumbs with athletic tape to protect the skin on the thumb, since the hook grip places a relatively large amount of weight on the thumb.
I thought. Uhm. OK. Do I really need to learn how to grip the barbell. Pphhhsssshh. I think I know how to hold a darn barbell. Thanks, but no thanks CrossFit.
Welp. I was wrong. Just like everything else in CrossFit. LOL
It seems as the weight gets heavier the more and more you NEED the Hook Grip. As I got a little more proficient at these movements, the more weight I added, and slowly but surely I would lose ‘grip’ of the bar. My grip would fail before the total movement was complete. So I forced myself to learn the Hook Grip.
Who the heck said this grip was good??? Why do my thumbs hurt? Wholly merde. I come to find out that the Hook Grip is something you adapt, learn, adjust and quite simply accept. No one’s thumb should actually be comfortable in that position unless you train it to be that way.
It seems you have to ‘stretch’ your thumb a bit… and find a level of comfort in the uncomfortable..
Over the past year or so I’ve done the Hook Grip so much that it’s now second nature. Quite honestly, I don’t know how to pick up a bar any other way, which is weird … right?
It seems that I’m not alone in my quest. Here are some wise words from one of the godfathers of Olympic Weightlifting Greg Everett:
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.
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 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.
Thank you Coach Everett. Needless to say, it works. I’m living proof of that. Buuutt it doesn’t come without a little bit of pain: