Hook Grip Help!

This entry is a little bit different than most of my coaching logs: it’s less about giving advice than about asking for it.

If you’ve been following this page for a while, you know I’ve had my share of hook grip woes: I missed breaking Ed Coan’s 791-pound deadlift record three times in meets on grip, including at the US Open. And, try as I might, I haven’t found a great way of strengthening my hook.

That said, I still like to think I’m a damn good hook-grip puller. I’ve hit 800 at 198 in a meet and 750 for 5 in the gym, both with hook, and I’ve spent a long time thinking about and practicing my hook grip technique (which I’ll write about in a future article). I’m just not quite good enough… yet.

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So I’d like to use this column to brainstorm a little, and hopefully you can weigh in with some answers or suggestions to help me improve.

Why does the hook grip work?

This one is a little confusing to me. The thumb is stronger than the other fingers, and so it makes sense that when the thumb applies pressure directly to the bar, the grip overall is stronger -- but not so much stronger that it accounts for the difference between a double-overhand grip and a hook grip.

Here’s one guess: in the ideal hook grip, your fingers pull your thumb around the bar, not push against the bar itself, and your thumb is just along for the ride. My knowledge of physics isn’t good enough to understand whether that’s realistic, but if yours is, please chime in!

How do you strengthen the hook grip?

It’s hard to answer this one without understanding why the hook grip works, but I’ll take a stab at it. There’s different types of grip strength (crushing, pinching, and so on), and clearly an exercise like closing a gripper won’t carry over well to a hook grip, where the strength of your index, middle, and ring fingers are paramount.

There’s lots of ways to strengthen the fingers individually -- that’s pretty easy. But are there exercises that carry over more directly than others?

Is it really better?

For me, there’s no question about sticking with a hook grip. I tore the bicep of my dominant hand a few years back (flipping a tire, not deadlifting), and it’s an experience I never care to repeat. And, when I pull sumo, my supinated hand tends to drag along my thigh and give up way too early.

But if you’ve tried both hook and mixed grip for your heavy pulls, which has worked better?

Again, I know this is a much different entry than most, but I’d really appreciate any input you’ve got, and moving forward, I’d like for this log to be more interactive -- so if you have other topics you’d like to discuss, please share them, too!

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