Deadlift Grip Guide

5 Ways to Hold the Deadlift Bar for Maximum Strength

By: Jeremy Fox, CNC, CPTPublished: June 14, 2022

Deadlifting has a simplicity that draws us to it; something about lifting a heavy object off the ground is very primal. The heavier you go, the more your inner beast comes out.

Unfortunately, sometimes you can’t go as heavy as you want on deadlifts because your grip fails first. And that poor grip could be limiting your muscle and strength gains.

To solve that problem, I will show you the best ways to grip the deadlift bar. And how to improve your deadlift grip so you can lift heavier weights.

Deadlift Grip

Why Is Deadlift Grip Important?

During the deadlift, your grip on the bar is the one thing connecting you to the weight. So if your grip fails, the whole lift fails.

You’re only as strong as the weakest link in the chain. And once you start pulling heavy weights, the weak link is usually your grip.

This problem is especially true when deadlifting heavy loads for multiple reps, where the impact with the floor tends to jar your grip loose before you reach muscular failure.

When your grip is firm, you get more posterior chain activation, leading to bigger muscle and strength gains. That’s why mastering the deadlift grip is critical for maximizing your results on this exercise.

Deadlift Grip Types

The most common deadlift grips are the double overhand grip, mixed grip, and hook grip. But you may also use a snatch grip or sumo grip on specific deadlift variations.

All these options have benefits and the best one for you depends on your preferences and deadlift goals. So let’s take a closer look at each deadlift grip so you can decide which to use.

Deadlift Grip Types

Overhand Deadlift Grip

The overhand grip is where you grasp the bar with both palms facing down (pronated) and your hands shoulder-width or slightly wider. Also, you should wrap your thumb around the bar so it partially overlaps your index finger.

The overhand grip is also called the clean grip since it is identical to the hand position used on hang cleans, power cleans, and other clean variations. Therefore, strength gained using the overhand deadlift grip translates well to Olympic lifts.

Another advantage of the overhand deadlift grip is that it’s symmetrical. That means you place equal loading on the left and right sides of your arms and body, which can help reduce muscle imbalances and injuries.

On the negative side, the overhand deadlift grip requires the most forearm strength because the bar can easily roll out of your hands. However, you can quickly remedy that with lifting straps if necessary.

Overhand Grip Deadlift

Hook Deadlift Grip

A hook grip is like an overhand grip where you wrap your index finger over your thumb. This finger placement helps secure your hands on the bar, so your grip doesn’t give out as quickly.

Most lifters say the hook grip is easier to hold than the traditional overhand grip1. So it might be a good option if you struggle to maintain your grip with the standard thumb placement.

Hook Grip Deadlift

Mixed Deadlift Grip

The mixed grip is where you grasp the bar with one palm facing up (supinated) and the other facing down (pronated). With your hands facing opposite directions, the bar can’t roll out of your grip, making it easier to hang on.

However, the downside of the mixed grip is that it’s asymmetrical. In other words, the loading on your arms and body is uneven, which could result in muscle imbalances and injuries.

I should also point out that the mixed grip is sometimes called the over-under grip, reverse grip, or alternate grip. And that it doesn’t matter which hand is over and under; you can alternate hands if you’d like.

Mixed Grip Deadlift

Deadlift Grip Width

The most common deadlift grip width is shoulder width or slightly wider. But there are some situations where you may choose to go wider or narrower with your grip.

Two popular deadlift grip width options are the snatch grip and the sumo grip.

Snatch Deadlift Grip

The snatch grip is where your hands are much wider than shoulder-width. Generally, you want to grip the bar wide enough that it sits at the crease of your hip when standing.

One benefit of the snatch grip deadlift is that it increases posterior chain strength on other snatch grip exercises. But it also has advantages for non-Olympic weightlifters.

For example, a wider grip forces you to bend forward more at the start of the movement, almost like a deficit deadlift. Moreover, the lower starting position helps you build power off the floor.

Snatch Grip Deadlift

Sumo Deadlift Grip

The sumo deadlift involves a wider foot stance and a narrower grip. This grip allows your arms to go between your legs instead of outside them, as with a traditional deadlift.

With sumo deadlifts, you can still use the double overhand grip, the hook grip, or the mixed grip. The only difference is that your hands are usually closer together.

The biggest advantage of the sumo deadlift is that it places your body in a more upright position and has a shorter range of motion. Together, these factors put more load on the quads and inner thighs and allow some people to pull heavier weights.

Sumo Deadlift Grip

Deadlift Grip Muscles Worked

When considering which deadlift grip to use, it’s good to know how your hand position changes muscle activation. And it’s important to consider any muscle imbalances from the deadlift grip.

As a reference point, the double overhand grip almost identically works the left and right sides of your body. In contrast, the mixed grip works the underhand arm much differently than the overhand arm.

To illustrate, researchers measure bicep activation of both arms using different deadlift grips. The results show that the mixed grip puts significantly more load on the underhand bicep2.

In addition, forearm activation was significantly different between the left and right sides when using the mixed grip. So you could end up with arm imbalances or overuse injuries from the mixed grip.

Deadlift Grip Bicep Activation Study
Deadlift Grip Forearm Activation

This study also showed some differences in posterior chain activation between overhand and mixed grip deadlifts. However, the effect of deadlift grip on trap and lat activation was not significant.

So it seems less likely that you would develop imbalances in the posterior chain muscles when using the mixed grip compared to the overhand grip.

Deadlift Grip Trap Activation
Deadlift Grip Lat Activation

Deadlift Grip Strength

Another factor to consider when choosing a deadlift grip is your current grip strength and deadlift goals. For example, the mixed grip is a good choice if your grip strength is currently a limiting factor. It’s easiest to hang onto the bar, and you could potentially lift heavier weight.

While the hook grip requires slightly more grip strength than the mixed grip, it’s still easier to maintain than the overhand grip. So you could use the hook grip to get a better hold on the bar without creating imbalances.

By comparison, the overhand grip requires the most forearm strength. So it’s not ideal for building posterior strength unless you lift with straps.

However, the overhand grip is best for building grip strength when you don’t use straps. And eventually, you’ll be able to maintain your hold on the bar with all but the heaviest deadlifts.

Deadlift Grip Strength

Deadlift Grip Aids

If your grip is a limiting factor on deadlifts, you may want to use deadlift grip aids to increase the amount of weight you can lift. Deadlift grip aids include several straps and hooks that secure your hands on the bar.

Each type of grip aid has pros and cons, so let’s examine each in more detail.

Deadlift Straps

The most common lifting aid is deadlift straps or lifting straps that loop around your wrist and then wrap around the bar. Most lifting straps are made from durable woven cotton or nylon and often have a neoprene pad to protect your wrist.

Lifting straps, also called lasso straps, can be used with the double overhand deadlift grip when lifting heavy loads. But you should not use them with a mixed grip or hook grip.

The advantage of these straps is that they’re effective and inexpensive. However, they can be a little confusing to use at first. So here is a video demonstrating how to use lifting straps for the deadlift.

My YouTube channel has dozens of videos showing you how to do a variety of bodybuilding exercises. You’ll learn how to target and build specific muscle groups in 90 seconds or less. Click HERE to subscribe, or click on the button below!

Deadlift Grips

Deadlift grips work like lifting straps, except that they Velcro onto your wrist, and you only wrap the loose end around the bar once. Usually, these grips are made from tough leather or rubber, which also protects your palms on heavy reps.

Another advantage of deadlift grips is that their faster to set up since you don’t have to wrap them multiple times. However, they take longer to get on and off your wrists, and they are a lot more expensive than a basic strap.

Figure 8 Deadlift Straps

Figure 8 deadlift straps are a strap with two loops. You put your hand through one loop, then wrap the other loop under the bar before putting your hand through.

These straps are easy to use and provide a secure grip on the bar. But they don’t offer the same quick-release as other straps or grips.

Deadlift Hooks

Deadlift hooks are metal hooks that attach to your wrist and curve around the bar. This design takes most of the load off your hands, although you should keep your fingers wrapped around the hooks.

The biggest advantage of hooks is that they require the least grip strength and are easy to use. But the drawback is that they’re only rated up to about 300 lbs in most cases.

Deadlift Grip FAQ

By now, you should have a good idea of which deadlift grip to use in your situation. But there are still some important topics I haven’t covered yet. So here are some frequently asked deadlift grip questions.

What grip is best for deadlift?

For most lifters, the double overhand deadlift grip is best for building symmetrical strength while avoiding muscle imbalances and injuries. However, you may want to use lifting straps if your grip fails.

On the other hand, the mixed grip is best for lifting heavy loads when straps are not an option, such as in powerlifting competitions. Just use caution to avoid injuring your bicep tendon.

Why do people reverse grip on deadlifts?

People use the reverse grip or mixed grip on deadlifts to make it easier to hold the bar without lifting straps. This grip is often used in powerlifting competitions or lifting more than 80% 1RM without straps.

Does the mixed grip deadlift cause muscle imbalances or injuries?

The mixed grip deadlift doesn’t significantly change loading on posterior chain muscle groups—however, the bicep experiences much greater loads with mixed grip than overhand grip2. As a result, bicep tendon ruptures occur almost exclusively on the underhand side when using the mixed grip on heavy deadlifts3.

Deadlift Grip Bicep Tears

Should you alternate grip on deadlift?

Alternating your mixed grip on deadlifts is one way to counteract the asymmetrical loading due to the opposite hand rotations. However, it probably doesn’t reduce the likelihood of a bicep rupture when performing heavy deadlifts.

How do I increase my deadlift grip strength?

The best way to increase your deadlift grip strength is to use the double overhand grip without straps because it involves significantly more forearm activation than the hook grip and mixed grip. However, you should still include some sets with straps to overload your posterior chain.

Another option is using forearm-specific training to build your grip, such as wrist curls, reverse curls, and hammer curls.

How often should I deadlift?

Most people will benefit from deadlifting 1 to 2 times per week. But there are specific situations where you could do deadlifts (or deadlift variations) up to 3 times per week.

Your ideal deadlift frequency depends on several factors related to your body, goals, and schedule.

How Often to Deadlift Based on Goal, Split, & Experience

Deadlift Bar

Another factor that affects how much you deadlift is the barbell itself. Some bars are specifically designed for the deadlift exercise.

For example, a deadlift bar is more flexible than traditional bars and has more aggressive knurling. Click here to learn all the differences between a deadlift bar vs stiff bar.

Deadlift Bar

Types of Deadlifts

Now you know the different types of deadlift grips and which is best for your situation. But you may have realized that there are many deadlift variations you’re not currently using.

So click here to learn about the 15 types of deadlifts. Plus, see how to use each to build your best body.

With this information, you’re well on your way to building grip strength and total body power. So click below to check out more helpful articles on all things fitness!

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By |June 14, 2022|Workouts|0 Comments
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