Trouble With My Hook Grip

Hi Dear Bell, I’m about to give up with a hook grip. I have small hands and the struggle is real. The grip will only last for 1 or 2 reps before I must drop the weight. With a regular grip I have no issue. Do you have any tips or advice? I don’t want to be a quitter, but it’s a seriously limiting factor on my Olympic lifts (cleans and snatches).

It can increase your lifts: Deadlift, Clean & Jerk, Snatch, but at what cost?

The Hook Grip has been shown to raise Power Lifter’s and Olympic Lifter’s weightlifting numbers, but it also increases your risk of injury.

What is the Hook Grip?

In the Hook Grip, you wrap your thumb around the bar and then you use your first two fingers to wrap around the thumb and pull the thumb tightly to the bar.

Does it hurt?

Yep! And the more weight you have on the bar, the more it’s going to hurt.

Many Lifters will use an elastic tape over the thumbs to give them slightly more friction against the bar, which will also make your grip feel slightly more secure. This is the real secret behind the Hook Grip. Since the Nervous System can sense the security of your grip, the more secure your Nervous System feels, the more it will allow your muscles to fire closer to your full strength. This is a similar Nervous System process that makes you stronger in any Weight Lifting Machine as opposed to lifting a Barbell…you are more “secure.”

The Nervous System progressively inhibits your muscles ability to maximally contract based on its own assessment of your stability. Consider how much weaker you get, going from Machine-to-Barbell, to Dumbbells-standing on an unstable surface (BOSU, stability Discs, etc.) to One-Legged Exercise with Kettle Bells, while standing on unstable surface, where it becomes a challenge to lift 30% of your maximum!

What are the risks of injury?

We learn very early in life that if your body sends you a pain signal, you are probably causing damage. Most of the pain you feel smashing your thumb up against a very hard, steel bar may result in some ruptured capillaries that may cause some bruising, but they grow back fairly quickly. What is of greater concern, is potential damage to joint capsules, ligaments, tendons and fascia.

Keep in mind, when the Weight-Lifter Experts are telling you to “stretch your thumb prior to your Hook Grip Lifts,” there is No muscle in your thumb to stretch, therefore you are at risk of stretching the “Inelastic tissues: tendon, ligament, fascia, etc.” that could result in an injury.  There are 34 muscles in the palms and forearms that contract to move the 27 bones in your hands to make your fingers work, but zero muscle tissue in your fingers or thumbs.

One of the many potential risks of the Hook Grip is the potential risk to tendons and ligaments. Tendons and ligaments that are stretched suddenly and further than approximately 4% will be damaged, possibly torn or permanently stretched. While these tissues may repair themselves over time, it will take a prolonged period, much longer than the time it takes muscles or bone to repair themselves after damage. This is due primarily to the fact that ligaments, tendons and fascia lack the aid from the circulatory system shared by muscle. During this time, you may lose the ability to grip anything…even your “main squeeze!”

If you think your hands are too small to use a Hook Grip, consider yourself fortunate. As a long-time competitive athlete, I wish I knew back then, how much pain I could have saved myself today by avoiding techniques that created long-term damage in my now “more mature” body! You have to ask, “If your personal training clients are not going to compete in Power Lifting or Olympic Lifting competitions, “is it worth the risk?” Even if your personal training clients are planning to compete, you have an obligation as a Certified Personal Trainer to at least warn them of the long-term pain due to the risk of injury from using this technique.

The “No Pain-No Gain” mentality has resulted in much pain for older/retired athletes who only wish they would have listened to their bodies and avoided the high-risk techniques that caused permanent damage. The joints I have damaged from my competitive days are a far more accurate Barometer of coming changes in weather than any Weather Man on television!

For a lot more information on safe and effective technique, I suggest you continue to expand your knowledge from the courses the IFPA offers. After you complete the IFPA Personal Fitness Trainer Certification Course, continue your journey with our advanced and specialized certifications! Our IFPA Sports Medicine Specialist Certification Course will provide you far more detail than I can provide you here AND make you a far superior Personal Trainer. Simply learning the treatment, care and prevention of the numerous injuries that can occur to your Personal Training Clients, can go a long way to preventing them from happening.