The hook grip and the sport of Olympic Weightlifting go hand in hand. Only recently have other sports adopted it such as Powerlifting.
If you've tried the hook grip before, you've probably felt some pain through your thumb and thumbnail. This can be normal in the beginning as you get used to this new technique.
However, there are also critical technique points that can reduce this pain sensation to leave you with a more comfortable hook grip.
But firstly, what is the hook grip and why should you even use it?
What Is The Hook Grip?
The hook grip is a specific way of gripping the bar that is characterized by the thumb being under the fingers versus being over the fingers in a normal grip.
It is most commonly used in the sport of Olympic Weightlifting but has also made its way into Powerlifting so athletes can deadlift without a mixed grip reducing the risk of developing muscular imbalances.
The hook grip is only used with the palms facing back towards you like a normal grip on the barbell.
It is never used when the hand is supinated or facing away from you when pulling from the floor in a mixed grip.
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Why Should You Use The Hook Grip?
The hook grip serves a few different functions specifically to Olympic Weightlifters.
Firstly, the hook grip stops the bar from rolling out of the fingers. If you lift double overhand without the hook grip, as the load gets heavier, the barbell will roll down the fingers and out of the hand.
The hook grip “locks” the bar in place with the thumb so it doesn’t roll increasing the loads you can lift with a double overhand position.
This is why Powerlifters will use the mixed grip so the bar doesn’t roll out of their hands.
Secondly, the hook grip takes the tension out of the hands. When Weightlifting, you want the arms and hands to be relaxed to maximize the speed of the turnover and avoid bending the arms early in the pull.
You can hold much heavier loads without needing the raw grip strength when using the hook grip versus using a normal grip.
Thirdly, the hook grip allows you to utilize your ring and pinky fingers to increase the strength of the grip. When you pick up a barbell without the hook grip, most of the load is going to feel through your index and middle fingers.
Conversely, the hook grip feels more secure as the load is secure through the thumb and first two fingers, and the ring and pinky fingers are firmly around the bar without having to take so much loading.
How To Hook Grip For Weightlifting
Set the bar in the webbing between your thumb and index finger.
Wrap your thumb around the bar. It's important your thumb goes around and under the bar, not alongside the bar.
Wrap your index and middle fingers around your thumb and pull your thumb around the bar and use the ring and pinky finger to complete the grip on the bar.
When Should You Use The Hook Grip?
Unless you are specifically performing a no hook grip variation to train your grip, you should use the hook grip for all of your Weightlifting pulling movements. This means all of your classical lifts, power variations, and pulls.
Using the hook grip has been shown to enhance speed, power, and catch height of the power clean over using the normal double overhand grip.
When you perform overhead movements off the rack or blocks, you won’t use your hook grip unless you do when you perform the jerk.
Further, you don’t need to hook grip when performing squats.
There is one exception to these rules. And that is, when performing pulls and snatches, you can opt to use straps instead of hook grip.
The reason you may do this is to save your thumbs from taking a beating. Never use straps for cleans. That’s a one-way ticket to snap city.
If you are training regularly and performing snatches and various pulls each day, holding the bar for reps with a load heavier than your classical lifts can take its toll on your thumbs. You are better off using straps when doing pulls to save your thumbs for when they are needed during the lifts.
How To Hook Grip With Small Hands
There are a couple of strategies you can use if you have small hands and struggle to get a full hook grip around the barbell.
Firstly, some Weightlifters will grow their thumbnails much longer than their other nails.
By having a longer nail, you have a longer thumb to use as a hook. This works well when snatching which is often where the problem comes when hook gripping.
The second strategy is to not use the hook grip when snatching unless on the competition platform and just use straps during training. Forcing your thumb under and around the bar when you have small hands can be very painful and can potentially do more damage than good.
It’s safer to just use straps in this instance and save the thumbs for competition.
Why Do Olympic Weightlifters Tape Their Thumbs?
Olympic Weightlifters will tape their thumbs to protect them from damage from the vast amount of lifting and to improve their grip on the bar.
When training multiple times a day, skin can tear-off of your thumb, and areas around the knuckles can become bruised and sensitive from being jammed against a metal barbell. Tape provides a layer between the skin and barbell protecting it from daily wear and tear,
Tape is also rough so it creates more friction against the bar. This is what improves the security of the hook grip even further.
How To Tape Your Thumbs For Hook Grip
Cut your tape into a 6” (15 cm) length. My preferred tape is WOD & DONE which is a stretchy hand and finger tape. You can see my best hook grip tape recommendations here.
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If you are using rigid tape, you may want to add an extra inch or two to the length. The width of your tape should be wider than normal finger tape. It should be like strapping tape.
If the width is too skinny, it can be unnecessarily tight cutting off blood flow if you are taping your whole thumb like in this tutorial.
Break one end of the white paper material about an inch from the end of your WOD & DONE tape. Peel the small piece off to display the sticky part of the tape. Don’t worry, you won’t rip this tape doing this. You will skip this step if you are using rigid tape.
Place the sticky end over the top of your thumb as close as you can to the webbing over your big knuckle. Smooth it over so there are no creases or lumps.
As you peel the rest of the white paper material off, you will wrap the tape around your thump in a spiral towards your thumbnail. You can go over your thumbnail but stop before the end of your thumb.
It’s important that the tape doesn’t go past your thumbnails or any other fingernails if you are taping them too. It is against the IWF rules to do this.
Be sure to pull the tape around your thumb not just place it as you want to stretch the tape which keeps it smooth and secure.
Push all of the ends nice and flat so you don’t have any lumpy bits of tape sticking out.
Regardless of the tape you use, following these steps will make sure you get it right every single time. It may take some practice in the beginning, but it will become second nature very quickly.