finally, hook grip success!

Yesterdays workout at Toronto Rex headquarters marked a first for me.  I finally deadlifted something heavy using the hook grip without tearing up my hand.  After that last callus tearing cluster-f**k, I revisited my hook grip technique and determined that I needed to trust the hook and not try to seat the bar so deeply into my palm.

In the past using the more common mixed grip, I've always done two things:  off-set my right hand (the pronated one) a couple inches to the right and cranked the bar deep into my palm.  Off-setting the right hand was done to balance the support points of the index and middle fingers with the supinated left hand.  If you hold stuff at arm's length, in most people the part of of the hand closest to the ground are the index and middle finger knuckles.  When you hold something heavy, the weight will naturally settle to the lowest point of support--the index and middle fingers provide the majority of grip strength power.  Some people tend to windmill heavy deadlifts.  Before I learned this set-up tip, I used to windmill to the pronated side--I guess because it was the lighter side.  Check out how much the bar twists from side to side in this old video of a much younger and stronger backed me deadlifting 600 and 622 (raw!).   

If they haven't balanced their grip by moving their pronated hand out an inch or two, they're essentially holding the bar staggered to the supinated side by a couple of inches.  That results in the supinated side holding more weight than the pronated side.  Whether or not that also factors into the possibility of tearing the bicep on the supinated side, I have no idea.  All I know is ever since I was taught to balance the load, I've never had an issue with windmilling deadlifts.  Much less bar twisting in this recent video of the older me raw deadlifting 606 lbs with the last competition appearance of the mixed grip.

The second grip set up key I used with the mixed grip was to crank the bar into my palms.   I know Coach Rippetoe doesn't endorse this method as it can lead to callus tears but I have always done this with mixed grip deadlifting and never had an issue as long as I didn't do multiple reps and allow the bar to slip in my hand.  The benefit for me of this method was that I never had an issue holding onto a deadlift despite having hands that can't easily close a Captains of Crush #1 gripper

Well, after two straight hook grip workouts resulting in a torn callus, my thick skull finally realized that cranking the bar into my palms wasn't going to work.  With a hook grip the bar sits a bit lower in the hands and it moves just a bit as the hook sets (that's your thumb getting squashed--hurts so good!).  As a result, I tore calluses.  Duh!  For yesterday's workout, I set the bar on thumb and then set it in the fingers not the palms.  I would just have to trust the painful magic of the hook grip.

I worked up cautiously doing a triple with 405 and then two singles with 455.  Two more singles with 505 and no sign of tearing was the 'go' sign to try 545.  The 545 went up slowly but surely and lo and behold, my palms were intact!  After 8 repetitions with weights 405 and heavier, my thumbs were pretty beat up but nothing a day or two of recovery wouldn't solve.  Much better than two weaks of healing!

Now that I know I can hook grip decent weight without tearing up my hands, I can finally start training my deadlift.  I suspect the 545 lifted off so slowly because I don't fully trust the hook grip.  With the mixed grip, I never had a doubt that I'd hold on so I could just give'r a rip.  With the hook grip, I haven't developed that degree of confidence yet.  I'll need to do some speed reps with 405 and get used to the feeling so I can lift limit weights without the tentativeness shown in the video above. 

I feel like I've finally graduated into a fairly exclusive club.  The hook grip is still fairly uncommon in powerlifting circles despite its universal acceptance in Olympic Weightlifting.  I like that I've been able to conquer the pain and look forward to easier deadlifting and a significantly reduced risk of bicep injury.

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