What is the hook grip you ask? Start by placing your palm on the bar between your index finger and thumb. Next, the thumb wraps around the bar, first with the index finger and then the other fingers following. This may be a bit uncomfortable at first.
When I first started Crossfit about three years ago, I hated the hook grip and never wanted to use it. I thought I could get away without using it, and boy was I wrong. I started focusing on more Oly lifts and quickly discovered it was a necessary evil. After 3 years of hook gripping, I now even hook grip my toothbrush!
When first using the hook grip, you might think to yourself that your hands are too small, or it’s uncomfortable with that grip. This all might be true, but the more you use the hook grip, the quicker the thumbs will stretch out and the skin will even start to become thicker. If it is still uncomfortable after using the hook grip for awhile, tape works really well. I personally like to tape my thumbs whenever doing Cleans or Snatches. My hands tend to get a little beat up, so the tape helps to prevent any further tearing or ripping. Plus, the Cleans and Snatch are rather quick movements, so even if it is uncomfortable, the movement will be over before you know it.
There are a few stretches you can do to help stretch out the area. One comes from Greg Everett from Catalyst Athletics. Make a fist with your thumb tightly tucked inside your fist, not around the outside of the knuckles. Then tilt your wrist away from the thumb side. You should feel the tension at the base of the thumb and even down into the wrist area and the forearm as well.
The reason for the hook grip is that it is a much stronger grip. Without it, you typically death grip the bar, and the forearms tend to fatigue more quickly. When going for heavier weight, you will not be held back by grip strength. With the hook grip in place, you will maintain better control of the bar, especially during the most explosive part of the movement when the hips explode open. I have personally watched barbells fly out of athletes’ hands during MetCons without the hook grip, so you can even look at it from a safety stand point. When you are fatigued and cannot think straight during the last round of a work out, the last thing you want to worry about is throwing the barbell across the gym and accidentally hitting something.
If you are one of those athletes who pull to early on the barbell or use too much arm during an Olympic lift, using a conventional grip will only get you so far. Having the hook grip locked in on the bar will allow you to be stronger in your pulls. Yes, your thumbs will be sore or maybe even numb, buy hey, it builds character! At least that is what I have always been told.
Try this out next time you are at the gym if you don’t do so already. Happy Lifting!