What Is The Hookgrip And Why We Use it?

The hookgrip is the most common way for an Olympic Weightlifting to hold the barbell during the lifts. 

With the thumb wrapped around the bar and held by the first 2 fingers, the hookgrip allows a very mechanically secure grip with relatively little tension in the forearms. The reduced tension allows for more relaxed forearms and wrists throughout the lift. When the muscles around the elbow are tensed, it locks the joint leading to a slower turnover of the barbell following the final extension. The locking of the elbow from excessive forearm tension can make keeping the barbell close to the body difficult since the elbows have to flex maximally to maintain proximity. The combined effects of a slow turn over with an incorrect bar path can be the cause of many missed PR attempts.

The relaxed wrists, while using hookgrip during the turn over allows the barbell to settle on the lifters front rack in the clean and across the entire hand in the snatch. Allowing the pressure to distribute over a large surface area helps to protect the smaller joints while utilizing the larger joints for deceleration. Trying to catch a max effort clean or snatch without letting the barbell settle places can be painful and also lead to injury. Ultimately, the hookgrip is preferred because it allows for better technical execution of the lifts and safer dissipation of forces.

The false grip should almost never be used since it is the least secure for pulling weight and the riskiest when benching or putting weight overhead. The barbell at any moment could slip out of the hand.

While the hookgrip will be used the majority of the time, there are some cases where a full grip is recommended. For some beginners new to this kind of grip it can be especially uncomfortable on the thumbs. Beginners might actually benefit from training both grips to not only be specific but also to stimulate some of the muscles in the hand and forearm. Being an Olympic Weightlifter, where the hookgrip is used more often is not an excuse to have a weak grip. Building muscles around the elbow joint ultimately serves to protect the elbow when the beginner lifter eventually lifts heavier weights. More supple muscles built around a joint helps to dissipate and buffer forces going through it. For some intermediate lifters that have trouble keeping the bar close after final extension, a no-hookgrip snatch or clean is recommended since more arm action is required to continue the vertical bar trajectory. A full grip in this case is actually recommended to engage the arms in a very specific way to correct a specific problem with pulling under the barbell. This is a technique nuance that requires sufficient weight where the pull under is possible and perceivable by the lifter. Most beginners won’t need to worry too much about this as the weights they lift are relatively small.

Once again, the hookgrip is the preferred grip as it is the most secure and allows the right amount of relaxation to execute a lift correctly. It needs to be trained as it is not as intuitive as the other grips and takes some getting used to. There will be a period initially where it can be uncomfortable as the thumb is being squeezed between the other fingers and the barbell but this will eventually pass. Wrapping weightlifting tape around the thumbs can help with some of the abrasion and tension. Our Hookgrip Tape was specifically made for this purpose. You can check it out here. Hopefully this was helpful to you the reader in understanding why it is important and how it helps with your lifting. 

Jason Li, Exercise Science BS, USAW LVL2, Catalyst Athletics LVL1, NSCA-CPT