The Why and How on "Hook Grip" in Weightlifting

January 20, 2016 2 Comments

This is a guest post from Drew Dillon, a coach and gym owner who is a personal coach to 2012 Olympian Holley Mangold. Drew is the creator of Olyeye - a teaching tool that has helped coaches and athletes understand "causes" vs "symptoms" when it comes to weightlifting technique. You can follow Drew on Instagram and YouTube.

Has your coached yelled at you about using the hook grip?

One of my new athletes described the hook grip as, “it is horrible... it makes me want to puke.”

Yes, it is uncomfortable.

Yes, it is weird.

Sure, I bet it doesn’t feel “right”.

If you want to LIFT WELL than you need to USE IT. 

Why do we need to use a hook grip? 

  1. Using a hook grip locks us to the bar – As the weight gets heavier it will be more difficult to hold. Now, add in an explosive drive to speed up the bar. When we hook grip we’re able to control the bar. This allows for the explosive drive, while we pull ourselves under the bar.
  2.  Using a hook grip prevents us from holding the weight in the wrong muscles -  “A contracted muscle can not contract twice” – Glenn Pendlay. When we don’t use a hook grip there is a ton of activation in the muscles of our forearm and up to our shoulder. The traps often want to get involved too. When we contract all these muscles to hold the weight we’re unable to use them when it is time to pull under.

How do we use a hook grip? 

Only 3 fingers are involved! The key fingers are the thumb, index finger and middle finger. I'm not joking. Let me break it down:

  1. Begin by pressing the bar into the space between the thumb and index finger.
  2. Lay the pad of the thumb on the bottom of the bar and hook it FIRST with the middle finger than the index finger. This is a special trick if you have small hands… it makes it easier to hold. The ring finger and pinky are just along for the ride.

Note: When you do this in the snatch you’ll notice a nice smooth angle from the wrist up to the shoulder. The hand trying to grip the bar with the full fist can break this angle. 

Tips for the hook grip:

When turning the bar over should you hold on to the hook grip or let it go? – Many athletes don’t realize you can let go of the hook grip in the snatch. You can. Letting go of the hook grip could be for you if you’re unable to lock out your arms in a smooth finish position. Also, if the hook grip is causing pain in the joint of the thumb when turning over a snatch, try releasing the hook grip.

Snatch – Some athletes release the hook grip when turning the bar over. Some athletes do not. Personally, I feel it is an advantage if you’re able to hold on to the hook grip in the snatch, but don’t let that panic you. There are many world-class weightlifters that release the hook grip in the snatch!

Clean – I would say 99% of athletes release the hook grip on the clean. It seems this is almost natural to most athletes especially when cued to get their elbow through. It is vital to receive the bar in a high elbow rack position. If you have an athlete who isn’t letting go of the hook grip in the clean and you can tell their elbow are slow. Fix it!

Jerk – You will never hold a hook grip in the jerk.

Taping the thumb – This seems like common sense but let me give you one big suggestion. Wrap the tape away from you! This allows for the tape to “tighten” as your fingers pull on your thumb during the movement. Again, you can see this in the video

Chalk – It seems like common sense but if you’re hands are sweating in will be difficult to hold a good hook grip. Use chalk as needed.

Comfort in the hook grip takes time. It will start off feeling weird and at times painful. If you follow the steps above you’ll be well on your way to lifting more weight by utilizing a good hook grip.  If you would like more information on “releasing” the hook grip you can have it sent straight to you by signing up here 

-Drew Dillon

2 Responses

jacob oconnor
jacob oconnor

October 25, 2016

Do you have any suggestions for guys with smaller hands?


January 27, 2016

This is the first time I’ve seen the hook grip explained, thanks. I’ve never used it because I couldn’t release it as the bar turns over. But this will help a lot.

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