When you first start doing deadlifts, you’re probably thinking about how hard they are for your back, your butt, your legs. But once the motion is second nature, another body part comes into play: your hands. Once the weight gets heavy enough, your grip may have trouble supporting it.
There are ways to instantly improve your ability to hold weight in the deadlift, and we go over them here. Almost everyone uses alternate grip (one hand underhand, one overhand) or hook grip. Straps are handy in many situations, although you can’t use them in powerlifting competitions. But nearly all of these require some strength in your hands to actually hold the position.
This type of grip is called “support grip”
Remember how last week we mentioned there are several different types of grip? Crush grip is what you work when you squeeze a gripper. Support grip is what you need for deadlifts. Your fingers form a hook to hold the bar, and you’re not moving your fingers; it’s a static, rather than a dynamic, effort.
Support grip is also what helps you hold the bar during a pull-up or other hanging moves. Do your hands get tired when you carry heavy grocery bags? That’s support grip too.
How to strengthen your deadlift grip
The bread and butter of your support grip will be holds. Just hold the deadlift bar. Keep holding it. Yes, that. r/griptraining has a detailed breakdown of deadlift grip exercises, which are similar to what we’re discussing here.
You can work these into your regular lifting routine. Any time you do deadlifts or rack pulls, do some or all of the following:
Warm up with a more challenging grip than you normally use, like double overhand instead of alternating or hook grip.
After the last rep of each set, hold onto the bar for as long as you can before putting it down.
At the end of the workout, take off some of the weights, and then pick up the bar and do timed holds for about 30 seconds, or as much as you can.
If the warmups make your hands too tired to be successful in your heaviest deadlifts, use straps. They’re a training tool, not a cheat, and here’s why: Without them, you may find yourself shying away from grip training so that your hands will be fresh for deadlifts. In that case, your grip stays weak. Or, you only deadlift as much as you can grip, in which case your back and leg muscles don’t get as strong because your deadlifts don’t really challenge them. If you train your grip a few times a week, and then use straps on your heaviest deadlifts, you get the best of both worlds. Just make sure to take a break from the grip workouts when you have a meet coming up.
Once your grip is good, you’ll be able to impress your friends with moves like thumbless deadlifts. This was about 90% of my deadlift max at the time:
How to get better at hanging from a bar
If you’re more interested in hangs and bodyweight movements, the principles are the same, but you’re hanging from the bar instead of the bar hanging from you.
Start with two-handed hangs. Just grab the bar and hold on. As that gets easier, try these variations:
Weighted hangs. Use a weighted vest, a dip belt, or a dumbbell between your feet to challenge your hands to support more weight.
One hand hangs. Just what they sound like! If you’re good at these, a fun exercise is to take off a shirt or jacket while hanging from a bar.
Lopsided hangs. These can help to bridge the gap between one-handed and two-handed hangs. Put one hand solidly on the bar, and with the other hand, just hold on with one or two fingers. Or, drape a towel over the bar, and put one hand on the bar and grab the towel with the other.
We’ve now talked about crush grip training and support grip training. There’s more to come, and good all-around grip training will help with all different aspects of hand strength. So stay tuned for more ways to improve your grip, and let us know how your deadlifts or hangs are going!