Saturday, August 23, 2008

Deadlift Grip Development - Ernest F. Cottrell

Ernest Cottrell

Walter Podolak

Developing a Powerful Grip for Deadlift Efficiency
by Ernest F. Cottrell

There are many reasons that lifters fail to make a record deadlift they have worked so hard to attempt, and one of the major problems appears to be in grip strength for two important reasons: 1. Obviously, if the grip isn’t strong enough to hold the bar it is lost during the lift, and 2. If the grip is just strong enough to get the weight up in an accepted lift, your grip strength may not be strong enough for you to do this at any given time, and you either lose the lift now and then, or when it weakens, your confidence weakens too, and it’s left up to accident whether you make it or not. Naturally, this is a big problem you’d like to eliminate if possible, and develop a grip that has reserve power at all times.

There are many factors that regulate a person’s ability to have a powerful grip, that is, some lifter’s skeletal leverage in the hands is poor; others just have not done any supplemental gripping exercises to develop a stronger grip other than doing the deadlift itself. Still others don’t get enough calcium, and that is essential to the contractive power of the muscles, etc., etc.

In this article I will deal with three supplemental exercises that should, in most cases, develop a much stronger grip for your deadlifting so you can spend more time on developing the other essential muscles involved in this lift without having to use straps to develop them. Let’s face it, I don’t care how strong your other muscles are, you can only deadlift whatever your grip can support!


This one is the most obvious approach to grip strength in the deadlift, but is not often employed in a lifter’s training. There are two basic ways to do this: 1. During your training (let’s say every other workout), liberally grease your palms with Vaseline or lard and train as usual. Then, when this training is over, on a power rack, or with bar up on boxes, do lockout deadlifts (about 2”) with a much heavier weight than you could ever hope to do in a complete movement. Have the palms greased well and support the weight until your grip simply gives out. This can be done 1 to 3 times after your deadlift session, really fighting the weight as it slips from your grasp. This one usually does the job!


This is an old strongman’s lift used to prove grip and forearm strength, but is certainly is not obsolete. It’s a static (almost isometric) “reverse curl” exercise, but it has different and result-producing properties over the reverse curl that will be evident when you perform it, It is very demanding in strict performance, and will definitely develop exceptional self-discipline, and this is extremely important since the muscle’s ability to produce contractile nerve force is almost completely a matter of attitude of the mind (in a healthy person).

The performance is simple, and rather deceiving, and is done as follows: 1.) Warm up by doing 2 or 3 sets of light up to heavy reverse curls, 8 to 10 reps, in regular style. Rest, then; 2.) Hold bar at chest as in top position of reverse curl, palms down, then lower bar until forearms are horizontal to floor, hold a full 3 to 5 seconds, then without any body movement, raise the bar back up to starting position and repeat. Do each set to complete failure, or add weight. Use a grip with both fingers and thumb wrapped around the bar in a regular grip rather than a grip with fingers and thumb wrapped around the bar together as many lifters like to do the reverse curl with.

It’s impossible to prescribe how many sets and reps to do with this exercise when I don’t know anything about you, but you might try doing 4 or 5 sets of 5 reps after your deadlift routine, then go from there for your personal needs.


There are many forms of pinch-gripping exercises, and apparatus to do this common exercise with, but there is one way that is superior, in my opinion, and here it is: Take completely metal Olympic plates, not rubber bumpers, place them together so that the smooth surfaces are on the outside where you’re going to grip them in a pinch grip; then proceed to pinch-grip them (without resin or chalk, and sometimes even with a thin film of grease on palms and fingers) and lift them up and walk definite distances that you measure so you can record progress. The “sliding” occurs between two plates and requires a stronger grip. Either measure progress by the distance walked or by adding more weight and walking over a set, unchanging distance. This can be done 1 to 3 times each hand after deadlift training.

I really like this one, and have pinch-gripped two 45-lb. Olympic plates (total 90 lbs.) and have walked 90 feet with them at a bodyweight of 160 lbs. and was doing most of my powerlifting then, although they were called “Odd Lifts” at the time. These three exercises allowed me to do the following lifts where grip strength was vitally important: sets of 6 reps in the one arm bent row with 250 pounds; deadlift of 675 with a French grip (both palms facing body, not staggered grip), 375 for 33 reps with the same grip; deadlifts with only thumb and forefinger. These were done at a bodyweight ranging from 160 to 170, before I did other experiments in muscular bodyweight gains. I’m not citing this to create grounds for belief concerning what I’ve personally done as this is immaterial; I’m only doing it in order, hopefully, to encourage others to use these exercises to further their deadlifting abilities if their grip is what is holding them back.

Here’s an additional helpful suggestion you might be able to use it the deadlift. Rather than “smothering” the bar with a full grip where your fingers and thumb are completely wrapped around the bar and your skeletal leverage is oftentimes weak, try just using a from of hook grip in which only your last two finger joints are flexes to support the weight as this is often many lifters’ strongest leverage in a hanging grip situation.

Enjoy your training.

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