Sunday, July 28, 2019

Hook Dreams - Wade Johnson

Many years ago when I started powerlifting, I never thought about my grip in the deadlift. I always had great grip strength and never lost a pull due to a failing grip. However, as the years rolled along I realized that I was built more for squat and bench press, and that my short arms would hinder me somewhat. I started investigating what I could do to achieve my deadlifting goals.  

Because my grip was a strong point, I initially resisted any change. There were training, form and other issues, but one of the thing I did that really allowed me to train better and to get my weight moving up was the hook grip. Because I dabbled in Olympic lifting, I knew of it, but my grip was far stronger using a double overhand than relying on my Olympic form.

It wasn't until I read an article written by Brad Gillingham that I realized the hook grip could solve my problems. So, I went about it like everyone else does and tried it at 135. Not too bad. Neither was 225, but then -- damnation -- 315 hurt like a sumbitch. I squashed the idea and went back to conventional grip.

I played with the grip for about 18 months. I did singles and got to where I was closing in on PR weights. At a meet in 2005 I did my deadlift warmup at 315 and 455 with the hook grip. It felt so much better, and I decided to go with it. I haven't looked back since. 

There were a few issues that led me to the hook grip. I would torque the crap out of my biceps and forearms. I had bouts of tendinitis and didn't want to further injure my biceps. The bigger issue for me was pulling my hips of of alignment. No matter how good my form, it wasn't by lower back but my hips that bothered me. 

Using the hook grip helped. I had no more biceps and forearm issues. No more hip issues. I shortened my stroke and improved my form.

Hook Grip Tips

Here are a few quick tips for those of you interested in giving the hook a whirl. 

Start slow. This grip hurts and you will initially feel like your thumbs will pop off. It takes some time for that sensation to stop and, even then, it will occasionally hurt and even be sore. 

Start light. This grip is not for the faint of heart. Use warmups to get the grip started and then go back to your conventional alternating grip at first. THIS WILL TAKE TIME! 

Use athletic tape. I have even used it in meets -- just be sure to check the rules and talk with the meet director to be sure it's okay come meet day. In training, make sure you don't cover the knuckle. It will affect how you close your hands if it's over the thumb knuckle and too tight. Leave yourself a courtesy tab so you can get the tape off when you are done. 

Start with singles. Reps are really hard on your hands. I suggest doing singles at first. As time goes on, your thumbs will toughen up and you'll be able to deal with it. 

Give Hook a Chance

I am not a great deadlifter, but I have pulled 672 in a full meet, gearless and beltless conventional. Then I pulled 700 sumo with a suit and loose belt. These were numbers I had only dreamed of pulling. 

Give the hook grip a try. I hope it does for you what it has done for me. 

Until next time . . . 

Lift Heavy
Train Smart and
Eat More Pizza!     


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