Why Hook Grip?

by Fred Lowe, 3x Olympian

It doesn’t matter who we are; we all have similar (often identical) problems and challenges in life. If we are trying to snatch or clean a barbell, the movements themselves dictate the universal challenges associated with these lifts. When we execute the snatch or clean from the floor, the bar has to travel WAY further for us to finish the lift than any other two-hands barbell movement. Because of this, SPEED has to be generated for the bar to travel the required vertical distance for success. Inadequate speed = failed lift. When properly executed, the speed peaks right in the MIDDLE of the movement for the snatch or clean.

Our next problem is that we have to hold onto the bar bilaterally as the snatch and clean are two-hand lifts. As a result, our grip is at greatest risk of slippage during this speed-spike (middle) phase of the pull. Bad grip = failed lift. So, we’ll need specialized means to keep our grip secure for snatching or cleaning. Voila! The hook grip!

I first saw an article about this in a lifting mag early in 1967, but I never tried it as I was doing pretty well and making gains. By fall of 1967, I had snatched 265 lbs (120.5 kg) once but was only consistent with 245-255 lbs (111-116 kg). At this point, my coach introduced me to the hook grip. I didn’t like it much, but after only three workouts I got used to it. Within eight weeks of him showing me the hook grip, I snatched 273 lbs (124 kg) and got 279 lbs.(126 kg) to arm’s length. Within five months of my introduction to the hook grip, I snatched 286 lbs (130 kg). In addition, I became much more consistent with weights that were 85-92% of my 1RM. My eventual 1RM for the snatch was 297 lbs (135 kg) which I did 6 times in official competition. This would not have happened without a hook grip.

So, why hook? Because our problem (and its solution) is universal and the our circumstances vary only by degree. Not all of us are elite specialists in weightlifting or games-level athletes in CrossFit. But if we’re all going to maximize our potential for the snatch and clean, it will never happen with an insecure grip. We’re all one big family with the same family problem. The hook grip is the most secure grip, regardless of how much we might be lifting.

You’ve no doubt heard the saying, “try it, you’ll like it!” In the case of the hook grip I can probably say, “try it, you won’t like it.” But, you’ll get over it, and pretty quickly as I did. Try it with lighter weights to get used to the pressure on your thumb and get your hands in condition for heavier efforts. Wrap one layer of adhesive tape around your thumbs and that will help.

Then, when the time comes for a snatch ladder, clean ladder, or other extended Oly effort you’ll be happy you took the time. There may be other discomforts and challenges but the loss of your grip won’t be one of them. Here’s wishing all of you your best efforts yet!

WOD for 9/9/2016


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