Most articles and explanation get proper grip for deadlift wrong. Dead wrong. Good one right? There are two opposite viewpoints: One says you should “grip the bar with the palm” and the other says you should “grip with your fingers.”
The first instruction confuses most trainees. How the heck do I grip with my palm? I use my fingers to grip things. Well, you are correct, sir. You can’t grip anything “with your palm,” as such. What people mean by this is that you should seat the bar in the palm of your hand first, between the thumb and forefinger, and then wrap the fingers around.
This palm gripping method will bunch and pinch the skin at the base of the metacarpophalangeal (base of fingers), pulling at the deadlift calluses if they are there and/or causing them to develop as ridges which are more easily torn off in the future. They may also press on the underlying tissue and bone while lifting, causing pain.
The second viewpoint says you should “grip with your fingers,” as if there was any other way. But what they mean is that you should hook the bar with your fingers and then squeeze it in. This, again, is a problem for calluses. It will allow the bar to pull at the skin at the base of the fingers, which results in ripped calluses for some lifters, some of the time. This also results in a less than secure grip and may actually cause large calluses to develop in places that are more uncomfortable, such as the proximal interphalangeal joints of the fingers.
Steps to Proper Deadlift Grip
The best way to grip the bar is actually what comes out of these two incorrect instructions. That is, those who give the first two methods are just repeating something they heard without understanding the steps involved and you will see how it can be misconstrued as “grip with your palm” or “with your fingers.” So here is how to do it:
1. Seat the bar on the part of your palm just underneath base of your fingers, the place where the biggest calluses tend to form. Press the skin against the bar firmly.
2. Maintain this contact with the bar while pushing your hand forward, away from you, so that the skin under your fingers is dragged slightly backward, toward the base of your palm. This will cause your hand to start to bend around the bar.
3. Keep pushing forward, maintaining pressure, and bring the palm of your hand onto the bar by placing the webbing between the thumb and index finger around the bar. So now, you are “palming” the bar. Your fingers should have naturally wrapped around the bar and your thumb should come to rest near, or over, your index finger, depending on your inclination.
4. Rotate the bar away from you until your wrist is straight.
Although I wrote this out in steps, it’s all done at the same time. If you can use it, gym chalk will help a great deal. Chalk does more than just provide more friction for you grip, it helps to facilitate getting a better grip in the first place. Although there are only subtle differences between this and the way most people would “naturally” grip the bar, the skin under the fingers is not snagged nearly as much. You may have a slight bit of discomfort in your hand, as you may be palming the bar correctly for the first time. Your hand will relax more over time and this should feel normal to you with practice.
Obviously, we are assuming that you do not think that the ‘correct’ way to grip the bar is to use a hook grip. The hook grip is an augmented grip and is not something most lifters would turn to right off the bat so this post assumes that you are gripping the bar according to most people’s natural inclination, which would be in a “power grip” where the thumb comes around the bar to buttress the grip. Using the method above for an alternated grip is a bit more tricky but the steps are the same.
Whether to use the hook grip to augment your grip, when needed, or to use an alternated grip is up to you to decide. This article, Hook Grip Versus Alternated Grip For Deadlifts, contains the most thorough breakdown of the issue that you will find, whether in a book or on the internet, and it gives my conclusion as to the best course of action.