When it comes to competing with the big boys in heavy deadlifts, a strong grip is essential. You may have developed legs like a titan and arms like a beast, but if your grip can’t sustain the weight you’re lifting then the guns are only showpieces.
Much of a competitor’s success in deadlifting heavy weight is in the hand and forearm flexor muscles which need to be strengthened for a powerful grip. Therefore, when you’re strength training for the deadlift, focus some attention on the following five tips which will improve your grip and ultimately your deadlift performance.
Grip Tip #1 – Don’t Use Straps
Right off the bat, if you use straps during your deadlift workouts then you will rely on your arm and shoulder strength and won’t develop a strong grip. Straps are like training wheels on a bicycle, if you never chuck them away, you’ll never take off without them. The only time straps should be used is when you have reached your max lift weight on your last set when your grip is about gone.
Grip Tip #2 – Use Power Gripping on All Exercises
Gripping strength comes from… well, gripping! Therefore, don’t work through your weight lifting program pushing weight with the palms and lifting with your fingers. Grab those bars like you mean it and grip them as tight as you can, for every lift and for every exercise.
Grip Tip #3 – Increase Grip Strength with Static Holds
You can strengthen your deadlift grip even further by holding the last practice lift for an additional five to ten seconds once you’ve hit the top of your lift. If you’re pulling five reps, hold the last one for the extra time. At this point, your muscles in your hands and forearms are spent and pushing them that extra bit will cause them to strengthen for more powerful grips down the road.
Grip Tip #4 – When the Weight Gets Heavy, Use Chalk
Using chalk will do several things. First, it will eliminate sweaty, slippery hands. Second, it will reduce callus formation. Third, it will give you a better grip when the weight becomes more than your bare hands can handle.
However, only use chalk at your top weights when your normal grip isn’t quite enough. Grip strength is maximized if you use bare hands. Therefore, if you use chalk for all your lifts then you will prevent your grip from strengthening which will actually hurt your lift performance.
Grip Tip #5 – Pull Extra Lifts with a Mixed Grip
It is best to start out your deadlifting warm-ups and routines with an overhand grip and continue with it until your grip strength weakens. The reason for this is that overhand grips work to strengthen the muscles needed for a stronger grip.
When you get to your heavier lifts, switch to a mixed grip for added grip strength. This is achieved by gripping the bar with one hand over and one hand under. The mixed grip places 5 fingers on both the top and bottom of the bar which boosts grip strength.
Most professionals when deadlifting prefer to use their dominant hand facing up. However, some find it better to use the opposite approach. You should try deadlifting with your hands in each position to see how it best works for you. However, find which hand position fits best and stick with it. Alternating hands is a bad idea as it can cause imbalances which can cost you during a competition.
Remember, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link and that link is your grip when it comes to deadlifting. Strengthen your grip and you strengthen your deadlift capability.