When people try to do something they aren’t familiar with, I can almost guarantee they will skip a step. I do it, you do it, we ALL do it. Think about the last time you tried to assemble furniture – you took out all the big pieces, you start following the directions, and then you get a little over confident and you start to wing it. I. Got. This.
Only 2 hours later you realized you screwed the panels together in the WRONG order – what a waste of time and effort. If only you didn’t skip around!
Well, weightlifting (and fitness in general) follows the same logic. Much like you can’t run before you can walk (and crawl, for the matter), you cannot be a good weightlifter without focusing on how to properly grip the barbell. It is a step that is often breezed right over, but every repetition performed will reinforce bad habits – habits that will be much harder to break later on.
So heed my advice -pay attention to your grip and get it right – the first time!
First and Foremost….
Use it, learn it, love it. Every clean or snatch rep you take should be using the hook grip.
Would a baseball player hold a bat backwards? No – just like a weightlifter shouldn’t be gripping the barbell without a hook grip.
The hook grip is superior to a regular thumb over fingers grip because it is a much more secure grip – which will allow you to lift more weight.
Yes, the hook grip is uncomfortable at first. But so was wearing a helmet during two a days. So was football camp. So was running sprints. But all of those things were required to become a good football player, much like using the hook grip is a requirement for being a good weightlifter.
Now that you’ve committed to using the hook grip EVERY time, let’s talk about the grip set up for each of the Olympic lifts.
Wear the bar as a belt. Repeat after me: WEAR THE BAR AS A BELT.
It’s that simple. In the snatch, you want to brush the bar as high on your upper thigh as possible to maximize power generated from your hips and make sure the bar goes up not away from the body. So grip the barbell so it sits in your hip crease.
A good way to figure out the exact grip that works for you is to grip the bar in the mid hang position, then keep flexing your knees while simultaneously widening your grip. Once your knees stop raising the bar, take note of how wide your grip is. That is your starting point when you pull from the floor.
If you are having trouble snatching with the barbell in the hip crease, there are a few options:
1. Use a narrow grip – some people actually perform better with a less wide grip. Experiment to see what works for you.
2. Do static holds at the lockout position – raise the safety arms in the rack to as high as they go. Set up underneath the barbell, with your arms completely locked out. Use your legs to raise the bar off the safety pins. It should look like a quarter overhead squat. Hold the weight overhead for time. The weight should be pretty heavy – at your 1RM or more.
3. Do static holds at the bottom position – a rock bottom squat is uncomfortable, to say the least. You might lack stability in your core, hips or back to keep the bar in the proper position. The weight here should be light – Do snatches at 65-75% and pause at the bottom for a 5 count.
4. Mobilize – It’s possible you just don’t have the ROM to stabilize the load overhead. Target the thoracic spine, lats and chest. Do some of the drills outlined here.
The clean has a higher mobility requirement than the snatch – so you will probably have to work on your shoulders, thoracic spine and wrists to even have the ability to get into a decent position.
There are two requirements for a solid clean grip –
1. The grip must allow your elbows to be up and in
2. The grip must allow your shoulders to create a solid “shelf” for the barbell
The grip must also allow a brush point to be at least mid thigh (and the higher the better), and grip must also allow a quick, effortless turnover into a front rack. But these are secondary concerns – if your grip width fails to meet the minimum requirments, chances are you will also have an awkward turnover, and your brush point will not in sync with the rest of the lift.
The best way to find the grip width required for a clean is to set up a squat rack and just approach the barbell like you are front squatting. A good starting point is just outside shoulder width. Experiment. Where does the barbell sit? Can you get your elbows in and out? Take note to where your hands are on the barbell. Then, try to clean from the floor with the exact same grip width.
The jerk is pretty simple – if you are making your lifts consistently with the same grip width as the clean, DO NOT CHANGE ANYTHING. If you are having trouble locking out, try widening your grip out once you complete the clean. People with longer limbs may do better with a wider grip because it shortens the range of motion of the barbell.
Also, make sure the barbell is sitting in the meat of your hands, and your hands and fingers are applying pressure to the barbell.
Mulligan Fitness and Hylete.com
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