WSBB Blog: Deadlift Grip Strength
When it comes to powerlifting and strongman, few lifts are as crucial as the deadlift. In the strength training community, having the ability to grab a heavy barbell and lift it off of the ground is one of the most respected lifts one can perform. The deadlift is an excellent builder of posterior chain strength, making it one of the most common training movements used to train the back and legs. To attain a world-class deadlift takes a lot of hard work and dedication, including intelligent programming designed to address the different weaknesses that can slow an athlete's progress and limit their ability to reach top levels of deadlift strength.
One of the main weaknesses that limit an athlete's progress in the deadlift is grip strength. In strength sports, grip strength is one of the most critical attributes a strength athlete can develop. No matter if you are a powerlifter trying to lock out a heavy deadlift or a strongman performing a static hold, having a grip strong enough to break a hand during a handshake should be a goal in your training. Here are a few of the ways we increase grip strength at Westside Barbell.
Use Your Hands
One of the simplest ways to begin improving your grip strength is to start using your hands. Many lifters opt for lifting straps when training different pull exercises such as deadlifts, rows, pulldowns, and pull-ups. By simply limiting the amount of time you use your lifting straps, you can begin to make improvements in your grip strength. Meaning, you will use your hands to perform as many lifts as possible without lifting straps. No matter if you are performing a deadlift, a row, a pulldown, or a pull-up, you will use your bare hands with some chalk added.
This is not to say that lifting straps are useless. At Westside, we recommend using lifting straps for max effort deadlifts when grip strength limits the athlete's ability to make a jump in weight and lift another set. At this point, the athlete would add in the lifting straps and go for another set.
Grip Specific Exercises
Another way to prioritize grip strength is to add grip-specific exercises into your training. These exercises can include double overhand lifts, pull-up variations, static holds, and static hanging from a pull-up bar. It is essential to focus on squeezing the bar as tightly as possible to get as much forearm and hand engagement as possible when performing these lifts.
When performing double overhand lifts, you want to use an open hand grip, no hook grip. One of the go-to double overhand lifts we use at Westside is double overhand deadlifts off pin 3. We will have athletes lift a rep, hold for a three to five-second count, and reset for another rep. As far as pull-up variations go, we perform traditional pull-ups, v-bar pull-ups, rope pull-ups, and pull-ups using the grenade attachment. Static holds are typically performed with a squat bar considering the increase in diameter, holding the bar for at least ten seconds using the heaviest weight tolerable. Static hangs are similar to flexed arm hangs, using only your body weight while hanging for max time. As you become better at static hangs, you can begin using a loadable weight belt to increase the intensity of the exercise.
Strengthen the Forearms
It is no secret, the muscles of the forearms play a tremendous role in grip strength ability. Taking this into consideration, it is vital to develop a strong set of forearms. Fortunately, an athlete can attain most of the forearm training needed through variations of bicep curls. However, there are a few forearm-specific exercises that an athlete can perform.
One of the most common ways to target the forearms is through the use of forearm curls. To perform a forearm curl, you will place your arm over a bench, with the palm facing upwards. From there, you will place a dumbbell in your hand and begin using your hand and wrist to curl the dumbbell. If executed correctly, this exercise will directly target the forearm muscles the same way a bicep curl targets the muscles of the biceps. Another way to strengthen the forearms is through the use of squeeze devices. These devices can be loaded with plate weight, with the lifter squeezing two bars together to lift the weighted implement.
Get a Grip
If you want to lift the heaviest deadlifts you can lift, you need to get a grip. No matter how strong you make your back, glutes, and hamstrings, a weak grip will ruin your chances of hitting that next deadlift PR or that next big total. Grip strength is like any other strength-related ability; you won't have it if you don't train it. If you want a strong grip, you need to train grip for grip strength. By implementing the strategies and exercises listed above, you will begin to increase your grip strength, ultimately leading to the desired outcome: deadlift PRs.
Supertraining; by Dr. Mel Siff
Science and Practice of Strength Training; by Dr. Vladimir Zatsiorsky and Dr. William Kraemer
Westside Barbell Book of Methods; by Louie Simmons
Special Strengths Development for All Sports; by Louie Simmons