How to Grip in Weightlifting and Gymnastics


How to Grip in Weightlifting and Gymnastics

  December 15, 2017

Before taking CrossFit classes, we had no idea there were so many different ways to grip a bar. The way we place our fingertips around either the barbell or the pull-up bar has an impact on the rest of the arm, shoulder and upper back.

The main reason why we are looking for the most efficient manner to hold on to the bar is because it gets slippery and without an adequate fingertip position it can put us at risk especially when we are hanging in the air.

How many ways are there to hold a bar in gymnastics and grip the bar in weightlifting?


Snatch and clean

Lifting weights from the floor with speed requires strength when gripping the bar. In order to prevent hands to slip and inevitably miss the lift, we are strongly advised to hook grip.
The second reason why we hook grip is to allow the arms to bend when pulling and therefore turn around faster.

What is hook grip?

Our palms are on the bar, thumbs wrapped around it and covered with our other fingertips (usually the first two fingers). This skill is awkward in the beginning, cramping fingers and feeling unnatural. It is a matter of persevering and making it a habit.

Overhead lifts

The few occasions which doesn’t require to hook grip are during overhead movements. For instance, the overhead squat, split/power jerk, push press, strict press and thruster in the overhead position.
In Olympic weightlifting in the clean and jerk, this means the hand will readjust and re-grip to naturally close fit the bar in a tighter and more comfortable position. If we pay attention, when weightlifters clean, their hands are in a hook grip, when the bar is on their shoulders, they reposition their thumbs around the bar (which they are allowed).

‘Before the Jerk, the Lifter may adjust the position of the barbell for the following reasons:
a) To withdraw or “unhook” the thumbs
b) If breathing is impeded
c) If the barbell causes pain
d) To change the width of the grip
The barbell adjustments noted above are not considered to be an additional attempt at the Jerk.’

These are the rules mentioned in the British Weightlifting technical competition rules and regulations book.

Cycling the barbell

In CrossFit some workouts require to cycle the barbell which implies maneuvering the barbell at a very fast pace and taking the risk to loose grip. Mastering the hook grip and re-grip mid cycle is essential and is a skill which is developed over time with practice.


Two terms which we need to understand when approaching the movement of the deadlift : supinated and pronated.

When performing a deadlift we can choose to grip the barbell with our two palms facing down (pronated) or with one hand pronated and the other palm facing up (supinated). This last technique called ‘mixed grip’.

The mixed grip offers the advantage to avoid the bar from slipping when lifting heavy but it can also be detrimental. It creates imbalances and when training the deadlift, we ought to make sure we work on both non-mixed and mixed grip.


There are two ways to hold the pull-up bar when doing gymnastics: thumb over the bar or under the bar.

Games athletes do butterfly pull-ups and muscle ups with their thumbs over the bar. They are probably former gymnasts who master the skill of hanging while doing crazy swings on the bar.

When we are in the process of learning gymnastics fundamentals, we need to make the conscious decision to learn the basics in order to modify our technique in the future.

Wrapping the thumbs under the bar is the recommended manner to hold the bar. It prevents from falling, solidifies grip strength and positions the shoulder in an safer external rotation.



Photo Credits: CrossFit, Reebok, CrossFit Jääkarhu, RogueFitness, Xwerks

Tamara Akcay

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