Training Log

Starting Strength in the Real World

Grip for the Pull

by Mark Rippetoe | September 08, 2020

losing the grip in the deadlift

It has come to my attention that some of you people are reluctant to move to the hook or alternate grip as your deadlifts get heavier. You apparently think you'll be giving up grip strength if you do.

Please understand this: the deadlift is an important exercise for basic strength. With the squat, it's the basic foundation of the program. A strong deadlift can be built rather quickly, and we depend on this rapid increase in hip and leg strength to add momentum and improve motivation for the rest of the program. Starting Strength is the most effective strength program in the world, and one of the reasons is that the trainee can immediately feel and see the changes in total body strength that no other program provides.

We start you off with a simple double-overhand grip, because at first the weights are light enough that nothing else is necessary. But the deadlift gets strong pretty fast, and within a few months the grip will become the limiting factor in the weight you're pulling.

The deadlift is used in the program because it allows the use of heavy weights, so the grip cannot become an artificial barrier. When you can no longer manage a double-overhand grip, you are supposed to change to a hook or alternate grip. There are even special circumstances in which you are supposed to use straps. Because the pull is the reason we're doing deadlifts, not the grip.

But if you try to pull the bar off the floor with a failing grip, your back will not stay in extension. The back will not pull what the hands cannot hold, and this feedback loop cannot be tricked. The back must be locked in extension when you pull so that it can get stronger in extension. If you stubbornly refuse to mature your grip when it's time to do so, you're going to stop your progress.

If you're concerned about grip strength, rest easy in the knowledge that a weak grip cannot pull 500 with either an alternate or a hook grip. A 500-pound deadlift requires strong hands, and it builds them. So quit being hardheaded and follow the program.

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