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Grip Strength Program for Weightlifting
Greg Everett  |  Olympic Weightlifting  |  April 30 2012

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Grip Strength Program for Weightlifting, Greg Everett,
I've written about grip strength for weightlifting before, but have remained fairly vague with regard to actual training protocols. This time, I’m going to give you a simple program that you can start using right away as is, or modify a bit to suit your training schedule or individual needs.

When it comes to grip strength for weightlifting, really what we’re talking about is the snatch. It’s unlikely that anyone would be able to hang on to the bar well in the snatch but not in the clean. However, it’s common for lifters to have no issues with grip in the clean, yet have inadequate grip security in the snatch limit their top end numbers.

As I’ve mentioned before, the first step is eliminating or reducing as much as possible the use of straps in your training. Primarily this will mean not using straps when you snatch unless it’s from the hang for multiple reps with any kind of significant weight. Even in this case, you can do as many warm-up sets as you’re able to without straps.

Accessory pulling work like stiff-legged deadlifts can usually be done without straps with fairly heavy weights because of the slow speed of the exercise. Snatch and clean pulls will usually require straps because of the speed component and generally high weights. Again, though, you can try doing warm-up sets without straps for as long as possible. Be careful of forcing yourself to not use straps for pulls—you may end up just slowing yourself down and hurting your pull training more than you improve your grip training.

The next step is eliminating the hook grip where you can. Power cleans can usually be done without the hook grip for most if not all of your sets; cleans can usually be done without the hook grip in at least most of your warm-up sets (as an added benefit, this can help improve the timing of opening the hands during the turnover because you’re forced to focus more on maintaining your connection to the bar).

You can try doing your snatch warm-up sets without the hook grip as well; however, this is a bit more problematic than in the clean. Because the grip angle on the clean is relatively straight, it’s easy to switch from hookless to hook grip in the middle of your training. With the snatch, some people will find that they need the progressive weight increases of their warm-ups to loosen their hands and make the hook grip position comfortable. Switching to the hook grip at heavier weights after warming-up without it can prevent the grip from feeling secure. That being said, on days when you may not be snatching very heavy, try going without the hook grip.

If your thumbs hurt from doing all your snatch volume with the hook grip instead of straps, tape your thumbs with elastic athletic tape. For most people, this increases the sense of grip security as well as eliminates the pain.

You can even try using less chalk and bars with smoother knurling to force you to grip tighter than usual.

Do any accessory training you have in a manner that challenges the grip when possible. For example, when doing pull-ups or chin-ups, use a thumbless or finger-tip grip; or add more hanging exercises to your ab work, such as hanging leg raises.

Following is the specific grip program you can use in addition to the above mentioned modifications to your existing training.


The Program

Day 1
Gripper – 5 x 8-12 moderately heavy
No-Hook Hang Snatch – 5 x 3

Day 2
Gripper – 5 x 15-20 light-moderate
No-Hook Hang Snatch – 5 x 3

Day 3
Gripper – 5 x 3-5 heavy
Farmer’s Walk – 3-5 x 20-30 m


Gripper

On Day 1, choose a gripper weight that only allows you to do 8-12 reps per set with hard work. On Day 2, choose a gripper weight that allows you to easily do 15 reps per set. On Day 3, choose the heaviest gripper you can use to squeeze out 3-5 reps. Initially you may not even be able to completely close the gripper—as long as it’s close, that’s fine. Keep working at the same number of reps until you can close it completely for all reps.

When doing this exercise, hold your elbow straight and your arm out to your side at an angle similar to what you would have when pulling the snatch, keeping your palm facing backward. You’ll find this position makes it a bit tougher, but this is the position you really need to strengthen. Hold the last rep of each set for as long as you can without hurting yourself.

No-Hook Hang Snatch

Do these from about mid-thigh. You can do power snatches or snatches depending on what you feel works better for you; consider also what you need in your training aside from grip strength, e.g. if you need to improve your pull under or bottom position, doing snatches would be a better choice. Once you start a set, don’t drop the bar—part of the benefit comes from having to maintain your grip on the bar when bringing it back down from overhead.

It’s also not an accident that I placed these after the gripper work. Pre-fatiguing your grip will make the exercise tougher and more effective, but it will also allow you to do it with less weight, which means it won’t take as much out of your recovery capacity.

Farmer’s Walk

This is a simple way to overload the grip a bit more. If you don’t have farmer’s walk handles, dumbbells are fine with the exception that you’ll be more limited in terms of loading. In any case, try to grip the handle in the same way you would hold the barbell, i.e. make sure it rests in the fingers the same way rather than trying to crush it higher in your palm.
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Greg Everett is the owner of Catalyst Athletics, head coach of the national-medalist Catalyst Athletics weightlifting team, publisher of The Performance Menu, author of the books Olympic Weightlifting: A Complete Guide for Athletes & Coaches and Olympic Weightlifting for Sports, and director/writer/producer/editor/everything of the documentary American Weightlifting. Follow him on Facebook here and and sign up for his free newsletter here.
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7 Comments
Tim 1 | 2012-04-30
I picked up some ancient kettlebell-style handles on eBay for about $50 (not free but not too bad) and bought some 24" lengths of 1.0625" cold rolled steel rod. Standard (1") plates are cheap on Craigslist so now I have some farmer's walk handles that didn't cost much and can be loaded to about 180lb. apiece. When I outgrow that I'll get longer pieces of round steel bar stock and/or use my fat grips more often (as it stands, my grip cannot cope with 180# and the fat handles for more than about 10-20 feet). Nonetheless, between the farmer's walk and the fat grips, my grip strength seems to have improved radically. If I'm going for a run or climbing the rope I set up by the street, I haul out the kettleDumbBells. When I'm done I walk back with them to the garage. It is not super pleasant but the results have surprised me.
Brandon Green 2 | 2012-06-27
Good article. What gripper were you referring to when talking about selecting a "gripper" weight ? What about using the "Fatz" grip product ?
Greg Everett 3 | 2013-04-19
Brandon - Something like Iron Mind's Captains of Crush.
Ben Vaneria 4 | 2013-04-20
Greg: I seen you reference "elastic" athletic tape a couple of times now. Is this different from standard "sports" tape that is commonly used on to wrap the wrists and thumbs? "Elastic" athletic tape sounds more like a kinesio-type tape. Could you please clarify or link to a recommended product? Thanks, Ben.
Steve Pan 5 | 2013-04-22
Ben - The elastic tape is a bit more pliable than regular athletic tape to allow the thumbs to bend a bit. The type we use can be found here: amazon.com/Jaybird-Jaylastic-Lightweight-Athletic-Stretch/dp/B000QCYR38/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1366665033&sr=8-2
jon 6 | 2013-07-03
how heavy should the hang snatches be
Steve Pan 7 | 2013-07-05
Jon - You will have to feel out what weight you will be able to do with no hook grip and work from there.
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