Mixed Grips: When and Why To Use This Grip On Deadlifts

dead lift grip
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Time for our Workout Of The Month. Each month we take a look at a different exercise and break it down by movement, how to do it, and discuss some of the positive versus negative impact that it can have to you and your level of fitness. Some workout’s of the month breakdown how to do a common exercise, others feature a specific exercise. This month we take a look at when and why to use a mixed grip instead of a neutral grip – how it can help you break through plateaus and lift more weight.

Making Use Of The Alternate Hand Grip When Weight Lifting

The deadlift is easily one of my top three gym exercises. There’s just so many benefits to the movement. The lift is just so pure in developing pure strength and involves so many muscle groups – legs, back, shoulders, arms, core. The lift in itself is also pretty straight forward: stare at the weight, walk up to it, lift it until you can stand.

It’s All About The Grip

dead lift grip

A neutral grip – the grip most people use when learning how to lift. It’s also a grip that could be holding you back from making serious strength gains. On a side note, using running shoes as this person is using can also be a downfall. See our article on six reasons you can’t squat for more info.

Most people I see at the gym start out pulling their deadlifts with a neutral grip. There’s nothing wrong with this. It’s the most comfortable feeling type of grip: palms facing your body, fingers wrapped around the bar, and your thumb wrapped around the fingers. However, there comes a time when a neutral grip will be the limiting factor with your progression of moving weight – hence the scene of so many people using weight lifting straps. Weight lifting straps might not always be necessary. Especially when the weight is being limited by your type of grips.

Making The Transition Using A Mixed Grip

Note the hand placement with one palm facing outward and one with a neutral grip. This is a grip you should consider if you’re seriously looking at increasing your strength. Also, note the difference in footwear between the first picture as discussed in six reasons you can’t squat.

Some people call it a mixed grip, others call it an alternate hand grip. I don’t really care what you call it. I just think you should be doing it. A mixed grip is pretty straight forward. One hand uses the traditional grip as mentioned above, while the other hand instead of facing you, the palm is facing outward with your fingers wrapped around the bar and the thumb wrapped around the fingers.

Why Use The Mixed Grip For Deadlifts?

For just one reason only – it allows you to pull more weight without being limited by a neutral grip and without having to use weight lifting straps. And you want to be stronger, don’t you? And why have your grips be a limiting factor in how much weight you can pull. It’s not surprising for people to see people lifting weights heavier than what their grips can allow them to pull.

When To Use The Mixed Grip For Deadlifts

I’ll tell you when you should NOT be using the mixed grip on your dead lifts – when warming up. Your mixed grip should be used for when you’re going for your low reps/max weight. It should be used to help you push through our plateaus. If you feel that you need to use a neutral grip for your warm up weight, you might want to focus on specific grip strength exercises.

A Word Of Caution With Mixed Grips

When compared to a neutral grip, a mixed grip can put more tension on your biceps of the arm with the hand facing out. Potentially, there is an increased risk for injury if you neglect your biceps.

One other word of caution, sometimes people tend to go with a mixed grip that includes their strongest arm facing outwards – constantly. This can lead to muscular imbalances between the two arms. It’s important to always rotate your grips between sets of weight.

Additional Grip Work

If your neutral grip is your limiting factor, switch to the mixed grip. Don’t let your grip hold you back. There’s also nothing wrong with building additional grip strength through other exercises. I have two favorites.

1. Farmer’s Walk: Pick up a heavy set of dumbbells, walk with your chest out and shoulders out with the dumbbells at the side and walk for fifty feet.
2. Flexed Arm Hang: I occasionally like to finish my workout off with these – after my arms are already taxed. All I do assume the pull-up position (palms facing out) and see how long I can keep my chin above the bar. Once I can’t do that anymore I’ll see how long I can hang until my grip gives way. My goal is length of time.

Discussion: do you use the mixed grip for your deadlifts? Why or why not? What are your favorite grip building exercises?


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