Double overhand hook grip deadlifts?

Hey man,

After seeing Chris pull, I think a lot of us have come to feel that there is a certain coolness to pulling heavy deadlifts with a double overhand hook grip. This is part of the reason why Chris’s deadlifts are so awesome, other than the fact that he collectively lifts more than a ton with his 5rm deadlift. There is something about possessing the grip strength to pull that kind of weight double overhand hook grip that, to me at least, equates to being a man, you know?

Hands strong enough to crush a moderately sized Asian? 70s big.

This post highlights another double overhand hook grip deadlifter, Mikhail Kokylaev. Kokylaev competes as a strongman, powerlifter, and weightlifter, and possesses a great diversity of athletic skills and types of strength. The video below displays his insanely strong pulling in addition to his equally insane grip.

If you go to his youtube page, you can see his other videos, and he’s pretty much a loose cannon, he’s just out of control. My favorites are his 200k push press triple and the 150k muscle snatch in an exhibition vid that a barbell club in the UK posted of him.

While having a ridiculously strong grip is appealing, it’s probably not wise to let the pursuit of great grip strength overshadow the primary goal of becoming strong, that is, through squats, presses, and pulling. I like to warm up with a double overhand hook grip as much as I can for all my pulling movements, usually up to my last warm up set, but Justin is always encouraging me, in the nicest possible way of course, to be smart about my grip and to not let my quest to be as cool as Chris overshadow my quest to be as strong as Brent Kim can possibly be.

Hopefully in the next article, Justin will weigh in on grip strength and how it relates to 70s big. If you have any questions on the topic, share them in the comments.

I’ve got a couple questions, actually:

– What’s the method of rectification for a guy trying to get 70s big whose grip is the limiting factor in his deadlifts/haltings/rack pulls?

– There’s a subculture in lifting, comparable to the “no belts” subculture, which espouses the ideal of never using straps for any exercise. Thoughts on straps in training?

– A while ago at a cookout at the WFAC, Gant recommended Kroc rows to me for, among other things, grip strength. Since Gant suggested I try them, and because Matt Kroczaleski does them and has a lot of super sweet vids on youtube of him doing them, I have of course been doing Kroc rows semi-religiously, sometimes without a shirt on. Thoughts on accessory exercises such as these? Perhaps thoughts on training without a shirt on?

47 thoughts on “Double overhand hook grip deadlifts?

  1. Kroc Rows are awesome, I started doing these when I began 5/3/1 again a few months back, my traps grew like a mother and my grip got friggin strong and my forearms grew like crazy. But I was doing them for as much as 2 sets and working hard for 25 – 30 reps with the heaviest possible weight i could handle.

    I still think my grip is weaker than it should be for my current strength level though but lately i’ve had easier time managing double overhand grip up to 325 on the deads but other days I have a hard time grasping with my right hand and so I have to rely on the over under grip a lot.

    I would love to see a grip strength article here.

  2. 1) I appreciate Brent Kim referring to himself in the third person and referencing his crushability in the same article. 2) Ever since the footwear fad I am wary of anything going by the name “Kroc”. 3) I believe no shirt is fine… if you are wearing a singlet. In fact, I am considering only wearing singlets from now on. Why should they be just for competition? They’re so free and unrestrictive!

  3. I wear only a singlet and a condom for Kroc rows.

    straps are a tool. of course only dirty cheaters use tools; tools like straps, belts, meat, 8 hours of sleep and being 25…these are the known tools of cheaters…

    of course once you’re good at the hook it’s just like cheating too.

    “I wear only a singlet and a condom for Kroc rows.”


    – brent

  4. I made myself some fat grips just yesterday before going to the gym and they work great. I felt like a bitch after using them on a couple sets of pulls because my hands were completely shot and everything felt twice as heavy after.

    I started football practice recently so I’ve been doing a lot of sprinting which has really been taking it out of my legs. I’m still maintaining on my oly lifts and slowly progressing my squat/bench but I just couldn’t handle trying to progress my DLs on top of all that. So I dropped the weight and I figured while I’m down here I may as well do some grip training to keep the DL challenging.

  5. I started pulling with a hook grip a few weeks ago and love it. With an alternate grip I had some asymmetry and tightness on one side of my lower back during the pull, but that hasn’t been a problem with the hook. Of course I’m not pulling anywhere near what Chris is, let alone Kokylaev, so I’ll just see how it holds up as the loads increase.

  6. I usually warm up with a double overhand hook grip. I’m up to about 265 lbs., and then I have to ditch the hook. When I first started deadlifting all I used was double overhand and got up to 360 lbs with it for 5s. Then I switched to alternate grip.

  7. 1) I like how we have Justin, Brent and Gant contributing regularly.

    2) I found the hook grip very useful, but switched to mixed grip once I got to about 365. I’m going for 400+ tomorrow, perhaps I’ll try a rep or two with the hook grip and see if it’s something I can handle.

    When I grow up, I want to be as strong as Brent.

    I’m sure he can still kick my ass though.

    i’m not strong yet

    – brent

    But Brent is a good writer so it sorta makes up for it.


  8. This is good timing because I was wondering about grip strength too. I hope Justin will weigh in. I know Rip says too much grip work is an easy thing to overtrain, and that unless it’s holding back your deadlift, extra work isn’t really necessary for a novice. Could a little bit of fat bar/rope/kettlebell/towel pullup etc work really blow up your progress? I want big hands and forearms.

  9. This may seem odd, but I actually feel stronger with a double overhand hook grip than I do with a mixed grip. Not sure why, but I’ve tried both and I pulled a heavier single with the overhand hook.

    As for straps, I have nothing against them if it matches what you are trying to accomplish. The guys at my gym who strap up for a set of 3 pull with 135 lbs? No, not a good use. Matt K. strapping onto a 200+ lb. dumbell for max reps? Good usage of straps.

  10. Count me in the camps of “straps should almost never be used” with the only possible exceptions being heavy high rep deadlifts or very heavy rack pulls where grip might otherwise be a limiting factor. Things like Kroc Rows are good but I don’t think they are any better than simply doing farmer’s holds or walks. They all involve holding a heavy dumbell for a long time, which is going to tax the grip either way.

    I should give hook grip a try.

  11. I’ve been hooking my deadlifts since I switched to TM a couple of weeks ago. I deadlift 1×5 on volume day, and needed to back the weight off since the 5×5 squats are brutal. I pulled 335 last time and hope I can keep it going.

    Move your deadlifts to the intensity day.


  12. I think if you’re doing rack pulls or haltings right, you’re doing them with a weight that you need straps for unless you have an ungodly grip. I think double overhand hook grip pulling is a lot better for people who have weightlifting ambitions than mixed grip. And for people lifting for athletic performance and not powerlifting, I’d consider hook grip or even straps for heavy deadlifts instead of mixed grip because mixed grip irritates some people. As long as they are otherwise strong, grip-wise.

  13. I don’t really see the point in straps unless grip strength becomes a detriment to your getting stronger, at which point work on it.

    In my mind, the goal is to get stronger everywhere, holding a bunch of weight in your hands will do that.

  14. For those that are completely anti-straps, have any of you watched the video Brent linked to of Kroc rows? Should he ditch the straps and work on his grip?

  15. no edit function.

    To expand on what I said, straps have their function, and certainly use of them in a limited fashion can be a good thing, they obviously allow the use of a higher weight, meaning more strength.

    Before I started the quest to 70’s big(dom?) I would use them for doing heavy barbell shrugs, rows, stiff legged deadlifts etc, things I really didn’t necessarily need to be doing, but given the curls for the girls mindset I did, as a result my grip strength was not where it needed to be as I had been using equipment in place of raw effort.

    This resulted in weak forearms when I began deadlifting multiple times per week (on starting strength) my grip strength became a limiting factor (I could lift more than I could hold), as a default I would have grabbed my straps, however the goal is to get stronger so I simply stuck with it and now I have little grip issues, on a work set or if I’m doing singles or triples I may switch to an over / under grip, but generally I’ll use a double overhand, not to be cooler, but to get stronger.

  16. I do double OH up until my final set of 5 (usually around 365#), then I switch to alternating hook for my final set of 5 (which was with 420# on Saturday-PR). However, I feel the “locking” of my hook grip is stronger with DOH grip then with alternating. However^2, I still feel stronger with alternating, and heavy pulls with DOH grip brings much more pain to my hands then alternating. Lastly, I also feel my form is slightly more comfortable with alternating, probably because I have been doing alternating much longer then DOH.

  17. 1)These “kroc” rows, how are they any different than a regular DB Row? I haven’t done DB Rows in a while but i always enjoyed them because I could do them with heavy weight, oh and I used my own body to support the movement and not a bench so it makes you work a little harder. If someone likes them, why not add them if they have the energy?

    2)I have never liked the idea of straps. I dont want to rely on something to get a set done. If i am trying to build useful strength, then how do straps help that? I can’t wrap straps on to pick up the couch or my dog (105 lbs). On the other hand, I see some light as to why people use them now for things such as rack pulls and what not… I think I will just sit back and listen to see how this discussion goes then formulate a new opinion…

    3)Im in Houston with 3 days until my gym membership expires and don’t know where to turn! I live close to downtown if anyone knows of a good place, please let me know! Alright cool, thanks.

    Your second point is analogous to saying “Why should I wear a belt as I train when I don’t wear a belt outisde of the gym.” Think about it and let me know if you can see the folly.


  18. Mikhail Kokylaev has to be one of my favourite strength athletes, the guy is a phenom. He’s also pretty active commenting on his own videos which is pretty cool. Seems like a genuinely nice and funny guy too.

  19. @StonewallWells – Kroc rows are the same movement as DB rows, but the difference is they are specifically as heavy as you can go for as many reps as you can get. I don’t know if there is a set minimum, but typically I don’t see people doing much under 20 reps when doing them. And I can see reasons to do them both strapped and unstrapped. Go lighter and unstrapped to help your grip. Or strap on a real heavy DB to exhaust your upper back. Depends on what your using them for.

  20. Ahhhh I see what you’re saying. So would it not be advantageous to go as heavy as possible for the most reps possible and then strap up and keep going?

  21. Kroc Rows rule. It’s funny this came up today since me and another member were actually discussing the topic in my log on the SS forums (hint, hint – go follow it). I need to do lots more. This pic was posted in a discussion about Kroc – apparently he’s BB’ing (meh), but look at this back development (slighthomo):

    Also, the only time I’ve met Rip, he told me to start doing rack pulls…with straps. I almost shit myself, and made him confirm 2 or 3 times. “Straps?? You want me to actually use straps??” “Yes, stupid.”
    But that or a hand injury seems to really be the only excuse (for me).

  22. @StonewallWells – you could try that, but again I would question what you are doing them for. If it is more to help grip strength I would say just do them unstrapped (and yes, there would also be a benefit for your upper back). But if you are really wanting to build strength in your upper back then I think straps are fine. Now if you can’t even do high reps with say 50lbs. unstrapped then maybe you should just focus on grip and not use straps. But if you already have some serious grip strength and just want to work your back then straps are a great tool.

  23. Oh I’m not really interested in them but I may give it a shot now that everyone is talking about it. But this is what I was thinking with my last comment.

    110 DB unstrapped for max reps (aka until grip fails) Then put strap on bar and continue for max reps until i cant do the movement at all.

    It seems like everyone is saying you either have to work on grip or on your back. I am saying why not both?

  24. Straps are a useful tool, the only thing I currently use them for is rack pulls, because I want to load my PC with a weight heavier than what I can hold onto for 5 reps.

    Never done Kroc rows, but apparently they work. Also, Kroc’s back development is absolutely retarded.

  25. I may be a total novice so please bear with me, maybe my technique is totally wrong as I have tried to teach it to myself. I have looked at the hook grip and to me it seems that it will rip apart your thumbs in the long run. Hooking under the bar and pulling 400# for reps just seems like a lot of stress/traction on the thumb joints which I don’t think they were designed to do that.

    Maybe I don’t have my other fingers wrapped around enough and that is causing increased pressure on my thumbs.

  26. @msupt – it could be the bar you are using. I know at my gym there is one thinner diameter bar and I used it once and it beat the crap out of my hand when hook gripping. I now use the the thicker bars at my gym only. A more aggressive knurling coudl also chew you up more.

  27. SMC–That is probably the same guy that told Justin to go get a tan. What a loser, you should try to convert him to 70sbig and show him how a real man should act. Looking good never makes you better at tossing midgets, now does it.

  28. @msupt-

    i think the point of the hook grip is to give your fingers something to grip on with some give so you can get a stronger grip. don’t try to grip with your thumb, try to squueze your thumb into the bar with your first 2 fingers. the wiki article has an excerpt from Greg Everett book and explains it well.

  29. I do my rack pulls with straps, and my haltings with a double overhand hook grip.

    I am an olympic lifter.


    I notice all elite o-lifters use STRAPS on their snatches, and none on their cleans. I even noticed justin doing this. WHAT’S the DEAL?

    Should i do this also?

    I used straps once or twice on my snatches, and I believe only one video exists of this, so you are a super sleuth. If you are competing in Oly lifting then you may be pulling 3, 4, or 5+ times a week and the grip will get tired (or the hands get ripped up if you don’t take care of them). So you strap up for the snatches. You obviously can’t use them on cleans because most people catch cleans in their fingers and the straps won’t allow this.

    I haven’t used straps in a while, but I will in the future. But, as with most things, it depends.


  30. I recomended Kroc Rows to Brent specifically based on his goals. He’s an intermediate OLY guy and wanted a stringer grip. Not only do Kroc Rows help grip, they also develop the upper back, which is good for pulling OLifts and locking out DLs. A strong upper back also aids the bench press.

    Most of the guys I see using straps In the weightroom have a 250+ Oly total and/or DL around 5 bills. You can keep it real and “functional.” I’m doing what the strong guys do.

    I’ll do a grip article when I get back in town.

  31. Grip strength is something I’ve recently become even more
    interested in. I think it would be cool to tear phone books and decks of cards and such. Plus I enjoy watching the nancy guys my girlsfriend’s friends date wince when I shake their hands.

  32. @SMC-That’s flippin awesome! Considering that he is a bodybuilder, does he do some righteous half squats with 405 grunting and all, then hit the leg press for some really heavy half leg presses + calf raises?! I’m asking because that’s what the “body builders” in my old gym did…goobers

    DUUUUUUDE that’s and awesome idea! I would totally wear 70 for my lacrosse jersey but men’s teams don’t have that many players and I don’t even think we have numbers this year on our jerseys anyway… But still that’s a bad ass idea…

    Man I have the best next shirt idea! I don’t know how many people played football in high school but I did and I remember having to wear the cut off practice shirts that looked like they were strait out of the 70’s. How rad would it be if we could have a 70’s big version?! Oh I would be so pumped to hit my deads in one of those bad boys again. Just a thought, I think I might actually have to come up with something for the interim to satiate my urge to relive those “glory” days. Thanks anyway bud!

  33. Hey guys, keep the good stuff coming!

    Now, I may be outing myself as some kind of freak here, but I’m a novice lifter, ie the past couple of months, and I’ve been using an ALTERNATE HOOK GRIP! as a newbie all the photos of dl’s I saw had people using the mixed grip and I just assumed it should be a hook grip. I think I read somewhere that you should try and use the hook for all pulling.

    It has been working fine for me so far, altough I’m still in very early stages of linear progression – approx 200# ( yeah I know…) so maybe it’s just not heavy enough to cause problems yet?

    Incidentally, I have pretty small hands and have not found the hook grip too uncomfortable.

    Any thoughts?
    Cheers guys!

    The alternated hook grip is probably a bad idea. The supinated forearm makes using the hook grip more difficult, and it doesn’t take advantage of the benefits of either as a result. One of the reasons for DOHG is to have symmetry in all of the muscles from the hand all the way to the scapula, so you’re missing out on that too. I don’t see how it could be optimal at heavy weights, but I’ll be glad to be proven wrong.


  34. Hey all –

    Stumbled across this forum when trying to understand why powerlifters do the alternating grip. I’m in o-lifter, and do hook grips for the normal lifts and straps for pulls.

    Hook grip is more then adequate to hold the weight, but in my gym we use straps for form. In o-lifting the arms should be loose and relaxed, and the pop in the second pull should come from the hips and traps. A tight grip on the bar puts tenses the arms and can lead to muscling the bar vs relying on body mechanics. Our coach has us use straps for any of the pulls whether we need them or not.

    Not saying this has anything to do with powerlifting; different goals require different techniques. I’ve never done deadlifts (only clean pulls), but I can vouch for the hook grip. Your thumbs get used to it, and then it’s almost like build-on straps :)

    Welcome. This isn’t solely a powerlifting forum. I don’t compete in powerlifting — I’m an Oly lifter. This post is talking about the use of the hook grip for deadlifts. It’s already been explained the use of it in Olympic lifting.


  35. Pingback: Home Made Strength 2 - Grip Strength Edition |

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