Deadlift with the mixed grip on your last warmup set and all your work sets. Warmup with the normal grip and use it as long as you can to increase grip strength for Deadlifts. Once your grip can’t hold the bar, switch to the mixed grip to improve your grip and increase your Deadlift.
With the mixed grip you grab the bar like a baseball bat: one hand facing up, the other down. Most people prefer dominant hand up. You don’t need to switch which hand faces up on each set. The mixed grip is safe if you Deadlift with proper form. And the mixed grip isn’t cheating.
Mixed Grip Improves Grip for Deadlifts
The mixed grip improves your grip for Deadlifts by cancelling the rotation of the bar. With the normal grip, both palms face you. When your thumbs fail to keep your hands closed, the bar rolls to you. This opens your hands and causes you to lose the bar. With the mixed grip your one hand also faces down. But the other faces up. The bar can no longer rotate in your hands. This increases your grip strength for Deadlifts.
You can Deadlift heavier weights with the mixed grip. If the weight doesn’t want to move off the floor, stop and regrip using the mixed grip. You’ll often be able to Deadlift it. You can also Deadlift more reps with the mixed grip because you can hold the bar longer. If your grip fails mid-set, switch to the mixed grip to finish it. The mixed grip can easily add 20kg/45lb to your Deadlift by improving your grip.
Deadlifting mixed grip isn’t cheating. It improves your grip for Deadlifts but you’re lifting the weight yourself without outside help. Deadlifting mixed grip is different from using straps. Straps also improve your grip for Deadlifts. But they achieve this using an outside tool. Straps are more a band-aid solution that cover a weak Deadlift grip instead of strengthening it. And they weaken your grip if you Deadlift with straps all the time.
The mixed grip won’t make your grip weak for Deadlifts. Regardless of how you grip the bar, gravity always pulls it down. Your grip muscles must keep your hands closed or you lose the bar. The heavier you Deadlift, the harder your grip muscles work. There’s no rotation with the mixed grip. But there’s gravity and heavier weight. Your grip works and won’t become weak if you mixed grip on heavy sets only (more on this below).
Don’t avoid the mixed grip to train your grip. Use the normal grip on most sets to strengthen your grip. If your legs and back are strong enough to Deadlift the weight but your grip isn’t, use the mixed grip. Don’t let your grip limit your Deadlift. The point of StrongLifts 5×5 is to build strength and muscle. You must Deadlift heavy for this. And you need white knuckling, chalk and the mixed grip to Deadlift heavy.
When To Use The Mixed Grip
Switch to the mixed grip when you can’t hold the weight with the normal grip anymore. If the bar doesn’t want to move off the floor, try mixed grip and it should go up easily. If the bar slips out of your hands mid-set, switch to the mixed grip and you’ll be able to Deadlift more reps. Don’t let your grip be the limiting factor to Deadlift heavy. If your grip can’t hold the weight, switch to the mixed grip.
Don’t use the mixed grip from day one. The first weeks of StrongLifts 5×5 must be using the normal grip. You rarely need the mixed grip for weights lower than 140kg/300lb. Stick with the normal grip to challenge your grip muscles with the rotation of the bar. This will increase your grip strength. If you Deadlift mixed grip from day one, you have nothing to switch to when your grip fails at heavier weights. Which it will.
Don’t use the mixed grip on every Deadlift set. Challenge your grip with the rotation of the bar by using the normal grip for most of your sets. This is the simplest way to increase grip strength for Deadlifts without doing extra exercises or spending more time in the gym. Warmup for Deadlifts with the normal grip and stick with it as long as you can. Only switch to the mixed grip on the last warmup set and heavy sets.
To use the mixed grip, grab the bar like a baseball bat. Grip the bar with your one hand facing up, the other down. Most people prefer to put their dominant hand up. If you’re right-handed, that means right hand up, left hand down. Grip width is same as with the normal grip: about shoulder-width apart. The bar should rest low in your palms to avoid skin folding and calluses. Full grip with thumbs around the bar for a secure grip.
Deadlifting mixed grip will feel weird at first. The setup will feel harder than with the normal grip. The pull itself will feel less comfortable. As with everything, you need to give it time. This is a matter of habit. Keep practicing Deadlifting mixed grip and you’ll get used to it. To me it doesn’t feel less comfortable than normal grip. I recommend you face the same hand up every time you mixed grip get more practice faster.
Mixed Grip And Biceps Injuries
Deadlifting mixed grip doesn’t cause biceps injuries. Deadlifting with bad form does. If you Deadlift with bent elbows the weight will straighten your arms. This can indeed tear your biceps. But it’s like injuries from Deadlifting with a rounded lower back. If you hit your thumb with a hammer, don’t blame the hammer. Bad form is the problem, not the Deadlift or mixed grip. But few people will admit they Deadlifted with bad form.
Deadlift with straight arms. Your elbows must be locked from start to finish. Setup with straight arms. Squeeze your triceps if you have to. Don’t try to pull the weight with your arms. Don’t jerk the bar off the floor. Your arms will never be strong enough to lift what you Deadlift. Let your stronger legs and back muscles lift the weight. Grip the bar tight until your knuckles turn white. But let your arms hang.
Proper form on all other exercises is crucial. You can’t Deadlift with straight arms if you do everything else with bent arms. Lock your elbows at the bottom of Barbell Rows. Lock them at top of Bench and Overhead Press. If you do Pullups, go all the way down. Start each rep from a dead hang, with straight arms. Same if you do curls: all the way down. Don’t do half reps to cheat, impress or “keep tension”. Use a full range of motion.
Watch out with grinders. It’s tempting when you’re struggling to complete your rep to lift it any way you can. Some people will rest the bar on their thighs, bend their elbows and hitch the weight up. This is bad Deadlift form and it can tear the biceps of your hand facing up. Note that hitching your Deadlifts is forbidden in powerlifting competitions. The judges consider it a failed Deadlift. The bar can’t pause at any point.
Some alarmists pretend people tear their biceps all the time when Deadlifting mixed grip. Urban legends. Go to a powerlifting meet. Check how almost everybody Deadlifts mixed grip and yet biceps tears are rare. It’s all those YouTube videos of people tearing their biceps that create a false impression of what’s really going on. The mixed grip is safe if you Deadlift with proper form. Straight arms, locked elbows.
Mixed Grip And Muscle Imbalances
You don’t have to alternate which hand faces up on each set to avoid muscle imbalances. The mixed grip is only for your heaviest Deadlift sets once your grip can’t hold the weight. Most sets you’ll Deadlift with the normal grip. This means any muscle imbalance on your back and shoulders will be minimal. Plus StrongLifts 5×5 includes plenty of balanced leg and back work with Squats and Barbell Rows.
Most Deadlifters, including me, prefer grabbing the bar with the same hand up every time they pull mixed grip. Olympic Lifters also throw the same leg forward every time they do Olympic Jerks. One side usually feels stronger and more comfortable. And lifting the same way every time increases the amount of practice that side gets. More practice is better technique. Better technique increases effectiveness and thus your Deadlift.
Some people experience shoulder pain when Deadlifting mixed grip. If you do, use your best judgement. Slight discomfort when using the mixed grip for the first time is normal. You might just need to get used to it. But pain isn’t normal. If it hurts, listen to your body. If you have an existing shoulder issue and it feels better if you switch which hand faces up, do it so you can Deadlift and get stronger.
Mixed Grip vs Hook Grip
The hook grip puts your thumbs between the bar and your fingers. Instead of wrapping your thumb around your fingers, it rests under them. This stops the bar from rolling and improves your grip. Olympic Lifters hook grip on Olympic Lifts like the Clean & Jerks. But the hook grip has become popular for Deadlifts too. Brad Gillingham achieved a World Record Deadlift of 400kg/881lb using the hook grip.
Some people now recommend the hook grip over the mixed grip for Deadlifts. The main argument is that both hands face you when you hook grip. This lowers the risk of biceps injuries and muscle imbalances. But as explained above: pulling mixed grip doesn’t cause biceps injuries, bent elbows do. And imbalances are a non-issue: you grip normal on most Deadlift reps, do balanced leg/back work on top and can alternate your grip.
The other argument to hook grip is because Olympic Lifters do. But they can’t mixed grip. Clean & jerks or snatches with mixed grip doesn’t work. It puts you in awkward positions. Straps also don’t work. If you fail to lift the weight overhead, you’d be trapped to the bar and get hurt. The hook grip is the only option for Olympic Lifters besides the normal grip which is less secure. That’s why Olympic Lifters hook grip.
We Deadlifters can use the mixed grip. And the Deadlift challenges our grip more because we have to hold the weight in our hands longer. We do longer sets, fives are more common. We hold the weight at the top to make sure we have locked out the weight before bringing it back down. We have to lower the weight back down ourselves. Olympic Lifters drop the weight on the floor. Deadlifts are more challenging for our grip.
The main problem with the hook grip is that it hurts. Your thumbs are stuck between the bar and your fingers for the duration of your Deadlift set. The bar compresses the joints, nerves and nails of your thumbs. Your index and middle fingers squeeze your thumbs to hold your hand closed. The stress on your thumbs is higher than when you Deadlift mixed grip. It’s higher than with Olympic Lifters because the set lasts longer.
That pain could be a warning. Deadlifting hook grip might not be safe for your thumbs. Sure, they’ll adapt if you give it time. But will they adapt by becoming numb? Could you lose dexterity? Let’s say it’s safe. You still have to waste weeks Deadlifting lighter weights until your thumbs adapt to the hook grip. Mixed grip works from day one without pain. It’s safe and effective. Your Deadlift will increase faster if you mixed grip.
Hand size also matters for the hook grip. Brad Gillingham Deadlifts hook grip. But did you see his hands? They’re gigantic. If you have small hands or short fingers, your thumbs may never feel comfortable Deadlifting hook grip. That’s okay. Most world champion Deadlifters like Andy Bolton and Benedikt Magnusson Deadlift mixed grip. The mixed grip works and is safe. No need to torture yourself with the hook grip.
Some people feel Deadlifting hook grip is more impressive. Makes sense when you consider no pain no gain is the norm. They find a five plate hook grip Deadlift more impressive because it hurts more than pulling the same weight mixed grip. But 225kg is 225kg. You don’t win extra points for pain in competitions. The only thing that matters is that you Deadlifted the weight and locked it out without using straps. The rest is BS.
Use the hook grip for Olympic Lifts where you can’t use the mixed grip. For Deadlifts stick with the mixed grip. It’s as secure as the hook grip. It’s equally safe if you Deadlift with straight arms. And it won’t hurt your thumbs. No need to try to “look cool”. Keep it simple. Be effective.