Mixed Grip: When to Use on Deadlifts and Why

The deadlift has the reputation of being the king of lifts. And if you’ve had even the minimum experience with it, you already know why. Basically, the deadlift is the best feat of raw strength you could perform. Some of its most prominent positive effects include triggering immense muscle growth, especially in the posterior chain, and enabling an excellent carryover of strength into the rest of your lifting.

When it comes to the king, there are three main styles of grip to choose from – the hook grip, the double overhand grip and the mixed grip. As expected, each of these variations offer a different set of benefits and limitations, but none of them has caused as much controversy as the mixed grip. With the hope of clearing some of the confusion surrounding it, in this article we’ll dig in deeper into the importance and usefulness of this popular grip variation and provide some precise answers to your most troubling questions.

So what’s up with the mixed grip?

The mixed grip involves placing one hand over the bar and the other under the bar, which makes it very difficult for the bar to slip out of your grip and enables you to lift more weight. Unlike the double overhand grip, the mixed grip traps the bar in your hands so that you can resist gravity for longer. Most people prefer to place their dominant hand facing up but switch which hand faces up on each set to prevent developing muscular imbalances and injuries. And others believe the mixed grip is dangerous and should be avoided at all costs. Of course, this is completely false. The mixed grip is actually very safe as long as your deadlift form is solid. But if both your form and technique suck, everything you try to do in the gym will be more or less dangerous, regardless of your grip preferences. In addition, you don’t have to alternate which hand faces up on each set in order to avoid muscle imbalances if you’re using the mixed grip properly, i.e. only for your heaviest deadlift sets.

Here are three important things to remember:

#1. The mixed grip improves your grip for deadlifts

If you want to build strength and muscle, you must deadlift heavy. And regardless of how strong your back and legs are, if your grip lags, you won’t get too far. But since the bar can’t rotate in your hands when you use the mixed grip, your grip strength for deadlifts will increase significantly. This means that you can use this grip to deadlift heavier weights when your normal grip fails you. You can also get more reps because it allows you to hold the bar for longer.

#2. Deadlifting with the mixed grip isn’t cheating

Even though the mixed grip increases your grip for deadlifts, you’re still lifting the weight by yourself without using any outside tools. In this respect, it’s much different than using straps, which basically enable you to get away with a weak grip and can weaken it even further over time if used regularly.

#3. The mixed grip won’t weaken your grip for deadlifts

Like we said, it’s just you and the bar, no outside tools. No matter how you grip the bar, the same laws of physics apply to the movement – gravity pulls the bar down and your grip muscles work hard to keep your hands closed. As long as you use the mixed grip properly (on heavy sets), your grip strength will develop even further, so you don’t have a reason to avoid it. Don’t let a bad grip stall your deadlifting progress.

When should the mixed grip be used on deadlifts?

For starters, don’t use it from day one. When you’re new to deadlifting, it’s best to use the normal grip for as long as possible because the rotation of the bar will challenge your grip muscles more, thereby helping you increase your grip strength. Also, if you deadlift with the mixed grip from early on, you’ll have nothing to switch to when your grip fails at heavier weights.

Here are some basic rules for optimal deadlifting results with the mixed grip:

  • Don’t use the mixed grip on every set. The best way to increase grip strength without performing additional exercises is by using the normal grip for most of your sets because it allows the bar to rotate. This challenges and thereby strengthens your grip.
  • You can either warm up with the normal grip, then switch to the mixed grip on your last warm-up set and perform all your work sets with it, or warm up with the normal grip and use it as long as you can, and once you can’t hold the weight with the normal grip anymore, switch to the mixed grip.
  • Switch to the mixed grip if the bar slips out of your hands mid-set. That way you’ll increase your grip and get those extra reps that you otherwise wouldn’t.
  • Put your dominant hand up and the other one down, and don’t alternate the hands on every set. This will help you reach maximum efficiency in the shortest time possible.
  • The perfect grip width should be about shoulder width apart.
  • Place the bar low in your palms and wrap your thumbs around the bar. Squeeze the bar as hard as you can to secure your grip.
  • Be prepared to feel uncomfortable at first. As with every other change, it will take some time and practice before you get used to it. Just stick with it until it becomes equally comfortable as the normal grip. Practicing with the same hand facing up on every set will speed up this process.
  • If you experience shoulder pain when deadlifting with the mixed grip, stop using it for a while. While slight discomfort is normal, pain isn’t, especially if you have a pre-existing shoulder injury, so try switching which hand faces up and don’t overdo it.

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