Mixed Grip: When to Use on Deadlifts and Why

Can the mixed grip cause muscle imbalances or biceps injuries?

One of the loudest complaints certain lifters have about the mixed grip has to do with the creation of muscle imbalances. More specifically, they believe that using the mixed grip with the same hand always facing up will lead to imbalances in the trapezius muscles

The truth is that the imbalances that could develop over time would be microscopic compared to the imbalances that could occur because of uneven foot or hip position and other mistakes caused by bad form. If you use the mixed grip correctly, i.e. only for your heavy deadlift sets and only once your normal grip can’t hold the weight anymore, you have no reason to worry about any muscle imbalances. Besides that, lifting the same way every time increases the amount of practice that side gets, which leads to better technique and increased effectiveness.


However, if you would rather practice the mixed grip by altering the hands on each set, you are free to do it that way. That will lower your chance of developing one side more than the other even further and help distribute the strain on the tendons evenly

As far as biceps injuries are concerned, deadlifting with a mixed grip can’t cause them on its own, while deadlifting with bad form and a mixed grip certainly can. But then again, bad form is guaranteed to result with injury, no matter which grip you use, so you don’t really have to worry about using the mixed grip. Instead, focus on correcting your form and technique. Biceps tendon tears are not the direct result of the mixed grip – they are caused by lifting with bad form, including bent elbows, rounded lower back and leaning at the top, regardless of the grip choice. Unfortunately, only a handful of people will admit they deadlifted with improper form, while the majority will blame the grip for their troubles.

Here are the 3 most important tips that will help you prevent biceps injury:

  1. Deadlift with straight arms. Don’t bend your elbows – they must be locked from start to finish. The straight arms and locked elbows are the basics of proper deadlifting form.
  2. Don’t try to pull the weight with your arms. Let your legs and back muscles do the biggest part of the work and use a full range of motion.
  3. Avoid grinding as often as possible and don’t hitch your deadlifts – these tricks will ultimately keep you weak and they’re forbidden in powerlifting competitions. Also, if you rest the bar on your thighs, then bend your elbows and hitch the weight up, you could cause the biceps of the hand which is facing up to tear. If the bar pauses at any point, consider it a failed rep.

Mixed grip vs. hook grip – which one is better?

The hook grip (both hands face you) has gained popularity among deadlifters during the last decades because it supposedly lowers the risk of biceps injuries and muscle imbalances. But as we’ve discussed before, these two are the result of bad form and overusing the mixed grip on most deadlift sets instead of using it only on the heaviest ones. The second most common argument in favor of the hook grip is that Olympic Lifters use it, but as we all know, the mixed grip doesn’t work very well in their routines and the hook grip is the best option they have (the normal one is simply less secure), so that’s not a valid argument when it comes to comparing these two. Olympic lifters drop the weight on the floor, while deadlifters have to hold the weight in their hands for longer and lower it back down, which is far more challenging for their grip.

That being said, some lifters find the mixed grip uncomfortable or providing unnecessary torque to their backs, while the hook grip feels easier and more balanced. Some even feel that the hook grip enables them to better activate their lats. If you’ve tried both for prolonged periods of time and feel the same way, stick to the hook grip. After all, what is better for one person isn’t necessarily better for the others.

However, the hook grip can become a bit troublesome after a while or when dealing with very heavy weights. The main problem is that your thumbs are stuck between the bar and your fingers for the duration of the whole set, meaning that the bar compresses the joints, nerves and nails of your thumbs. When compared to the mixed grip, the hook grip places far greater stress on the thumbs and can be very painful. And pain isn’t something you should ignore. This however isn’t a cause for concern for Olympic Lifters because of the short duration of their sets. In addition, if you have small hands or short fingers, you may never get used to the hook grip. Many top level deadlifters who have big hands use the hook grip regularly, while others achieve the same great results using the mixed grip, which is undoubtedly safer and at least equally efficient. And it works from day one without any pain.

Final thoughts

Regardless of what others around you say or do, you need to discover what works best for you by yourself. This doesn’t mean that you should disregard all safety warnings because you’re too lazy to put in the effort – it just means that you should listen to your body and trim your routine as you see fit. But before you do that, make sure to do your homework and be prepared for the outcome of your choices. The purpose of this article was to provide you the basic information about the role of the mixed grip in the world of deadlifting and useful tips on how to safely implement it into your deadlifts, not convince you to use it by all means. As always, the choice is only yours. And the consequences, however good or bad, will be only yours as well. So stay safe, watch your form and keep lifting!

This article was originally published on stronglifts

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