Ask the Coach: Tips on Grip

Wednesday, 8/19
August 18, 2015
Base Camp, 8/22/2015
August 19, 2015

Whether you’re coming off last week’s “Jackie,” last month’s “Helen,” or yet another forearm-frying workout, you know how critical grip strength can be in CrossFit.  This edition of “Ask the Coach” focuses on what you can do during your workouts to hang on better — and fight on longer!


Q: Got any tips for saving my grip during a workout?

Sara, Devon T2B_IMG1771cr_edited-1

By Coach Sara

The most important thing to remember regarding grip during a workout is that you never want to use a death grip.  Whether it be with a kettlebell, barbell, dumbbell or pull-up bar, a death grip is a surefire way to blast your forearms within the first couple minutes of a workout.

So, how do I avoid death gripping, you ask?

Let’s break it down by exercise:

  • Kettlebell Swings:


Hold the kettlebell at the rounded corners of the handles to help stabilize the weight as you swing. Try to create as much space as you can between your hands — as if you are trying to pull the handles apart — when holding the kettlebell.

NB: Make sure when holding the kettlebell this way that you keep your pinky fingers with the rest of your fingers for safety, rather than wrapping your other fingers over the handle while the pinky stays under.

  • Snatch or Clean:


Use a hook grip while pulling and remember to release that hook grip when the bar is in the receiving position. (Unless, that is, your mobility permits you to hang on to the hook grip without discomfort or added stress, as Catalyst Athletics’ Greg Everett explains).  For most of us, here’s a simple way to remember when to hook grip, and when to release: if your palms are facing down, you should have your hands in a hook grip.  If they are facing up, the hook grip should be released


  • Deadlift:

sara, dl_IMG4249

When working with high reps or heavy weights, try using a mixed grip (one hand under/one hand over). When working on deadlifts during stand-alone strength sessions, try to maintain both hands over (parallel grip) as long as you can while maintaining good pulling position. When switching to a mixed grip, remember to alternate which hand is under from one set to the next to avoid developing any imbalances.


  • Pull-Up Bar Work:
Class 7-19

In the first photo above (left), you can see that Coach Sara’s shoulders are pulling up towards her ears. Inefficient positioning, with a lot of stress on the shoulders as well as the hands and forearms. In the second photo (right), her shoulders are depressed — she has pulled her scapula down and way from her ears simply by activating her back muscles. This puts her in a better position from which to begin pulling.

  • This includes anything that involves kipping (pull-ups, toes-to-bar, knees-to-elbows) or even simply hanging from a pull-up bar. Always hang from the pull-up bar with depressed shoulders. In other words, pull your shoulders away from your ears and maintain tension through your lat muscles. Maintain this tension when moving through the hollow and arch positions of the kipping motion as well.


Stay tuned for a follow-up “Ask the Coach” post, when we’ll address mobility tips for your forearms after grip-intensive workouts.  Until then… we’ll trust that you’ll hang in there!



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