The Facts About Using A Thumbless Grip During Squats

April 6th 2019

The thumbless grip is an essential technique that has a significant effect on the entire squat. Are you planning to begin lifting heavy weights but wondering if you should involve thumbless grip? It is a fine exercise that has great benefits. Mainly, it will allow your wrist to be straight (that is it will be in line with the fingers as well as the knuckles).

Thumbless Grip During Squats

The thumbless grip is best used during a low bar squat. This technique takes a lot of pressure off your elbows and wrists while being more in control of the bar.

On the contrary, a regular grip, i.e., wrapping your thumb around the bar, will add pressure to your wrist hence it may buckle a bit. That should not alarm you since it can be controlled. Set your squat up correctly and avoid your wrist pain during the squat by using a thumbless grip. Here are simple ways to do safe squats with thumbless grip!

During high bar squats,  they utilize less energy and require less flexibility no matter what grip style you take. As a result, you are unlikely to experience wrist, shoulder or elbow pain. The most common grip for high bar squatters is to use a regular grip for extra support.

And during Low bar squats, the thumbless grip is most prevalent, partly thanks to Starting Strength Mark Rippetoe’s eager teachings to have all their squatters do a thumbless grip for their low bar squats. Because the movement needs to be more flexible to hold the bar as it adds tension to the shoulder, wrist as well as the elbow.

Also, a thumbless grip no longer makes an equal and proper alignment by default. You can also tilt the wrist to either side or even add it directly under the current bar. So, you need to have proper position awareness before following any advice.

Which grip is right, thumbless or regular?

The best grip for you is the one that feels most comfortable. Experiment with both these grips and see which one comes more naturally to you. It will be a heck of a lot harder to realize years down the line how foolish it was to choose a grip that was hurting you.

There are pros and cons to each grip but all of that goes out of the window if it does not help you squat pain free. If all of the pro-lifters and world-class coaches tell you that a thumbless grip is the best grip, you would probably take their word for it. Then, if you try to squat with a thumbless grip, you get agonizing elbow and shoulder pain. Widening your grip helps but it is much less stable. Would it not make sense to just go with a standard grip?

I have a personal story about this. I use to low bar squat since I did Starting Strength as my very first strength training program. So, I kept on doing low bar squats for about 5 years. It was only recently did I switch to doing more high bar squats. Why?

Sore shoulders and elbows

The more I did low bar squatting, the worse my shoulders and elbows felt. I remembered a particular time where I took an extended period of time off to heal my injuries. Coming back fresh into strength training, I did a modified Madcow 5x5, with the low bar back squat. After 8 weeks, my shoulders and elbows were all banged up. I knew lifting would be tough but it should not mess up my joint health.

Sore back from low bar squats

This is mostly my fault. I was an engineering student. So, you know I sat for hours studying. I also got a software engineering job. Again, it involves at least 8 hours of sitting Monday to Friday. So, when it was time to workout and hit heavy squats after work or classes, there was not much good news.

My back always felt sore and fatigued. I should have been more proactive about my lifting but long hours of sitting really made my back feel not okay. Though this is a low bar squat staple, it was only magnified by using a thumbless grip.

Why Does My Elbow Hurt When I Squat?

Often, powerlifters have become worried during their about their joint pains. During the squat, pain can occur before, during and after a lift.

The elbow rotates several degrees in either of the direction, which can cause elbow pain. And during the process of squat, your elbow is under excessive pressure of aiding the wrist and the entire hand to stabilize the weight. That compels it to rotate under unbearable weight lifting. That eventually causes insurmountable pain to the elbow.

Fortunately, there is a solution - use the standard grip. Or if you are keen on using a thumbless grip for squats, widen your thumbless grip and see if that makes a difference.



And of course, there are other exercises where you can use a thumbless grip, like the bench press. Oddly enough, the symptoms are reversed as some lifters feel more relief when bench pressing with a thumbless grip than with a regular grip.

Benefits of Using a Thumbless Grip (in the bench press)

Thumbless grip is a very vital idea during the exercise that even world-class lifters boast about. Its benefits are overwhelming; firstly, the thumbless grip can eliminate the shoulder pain during the heavy exercises. We all know how great a thumbless grip can be for a monster squat.

The development of peculiar pain during heavy benching sucks. While it can be a worrying feeling that interrupts the normal exercising routine, there is a method to avoid it. Therefore, performing regular thumbless grip will have an enormous impact. But how do you end shoulder pain? Here is the best idea that you need to know!

While you can take a time-to-time grip, the hands will eventually turn in. This condition will automatically force you into possible development of internal shoulder position rotating, which means that your "natural" path that you have been taking during lowering of the bar can have your elbows slowly flared or pointed outward. That will put the pressure on your shoulder joint, so if you begin to tuck your elbows in – disregarding that natural inclination of your elbows to be out – that way, you will create many different turns at your elbow joint. And you will either increase stress on your shoulders or even your elbows —, which is not a good condition for your normal development. But that shouldn't worry you any more. Here is how to deal with it!

Neutral Shoulder Position

By engaging a regular thumbless grip, you will keep an incredibly neutral hand position that will make it a lot more natural for you to lower your bar, as you stay tucked. This exercise will eventually reduce the possible development of the shoulder stress while your torque does not increase at the elbows, which will result in a diminishing and finally less stressful bench press.

Also, the thumbless grip will allow you to place the bar comfortably, and a little lower in hand – that is more directly over your forearm bones – which makes it easier to rotate the elbows.

Less Wrist Pressure

Many long-time lifters will do this suicide grip because they feel less pressure and pain in their wrists than when using a standard bench press grip.

And the use of the thumbless or the “false" grip during bench pressing is becoming more controversial every day. It has been called the “suicide grip” for a reason. Many of the beginners and pro lifters become more afraid of the possible dropping of the barbell on their neck or face.

And How Can One Develop a Perfect Bench Press Hand Position During Startup?

Eliminate the possible hiccups by doing the following: Try to become more comfortable with your thumbless grip once you are prone to the slight or even severe shoulder, or the elbow injuries.

To ensure that you have the best suicide grip experience, follow these guidelines:

  • Use chalk to avoid a slippery barbell
  • Place the bar in the middle of your palms. Do not press the bar when they are only held by your fingertips.
  • Actively use all five fingers when squeezing the bar
  • Actively tense your forearms
  • Plant your feet onto the ground. Keep your hips and body stable throughout the lift.

Final thoughts

While performing squats during your exercise, there are two ways of holding the bar.

  • A. That is with the thumb held firmly around the bar (is it also known as the standard or regular grip)
  • B. With the thumb firmly attached over the bar (It's also called thumbless grip). These are the most common ways of engaging your grips during a low bar squat.

Physical exercise is an essential activity that will require proper preparation and prior knowledge. While at the beginning stage, persistence will reshape resistance as you press forward. To avoid pain and serious injuries during the process, follow the right steps properly and make the best adjustment that fits your level. Do not begin with excessive intense activities. Begin slowly but set your goals and become the best weightlifter of your time.

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