There are two basic grips in weightlifting. These are the hook grip and the closed grip. The closed grip as the most well known is the most widely used and we will begin by addressing this grip.
The closed grip encompasses the most natural form of gripping anything. This grip is how we lift most things, so it is only natural that this grip is most common in all forms of weightlifting. The fingers are wrapped around the bar with the thumb placed on the outside of the fingers to the side of the index finger. It is because of this grip that lifting straps and gloves have become so popular. While lifting heavy weights your fingers will lose grip before you are finished with the lift.
As has been outlined in our section on weight lifting straps, fingers are not particularly strong. As we build up our upper body strength and particularly our arm strength, the wrist and fingers can find it hard to keep up with the weights that we are requiring them to grip. So, although the closed grip is the most natural and comfortable, at some point in your training you will outgrow this grip.
Straps and gloves can be used and may make considerable difference to the level of weight you are able to lift. However, it is generally recognised that to find a different grip which enables you to lift without help of a strap or glove will better serve you in the long run, increasing your wrist strength and weightlifting ability.
Now we should introduce the hook grip. This grip is the answer to any weightlifter that has found their fingers cannot keep up with the strength of their upper body. This grip is promoted for Olympic lifting and encouraged for the snatch and the clean and jerk. The basic difference between this and the closed grip is that the thumb is repositioned underneath the fingers. Ignoring what feels natural, the thumb should be firmly wrapped around the bar with the fingers placed over the thumb. In this way the thumb is gripping the bar and the fingers are gripping the thumb, this allows for a better grip and a more powerful lift. It has been shown that greater weights can be lifted using this grip.
The disadvantage of the hook grip is that it can be quite painful. The pressure applied to the thumb produces pain in the thumbnail and thumb joint and it can also be quite difficult to get used to. However it is considered beneficial to begin your training with this lift, as it will definitely benefit your weightlifting abilities long term.