The mixed grip deadlift is often used as a way to lift heavier weight when our grip fails us. But is it really the best choice? Here’s what a mixed grip is, when the right time to use a mixed grip deadlift is, and when to skip it.
What is a mixed grip
Mixed grip is a term that is used to describe a way of gripping a bar. It’s most often seen in deadlifts, and sometimes in pull ups.
If you’re doing deadlifts, and your grip gets tired, the bar might start to roll into your fingertips or out of your hands. Now, if you’re someone who wants to lift more weight, and doesn’t want your grip to be the limiting factor, then you might implement a mixed grip deadlift.
When you use a mixed grip, one hand has an overhand grip, while the other has an underhand grip. This creates a “lock in” of sorts that keeps the bar from rolling out of your hands.
You might develop imbalances
I can’t tell you how many people I train that walk right up to their bar for their first warm up set and grab it with a mixed grip.
Simply because it’s habit.
When you’re using a mixed grip for deadlifting all the time, you’re likely always grabbing with the same hand over and the same hand under. This means that all the tiny little muscles in your arm and your shoulder of the underhand arm are twisted ever so slightly.
It’s not a lot. You won’t notice it while lifting. You probably won’t notice it for awhile. But over time, continuing to grip with the same mixed grip, all the time, you’ll notice it.
And it will be very very difficult to correct at that point.
High reps, low weight
When you’re performing a high number of repetitions of deadlifts at a lower or less challenging weight, you should be focused on using a two-hand overhand grip.
This will challenge your grip strength for as long as possible, building it over time.
High weight, low reps
When you’re performing a low number of repetitions of deadlifts at a higher or more challenging weight, you should be focused on…still using a two hand overhand grip.
For as long as possible, maintain this. Don’t switch to a mixed grip until you don’t have a choice – meaning, you can no longer hold onto the bar.
Then, and only then, go ahead and switch to your mixed grip and lift that heavier weight.
Developing overall grip strength
Gripping something for even just a few minutes a day will start to build up over time and you’ll find your grip strength increasing quickly. It’s not uncommon for people to have weak grip strength. Here’s why we’re losing it, and why it matters.
Deadlifts demand a strong grip. It’s also important to remember that the harder you grip the bar, the tighter your upper back gets, which is a good thing! Rounded upper backs are not our friend when it’s deadlift time.
You can certainly build grip strength by simply doing your deadlifts with a two handed overhand grip as much as possible.
Other things that can help build grip strength include dead hangs from the pull up bar, scapular pull ups and farmer’s carries with kettlebells or dumbbells. Here are 6 exercises to improve grip strength from Nerd Fitness.
When you should use a mixed grip
Remember, there are different schools of thought and lots of ways to approach training. My training mindset and how I work with my clients is for long-term health.
My focus is for you to have the most balanced strength for the longest amount of time as possible. I want you to be able to keep moving well into your 90’s.
I recommend keeping a two-handed overhand grip for as long as you can. That means that you will be challenging your grip over time and focusing on the correct muscles.
When you get to that last set, and you really want to push the weight, but the grip isn’t there, THEN try out your mixed grip and see if you can get the weight up.
By using this approach, we’ve both enhanced your grip strength for the future, as well as had that victory of getting that last heavy bar up off the ground for today. Win-win!