Categorized as: TECHNIQUE

The Hook Grip

MILO and IronMind readers all know how important a strong grip is in lifting things.  Here I want to discuss how you can grab and hold on to barbells, dumbbells, and other things that require a strong, secure grip even better by using the hook grip.

The hook grip is where you push the palm of your hand tight against the bar, grab the bar by wrapping your thumb around it, and then grasp your thumb and the bar tightly with your fingers.  Most people can grab the thumb with the first two fingers while their other two fingers directly grab the bar.  This technique really helps you lift more weight off the platform, especially when you accelerate for the second pull.  The hook grip is the best grip you can have without using straps.

I don’t know who first used the hook grip, but I asked Tommy Kono—Olympic weightlifting champion in 1952 and 1956 and silver medalist in 1960—when he learned about the hook grip, and he said he used it in 1948 when he took up weightlifting.  He said he read about it in a book or magazine.  I’ve asked many other weightlifters who have been around for a long time, and they all said they don’t know who was the first person to use it, but that someone showed them and they usually can’t remember who it was.  I know I learned it in 1966 from Walt Gioseffi, many-time California state champion and record holder in the 1960s.  I can’t find any mention of it in my old books and magazines on weightlifting. Read More…

4 Reasons You Struggle With Toes-To-Bar

Oh the elusive toes-to-bar. It seems like such a straightforward movement that any strong and fit human should be able to accomplish without much thought. However it is typically one of the last movements CrossFitters are able to achieve. Most look to lack of midline strength as the primary cause, and although it might be, I suggest there are at least three other places to look before determining that is your (only) issue. So if you’re struggling with your toes-to-bar even though it seems like you should be able to do them based on your strength and athletic prowess, then read on for some tests and solutions to help you improve upon yours.

1) Weak lower abdominal muscles is usually the first place we look for the problem and while they can be a culprit, especially in the untrained population, chances are this is actually only a small piece of the puzzle for most folks. If you have trouble with most or all abdominal/midline exercises, this is where you should first focus some attention. Test to see if this is you by hanging from a bar and performing mini-crunches. Bring your knees to waist height without touching the floor between reps. Repeat this for AMRAP in 30 seconds. You should be able to get at least 15 reps in 30 seconds. If you cannot, you might consider putting in some extra time on your abs with any or all of these exercises to strengthen your midline.

2) Weak shoulder girdle and/or lats are the other common culprits when it comes to strength deficiency for completing toes-to-bar. Guess what? The shoulders aren’t just responsible for connecting our arms to our bodies, they are the first thing to activate in the toes-to-bar (and pull-up) and should continue to be active and strong throughout the entire movement not only to protect our shoulder joints but to also provide assistance in the kipping movement on the backswing and to lessen the distance our toes have to travel to touch the bar. That first bit of shoulder activation when we hang from the bar is called a scapular pull-up and you should be able to hold that position for 30 seconds and you should also be able to do at least 10 unbroken reps of the movement. The backswing and the toe-distance lessening are mostly controlled by strong lat muscles which allow you to push down on the bar to create a bigger, stronger kip. The stronger this portion of the swing, the higher the body travels and the shorter the distance your toes have to travel to touch the bar. Here’s a test you can do with a partner to determine if you need to work on strengthening your lats (or just learn how to activate them). If you find that you are strong enough to do this test then great – you just needed to remind your lats of their role in all of this. But if you’re struggling to maintain the hollow position in this test, keep doing the test everyday until it’s easy. You should also work more pulling exercises and static holds into your routine. Ideas for pulling: pull-ups with varying hand grips, ring rows, DB rows, landmine rows, barbell rows, CrossOver Symmetry, hand-over-hand sled pulls, heck, you could even try swimming. Ideas for static holds: straight-arm hangs with scapular retraction, chin-over-bar holds, chest-to-bar holds, or get your lower abs and scaps at the same time with L-hangs. Read More…

Proper Foot Position in the Squat

There is some current discussion on foot position in the squat following a post by Kelly Starrett, and I’ve been asked to comment. This article is not intended to criticize him or anyone else, nor is it intended to stand as irrefutable fact. Its purpose is to quickly organize my thoughts on the topic and answer the requests for my input; I’m sure I’ve left out a number of things I want to say. Use the available information to make your own decisions on training and coaching.

Arguments for Toes Forward

The following is a quick and very basic summary of the arguments for squatting with the toes forward as presented by Kelly Starrett (view the post and video here).

  • Potential knee injury magnitude is reduced with a reduced valgus/rotational force.
  • Squatting toes forward is motor learning to ensure this stance when jumping and landing; squatting with toes out teaches athletes to jump and land with the sub-optimal toes-out position.
  • Landing with feet out means potential for valgus knee movement.
  • Squatting with feet/knees out requires constant focus to maintain position—loss of focus means valgus knee movement.
  • We need to prepare athletes in a way that limits the magnitude of potential injuries. Read More…