Your grip during lifting is killing your gains if you are making any of the mistakes shown in this video. When it comes to reaching training goals, the thing that can derail you faster than anything else is an injury. When the grip is less than ideal (as is often the case with most lifters) then you are subjecting yourself to the most common and debilitating inflammatory condition suffered by those that workout, and that is medial epicondylitis or golfers elbow.
You know if you have it. It’s that knife-like stabbing pain that you get on the inside of your elbow every time you try and grip a bar or pull-up bar during any pulling exercise. This can be problematic in terms of your ability to do a heavy deadlift, weighted chinup, pullup, row, curl or even a lat pulldown. The fact of the matter is however, you are in complete control of how to fix this.
In this video, I’m going to show you the anatomical reason for this overload and how to offset some of that load on all of the exercises mentioned above. Secondly, I want to try and show you how important it is to not just grip the bar or barbell without thought but to make sure it is in the right place in your hand to minimize the unnecessary stress being driven towards that inner elbow.
Let’s start as always with some anatomy. The muscle in the forearm most responsible for causing this pain in the elbow is called the flexor digitorum superficialis or FDS for short. This muscle has two heads to it, the radial head and the humeral ulnar head. It is the latter that is most responsible for the pain being felt at your elbow. With attachments that feed through the wrist and insert on the middle phalanx of the ring and pinky finger, it is this head that is being asked to incur the forces that we are subjecting it to via heavy weighted chins, deadlifts and rows (or even bodyweight versions of the chin or row). This is just not something this small muscle is equipped to handle.
The solution in all environments (whether it be on a pull-up bar or training with a barbell) is to fix two things. First, you need to fix the placement of the bar in your hands to better provide your body to mechanically leverage your ability to handle high load stresses. Secondly, you need to be aware of the tendency of the ring finger to want to dominate given it’s leveraged position relative to the other fingers when you close your hand down to grip, and understand how to minimize that.
When it comes to the chinups and pullups, the first thing you want to do is change how you are gripping the bar. It all revolves around the middle knuckle of your fingers. On the pull-up, you want to make sure that you cannot see this middle knuckle from beneath the bar. If you can, then this means that you are losing your grip and the bar is drifting to the end of your fingers. This causes a high strain on this flexor tendon we spoke of.
On the chinup, you want to be sure that you can see this knuckle. Here, if you do not, it means that you are once again losing your grip and allowing the bar to stress the distal tendon attachment too much leading to high strain and stress on the elbow.
To minimize the ring finger from dominating this exercise, you want to do the following. Place a band around the bar as shown. It should create two laps of band that you can now rest your fourth and fifth fingers on. The increased height changes the length tension relationship of the tendons in these fingers causing them to contribute less to the grip. The forefinger and middle finger are now much more active in the grip and better capable of withstanding the high stresses without killing your elbows.
On barbell work the best thing you can do is temporarily switch to a hook grip. The hook grip, while initially uncomfortable, can be a lifesaver. It gives you a chance to immediately shift the load from the ring and pinky fingers to the middle and index finger by virtue of the mechanics of the grip. You should instantly take any stress away from the elbow that you may be feeling.
Make these substitutions and I promise you will overcome your pain in the elbow that is allowing your grip to stand in the way of your gains. It’s details like this that matter and, when addressed, can take you to a new level of gains you never thought possible. If you’re looking for a step by step plan for training like an athlete and taking your training seriously, be sure to head to athleanx.com via the link below and grab the program most aligned with your current physique and performance goals.
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