The Grip

By Mike Burgener

In Coaching, Exercises, Olympic Lifts, Videos

August 07, 2011

Video Article

“Anytime you are gripping this PVC pipe for a snatch or a clean, you must always have the hook grip!”

Coach Mike Burgener is not flexible on this rule, and breaking it usually results in burpees. But why?

Simply, the hook grip ensures the bar doesn’t slip in your hands, even at maximal weight. Olympic weightlifting is a game of centimeters, and even a little slip can move the bar out of its optimal line of travel. Further, when the barbell slips, you’re losing power, and you’ll need ever bit of power to get a PR overhead.

After drilling the hook grip, Coach Burgener addresses the overhead position for the snatch and describes exactly what you need to do to support weight overhead.

8min 42sec

Additional reading: Pulling Positions for the Snatch by Mike Burgener and Tony Budding, published March 1, 2007.

Free Download


16 Comments on “The Grip”


wrote …

Great Video. Coach B, would you say collar to collar grip is a goal for people with X length of wingspan?


wrote …

So no active shoulders in the ohs as well???


wrote …

Can someone post a link to the K Star article where he explains "bone stacking" for the OHS. I do not recall having seen this. I went through all of K star's journal posts and was not able to find one that talks about the OHS, only the ones that talk about setting the arm in the back of the socket for the bench press position.


wrote …

Always love Coach B's stuff. I learn so much every time. However, I am confused about his not wanting the "active shoulder" or "shoulders in the ears" position on the top of the snatch. This directly contradicts years of crossfit teaching I have experienced. In fact, it contradicts the first 30 seconds of Carl Paoli's August 4 Journal video where he talks about why the active shoulder is useful. I'd love to have someone in the know weigh in here on the issue.


replied to comment from Matthias Schwartz

Pressing the shoulder into the ears does not create as much stability in the shoulder.


wrote …

My understanding is that pressing shoulders to ears is OK for gymnastic movements. However, when handling weights over your bodyweight, you want to be tight in the traps and externally rotated for best support.


Dane Thomas wrote …

From the CF Heretics Anonymous confessionals department:

My name is Dane, and I have made a conscious choice not to use the hook grip at this time. I understand why it is a good thing, and I would recommend that others do as Coach B says rather than as I do, but for my previously broken and arthritic nearly 47 year-old thumbs my attempts to use the hook grip have so far resulted in a good deal of pain with no meaningful benefit.

At this point I have so many other more obvious weaknesses when it comes to cleaning and snatching that a lack of grip strength or stability is far from a limiting factor in my training, but having continually painful thumbs does limit my efforts.

I promise to give it another go once my technique and my posterior chain and leg strength become solid enough for me to squat clean more than I can power clean from the ground and once I have improved my shoulder flexibility enough for me to handle BW loads for OHS, squat snatches and other deep overhead work.

Until then, I'll be thankful for the continued painfree function of my hands, and to be honest, the extra burpees will probably do me more good in the long run. ;-)


replied to comment from Dane Thomas

Dane these are definitely for you:


Andy, thanks for the tip, but my point is that when it comes to clean and snatch (or other exercises for that matter), grip strength or stability has yet to become a limiting issue for me.

My specific problem with the hook grip is not with the skin, it is with my thumb joints, which as I mentioned before have undergone a lot of wear and tear over the years and which suffer from arthritis-type pain when I try to lift heavy using the hook grip.

I rip calluses every time Angie or Cindy come up and that doesn't bother me because the discomfort eventually goes away, but joint pain lingers longer and it is not so certain that it will go away when it does settle in, so I have learned that it is better to avoid it.

YMMV, and as I wrote before, try Coach B's way first.


wrote …

I think we need clarification about "active shoulder" or "shoulders in the ears". At CFlv1 course I've been doing the technique as Coach B shown here and Ive been corrected all the time to keep shoulders high.
Is there a one answer or you can do both styles?


wrote …

I would have liked to have seen a demonstration on how to properly execute a hook grip.


replied to comment from Richard Edwards


replied to comment from Dane Thomas

Yes your hands have arthritis, that's why I linked the straps... so it doesn't hurt your hands as much :)


wrote …

Thanks Coach B for reasserting the "scaps retracted" active shoulder for weightlifting (Olympic lifting). Trying to bend the bar in half, as with a bench or overhead press, brings the requisite tightness in the upper back to facilitate maximum weight lifted. And that's what it's all about, maximum weight lifted.

P.S. Can I come train with you for a month?


wrote …

great video!


replied to comment from Matthias Schwartz

Hello, I completely agree with this comment and was about to write the same thing until I saw it. We have been taught/drilled over and over by CrossFit coaches that active shoulder is a must. What coach B is saying makes sense and pressing and recieving is taught this way in Kettlebell training. Two videos posted only a few days apart are teaching the same thing completely opposite. Is someone going to clarify? All of the "exercise and demos" videos on show active shoulders.
Lee Crompton

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