Gripping the Bar

By Mike Burgener

In Coaching, Olympic Lifts, Videos

June 03, 2012

Video Article

Active shoulders, weight over the base of the feet and, yes, the hook grip.

In this snippet from an Olympic Weightlifting Trainer Course, Mike Burgener first talks about keeping the shoulders externally rotated to keep the bar in a strong position overhead.

“If that bar’s up here over your head and you’re shrugging your shoulders … where does the bar go? It goes forward automatically because it becomes an internal rotation,” he says.

The next point he makes is about keeping the bar over the base of support—the feet— while “showing the armpits.”

And, finally, the hook grip.

“The grip will always be—and there is no debate about this either, by the way—when you’re snatching and when you’re cleaning, the grip will always be a hook grip,” Burgener says. “When the weight’s over my head or if I’m pressing, I don’t have to use a hook grip.”

11min 42sec

HD file size: 278 MB
SD wmv file size: 176 MB
SD mov file size: 62 MB

Please note: These files are larger than normal Journal videos. For smoother viewing, please download the entire file to your hard drive before watching it (right-click and choose Save Link As...).

Additional reading: Oly Optimization by Chad Vaughn, published Nov. 18, 2011.

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6 Comments on “Gripping the Bar”


wrote …

Unbelieveable coach, the hook grip is something I have always struggled with.
Your coaching makes is simple and doable.
Can't say enough about what you bring to Crossfit and us who struggle with the "little" big things.


wrote …

I am a little confused about the "external rotation".
When i see Kelly and Carl talk about it, it appears they finish with their hands "thumbs forward" (like an olympic gymnast finishing any move), however when Coach Burgener demonstrates it, it appears as though his pinky finger is forward.... "showing the armpits". I have always felt as though I am "showing" the top of my shoulders with a thumbs forward finish. (remember, this is coming from a complete novice in the CrossFit/Oly lifting arena)
Any clarification would be greatly appreciated.


replied to comment from Ronald Smith

External rotation of the shoulder definitely results in the "pinky forward" "armpit showing" position Coach B talks about.
That's the way that Kelly presents it in many MWOD videos, in many cases while using the same "show me your armpits cue" that he attributes to Coach B.

If you have your thumbs forward you'll definitely be "showing top of your shoulders" and that's definitely not what you want to do.


replied to comment from Ronald Smith


Like Craig alluded to earlier, both K-Starr, Carl, and Burgener all cue external rotation when overhead. External rotation describes the rotation of your humerus in the shoulder socket, as it can be internally or externally rotated. External rotation is what creates the "showing of the armpits" when you are in an overhead squat position. To feel this, rotate your pinky as far toward your face as you can while in the overhead position. You have now locked your shoulder into external rotation and should be in a very good position.

Now, without unlocking your shoulder from this position, you can then rotate your forearm to place your hand in a wide variety of positions, from pinky forward to palm forward to thumb forward, all while maintaining the external rotation of your shoulder joint. While you shoulder is still externally rotated through muscular stabilization, the forearm and hand can then be manipulated to obtain the positioning necessary to hold a barbell/handstand/etc. overhead.

Hope this helps.


wrote …

Great video! What I'm about is where the bar is suppose to be. I thought the bar is suppose to be behind the head?



wrote …

Thank you......with the bar in your hands, hand position is less important as the position of the upper arm and shoulder. (read the replies, put the bar in my hands, re-read, bar in my hands again)

Thank you again for the clarification.

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