CrossFitters and CrossFit coaches loooove the Olympic Lifts and these highly technical lifts are a huge part of CrossFit. On the other hand, CrossFit coaches also have a chip on their shoulder when it comes to Olympic Weightlifting. The fact that CrossFit coaches are not weightlifting purists who only deal with the Snatch, the Clean, and the Jerk opens our community up to being dismissed by our Olympic Weightlifting coach brethren as being part-timers.
Transferring the techniques of the weightlifting community directly to the CrossFit community, CrossFit coaches have rigidly enforced the use of the hook grip on new athletes (as a weightlifting coach would) in order to prove themselves as weightlifters. This is a mistake. The majority of athletes that are starting CrossFit these days do not need to be taught the hook grip until they have made some progress with their Olympic lifts and grip strength becomes an issue.
Here are the 3 reasons why NOT teaching the hook grip will help your athletes in the long run.
1 – NEW ATHLETES DON’T LIKE THE HOOK GRIP
As a CrossFit coach, you’re going to be subjected to a certain degree of complaining. When you push people out of their comfort zone, you’re going to get pushback from some of your athletes. Dealing with this complaining and negativity is critical to keeping your new athlete on the right path until they can open their mind and understand what CrossFit is all about. It’s simply part of your job. There’s the high school football player who already knows how to do everything, the tennis mom who refuses to lift anything more than 45 pounds, and everyone in between. Nobody is going to say “oh wow! I love this hook grip thing. Can’t wait to do this all the time now!” Forcing new athletes to do it is a waste of time and will simply add on to the opportunities for complaining. Maximize the fun – minimize the negativity.
2 – NEW ATHLETES DON’T NEED THE HOOK GRIP
When the average person walks into the CrossFit gym for the first time, the simply do not need to wrap their thumb around the bar in order to hold on to a 95lb clean. Until they learn the explosive 2nd pull, a smooth 1st pull, and how to quickly release and move around the bar, they will not be lifting enough weight to require the hook grip. Statistically, you’d run a better chance of having them actually turn into a OLY lifter by focusing your energy on encouraging them to stick with their new exercise program and helping them achieve their short-term fitness goals rather than forcing them to hurt their thumbs and fingernails every time they grab a barbell.
3 – THE HOOK GRIP MESSES UP LIFTS WHEN ATHLETES ARE LEARNING
One of the challenges that some of your athletes will face is releasing the bar before the 3rd pull under the bar. Enforcing the hook grip on beginners will compound their problems and confuse them about how to release their grip on the bar. If your athlete is unable to release their grip in the clean, then they will be forced to receive the bar with the elbows low which can cause them to lose the lift or slam their elbows on their knees (hint: it feels about as good as it sounds). In the snatch, those with great flexibility can hold the hook grip without a problem. But remember, if flexibility is lacking, keeping the hook grip through the bottom of a full snatch can result in a failed lift or a strain in the wrist or shoulder.
Look, I get it… sometimes you’re going to be coaching some wild-eyed badass who needs to learn the hook grip right away. Just take them aside and let them know the deal real quick. For everyone else, make your coaching more effective and their training the best that it can be by waiting for the right time to introduce the hook grip.