Thumbless Grip During Squats – Fix Your Wrist Pain

How you hold the bar during squats may seem like a minor tweak but it deserves a little more explaining than you might think. There are two ways to hold the bar during squats:

– with your thumbs wrapped around the bar {standard};

– with your thumbs over the bar {thumbless grip};

What’s the benefit of the thumbless grip?

The whole idea behind using thumbless grip during squats is that it allows your wrist to be straight or in an alignment that actually doesn’t cause as much strain on it. When you wrap your thumb around the bar and squeeze it hard during squats your wrist has no options but to buckle a little bit. Usually that’s not a problem because during proper squat execution the bar is never supported by your wrists or elbows – it’s the torso that holds it.

However, even if you do everything correctly you may steel experience wrist pain during squats because when the sets get tough your form will deteriorate regardless of what you want. That’s why some people prefer to use the thumbless grip during squats in order to allow the wrist to be in proper alignment. This technique was popularized by the author of Starting Strength, Mark Rippetoe although it was used way before he got popular.

High-bar squats

In general high bar squats require less should flexibility and the bar stays higher on your back. That’s why it’s less likely for people who do barbell high bar squats to suffer from wrist pain regardless of what grip they use. The general consensus is that high bar squatters use the regular thumbs over grip during their squats for additional support and tension.

Low-bar squats

The thumbless grip is much more popular among low-bar squatters. The reason for that is once again Rippetoe’s work which promotes the low bar squat and the thumbless grip, as well as the larger strain on the wrist, elbows and shoulders during low bar squats.

In the picture below you see the famous powerlifter Kirk Karwovski. What you notice is that he squats using the regular thumbs over grip. Pay attention to how the wrist is a little tilted to one side.


In the next picture underneath pay attention to the thumbless grip and how the wrist is in much better alignment. That’s how the thumbless grip looks during squats:


Additional notes:

Using the thumbless grip DOES NOT instantly equal proper alignment of the wrist and elbow. You can still tilt your wrist to the side or even put it directly under the bar. To avoid this problem you have to learn to be aware of your wrist position during squats. It will take time and with practice you will get used to it.

Note: Many people won’t experience wrist pain even when their wrist tilts and isn’t in proper position. It  depends on the individual and if the bar is supported by your back and not arms, chances of experience wrist pain diminish but do not disappear.

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