High-volume double overhand grip deadlifts (HVDOGDs) are the most complete back exercise.
Notice that I say the most complete, not the best or ultimate (that title is subjective).
Why this movement specifically?
Because it’s the exercise that stresses the highest number of muscles in the back. If you have to choose only one exercise for the back, HVDOGDs will produce the best results.
Why not pull-ups?
Pull-ups are a very incomplete back exercise. They work primarily the lats which may be the biggest back muscle, but they aren’t the only one.
The pull-up does zero for your spinal muscles and produces wide backs that lack thickness and depth.
The thickness and depth in a back come from the spinal muscles.
The pull-up doesn’t do much for the traps either.
Why not barbell rows?
Barbell rows are more complete than pull-ups and a better choice as a solo back builder, but they’re a bit weird and people tend to cheat too much. Also, barbell rows do not overload the back as much as a deadlift does.
Why double-overhand grip? Why not hook or mixed grip?
Both the hook grip and the mixed grip are nothing more than legalized cheating.
The hook grip lowers the grip requirements to very low levels and damages the nerves of the thumbs.
The mixed grip requires more grip strength but makes the lift asymmetrical and creates an opportunity to tear a bicep tendon or a back ligament.
Straps are actually better than both the hook grip and the mixed grip because they save your thumb (no hook grip) and bicep tendon (no mixed grip) and do not create the illusion that you have a strong grip. You and everybody else know that you’re lifting the weight thanks to the straps.
Or in other words, you’re openly cheating whereas the hook grip and the mixed grip are covert cheating.
Standard, double-overhand grip is the BEST deadlift grip because:
- It limits how much you can lift.
The only reason for the existence of the hook grip and the mixed grip is to lift more weight than your hands can hold so that you can impress some muscle fetishists who may or may not be injecting their glutes with male hormones.
Some powerlifting nerds who have a picture of Rippetoe as a background will say:
“But the mixed and hook grip allow you to lift more weight and overload your back and hip extensors.”
Who cares that your precious glutes aren’t getting the maximum overload that they can face?
Admit it, dude. You want to use that grip purely due to ego. (Don’t lie to me!)
But let’s put the politics aside.
Not being able to lift as much as your glutes and back can handle is a GOOD thing.
Your grip acts as a limiter which prevents you from lifting too much. As a result, you can do more volume while saving your spine, CNS and adrenal glands.
The same phenomenon is seen in the world of engineering.
Sometimes a part will be made of a softer material (e.g., aluminum) on PURPOSE so that it doesn’t translate stress to another element in case of failure. That way, the less important part breaks first and protects the more expensive one.
The same happens here.
When your fingers open/fail, they also limit the stress reaching your spine.
The heavier the weight, the more likely you’re to have a bad form.
The heavier the weight, the more likely you’re to get injured regardless of form.
Wanna break your back?
Be my guest.
- You don’t feel like a cheater.
I’ll be honest. I’ve used the hook grip many times. Occasionally, an unaware soul would say that I have impressive grip strength thinking that I was relying on a standard grip.
I loved the attention but felt stupid in the end.
In my opinion, all deadlift records set with straps, mixed grips and hook grips should be erased from RAW federations, or at the very least they should be classified as non-complete lifts which they are. Ultimately, those grips are the equivalent of a squat suit for the fingers/forearms.
How can you say that you’ve lifted a certain weight when you can’t even hold it for 5-15 seconds (the time it takes to do a 1RM)? Seriously?
If you didn’t hold it, you didn’t lift it.
I’m sorry that I am not sorry.
The forearms are part of the deadlift. You want to take them out? Make another powerlifting federation.
- You can’t do too much volume.
Eventually, your grip will get tired, and you simply won’t be able to perform a dangerous amount of volume at moderate or high intensity. That fact saves you from an injury.
- The weight is still heavy.
Most people will be able to lift at least 70% of the weight they do with cheat grips.
70% is still too heavy for your back to ignore it. Or in other words, the exercise will produce stress and subsequent adaptation.
Why high volume?
The back loves to get beaten hard and responds well to lots of volume. The reason why many strength programs contain a small number of deadlifts are:
- Too much squatting.
- The deadlift is done with cheater grips or straps and allows the lifter to move too much weight.