Article From This Issue
A little on Ron Collins and Bruce White here (you can dig around online and here for more):
The answer is that all three trained their grip on a regular basis and all three were phenomenal deadlifters. Bruce White could pull well over 600 lbs. at around 150. Goerner's single arm deadlift record of 727 and a hair achieved in 1920 has never even been approached, and Collins awesome deadlifting has been well documented by this and other magazines. It is obvious then, that along with strong legs and back, a strong grip is synonymous with deadlift ability.
One method of training the grip while deadlifting is using what can be referred to as the 'Front Knuckles' pull. This is simply deadlifting in the normal fashion but without supinating one of your hands as is normal, so that the knuckles of both hands are facing forward.
When lifting using a front knuckles (matched) grip, the lifter will immediately notice that he cannot pull as much as when compared to using a conventional grip. Indeed, many lifters find that their deadlift is reduced by sometimes as much as 100 lbs. when pulling with a front knuckles grip.
What then, are the advantages of using this front grip in deadlifting?
In a nutshell, if the lifter trains using a front grip when deadlifting, he will develop a stronger grip, so that when he switches to a conventional grip the benefits are noticeable, the end result being a bigger deadlift.
The front knuckles pull can be used as an off season exercise or can be incorporated into a pre-meet buildup. As an off season exercise the deadlift can be performed off a plate or one inch board using the front knuckles grip with medium poundages for 5-8 sets of 8-12 reps. An increase in grip strength will be noticeable even after a few weeks and this sort of training will build a good base for future buildups.
At this off season stage in your training try to avoid excessive use of supportive equipment such as a suit and wraps. A tight power belt, suit and wraps will be used in the actual buildup to the meet (depending on the 'rawness' of that meet). Try to avoid becoming reliant on these supportive devices. Let your muscles do the work! By all means initially find out what your best poundage in the deadlift is using a front knuckles grip. After 6-8 weeks of training this exercise the lifter will note an improvement in that poundage and his gripping ability.
Further advantages of using the front knuckles grip on the deadlift include greater forearm development and a more balanced trapezius development leading to fewer shoulder injuries.
After this two months of off season training using the front knuckles grip and relatively high reps (8-12), the lifter will be ready to move on into the competition cycle the 10-12 weeks prior to the meet. For this buildup the front knuckles grip can be incorporated into a deadlift routine, but it may be unwise to use this grip solely, as just using the front knuckles grip in a competition cycle would keep poundages down and may have a de-conditioning effect on your maximum poundage that you want to achieve at the meet.
Rather, use the front knuckles grip on the warmup sets, then switch to the conventional grip on your heavier sets. Use your conventional deadlift grip much as you would use your protective equipment such as suit, belt and wraps. [Yes, it was still often referred to as 'protective equipment' at this time]. On this buildup start warmup sets with a front knuckles grip and no belt, suit or wraps. Gradually, as the poundages increase, switch the grip to a conventional one and incorporate sensible use of belt, wraps and supportive lifting suit. Once 3 to 4 weeks into your competition cycle you will notice the benefits from your off season training. Steadily increase your poundages and decrease your reps as the meet approaches. The lifter will note an improved mental approach to the bar due to confidence in his stronger gripping ability.
This type of training for the deadlift can be beneficial for all levels of lifters. 600 lb. deadlifters such as myself have used this routine with good results as have more advanced lifters in the 700 range.
If your recent buildups have not resulted in the deadlift you expected, why not back off, try a 'front knuckles' off season deadlift program, followed by a competition cycle. Work sensibly, work hard, and a PR deadlift could well be the happy result.