There are a lot of other articles and fitness influencers bashing the mixed-grip deadlift saying that it’s not a good choice when deadlifting.
I believe these other articles don’t provide a balanced perspective on why and how you can use the mixed grip deadlift effectively. They take the stance that you should NEVER use the mixed grip, which simply isn’t realistic or true in all cases.
But first, what is the mixed grip deadlift? A mixed grip deadlift is when you place one hand underhand and one hand overhand on the bar. The mixed grip can be stronger when compared with the double-overhand grip because it prevents the bar from rolling in your hands. But, one risk of the mixed grip deadlift is that it can lead to muscular imbalances.
In this article, I’ll discuss the pros and cons of the mixed grip, including reasons why you may or may not want to consider using it. I’ll also explain how you can deal with any imbalances when using the mixed grip and a few other deadlift grips that you can use.
The Mixed Grip Deadlift
The mixed grip deadlift is a popular deadlifting grip within the sport of powerlifting.
It’s when you have one hand supinated, and the other hand pronated. This refers to having one hand facing up and the other hand facing down.
It’s used primarily because it provides a superior grip compared with other grip choices that you can use for deadlifting, namely the double overhand grip.
For powerlifters, having a strong grip is extremely important. This is because, at a certain strength level, your legs and back become strong enough where the limiting factor in the deadlift actually becomes your grip.
It’s common that you see powerlifters drive the barbell off the floor and as they are grinding out the last few inches, they drop the barbell because their grip fails.
The question becomes: can your hands even hold the weight that your legs and back are lifting?
In fact, I wrote an entire guide explaining how to improve your deadlift grip.
So not only do powerlifters, who can deadlift in excess of 600lbs, need to train their hand/forearm strength, they also need to be gripping the barbell in the strongest possible way.
For powerlifters, this means considering to use the mixed grip as a way to improve their deadlift strength.
3 Reasons To Use The Mixed Grip Deadlift
Let’s now discuss three of the main reasons why lifters choose to use the mixed grip deadlift.
1. It prevents the barbell from rolling in the hands
Any barbell you use is going to have a bit of ‘spin’ to it.
Some have more spin (like an Olympic weightlifting barbell). Others have less spin (like a powerlifting barbell).
But no matter what barbell you use, you’ll have spin nonetheless.
When the barbell spins in your hand, it creates less stability for your hand to grip the barbell. Rather than solely focusing on squeezing the barbell as hard as you can, you need to worry about the barbell rolling in your palm.
The barbell will typically spin a lot more for those who have shorter hands.
The more you can prevent the barbell from spinning/rolling, especially under heavier weights, the stronger the connection your hands will have on the barbell.
The result: a superior grip.
If you’re struggling with your grip, one of my favorite ways to strengthen my hands is to use the Captain of Crush Hand Grippers (click to check today’s price on Amazon). I would get the 0.5, 1.0, and 1.5 sizes. I like to perform multiple sets of high reps following a deadlift workout.
2. It’s the go-to deadlift grip for powerlifters
If you are a competitive powerlifter, then at some point you will need to consider switching to the mixed-grip deadlift.
This is because you are lifting heavier absolute loads than the average person, and at a certain level, your legs, back, and glutes will outperform the strength of your hands.
At that point, you’ll need to search for grip options that can take your gripping abilities to the next level. This is the main benefit of the mixed grip deadlift. You can automatically deadlift more weight without having to train your grip strength.
In fact, some powerlifters say that deadlifting with a mixed grip can boost their griping abilities up to 20% compared with the regular double overhand grip (both hands facing down).
3. It can temporarily give you a boost in deadlift volume
You may not be a powerlifter, but you may be someone who does a lot of deadlifting reps.
For example, doing workouts like 4 sets of 10 reps, or 5 sets of 8 reps. Or you may be someone who likes to perform deadlift AMRAP sets (as many reps as possible).
You’ll undoubtedly notice that when you get closer to your fatigue limit by doing a lot of deadlifting reps that your hands begin to get sweaty or your forearms start to tighten up.
Many people use chalk or lifting straps in this scenario, but switching to a mixed grip can alleviate some of these issues almost immediately.
By using a mixed grip, you’ll find that you can rep out the barbell a few more times than you otherwise would be able to if using another grip option.
Something that’s really important to understand about deadlift grip is how far apart your hands are on the barbell. If you’re unsure, check out my complete guide on Deadlift Grip Width.
3 Reasons NOT To Use The Mixed Grip Deadlift
The mixed-grip deadlift is not perfect as there are some drawbacks that you’ll want to consider before using it. Here are the three reasons why lifters choose NOT to use the mixed grip deadlift.
1. It can cause asymmetries
The most common reason stated for not wanting to use the mixed grip deadlift is that it will cause asymmetries.
Asymmetries are just a way to say that there may be an imbalance between your right and left side.
You can develop asymmetries by using the mixed grip deadlift because as one hand is up and the other is down different muscle groups are being used to hold your hands in these positions.
Over time, the muscles in your right hand/arm will develop in different ways from the muscles on your left hand/arm.
If one side is stronger than the other then it can lead to compensating movement patterns where the body is lifting in less efficient ways. One example would be twisting off the floor to favor the dominant side.
However, I’m not actually concerned about developing asymmetries while using the mixed grip. I’ll explain more in a separate section below, but for now, I’ll mention that one of the main ways lifters overcome asymmetries is to simply use lifting straps.
I’ve talked a lot about lifting straps before, but my favorite kind is the Iron Mind Strong Enough Straps (click for today’s price on Amazon). While they aren’t the cheapest, they do last the longest. It’s very common for lifters to cheap out on lifting straps only for them to last a few months before you need to replace them. These are super durable straps that are made from thick nylon and are resistant to wear and tear.
2. It can lead to a rounded back
In the deadlift, the aim of the spine should be to remain neutral throughout the entire range of motion.
To accomplish this, you need to have your shoulder blades in a slightly retracted and depressed position (pulled back and down) in the start position. This will allow your upper back to be straight while deadlifting.
When your hands are both facing down (pronated), it’s relatively easy to obtain this upper back position.
However, as soon as you turn one hand up (supinated) unless you have above-average mobility and flexibility, you may find your upper back start to round. This is especially the case if you are deadlifting with short arms.
Excessive rounding of the back in the deadlift can potentially lead to back, neck, and hip injuries.
However, there is some natural curvature of your spine that allows you to have some slight upper back rounding. In fact, I wrote an entire article where some powerlifters prefer to deadlift with a rounded upper back (not lower back), and they explain how they do so in a safe and effective manner.
3. It can lead to bicep tears (rare cases)
Some lifters experience bicep tears while deadlifting.
This mostly happens when using a mixed grip on the bicep of the hand that is facing upward.
This is not to say that you will tear your bicep if you choose to use a mixed grip. It’s actually very rare for this to happen as the load needs to be extremely heavy.
It usually happens when you’re going for a max attempt and the arm of the hand that is facing upward begins to bend. As soon as the arm bends, there is an incredible amount of stress on the bicep. If the bicep can’t withstand this stress, then it will tear.
The number one way to avoid a bicep tear is to keep your arms straight while deadlifting. DO NOT get in the habit of bending your arms.
In my article on deadlift cues, I cover the cue of having your “hands as hooks” and your “arms as chains”, in order to reinforce this straight-arm position.
Is The Mixed Grip Right For You?
Now that you have a balanced perspective on reasons why you would or wouldn’t use the mixed grip, let’s discuss whether the mixed grip is right for you.
Use the mixed grip if:
- You have 2-3 years of strength training experience
- You are a competitive powerlifter or thinking about competing in powerlifting
- You have the goal to lift as much weight as possible in the deadlift
- You already train your grip and hand strength in various ways
- You have good shoulder mobility
- You don’t have any pre-existing shoulder or bicep injuries
- You understand how to keep your spine neutral when deadlifting
- You have short hands
Do not use the mixed grip if:
- You are just learning how to deadlift
- You have less than 2-3 years of strength training experience
- You don’t compete in powerlifting or have goals of increasing your 1 rep max strength
- You don’t have a structured hand/grip/forearm strength-building routine already in place
- You lack shoulder mobility
- You have pre-existing shoulder or bicep injuries
- You find your back excessively rounds in the deadlift
- You have long hands or prefer to use straps
How To Start Using The Mixed Grip?
If you’ve decided that using mixed grip is right for you, then you’ll want to make sure you transition to the mixed grip effectively.
Here are my top 5 tips on how to start using the mixed grip:
Tip #1: Keep the same hand up, and the same hand down
A lot of lifters like to switch which hand is up and which hand is down. Don’t do that. You need to get used to the same hand being up and the same hand being down. Otherwise, you’ll just be in this constant process of ‘feeling awkward’ when gripping the barbell.
Note: If you’re concerned about asymmetries, switching your hand placement is not the solution. Read the next section to learn how to deal with any imbalances between the right and left sides.
Tip #2: Start using it for your high rep sets
Avoid jumping into the mixed grip during a heavy training cycle where you’re lifting low reps and high loads. You want to ease into the new grip under sub-maximal intensities where the reps are higher and your hands/arms can get used to the new style in a low-risk way.
Tip #3: Cue yourself to have straight arms
Now, more than ever, if you choose to use a mixed grip you need to keep your arms straight while deadlifting. If you have the habit of bending your arms as you lock the weight out (which some people do), you need to eliminate that movement pattern immediately.
Tips #4: Rest if your bicep/chest/shoulder get sore
When you first start with the mixed-grip deadlift you may find that the muscles in your bicep, chest, or shoulder might get sore on the side where your hand is facing up.
This ‘soreness’ is not a bad thing. It simply means that your muscles are working in new ways. But just be careful to not overtrain these muscles if they are exceptionally sore. Give them a day or two to recover.
Tips #5: Be consistent
When switching your deadlift to a mixed grip, it may feel like you’re actually slightly weaker. Especially the first couple of times you try it. This is because it’s a new technique and you haven’t yet had sufficient practice to “get used to it”.
If you keep your grip consistent over the course of 2-3 months, you’ll notice that your hand strength in the deadlift is vastly superior compared to the grip you used previously. It just takes some time to get comfortable with it. So don’t give up after a few workouts.
How To Deal With Mixed Grip Imbalances?
As I mentioned, one of the main concerns with the mixed grip is that you will develop muscular imbalances between the right and left sides.
I think this concern is over-rated as there are some obvious ways to ensure you don’t develop any asymmetries.
Here are my recommendations on how to deal with mixed grip imbalances:
Only use the mixed grip during your heavy sets
I mentioned that when you first start transitioning to the mixed-grip that you should only use it under lighter sets.
That’s true. However, when you get comfortable with the grip, you then need to switch to only using it under the heavy sets.
So for all of your lighter sets, including your warm-up sets, you will use some other grip, like the double overhand or hook grip, that is more symmetrical.
In this way, the majority of your deadlifting volume will be done where there is a balance between your right and left side, and you’re only utilizing the mixed grip when you need it the most.
Train your upper body in a variety of grips
When you train your upper body, you should switch your grips in order to give the various gripping muscles a chance to develop equally.
For example, when performing pull-ups, dumbbell bench press, rows, or any other upper body exercises, do sets where you’re varying your grip (palms away from you, palms together, and palms toward you).
That way, your muscles aren’t simply getting a pronoted/supinated stimulus during the deadlift.
Do uni-lateral movements
As part of any good strength training program, you should be incorporating exercises that include moving load on your right and left side independently of each other.
These could be exercises like single-arm dumbbell rows, side planks, or landmine presses.
Any asymmetries you might get from doing mixed-grip deadlifts would be offset by doing some of these other single-arm movements.
Understand that sport is inherently asymmetrical
If you’re a competitive powerlifter, then you need to recognize that most sports involve some level of asymmetrical performance.
In football, baseball, or basketball, there are always instances where you have to favor one side or the other, and it’s important that you become as strong as possible on that one side in order to be effective on the field or court.
The same goes for powerlifting. If you want to deadlift the most amount of weight possible, then you might need to forego the goal of ‘balance’ for simply using a grip that allows you to move the most weight you can. That’s just the nature of sport.
The mixed grip deadlift can be a highly effective gripping option for those who are looking to increase their deadlift strength. This is especially important for those that find their limiting factor is their grip, in which their legs and back are strong enough, but their grip fails under heavy weight.