How wide your deadlift grip should be is a fun topic to explore because it’s a deadlift form variable that can make a fairly drastic improvement on your pull and capabilities.
For example, if your deadlift grip width is off at the moment, then by simply exploring new grip widths you may find that you can get a lot more out of your deadlift performance without changing that much, which is always a win.
In this article, I’ll discuss how I like to help clients and lifters find their deadlift grip width and I’ll cover some of the reasons why it matters.
For Those In a Rush: Your deadlift grip width should reflect your deadlift stance. When you set up for your deadlift, you ideally want the inside of the arms and elbows to be lightly touching the outside of the leg. This means of finding grip width typically works well for a wide range of lifters and athletes.
- Your deadlift grip width should be individual and it should reflect things like your deadlift stance, anatomy, and deadlift mechanics. No two grip widths are exactly the same.
- Generally, if the inside of your arms is lightly touching the outside of your legs, then your grip width is at a good place and will likely only need slight adjusting if it feels off. This is assuming your deadlift stance is dialed in.
- A good deadlift grip width will create better leverage with the arms because it will typically result in “longer arms” which can be an awesome skill to learn for lifting more weight. I’d suggest trying to create a system so you can remember where your grip is usually positioned on the barbell you deadlift with most often.
How Wide Should My Deadlift Grip Be?
Your grip width in the deadlift should be wide enough to avoid knocking your knees in when pulling and wide enough to avoid creating friction with the thighs when locking out deadlifts.
Ideally, you want your deadlift grip to be at a width that makes the arms look like hooks when at lockout as this will allow you to better use your arm leverage when hitting heavier pulls. Below are two steps to find your deadlift grip width.
Step 1: Video Yourself and Assess Your Stance
The first step to finding your deadlift grip width is to assess your deadlift stance and to video yourself performing sets. Ideally, you want your deadlift stance to be around hip-width and your grip width will then piggyback off of this.
In most cases, if you find that the insides of your elbows are lightly grazing the outside of your knees, then you’re at a really good point with grip width, or at least a good starting point to then adjust from.
Once you’ve established the above, video yourself from the front and from a front diagonal view, and watch your knees and arm angle at lockout. The knees shouldn’t be getting knocked in by your arms and the arms should be relatively up and down at lockout.
Step 2: Plug and Play and Track
Now that you’ve established a deadlift grip width that you think might work best for you it’s time to plug and play and track your deadlift progress. When making changes with things like deadlift grip width, I’d suggest using it for 2-4 weeks to get more data.
One session will typically not be enough to adjust and dial in the skill-related component of tweaking things with your deadlift form. By using a grip for multiple weeks you can gain a better understanding of whether it will work for you long-term or not.
The good thing with deadlift grip width is that it can be a little more black and white compared to other form changes. You’ll usually feel what works and what doesn’t pretty quickly with deadlift grip width changes.
Coaching Tip: Try to use the same barbells for your deadlift sessions and create a system to establish a consistent grip width. This system can be based on your stance (my preferred system) or based on the knurling of your barbell (also good, but can fall short when you’re changing barbells).
Benefits of Dialing In Your Deadlift Grip Width
While there are arguably countless benefits that come along with using the best deadlift grip width for your anatomy and deadlift mechanics, there are two big benefits that I want to focus on and discuss.
These are two benefits that I think take precedence over everything else that every lifter should know and understand when it comes to grip width in the deadlift as these benefits transcend into multiple training applications and verticals.
1. Proper Grip Width Can Create Better Arm Leverage
As you get heavier with your deadlifts, your arms become increasingly more important. More specifically, the length of your arms becomes more important as they can help limit how much effort and work is needed to lock out deadlifts.
If your deadlift grip is appropriate for your anatomy, then generally your arms will resemble something like “hooks” during your deadlift. This means that as you pull your arms are remaining relatively perpendicular to the ground because your grip isn’t too wide or too narrow.
Note, I say “relatively perpendicular arms” because there will always be some variance from lifter to lifter because we’re not robots. If we can maintain this perpendicular arm angle then we can get more length from the arms.
For example, if our deadlift grip width is too wide, then we have to lift the weight higher off the ground, and if our grip is too narrow then our arms can get in the way and knock our legs leading to sub-optimal deadlift mechanics.
When in doubt, think “long arms” during your deadlift, and if your arms are working similarly to hooks then you’re likely on a good path. The arms should not be doing a ton of active work during your deadlift.
2. Optimal Widths Can Stress Your Grip Less
Another benefit of finding your ideal grip width in the deadlift is that you’ll likely put less stress on your gripping capabilities. If you’re making your arms and hands work harder during deadlift sets, then you’ll see your grip fail and fatigue faster, too.
For example, if you’re gripping too wide, then you’re not only lifting the weight higher than you need to, but you’re likely also taking away from some of the surface area the hands can create on the barbell due to the wrist having to work from an angle.
This benefit stands true for every grip type, too, so whether you deadlift with a mixed grip, hook grip, or double-overhand grip, a sub-optimal grip width will cut into your top-end grip strength potential.
Whether you’re a powerlifter, CrossFit athlete, or recreational lifter, you want to ensure you’re not making yourself work harder than you need to and limiting your potential on a variable that’s easy to dial in.
Deadlift Grip Width Mistakes
When learning how to deadlift, it’s normal to go through and learn from handfuls of different deadlift mistakes. I regularly see newer lifters make deadlift grip width-related mistakes and if you’re making any of the following, it’s okay, we’ve all been there.
Also, when I write “deadlift grip width mistakes” it’s important to note that I’m using mistakes in this context to suggest areas that you can check and improve to get more out of your deadlift. I don’t want mistakes to come off as “bad” or “doom day-eseque”, but more so as checkpoints for self-assessing your deadlift.
- Lifter 1: Too Wide
- Lifter 2: Too Narrow
1. Gripping Too Wide
The first and most common deadlift grip width mistake is gripping too wide for your anatomy and stance. In practice, this looks like the lifter whose arms look like an upside-down “V” when locking out deadlifts.
I think it’s normal to grip too wide when learning initially deadlifts because we think that it’s bad to have the arms and legs touch, especially when setting up deadlifts.
Another reason why I think this can fly under the radar for beginners is that they haven’t yet learned how beneficial leveraging the arms can be for deadlifts. Lifters don’t know what they don’t know.
The Fix: Ideally, you want the arms to be reasonably perpendicular to the floor when locking out your deadlifts. Video your deadlift from the front and assess your arms. If they’re wide in a V-like shape, then you may want to consider bringing them in slightly.
This is when dialing in your deadlift stance becomes of more importance because circling back to the above, you’ll want to establish your deadlift grip width based on your stance using the tips above.
1. Gripping Too Narrow
Another deadlift grip width mistake that beginners make fairly frequently is gripping too narrow. A narrow grip will generally result in two things during the deadlift.
First, a narrow grip can knock the legs in when pulling which can then take away from your quads and hamstrings doing their job. Second, a grip that’s too narrow can get in the way of the thighs when locking out deadlifts.
More often than not, if a lifter’s grip looks “too narrow” it’s typically because their stance is too wide and their grip is actually fine. This is why I like to coach and work from the ground up.
The Fix: Video your deadlift from the front and watch your knees during the first half of your pull, then the arms during the second half. I’d suggest scrubbing your video with your thumb to slow it down and check the following.
If you notice that your knees are collapsing inward because the arms are knocking them in or that you’re having a bunch of friction with the hands on the front of the legs then you’re likely using too wide of a stance.
The kicker here, though, is your arm angle at the top. If your arms are fairly straight down and perpendicular to the ground, then your grip width is likely okay and it’s a stance issue. Only when your arms look like an upside-down V is grip narrowness an issue.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Q:How wide should my deadlift grip be?
Q:Where to grip the barbell for deadlifts?
Grip width in the deadlift can make or break strong pulls and it’s a form variable that is constantly overlooked and misunderstood by beginners. A dial-in deadlift grip width can result in a lot of positives for your deadlift.
For example, an optimal grip width in the deadlift will allow you to better leverage your arms and it will put less stress on your grip during heavier sets.
When establishing your deadlift grip width, remember that the process is individual and it will likely take some trial and error to find what works best for you based on your anatomy and deadlift mechanics.
If you have additional questions about the grip width in the deadlift, drop a comment below or reach out to me personally via Instagram (@jake_boly or @that_fit_friend).