Truth About the False Grip

Below is a pic of a risky situation. It's called a false grip, or a suicide grip. Don't do it. 

Years ago, I was spotting a friend on the bench press. He was a big guy. He was warming up with weight that was well within his wheelhouse. If I remember right, he was using about 185 lbs on his third warm-up set. Jeff weighed in at a robust 260, or so and he was STRONG for his size. No slouch on the bench. 185 lbs is a serious bench for some guys. It wasn't for Jeff. It was child's play.

Jeff was a big proponent of the false grip (pictured below). He was taught by someone "in the know" that wrapping thumbs around the bar was a fatiguing factor and doing so would cause him to squeeze the bar while bench pressing. Squeezing the bar is thought to drain energy from you and decrease your bench pressing performance. Thus weakening you and preventing you from becoming JACKED and SWOLE! It's a fate worse than death in some guys' minds.

While I was standing there spotting him (I was right there), he had an accident caused by using the "false grip." Here (right) is a video of almost exactly what happened to my friend Jeff.

It was a serious accident. He broke his sternum and several ribs. He lost several months of training while recovering.

He was VERY lucky.

What if he had dropped it on his neck. Or on his head?

Those of you who go OH with a false grip, please think about this, because if the bar rolls out of your hands while you have a heavy bar OH - your neck and/or head is likely where it is going to fall.

Please wrap your thumbs around the bar. They call it the "safety grip" for a reason. Any (supposed) meager strength gains you might experience by using a false grip will NEVER out-weigh the very real risk of injury and prolonged recovery of an accident that might be caused by using it.

 

Nope. BAD!!

Is Stronger Weaker?

Q:  "I'm stronger on one side than I am on the the other.  Should I do more weight on my weak side to compensate?"  

A:  Not usually.  However, if you notice VERY large differences in development or strength, it might be a good idea to get checked out by a medical professional.  There could be potentially serious underlying reasons for severe muscular imbalances (disease, nerve damage, injury, etc.).  Once cleared by your med pro, consider the following:

1 - Sometimes we develop imbalances due to form faults (cheats), or lack of experience on a particular movement.  Have a friend or trainer (we know some good ones) watch you do movements where you notice the most weakness occurring.  Maybe, another set of eyes will see these form faults and show you where you can make improvements.

2 - Weight machines are notorious for contributing to weak-side imbalances.  Weight machines give you very little feedback in terms of knowing whether or not you are pushing harder on one side vs. the other.  If you are working out with weight stacks to the exclusion of BBs and DBs, you have almost surely developed imbalances.  Not to mention a very poor quality of fitness devoid of functionality (HA! But, that is a subject for another post).  

3 - Prior injuries you've suffered may contribute to a lack of flexibility in certain joints.  This lack of flexibility may cause strong-side compensations.  Again, another set of eyes can help you discover this.  Have someone watch to make sure you aren't shorting the ROM (range of motion) on a particular side, or leaning away from an old injury.  If you are, it will be well to consult an expert to help you learn stretches to improve your functional flexibility.  

We are all naturally strong sided (right, or left handed).  Our dominant side usually dictates strength and development.  It is perfectly natural to be SLIGHTLY stronger/more developed on one side vs. another.  

When it comes to getting the most out of your workouts, balance is key.  Creating deliberate imbalances by going heavier on your slightly weaker side is more likely to mess things up, than it is to help.  

One Bad Apple ...

About the worst thing you can do when it comes to working out and dialing in your nutrition is - GUESS.  At one end of the spectrum, guessing about how to adjust portions, weights, reps, time and/or rounds costs you efficiency if you get one (or ALL) of them wrong.  Being very deliberate about storming your nutrition and workouts helps you to make faster progress.  At the other end of the spectrum, anyone who guesses wrongly about any or all of the principles above will likely be subject to some rather harsh penalties, in terms of, injuries and setbacks.  Those alone are good enough reasons to keep track of workouts and nutrition.

Wanna know something worse than not making progress, or becoming injured?

It is becoming successful and NOT knowing how you did it.

Think about it.  What if you changed 3 things about your diet and/or workouts - AND IT WORKED! Your body, fitness and health jump to a whole new level of success.  What do you know?  Which thing was it that made the difference? Was it all three?  Was it two of the things?  Was it just one of them?

The problem is, whatever you are doing now will need to adjusted in the coming weeks, months and years. Your fitness and health won't stand for stagnation.  It's the nature of this beast.  What you don't want to do is UNDO the thing(s) that is(are) working for you. Which is all fine and good as long as you know what they are.  If you don't - you are back to square ONE, man.  

Most people would say, It's cool. I'll just keep making changes to ALL THREE of the things. That worked fine the first time. 

Seems like a good plan too, but one thing we all come to learn about health and fitness is where one good thing giveth, another good can taketh away. 

The only thing your body hates worse than stagnation is inefficiency. Participating in ONE inefficient thing will eventually rob success from all other fruitful pursuits. Truly, one rotten apple does spoil the whole barrel.

It's bad enough not to see much progress when you are putting in real time and effort.  It's worse to backtrack and have to start all over.