Deadlifting is one of the biggest staples of many people’s workout routines. When done properly, it can target your glutes, hamstrings, lats, core, and several other areas. It’s one of, if not the best exercises you can do for utilizing your entire body.
When I started my fitness journey long ago, I didn’t do a single deadlift for probably the first year or two — Mostly because the gym I went to didn’t have a squat rack and I was still an amateur.
Once I started integrating them into my routine, it seemed like my body completely transformed. Not just in strength, but physique-wise as well.
But that story is for another time.
Today I wanted to talk about why I changed how I approached deadlifts.
First, let me just get this out the way. I know there’s plenty of you who will read this and have zero problems mixed-grip deadlifting.
If that’s the case, great! But I’m here to discuss the principle of the method and help others who may be struggling.
There are multiple ways to secure your grip when deadlifting.
Here’s the main three:
- Overhand grip
- Mixed grip
- And hook grip
Most people start with Overhand, then switch to mixed-grip once the weight starts to get heavy.
I mean hey, that’s the way I did it too.
The Reason I Stopped Using It
Using mixed grip, I was able to get a One Rep Max (1RM) of 495lbs (224.5kg). While that’s not the biggest number in the world, I was definitely proud of it.
I deadlifted regularly using mixed-grip primarily for multiple years. But slowly I began to get these nagging aches, random tightness, and general discomfort in my back. Eventually, I developed a constant discomfort in my upper back on the right side — around the rhomboid area.
There was always this “crack” or “pop” every time I’d move my shoulder back. Similar to when someone cracks their knuckles.
I kept going to the gym and working out like normal but the discomfort eventually turned into pain, then I started having lower back issues too.
I couldn’t figure out what was wrong.
It soon led to me avoiding the gym completely because not only was I was tired of the pain, it also felt like I was plateauing too.
I honestly began to hate working out.
How I figured out the issue
Having time away from the gym gave me a chance to reflect on what I was doing wrong. Since my back was a constant issue, obviously it had to be the back exercises or workouts causing the problem.
I eventually narrowed it down to two possibilities:
- Barbell Bent Over Rows
I started researching and google where my pain was coming from to see if anyone else shared my problem.
And that’s when it finally it hit me…..
The Mixed-Grip Deadlift.
Why You Should Re-consider Using It
Mixed grip deadlifting isn’t terrible by any means, but many people fall into the trap of using the mixed-grip for all of their training, sets, and high reps.
The mixed-grip should ideally only be used for a 1RM, low reps, or when you absolutely have to. If your overhand grip isn’t strong enough yet, keep training. You’ll eventually get it — remember, it’s not a race! There should be no rush.
“Why is it so bad?” You might ask. Well a couple of reasons.
1) It causes muscle imbalances
Think about it.
There’s no way that having one hand facing outward is helping you train both sides of your body equally. The hand that’s facing you is the one that’s carrying most of the load.
Just a quick anatomy lesson: our bodies are divided into two halves/sides (sagittal plane). If one side is always extending (outward-facing hand) and the other side is flexing (hand facing you) it’s bound to cause a chain of imbalances.
The only way you could really train both sides equally is by routinely alternating the position of your hands — which let’s be honest, most people won’t actually do.
Ultimately, I think it’s best to focus on long-term gains as opposed to short-term impatience.
2) It puts your spine in a weird position
Don’t believe me? Try this exercise.
Stand up and act like you’re about to mixed-grip deadlift.
Now reach down and pick up the imaginary bar.
Come all the way up into your lockout position.
Now take a look at the arms.
The outward-facing hand is further away from your body than the hand facing you.
Now try the exercise again with a regular overhand grip — your arms will land in the same position on their respective sides.
It’s not hard to imagine what would happen if you lifted heavy weights with a mixed grip for long periods. It would routinely put your spine in an odd position repeatedly.
Forcing your spine to rotate unnaturally while loading up on the weight is incredibly taxing on your body. It’s best to avoid.
3) It makes you weaker
Yes, it’s true.
The side of your body with the outward-facing hand is usually weaker than the side using an overhand grip.
Why? Because changing the stance, angle, or grip of an exercise can affect completely different sets of muscles.
Most of my other lifts and exercises plateaued because I assumed one side was just as strong as the other, and that simply wasn’t the case.
Your body knows.
4) More likely to injure yourself
I can attest to this first hand. Doing an exercise the “wrong” way can cause all kinds of issues.
One thing leads to another and now you’re dealing with chronic pain and discomfort in your back, neck, shoulders, and even hips.
Don’t try to compensate for lack of strength by using “hacks”. It messes you up in the long run.
I find that a lot of people already have shaky form on the deadlift. No need to increase the chances of a mishap by lifting a weight you aren’t ready for physically.
How I Recovered
I dealt with chronic pain for close to two years. It varied from my hip to the upper back, lower back, random tightness, etc. It was extremely frustrating.
Once I took a long hiatus from the gym and came back, I vowed to treat my body better.
I still deadlift regularly but I’ve completely stuck to the overhand grip deadlift. Sure it takes a bit longer to progress, but the benefits of equal strength on both sides, preventing imbalances and no injuries are well worth it.
If you’ve experienced similar issues to me or if this article helped you, be sure to share it with someone you know.