Among the stupid things you can do when weightlifting, the suicide grip is high in the top ten. Here is what it looks like and how to remember to not go suicidal.
The Suicide Grip
It seems that using a suicide grip is to some people as normal as making a fist with the thumb inside the fist – it’s natural to them and they do it without thinking.
Those that do a fist like that will realize their error when trying to hit something. But with the suicide grip during bench presses, you unfortunately are likely to only realize your error when a 200 lbs barbell hits you square in the chest:
Now for an example. Note that the guy in the below video is not losing control of the barbell due to muscular failure, it simply rolls out of his hands:
But I Heard…!
Yes, but! I heard the stories from guys who tell me that you can use “more power” with the thumb on the wrong side. Also that it protects the wrists / hands / thumbs. All are bollocks and come down to self-fulfilling prophecies: when you believe you can lift more with the suicide grip, you likely will. Or maybe it’s the added adrenaline from knowing that within the next seconds something very heavy could be trying to find out if it can go straight through your body.
Seriously, if you look at it from a realistic position, the hands’ job during a bench press is keeping the barbell from rotating and the power during the lift comes out of your chest muscles and the triceps. The tiny different configuration of extensor and flexor muscles in the forearms when the thumb is in or out plays no role in the big picture.
Finally, to damage your thumb, wrist or hand from having the thumb out during a bench press, the arms would have to stay in the up position, with the hands / thumbs the only thing in the way of the falling barbell. In reality, muscular failure usually means the arms are dropping down, and the first thing to stop the equally dropping barbell is the trainee’s chest, neck or head.
Another Fine Rhyme
Be hip, don’t use the suicide grip – I can’t stop the rhymes today!
To put it more soberly: If you want to do the suicide grip at all, at least have safety equipment in place. Maybe I’m just boring, but personally I always like to play it safe. Even if I was able to lift more with a suicide grip, a lot of good that would do me when I have to spent six months in a hospital to get my broken rib cage mended.
Picture courtesy of Elliot Brown.