September 12, 2021 9 min read

Suicide grip occurs when your thumb is not firmly wrapped around the bar as it would be in a regular grip, and your thumb is on the same side as the rest of your fingers.

It's a contentious issue in the Powerlifting and Bodybuilding communities. Some swear by it and won't grasp the bar any other way, while others can't emphasize enough why you shouldn't.

Its current prominence is related to the use of the suicide grip by Arnold Schwarzenegger, the most well-known bodybuilder. People may be tempted to imitate an experienced lifter with a fantastic body. However, there are certain factors you should be aware of before deciding if the thumbless grip is proper for you.

Join us as we will discuss the suicide grip, emphasizing its benefits and drawbacks so that you may reach your own decision. You may provide someone with all the knowledge in the world, but what counts is what they do with it.

We've all heard the cautionary tales about it. A number of people and even some great athletes have claimed that they experienced their necks crushed by barbells because it slides straight out of their hands while doing the bench press. Apparently, this is why the suicide grip is also called as the false grip.

Many of the world's largest and strongest lifters use the infamous incorrect grip for bench pressing despite the dangers. Why? Because it places them in a good posture that improves shoulder health and movement patterns. It's not only for bench pressing; it also works for overhead presses.

Suicide Grip Disadvantages

The "suicide grip," also known as a fake grip, involves doing bar work—for example, bench pressing or pull-ups—without wrapping your thumbs around the barbell. Again, this is simple to justify: if the barbell slides while pushing, it will crush your face, neck, or ribs.

Squeeze the bar as hard as you can and for you to add additional weight to your bench press. It will assist you in stabilizing the action as well as engaging other muscles.

1. Not Very Secure

The most frequent worry with the suicide grip is safety; novice lifters should not try it, and for a good reason, there are plenty of videos online of the most experienced lifters getting crushed after dropping the bar.

If you utilize a thumbless grip, any sort of bar movement will land you in the hospital with a couple of fractured ribs if you're fortunate. The term "suicide grip" contains the key.

2. Not Permitted in Powerlifting

If you're a Powerlifter who utilizes a suicide grip, I've got terrible news for you: it's illegal in the majority of federations, including the IPF.

athlete powerlifter exercise bench press powerlifting competition

Furthermore, you don't want to become accustomed to the thumbless grip just to discover that you can't use it; you'd have to rewire your brain to bench differently, which isn't ideal.

3. It Can Make The Weight Feel Heavier

A standard grip allows you to grasp the bar more tightly. When you use a suicide grip instead of a normal grip, your hands will not be as tightly wrapped around the barbell.

This is considered critical because keeping your hands as tight as possible around the barbell can make the barbell seem less heavy on your hands, which will help you improve your confidence when lifting heavy weights.

This is due to the concept of proprioception, which is described as:

  • The feeling of our limbs' position and movement.
  • The sense of muscular power and effort.
  • The sense of balance.

So, whether a weight seems heavy or light may be ascribed in part to our proprioceptive capacity to judge 'muscle power and effort.' Specific receptors stimulate proprioception in our muscles, tendons, skin, and joints. This results as we hold the barbell in our hands. It sends signals to our central nervous system about how heavy it is and where our limbs are in space.

It has been shown that increasing muscular stiffness may improve your proprioceptive abilities. For example, when you squeeze your fingers tightly around the barbell, it will send signals to your muscles, especially those in your forearm, and it can help in increasing physical stiffness.

The more relaxed our hands are, the less proprioceptive capacity we have, and the weight will seem heavier. Alternatively, the tighter our hands are, the better our proprioceptive abilities and the lighter the weight will seem.

Some gym enthusiasts always say the term "leave fingerprints on the barbell" because they are actually telling you to firmly clench your fingers when you are doing the bench press. It is noted that you can really squeeze your hands far harder in a usual standard grip than engaging in using the false grip.

4. Wrist Position

Whether utilizing the suicide grip for bench press or not, the wrist may remain neutral. The wrist position has nothing to do with how you place your fingers on the barbell. The regular grip and the suicide grip may both attain the same neutral wrist posture.

When benching, the load should be placed at the base of your hand so that it is directly stacked in line with your forearm. This puts the wrist in a neutral posture, which is one of the primary reasons individuals adopt a suicide grip. They claim that it is a more natural approach to achieve this neutral wrist posture.

This identical 'neutral wrist' posture, however, may be obtained with a regular grip. Thus, a neutral wrist posture is determined not by where the thumb is in respect to the barbell but by where the barbell is held in the hands.

For both the suicide grip and the normal grip, the barbell should be placed near the base of the palm to give you the greatest opportunity of maintaining your wrist neutral. What you don't want is for the barbell to rest on your hands, on your knuckles, or fingers.

5. Elbows Too Tucked

The elbows must be somewhat tucked while doing the bench press. However, excessive tucking puts more strain on the triceps, reducing the contribution of the chest and shoulders throughout the action.

While doing the bench press, your elbows should be either naturally in line with or slightly in ahead of the barbell. It's a delicate balance, but you want your elbows tucked since it puts your shoulders in a better posture and engages your triceps more.

However, too much elbow tucking will result in a weaker push off the chest. Lifters who use a suicide grip are prone to excessive elbow tucking. Lifters using a conventional grip have greater control over where their elbows are in respect to the barbell.

6. Barbell Falling Risk

One of the dangerous implications of the suicide hold is that the barbell has a greater chance of slipping from the hands. When the barbell is wrapped below, the thumb serves as a locking mechanism. Without the thumb, the barbell is more likely to slip off the base of the palm.

Many lifters online claim to have been bench pressing in a suicide grip for years with no injuries. Just like wearing a seat belt. Some individuals may drive without a seat belt and be perfectly OK, but even a tiny collision might have deadly effects if you are not wearing one.

Powerlifters who bench press with greater weights are more likely to have the barbell fall out of their hands. This is because any instability along the arm chain, which is unavoidable at maximum loads, can make it extremely difficult to keep the barbell in the base of the palm.

Is The Suicide Grip Safe?

Contrary to popular belief, bench pressing with a false grip is not the same as putting your neck under a guillotine. When it comes to the false-grip press, there is a proper method to perform it that will keep you safe, but this is often missed by people who have never been taught how to do it.

young bodybuilder training in the gym: triceps - close grip barbell bench press

To optimize safety, here are a few non-negotiable false-grip setup cues:

  • When un-racking and re-racking, always employ a spotter.
  • Check that the barbell is not slick. Make use of a lot of chalk.
  • Place the bar in the middle of your palm, not at the points.
  • Throughout the lift, do your best to squeeze the barbell using all your fingers.
  • Engage the forearms to prevent the wrist from dropping into extension.
  • Maintain a secure and robust torso and hip posture. Cheater reps are not permitted.
  • You'll be safe and have an amazing set if you follow the fundamental guidelines.

Still squeamish about the "inherent danger" of not wrapping your thumb around the bar? Keep one thing in mind. Almost everything we do in training has a risk that may be reduced with concentration and attention to detail during setup and good execution under stress. That implies you have complete power over your orthopedic health; thus, respect the iron, and it will respect your medical state.

Best Way to Grip a Barbell for Bench Pressing

  • Determine the best grip width for you. Search online for which wide grip bench pressing is better to determine your grip width.
  • Wrap your thumb around the barbell. To secure and lock it in, pull your thumb back.
  • Make sure the barbell is at the bottom of your palm. The line of force will be directed across the wrist joint and forearm as a result of this. The wrist should be in a neutral or slightly stretched position (not excessive).
  • Squeeze every one of your fingers as hard as you can. Many lifters neglect to pinch their pinky finger, so pay close attention to it. Set the timer for 'leave fingerprints on the barbell.'
  • With your whole hand engaged, try lifting the barbell off the rack. Many lifters make the mistake of attempting to engage their hand when the barbell is still on the rack or is already above their chest. Before raising the weight, squeeze your hand tightly.

Maintain this firm hold for the duration of the set. Don't relax your hand since it will affect the position of your wrist, elbow, and shoulder.

Bench Press Mistakes Using a False Grip

If the bar starts moving forward, you won't be able to stop it with your thumb. The bar will fall quicker than you or your spotter can react. And it will land on your face, neck, or chest. This may kill you instantly or cause internal bleeding.

Laying Too Close To The Bench 

This is a reasonably frequent blunder. When you sit too far forward on the bench, the barbell is directly behind you. To hold the bar, externally rotate your shoulders and then bring it forward. This causes unnecessary rotation in your shoulder joints, which may lead to injury. You do, however, expend some energy in pushing the bar forward.

Extending the Elbows

When your elbows are 90° out at the bottom of the bench, your upper arms are perpendicular to your body. It makes the bar travel in a straight line. Benching was popularized by Vince Gironda decades ago.

Scientists often suggest this as the most excellent method to activate chest muscles, but it is really the best way to induce shoulder impingement.

On The Bench, You're Fooling Yourself

Here's how it works: you load the bar much higher than you can press and ask the spotter to aid you 'just a little bit before benching 6-7 repetitions with assistance. Finally, the spotter adds, "It was all you, buddy," but it wasn't.

That's the end of the tale. If you press more than 2 reps with assistance, you are feeding your ego and deluding yourself. Take assistance just for unracking the bar and when you can no longer press the weights on your own at the last rep.

Avoiding Back Arches

Arching the lower back provides three functions:

  1. Reduces the range of motion (beneficial for powerlifters) 
  2. Allows you to put your shoulders in a safer position (advantageous for everyone)
  3. A stiff body allows you to transfer force more effectively (advantageous for everyone)

A stronger bench press will allow you to overload on other accessory exercises such as incline and decline presses, leading to more significant total growth increases.

How to do it correctly: Drag your feet backward to obtain a good stretch in your hamstrings. When you've reached your limit of flexibility, sink your feet flat into the floor; you can even lift your heels and stand on your toes. Now, arch your lower back and dig your upper back into the bench. Remember to keep your shoulders firmly compressed the whole time.

Final Thoughts

With all of the drawbacks listed, I strongly advise against adopting the suicide grip. In my view, the benefits much exceed the negatives. For me, the risk-reward ratio isn't enticing enough.

That said, you are your own person, and you will ultimately decide for yourself; this essay is just a guide to help you understand the dangers. If anything goes wrong, you should make a well-considered choice based on your training experience, fitness objectives, and risk tolerance. Always be cautious!


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