September 07, 2021 9 min read

Deadlifts are a highly beneficial, efficient, and effective weightlifting movement. Most would say they are an essential part of every successful muscle building, body-enhancing, or fitness-boosting workout program.

Like many other popular lifts, such as the mighty bench press, we have found several ways to vary and alternate parts of the deadlift to target goals more specifically. One of these varied methods is the snatch grip deadlift. 

What Are Deadlifts?

Before we can get into any variation of the movement, we must first establish a strong understanding of the core components of the traditional deadlift. Knowledge of the mechanics and form will help you develop a strong foundation in the lift, giving you a leg up when you start experimenting with deadlift variations.

Young shirtless man doing deadlift exercise at gym

If you’ve ever stepped foot in a gym, you’re probably familiar with the deadlift. However, since we all start at different places, let’s take a moment for a brief explanation.Deadlifts typically, but not always, involve an Olympic barbell. This barbell is placed on the ground and picked up using a myriad of important muscles.

While deadlifts may sound simple enough, the form can be just as hard to get down as the weight it to lift up!Next to the bench press and squats, deadlifts are one of the most important lifts. Although commonly thought of as a lower body exercise, deadlifts are also a great tool when looking to gain core and back strength.

In total, this compound lift works these muscle groups:

  • Hamstrings
  • Quads
  • Glutes 
  • Spinal erectors 
  • Abs
  • Posterior chain
  • Trapezius 
  • Lats
  • Forearms 
  • Hands (grip strength)

How to Do A Deadlift

If you’re brand new to deadlifting, it may be best to practice your form with conventional deadlifts before moving onto any variations.

If you are new to working out altogether, use an unweighted barbell or light dumbbells to practice the following steps:

  1. Place your barbell on the ground. Stand behind it, positioning your feet halfway underneath the bar. Your feet should be about hip-width apart.
  1. Bend at the hips, allowing your knees to bend as well. Place your hands about shoulder-width apart on the bar. Use a traditional overhand grip.
  1. Before you’re ready to lift, keep your back angle to the bar yet straight, and your chest out. Do not curve your spine out or allow your shoulders to cave inward. It may also be helpful to maintain a forward and slightly upward gaze to aid in the alignment of the spine.
  1. Next, lift the weight off the ground by standing upright, keeping the bar close to your body as you go. Feel the drive in your feet and use your lower body and core to help the movement.
  1. Lift the bar to just below the hips or wherever your arms naturally hang. There should be no bending of the elbows, keep your arms relaxed and straight. Once you’ve reached this height, you can begin lowering the bar back down to the starting position in a slow and controlled manner. Your posture is still important here, so don’t lose your form on the way back down.

The Snatch Grip Variation

Now, on to the star of the show: the snatch grip deadlift. This is just one of the many variations of the deadlift and is particularly popular with powerlifters and Olympic weightlifters. This variation directly alters the placement of the grip during the deadlift and just some of the form.

Keeping in mind the conventional deadlift form, take these steps to perform a snatch grip deadlift:

  1. Place the barbell on the floor and position your feet halfway underneath the bar. Your feet should still be about hip-width apart, but point your toes out slightly with this variation.
  1. Next comes hand placement, which is the most important part in a snatch grip deadlift. Hingeing at your hips and bending your knees in order to get down to the bar, place your hands very wide utilizing a traditional overhand grip. Some also find a hook grip useful for this variation of deadlifts. Your arms should be straight and as far away from each other on the bar as they can go, but be aware of pain and correct this.
  1. Make sure your back is straight, your chest is out, and your gaze is forward. Lift the weight off the floor by standing upright, driving the bar up your body through your feet. Use your legs and core muscles to help move the weight, don’t rely solely on the upper body.
  1. Once you’ve reached a full stand, begin lowering the weight back to the floor. Do not slam or drop the weights and be sure to retain the correct posture and form even on the way back down.

And there you have it! Just four easy steps to do a snatch grip deadlift. Now that you’re acquainted with the form, you’re probably wondering why anyone would want to do a snatch grip deadlift in the first place. What are the differences or perks?

Here are just some of the many benefits to snatch grip deadlifting:

  • Upper Body Focused: While deadlifts are traditionally thought of as a leg movement, many also use it for back exercise. One thing a snatch grip deadlift has over its traditional form is that the snatch grip deadlift works the back more. The wider grip requires more effort from the back, especially the upper back.
  • Can Help Posture: Since snatch grip deadlifts are so proficient at working the upper back muscles, you’re likely to see some postural benefits. Those who suffer from poor posture tend to do so because of an inadequately strengthened core, lower back, or upper back. Having good posture is a very important part of leading a healthy life, and snatch grip deadlifts can help you achieve this.
  • Range of Motion: Having a good range of motion, meaning you can move your joints and muscles in all directions with comfort and ease, is just as important as your posture. In a traditional deadlift, your arms provide a lot of length and therefore, cause you to have to squat less in order to grab the bar. With a snatch grip deadlift, the wide grip width shortens the length provided by your arms and forces you into a deeper squat. Strengthening yourself with a movement that requires a larger range of motion will increase your own natural range of motion over time.
  • Good for the Hips: Like posture and back problems, much of the population is plagued with hip issues. This can be due to weak hip flexors, or just a weak core in general. Whatever it be, your hips are a vital part of your everyday movement, so keeping them nice and opened up with a large range of motion exercises like the snatch grip deadlift is a great way to keep your hips in shape.
  • Can Seamlessly Translate Into Everyday Life: Snatch grips deadlifts, and deadlifts in general, are a functional movement. This means that they mimic everyday movements that many humans do and can therefore make our lives feel much easier. Doing deadlifts regularly can make squatting to the floor or picking up items from the floor feel much easier.
  • Can Get You Swole: Almost all weight training is an efficient way to achieve some serious gains. Snatch grip deadlifts are no different. Additionally, getting a cut upper back can help create the illusion of a large, built frame, which can easily be achieved with consistent snatch grip deadlifts.
  • Help Your Conventional Deadlift: If you already love your conventional deadlifts and can’t think of any reason to replace them, you should still consider implementing a snatch grip deadlift. This is especially true if you’re feeling stuck with your progress. Snatch grip deadlifts can help target muscles you’ve been failing to use during your conventional deadlifts, thus helping you strengthen your weaker areas and get those numbers up!

Potential Risks

Like many exercises, there are, of course, potential risks and cons you should be aware of to better decide if a snatch grip is for you. While some of these risks may seem like nonissues, for some they can make or break the addition of this variation to their routine.

  • Awkward Wrist Placement: If you suffer from wrist pain or other wrist issues, a snatch grip deadlift may be best to avoid. Holding the barbell with such a wide grip forces your wrist to be more angled towards the bar rather than in alignment with your hands, elbows, and shoulders. For lifters with weak or injured wrists, this can cause potential issues. Of course, some pain or strain can be mitigated with the use of wrist wraps.
  • Less Secure Grip: Not only is your wrist put into a compromised position but so are your fingers. It only makes sense, your hands will have a much less secure grip on the bar. While this isn’t an issue for those of us who have adequate grip strength, it can be debilitating for others. Though, snatch grip is a great way to train for better grip strength if done properly.
  • Harder on the Upper Back: Many lifters may see the emphasis on the upper back as a perk, but if you suffer from upper back injuries, snatch grip deadlifts may be a little too strenuous. If your upper back pain stems from muscular weakness, you can use the snatch grip deadlift to gain strength in this area, just do so with caution and lighter weight.
  • Lifting Limitations: Due to the lack of stability in many areas with the snatch grip deadlift, the weight you’re able to move may be significantly lower than that of your traditional deadlift. Using your traditional deadlift numbers as a comparison, however, is a bit inaccurate as so much of the form is different. So, don’t be discouraged with low numbers on your snatch grip.
  • Shin Bruising: Deadlifts are notorious for leaving some marks on the shins. This is because the form prescribes the bar to be very close in proximity to the body. Sometimes, we scrape or hit the shins with the barbell on the way up and down in our deadlifts. This can cause bruising, cuts, and in some cases, swelling. While it is typically a harmless side effect, some people, such as those on blood thinners, should consult a medical professional before performing this movement.

Additional Tips

Getting the most from your snatch grip deadlifts isn’t always completely in the form. Sometimes there are alternative factors that make all the difference in the effectiveness of a particular movement, exercise, or even your training program as a whole.

Nutrition

Despite its unwavering importance, nutrition often falls to the back of our minds. Or, perhaps, we believe that working out alone is enough to make up for any poor diet choices.

Different types of takeaway food in microwavable containers. Fresh and healthy meal for fitness and bodybuilding.

We have to work almost as hard on our nutrition as we do in the gym in order to make all our hard work worth it. If you’re looking to achieve hypertrophy, this means having a calorie surplus as well as an adequate protein intake.

Sleep

Sleep is incredibly important to cell regeneration and overall health. So, it’s no surprise that sleep has direct effects on our gains and fitness-related goals. You may be doing your snatch grip deadlifts perfectly, but a tired body cannot adequately recover. Furthermore, being tired during your training sessions can make it harder to work at your max effort levels.

For enhanced sleep, try Steel Supplements Rested-AF Deep Sleep and Recovery Supplement!

Ego Lifting

Ego lifting is sort of an umbrella term for exercise that fails to take into account anything but lifting as heavy as possible. Lifting too much weight, especially with a movement you’re completely new to, is likely to result in bad form and even injury. So, while loading a bunch of plates on that barbell might look cool, you’re actually doing more harm to your body than good and your gains aren’t likely to last long. Sacrificing heavy weights for form is very counterintuitive.

Less Noticeable Form Issues

While the snatch grip deadlift may seem to have straightforward instructions, there may be some parts of your form that could use more detailed attention. One such issue is hip placement prior to the lift. When we’re squatting, we are used to striving for a deep depth.

This can sometimes translate into our deadlifts, resulting in too deep of a squatting position when we go down to grab the bar. Deadlifts really require a much more shallow squat so that your hips don’t become the primary movers of the weight.

Another form issue that may be more meticulous is a wobbly bar. This is the nature of free weights. While there are so many benefits to training with free weights, there are also many downfalls. One of them is that they are, well, free. This gives way to a lot of unsteadiness and wobbling, especially when you’re unacquainted with the form or are attempting to lift too much weight.

If you notice the bar straying from a straight path a lot during your lift, try working on stabilizing yourself in the lift.

Conclusion

Feeling lost in the gym? Snatch grip deadlifts may be your next hero. Harnessing all the power of a conventional deadlift while capitalizing on some of the commonly weaker areas of the body, snatch grip deadlifts are efficient and effective when it comes to reaching your fitness goals.

Whether it’s regular deadlifts, Romanian deadlifts, sumo deadlifts, or snatch grip deadlifts, deadlifts are a valuable part of any training program, especially if you’re training for bodybuilding, powerlifting, or even your next CrossFit challenge.

While standard deadlifts are great, a snatch grip deadlift may better suit your specific needs or can be implemented to work your body in new and different ways. Snatch grip deadlifts are a great way to get a swole upper back and work on getting insane grip strength.


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