In Olympic weightlifting, the hook grip is a way of holding a barbell by gripping the thumb between the barbell and other fingers. As opposed to the natural/regular grip, the hook grip is more secure and stronger.
How to hook grip: Position the bar so it sits between the thumb and index finger. Put the pad of the thumb on the bottom of the bar, then hook it with the middle finger and index finger (the 4th and 5th digits directly grab the bar, not the thumb.).
Because the hook grip places pressure on the thumb, it may initially feel awkward and cause pain to the inside of your thumb. This is all temporary, I promise! With regular training you will become more accustomed to the hook grip and the initial discomfort will wane. Remember, this is all for the long term benefit of your Olympic lifts. If you need, you can wrap tape around your thumbs for added protection. If you are still having thumb mobility issues, make a fist with your thumb tucked tightly inside and tilt your hand away from the thumb side. You should feel the stretch in the base of your thumb and likely up to your wrist too.
The hook grip is an essential part of Olympic lifting technique. It is far easier to get comfortable with it early in training, with lighter weights. At this point, the grip becomes routine and second nature and you don’t have to think twice about it before adding serious weight to the bar. The hook grip is important when doing cleans and snatches to ensure control of the barbell during the explosive hip extension. It allows you to maintain a grip on the bar during the phase of highest bar acceleration, the 2nd pull, by preventing the bar from rolling in the hands.
When you receive the clean in the front rack position of the snatch overhead, release the hook grip to avoid limiting your mobility. In the clean position, allow the bar to roll back into your finger. Many people will have trouble achieving fast, high elbows while holding the hook grip and hand and wrist mobility to allow for correct overhead position in the snatch. The solution is to release the grip (slide the thumb out) between the time your transition from pulling to pushing the bar overhead. Start practicing with just the barbell and learn your timing. I find that the hook grip can also be a useful tool on high repetition or heavy deadlift workouts when my regular grip fails, as it requires less forearm strength.
Continue to practice and use your hook grip as much as possible. You will certainly see improvement in your lifts. If you have any questions regarding grip, be sure to ask your Coach for Life!