Should You use the Suicide Grip in the Bench Press?

Kevin S. Turner- Turner Strength & Performance

Its not at all uncommon to walk into your local gym to find experienced lifters bench pressing with the suicide grip and it may lead you to wonder if that grip is right for you. Besides, they are big and strong and where you want to be so why not imitate them, right? Not so fast! Before your next bench press session, lets take a look at the pros and cons of the suicide grip and what reasons people use it for and why I personally don’t recommend it.

What is the suicide grip?

First of all, lets define what the suicide grip is. The suicide grip (Also known as the Thumbless or False Grip) is a method of gripping the barbell without the use of your thumbs. (See picture above)

What are the advantages of the Suicide Grip?

  • Better wrist position

With the thumb on the same side of the fingers, the barbell is forced to sit in the proper position which is lower in the palm and more in line with the wrist.

  • Better touch point and bar path

The suicide grip is unforgiving with bar path. If the touch point is too low on the chest, the barbell will roll out of the palm of the hands. If too high, the barbell will roll out of the fingers.

  • Better loading of the lats

Removing the ability to grip the barbell removes the forearms from the movement. This allows you to better feel and activate your lats helping create better stability in the bench Press.

What are the disadvantages of the Suicide Grip?

  • Not Safe

The number one reason I don’t recommend the suicide grip for beginners with bench press is that it is not safe. As mentioned above, the risk of the barbell slipping out of the hands is much greater with this technique. You don’t have to take my word for it, simply do a quick YouTube search and see for yourself.

  • Not Allowed in Powerlifting Competition

The suicide grip is banned in many federations and as with any sport, specificity in training is a law better not broken if optimal performance is the goal.

  • Lack of tightness and power

By removing the thumb, you will not be able to activate the musculature of the forearm by gripping the barbell. This reduces the muscles available in the movement and prevents you from being able to create the most power, torque, stability, and tightness needed to move big weight.

How to grip the barbell

All of my clients use the standard grip or Bulldog grip in the bench press.  Most people are familiar with the standard grip so I will outline the Bulldog Grip below.

 The Bulldog Grip isn’t for everyone but is well worth experimenting with.

  • Grab the barbell with your hands at your normal bench press position.
  • Slightly rotate the hands internally so that the barbell will be positioned as close to the end of the palm as possible. Directly over the radius.
  • Tuck the elbows to be directly under the wrists.
  • Wrap the thumb around the barbell with the fingers pushing it down into the crease of the palm.

When is the suicide grip acceptable to use?

  • Suicide grip in the low bar back squat. In some circumstances, a thumbless grip will allow the barbell to be placed in a lower position when a lifter lacks sufficient shoulder mobility.
  • Pull ups and Lat Pulldowns. Removing the thumb provides a more targeted stimulus to the back muscles.
  • Barbell and dumbbell rows.
  • Seated Rows.

The basic rule of thumb l generally use is to avoid using the suicide grip in any movement where the barbell will be placed above you increasing the risk of injury if a slip were to happen.

Final Thoughts

Although there are people who swear by the suicide grip, I believe the benefits do not outweigh the risks and that good positioning in the bench press can be achieved with the Standard Grip or Bulldog Grip just as well.  

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