T Nation

Thumbless for Benching ?


I've been having tendinitis-type in my hands for a while now when I bench, so I started using a thumbless (i.e. "suicide") grip a few months back.

So far I have no problem with it, am pretty stable (even during speed benching) and it has no negative effect on my strength.

I was having a discussion with my PL friend (a Canadian champion who recently benched 550 raw) and when I told him this his question was :"How can you spread the bar with that grip ?"
Maybe I'm wrong but recently I feel like I'm actually getting better at this, especially when going light/explosive and during floor presses. I may be mistaking "spreading the bar" with "flaring the elbows out" when pushing...Hard to tell.

So here's the thing? How many PL's use a thumbless, if any? Is it really a bad idea? Are you short-changing yourself when doing so?

Any feedback is appreciated.


Waiting for maraudermeat to jump in


To rip me a new one or offer constructive criticism ?


maraudermeat if I remember correctly, uses for every lift a thumbless grip, so he will definitely help you.


Someone posted a video of a guy benching around 670 raw with a thumbless grip a few months ago.

If safety is a concern for you, set up in power rack and set the pins just below your touch point. With that setup there's no way the whiners can piss and moan about how "unsafe" it is.

I use it myself and bench in the low 400s, and I've always been stronger with it. Moral of the story: bench however you need to to move more weight and stay healthy in the long run.


Wow, I use a thumbless grip everywhere too, thought I was the only one that did this. It just feels 100x more comfortable! Though my bench is only ~235 so perhaps I haven't a safety limit of any kind. However, just posted so you could know you're not alone.


I also use a thumbless grip. It seems to help me keep the bar better aligned with my wrists.


Using thumbless on assistance work - dave tates instructional about starting with a normal grip, then wrapping the thumb over sure is great.


I switched from a regular to a false grip due to an elbow issue last year and have had good success.

As far as inability to spread the bar, it doesn't appear to be a problem for this guy:

Or this guy:


Im scared.


It's funny how things change. a couple months ago if i mentioned thumbless grip, pretty much everything was negative. now everyone seems to be on the thumbless grip band wagon. Nothing wrong with that though. I've always pressed with a thumbless. grip. i actually bench with my hands turned out to activate the lats more..something i couldn't do with thumbs over the bar. thumbless gives me so much more surface area to hold the bar and makes pausing easier for me.

with heavier weight you really need to learn to cast the wrists properly though.


Thanks for the feedback, everyone !

And the videos ! I ll have to show these to my friend...

@HeavyTriple : It wasn t a safety concern in my cas, I feel quite stable with the grip, as I mentioned it s because I tend to get a tendinitis-type pain when I grip the bar (only when I bench, though, which is odd).


Got ya...that was more of a preemptive strike on my part, having read all the anti-thumbless grip threads that have shown up over my time here.

It's also a lot more comfortable for me. I switched to a closed grip a few months ago, and within 6 weeks or so was having shoulder pain again. For whatever reason I think some of us just do better with a thumbless grip.


I personally disagree slightly with these guys. No doubt you can use a thumbless grip and it might not cause you any harm. I still feel you should be aware of the weaknesses associated with this grip. First, you obviously put yourself at more risk; obviously minor and unlikely you will drop the bar, but it is certainly there. As far as pulling the bar apart, clearly there are some great benchers that use thumbless. They have obviously got it figured out. BUT personally, I think they probably do it because of either habit or injury. So in my opinion, I would think that if they benched thumbed, they MIGHT be even stronger. Who knows, but to me, it certainly seems I can squeeze harder on a tennis ball with my thumb around it that without... Furthermore, some federations like the IPF do not allow thumbless grip. Again I am not saying you can or can't use thumbless, but you should still think about it for yourself. If it is the only way you can bench without pain, well that it is obviously better than not benching... If you can fix the pain without switching grips, I think you may want to consider keeping thumbed grip. Just my 0.02


Good points, and that's why I wanted to ask about it.

A while back I went to train with a PL coach who's a Metal Militia (CPA) member and owns the Montreal BB Gym. I helped out on a few meets with him and two competing PL's I know train there on a regular basis.

Needless to say these guys have a lot to offer in terms of advice and proper technique. I went with my friends on their Bench Night and took the opportunity to learn this coach's technique, hit a PR right then and there.

All this to say that this guy, and subsequently everybody he trains for competitions including my friends, all swear by the full grip. My good friend, who had been training thumbless for years and got to a 480 bench this way, has since changed his technique.

From what I understand, the reasoning is due to safety more than anything else.


Once in a while a story crops up about a guy who was benching thumbless and dropped the bar on their neck and almost died and that's enough for me. I typically bench without a spotter though, I imagine it's different if you have one.


I've seen countless videos of people benching with a full grip and dropping it on their neck. So I guess the solution is to quit benching?


It's the USAPL too, so you know he was using a full grip.


Yep. It probably happens as much with a closed grip as with a thumbless grip.