What Is Suicide Grip And How Do You Use It Safely?

What is suicide grip, you ask? I don’t blame you, the term is very controversial, and admittedly dangerous, for that matter. But really, what is it and what makes it something weightlifters’ nightmares could be made of?

The suicide grip, also known as the thumbless or false grip, is a way you can hold a barbell or a dumbbell. True to its name, it’s a false and thumbless grip.

That is, instead of wrapping your fingers and thumb around the bar, you place your thumb on the same side as your other fingers. What makes it fatal is the bar’s tendency to roll off your hands, which can cause serious injury or death.

However, I have to say there’s so much more to a suicide grip than that. Many people prefer to use this grip over the “normal” one. Want to find out why and how they do this? Keep reading!


What Is Suicide Grip: Its Advantages

What Is Suicide Grip

Now that you know what is suicide grip and the danger that comes with it, you might wonder if it is worth it. Here’s the answer: You bet!

While it’s no secret that it’s dangerous, it’s not useless either. The major benefits are actually what keeps people on using the grip. Check them out here!

  • Better Bar Placement

The most popular reason for guys and gals to use the suicide grip is for better placement of the bar when doing bench presses. Using this grip, the bar sits in a good position that allows you to push better. The barbell also lays in a more comfortable position on your palms.

  • Activates Muscles

The suicide grip is also said to more effectively isolate muscle groups for optimum training. When performing back exercises like pull ups, lateral pull downs, and the pendlay row, the suicide grip allows you to activate back muscles more than the biceps, which is the primary goal.

  • Mindset

Although not recommended, hardcore weightlifters, bodybuilders, and powerlifters use the suicide grip as motivation. They stand by the “do or die” idea when doing this.

You better have the power to lift a heavy barbell, we’re talking about 315 pounds, back up after lowering it to complete a repetition. With the immense weight and without your thumbs to secure the bar in position, this is quite a challenge.

This is not recommended especially if you’re a beginner and has not yet gained enough control over your body. This risks you being in a terribly compromised position in case the bar slips.

  • Competition Advantage

According to Dave Tate, a bodybuilder, the use of a suicide grip can be advantageous in bench press competitions. During the competition, there is a line around the barbell close to both ends, and it is required for competitors to cover this line with their fingers.

Using the normal or closed grip, you cover the lines with your index fingers. The suicide grip allows you cover the lines with your thumbs and slide your hands wider. This wider grip shortens the distance you have to cover with the bar.

For many lifters, a wide grip also increases initial strength and helps emphasize the chest more.

  • More Gentle On The Shoulders And Elbows

Another advantage of the thumbless grip is its gentleness on both the shoulders and elbows. It can be an excellent position as you transition your way back into regular bench pressing after injury in these body parts.

Also, a common problem among weightlifters is some serious shoulder pain after a session of heavy lifting. This is affected by the weight and number of reps, but a huge factor is a grip.

Gripping the bars of a barbell in a wrong or different way can cause users to experience more intense shoulder pain and their endurance to plateau. Adjusting or changing your grip can make a huge difference. Once you do, you’ll find you can perform more reps at a more frequent interval per week.

A regular grip forces you to turn your hand slightly in. This, in turn, puts you in an internal shoulder rotation position that points your elbows outward when you lower the bar. This applies stress on the shoulder joint.

If you try tucking your elbows in despite their natural tendency to flare outward, a great amount of torque is produced at the elbow joint. So, you increase the pressure and strain on either your shoulders or elbows, both of which is bad.

Using a suicide grip. However, you can maintain a neutral hand position more easily. This makes it natural to tuck your elbows in while you lower the bar. It reduced stress on your shoulders without adding torque on your elbows, so there’s less pain.

  • Enhanced Power Transfer

The suicide grip allows you to position the bar lower in your hand, or closer to your wrists. This puts the weight directly over your forearm bones and allows easier rotation of your elbows. Through this, the power transfer is improved.

An improved power transfer makes the weight easier to handle during bench presses. This also helps reduce pain on your triceps or shoulders.

Tips In Using The Suicide Grip Safely

What Is Suicide Grip

Lifters who have experienced reaping the benefits of using the suicide grip have discovered several things that make the experience a little safer. If you have just decided on practicing or improving your use of this grip, these tips might help you out:

  • Only Use The Suicide Grip With Safety Pins

A squat rack assembled with attached safety pins provide you with a set up to catch the bar if you drop it. It can save you from so much pain or fatal danger.

Especially if you are trying to avoid shoulder pain and damage, perform your presses using a suicide grip on a squat rack or bench press machine with safety pins. These include partial presses, overhead presses, and close-grip presses.

  • Use The Suicide Grip On Certain Exercises

The suicide grip’s benefits can be magnified when you use it for specific exercises. For example, back workouts like the bent over barbell row or pendlay row, seated row, lat pulldown and pulled ups can be safely performed with this grip.

As mentioned earlier, this forces your back to work harder than the secondary biceps muscle group. Although you may need to drop the weight for the same number of reps, it’s better in the long run.

  • Start Or Limit Using The Suicide Grip On Lighter Exercises

Obviously, placing yourself under a heavy load or barbell threatening to fall right into you is a no-no. Even if you have spotters nearby, they most probably won’t be fast enough to save you once a 300-pound barbell starts rolling to your chest or neck.

One wrong move during bench presses or deadlift using the suicide grip can cost you your life. So, before heading straight to these exercises, try practicing with light loads first. Test the waters and if you feel you can add more weight, do so gradually.

You can start by using the suicide grip for warm ups. Do shorter sets and fewer repetitions. Find out the maximum repetitions you can do before you have to wrap your thumb around the handle. Also, take note that you won’t be able to do this with heavier weights.

  • Use A Back Brace

A back brace for lifting can help improve your performance, further avoid injury, and eliminate back pain. It compresses your lower back muscles during heavy lifting. This allows you to gain more stability on your lower back and abdomen.

This can reduce the pain from lifting and allows you to focus more on your grip.


More than just knowing what suicide grip is, I hope you realize the pros and cons that come with it. Depending on how you personally weigh and compare those things, ask yourself if you’re up to the challenge. You even switch from false grip to regular grip now and then.

To further help you with muscle gain and improve your endurance, also try some protein powder for muscle development.

So, do you have any questions, concerns, suggestions or perhaps more tips? Leave them in the comments section below, and I’ll gladly discuss with you there!

Emily Brathen

Hi there! I'm Emily Brathen. I am a fitness and yoga instructor and a mom of one. Despite my hectic schedule, I still find time for doing the thing I love most - fitness and yoga. I love doing and teaching fitness and yoga because in my own little way, I am able to encourage people to take health and fitness back into their own hands.

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