[Weekly Review] January 5-11, 2015: Thumbess Grip, 7 PRs & Words of Wisdom from Ed Coan

January 12, 2015 — Leave a comment

For years I've avoided the thumbless grip for any pressing movements mainly because paranoia of having the bar slip off my palms. I never tried pressing without my thumbs until recently, and I have to say, I'm a convert. It's going to be responsible for a lot of PRs.

By using a thumbless grip, I'm able to position the bar directly above the bones of the forearms. So when I press (bench or overhead), the force is applied directly to the bar (more or less) instead of going to my wrist first, then to the bar. With a thumbs around grip, it's difficult to get the bar on the heel of the palms so that it's directly above the bones of the forearms because the thumb is in the way.

Also, because the thumb is no longer an obstacle, I can externally rotate my humerus a little bit more (i.e. bring my elbows closer to my body), making the lift easier on my shoulders. For the bench press, using a thumbless grip starts to feel a little bit like the reverse grip - the positioning of the hands is angled (instead of straight), this allows for the elbows to tuck in more naturally, making for a more natural and pain free lift.

Should be interesting to see how far this one weird trick takes me.

7 Personal Records

High Bar Squat: 440 lb x 10 (10RM)

Squatted 405 lb x 10 with no belt the other day, so decided to try ~200 Kg/440 lb for a set of 10.

My lungs are burning.

Overhead Press: 275 lb x 2 (2RM)

+5 lb PR from last week! Thumbless/False/Suicide/Seppuku/"Today Is A Good Day To Die" grip is my new secret weapon.

Paused Bench Press: 370 lb x 2 (2RM)

Also got a 370 lb x 2 paused bench press PR(using a Thumbless/False/Suicide/Seppuku/"Today Is A Good Day To Die" grip).

Deadlift: 565 lb x 2 (2RM)

So my man Dan Liebster sent me a roll of John Broz "Thumb Stretch Tape" to try out (didn't buy it myself because shipping is too costly to Canada for some reason). Nearly had 605 lb x 1, but the tape on my thumbs started sliding off, probably due to thumb sweat being built up underneath during my warm up.

Took off the tape, dried my hands and re-taped my thumbs. Got a +15 lb 2RM PR.

Paused Bench Press: 385 lb x 1 (1RM)

+5 lb 1RM, and 5 lb away from my touch-and-go 1RM.

Thumbless grip is my new favorite "one weird trick".

Also nearly had a 280 lb x 2 OHP, but couldn't maintain the right balance for the 2nd rep.

Paused Front Squat (No Belt): 385 lb x 2 (2RM)

Couldn't get the 3rd rep, but 2 is still a PR.

Attempted 455 lb x 2 before this but missed the 2nd rep. May have been too big of a jump from my current 2RM (440 lb). Damn you tempting bar aesthetics.

Overhead Press: 280 lb x 2 (2RM)

This is the 3rd 2RM PR this week (270x2 last week, 275x2 on Tuesday, and 280x2 today), mainly because of using a thumbless grip I think. Pretty sure I won't be able to milk out any more 2RM's though, so going to try 3 rep maxes (or something else) next week.

300 lb OHP is still eluding me though. One day...

Stuff You Should Check Out

Singapore Powerlifting Alliance interviews Ed Coan in Sydney, Australia, at the recent GPA Worlds 2014

It's only 6 minutes long (including Ed's 300 Kg squat), but packed with nuggets of gold-pressed latinum.

John Phung

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Ever since I started taking strength training seriously, I was bitten by the Iron Bug. Then it burrowed under my skin and laid eggs in my heart. Now those eggs are hatching and I... the feeling is indescribable.

Quick Stats
Height: 5'4" on non-squat days
Weight: 200 lb 210 lb ~220 lb (FOREVER BULK BRAH)


  • Texas Method: March 4, 2011 - April 28, 2013
  • Smolov Jr for Bench Press: June 4 - 22, 2012
  • Starting Strength: Nov 29, 2010 - March 4, 2011