Hand & Thigh, Neck Training Tips

by Joe Garcia

Joe Garcia, the World Record Holder in the Hand and Thigh, shares his secrets of training this lift.

With the Heavy Lift Championships coming up out at York, and seeing Al’s story on the Hanging Dumbbells, I thought I would share information on how I train and perform two of the lifts, the Neck lift and the Hand and Thigh lift. The reason I have put these two lifts together is that the basic movement mechanics are very similar. For two old time lifts there is alot of useful technique available for increasing your poundages.

When training either of these lifts, you will probably find that once a week is frequent enough. I usually do 2 – 3 sets, anywhere from 5 – 10 reps in the HT and 5 – 15 reps in the Neck, but your mileage may vary. When I trained for the record in the Hand and Thigh, I worked up to 1 or 2 warmup sets of about 5 reps at half the weight for my final set, then usually 10 reps for the second set. For the hand and thigh lift, no matter what you do, if you are using heavy weights, your fingers will suffer damage and need time to recover, so in order to protect my fingers so that I can keep training, I usually place a pad between them and my thighs. I also believe it is very important to hold each rep and not just lift and drop. This both lets you feel the weight better and is required for the actual lift. This concept applies to both lifts.

The biggest mistake I see during either lift is the direction of the push. Most people go much too vertical when they should be thinking about driving backwards. Visualize that you are 2 – 3 feet from a wall and the object is to touch the wall with the top/back of your head, and looking at the ceiling at the same time. You body position should resemble a bow. The only muscles that move are your legs, so you should get them really bent at the start of the lift. For the Hand and Thigh, place your hands just at the top of Quad muscles, using it as a shelf.  Biomechanically, it usually helps to get your feet as high up and close to the big bar as possible, so 4×4’s to stand on are very useful. You also want to make sure your fingers contact the skin of the thighs with nothing in between. In the Neck lift, I try to bend backwards even more at the start of the lift. Angling the strap that goes over my head to as far forward as it will go, seems to keep the drive straighter with less resultant ‘snap’ to the front.

Again, when you start either lift, don’t think up, think back. Neither lift is a deadlift. For comfort sakes, you may want to have a spotter standing by. Good luck!