Training with thick barbells and fat dumbbells will help you improve grip strength and forearm strength, which in turn will help your whole body build more muscle and power. Let’s take a look at how fat-grip training works and the benefits of thick-bar training so you can take your workout to the next level.
WHAT IS THICK-BAR TRAINING?
Barbells and dumbbells with a handle diameter over two inches are considered to be thick or fat. You perform your normal routine, but by using these thicker barbells and dumbbells, you will add a new neuromuscular challenge to your training, which is essential to get results.
HOW THICK BARS WORK
Not only will fat-bar training bring variety into your training and keep your muscles guessing, but it has been shown to significantly improve grip strength.
With a regular one-inch bar handle, you can easily wrap your whole hand around it and simply support the weight in your palm with minimal effort. It's a totally different game with a fat bar. The larger the diameter of the handle, the more force – or grip strength – you will need just to hold the barbell or dumbbell.
Here are a few benefits of thick bar training:
1. Increased Neural Drive
Through an action called muscle irradiation, thick bars stimulate more muscle fibers in your fingers, hands, forearms, and upper arms. When you contract a muscle while holding a thick bar, you are fully contracting the primary muscles such as the hands and forearms, but you’re also stimulating the surrounding muscles and connective tissue.
For example, if you want to get a maximal contraction in your biceps, your forearms need a full contraction too. Try flexing your bicep with a soft grip, with your free hand on your forearm. When contracting your bicep, you will feel a small contraction in your forearm. This is because the nerve impulse in the surrounding muscles help with the actual muscle contraction. Thick bar training will benefit both forms of contraction.
Want bigger biceps and triceps? Check out our article on how to build big arms fast.
2. Full Body Irradiation
Continuing with the point above, training with a thick bar will increase the total body muscle contractions including your chest, shoulders, back, and core. By increasing the activation of more muscle groups, you’re supporting gains in muscle endurance, strength, and mass.
Want to build more muscle? Not sure how many times per week you should be lifting? Check out our article on how often you should be lifting, according to science.
3. Increased Joint Stability
The rotator cuff, small muscles involved in shoulder stability, are directly linked with your grip ability. Improving your grip strength will directly increase shoulder stability.
Many anecdotal reports suggest thick-bar training alleviates wrist, elbow or shoulders issues. This is most likely due to the strengthening of the kinetic chain of muscles from the hand to the rear dealt or back of the shoulder.
4. Better Weight Distribution
Thick-bar training can help to distribute weight more evenly across the body. With a regular one-inch bar handle, your forearm flexors (muscles on the bottom of the forearm) do all the work to hold the bar. In then the long run, this might cause imbalances and overcompensation issues such as tendinitis and wrist injuries.
The two-inch bar handle requires that your forearm flexors and extensors (muscles on the top of the forearm) do the work, thus allowing a symmetrical development of the forearm while preventing injury.
5. Increased Grip Strength
Most people actually think that their grip gets enough work from their main exercises like deadlifts, pull ups, and curls. The truth is grip strength is deeply under trained, and this can impact total-body muscle development.
The easiest and fastest fix for poor grip strength is thick-bar training. Whether you’re benching or curling, you will be challenging your grip, hands, and forearms. Over time, this increased neuromuscular demand has been shown to improve grip strength and as a result the acute variables across all exercises.
Here are a few other benefits of increased grip strength:
- Increased forearm muscularity
- Increased hand strength
- Increased resistance (weight) on pulling exercises and deadlifts
- Hand endurance and improved dexterity
- Better grip strength in all sports (e.g., grappling, tennis, hockey, rock climbing, etc.)
- Functional purpose for everyday tasks (e.g., groceries, gardening, etc)
How to Increase Your Lifts In 6 Weeks with Thick-Bar Training
If you want to dramatically increase the amount of total weight you can use in the shortest amount of time, we recommend using a thick bar for most or all of your exercises. At first, you will struggle with the weights you were using but after a few workouts, you'll feel pretty comfortable with the new bar thickness and new grip strength.
Do this for six weeks on all your exercises, then return to the regular bars and take a week off from thick-bar training. Due to the improvements in grip strength and overall joint stability, you should see an increase in the amount of weight you can press with a normal bar handle.
After six weeks of improving your grip strength and a week off from thick-bar training, you can begin to incorporate phases of fat-grip training in your workout. For example, you can use it on certain exercises or take a week-on, week-off approach. We recommend to always use thick bars on presses, curls, and pull ups.
MY GYM DOESN'T HAVE THICK BARS – WHAT CAN I DO?
Most gyms don’t offer thick bars or thick dumbbells because of the cost, which can run up to fifty thousand dollars.
We offer an alternative to thick bars and dumbbells called Alpha Grips. They are fully portable fat grips that you can install in less than 10 seconds on any barbell, dumbbell, or cable attachment. This will instantly give any bar a fat grip. They are the ultimate solution to build muscle fast and improve grip strength.
DO YOU USE FAT-GRIP TRAINING?
If so, what benefits have you noticed? Has your grip strength increased? Are you pushing more weight? Have you used Alpha Grips?