One thing that can set your facility or workouts apart from the rest is the incorporation of thick grip training. In short, training with a thick grip increases the intensity and function of an exercise. Some people use them to break plateaus, others to maximize their training, and some to relieve joint and tendon pain.
The most obvious benefit of training with thick barbells and dumbbells is that it also incorporates grip strength. In fact, this is one of the most functional ways to train grip strength, and it doesn’t take any extra time doing hand and forearm exercises.
Thick grip training does increase the intensity of the exercise and increases neural drive. This will result in using loads up to 25% less than standard bar width training, but what you will find is strength gains will come faster and transfer back to greater increases in standard bar poundages.
Thick grip training is more practical for athletes, especially those in sports that require grip. The strength of using thick implements is more transferable to these sports because the athletes will have better neural drive and grip strength for grabbing implements in their sport. If you are just a gym rat, training with thick grip dumbbells and barbells will improve pulling lifts like deadlifts and chin-ups.
Thick grip training is a great way to shock your arms and forearms into new muscle growth. Using the thick grip will recruit muscle fibers that are not adequately stimulated with standard grip equipment.
If you have nagging elbow or shoulder pain, many times it can be reduced by changing from a traditional grip to a thick grip. Many coaches and athletes swear they have less joint pain after a phase of thick grip training. Think of thick grips like orthopedics for your hands. By using a more natural grip, the stress in the joints is more biomechanically friendly.
When it comes to equipment for thick grip training you have several options. It’s rare to find a gym with thick barbells and dumbbells. A set of thick dumbbells can cost over $10,000, and only a few manufacturers make them. The best ones on the market currently are made in the UK by Watson Gym equipment. These dumbbells are not only thick, but they have a bearing system that has no rival. The weight spins freely in your hands taking all the torque stress off your joints. If you get a chance to work with these, your arms will be in heaven.
If outfitting your facility with thick bars is not an option, there are two alternatives I recommend. Fat Gripz have become increasingly popular the last 2 years and rightfully so. They work great and are extremely durable. The other one I really like is the Tyler Grip, which is a different style of thick training.
People that see me training often ask which ones they should get. My answer is always the same; both. At just under $40 each, these two grips can add tons of variation to your training. The major difference is that Fat Gripz are straight, and they increase the bar width consistently. Basically they turn a 1” bar into a 2.5” bar. The Tyler Grip on the other hand is thicker on one end than the other. So it actually changes the grip style of the implement. The idea of the Tyler Grip is that it is designed to contour the palm of the hand.
When it comes to training, I tend to prefer the Fat Gripz for all barbell pressing movements. The Tyler grip does not work well for barbell pressing unless you’re using a neutral grip because of the wrist angle. For dumbbell work they are equally useful. The Tyler grips allow for better performance in pronated curling motions and pulling movements because you are able to grip with your whole hand.
In conclusion, the Watson Dumbbells are amazing not just because they have thick handles, but because of their smooth bearing system. If you’re not looking at investing tens of thousands of dollars, a pair of Fat Gripz and Tyler Grips can give you a great alternative. See our video at FunctionalFitMag.com for more informations on Fat Gripz and Tyler Grips and videos of the Watson Dumbbells.
“I was introduced to fat grip training by Charles Poliquin many years ago. When the Fat Gripz came out, it was one of the cheapest ways to increase your grip strength as well as your overall upper body strength. Amazingly sturdy and easy to carry, the Fat Gripz are a must in any trainer’s gym bag, especially if you have a small gym. Of the many benefits of using this type of training, one that stands out the most is improving strength discrepancy between limbs. This is one of the most common problems which often leads to overuse injuries or worse.” – Eric Falstrault