The most important thing we want to get out of strength training is carryover to our sport. If your sport involves grappling or grabbing of any kind, training with thick bars in your upper body lifts is a nice hack to get more carryover to your performance.
The benefits of weight training with thick bars
There’s some research to show that thick bars make the body recruit more motor units to lift the weight in pulling exercises. So it has the same effect as actually adding weight to the bar. However, the biggest benefit for grappling athletes is obvious.
As stated above, when your wrestling, grappling, or tackling you have to grab people, and a standard one inch diameter barbell doesn’t give you the specific adaptation for your hand strength. So naturally, if you’re doing rows and chin ups with a regular bar, your forearms and grip may be holding you back in competition.
If you’ve trained with a thick bar, then you know there’s a distinct difference in the amount of effort you have to put in. Once you get used to training that way, standard bars don’t feel right anymore. It’s like you’re playing with a children’s toy.
Thick bars are beneficial for any upper body, pulling lift, but go with a standard bar for deadlifts. You may be tempted to work your grip strength, but you’ll have to reduce the weight so much that your posterior chain muscles may actually get bored and fall asleep. As for the pressing exercises, I haven’t seen anything that shows an advantage to using thick bars, and I have seen one study that showed neurological activity was greater with the standard, 1 inch bar as apposed to a 2 inch bar.
Where to get a thick bars
Most gyms aren’t outfitted with these, especially if it’s a chain gym. You’re more likely to find these at a specialized training facility with a qualified strength coach. If you work out at home or you run a training facility, there are a few companies that make these bars. My favorite place to order these is Watson Gym Equipment. Not only will you find thick barbells here, but thick versions of just about any weight lifting implement you can think of (and some you’ve never thought of).
Watson is a very high quality brand and worth every penny they charge, but if you just don’t have the budget for that because that MMA gym ain’t free, there’s an economy option that’s also great for traveling. FatGripz is a great alternative that lets you turn almost any gym implement into a thick version.
There are knockoffs, but I’ve never tried any of them, so I don’t know if they’re worth buying. I’ve had my pair of FatGripz for years. I’ve used the shit out of them, and they’re just as good as the day I got them. The standard size is shown above, but they also have larger ones. So if you’re looking to get a leg up in your strength level, try using thick bars.
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