Old School Thick or Fat Bar Training is Making A Comeback

In today’s era of modern strength training, an old time strongman’s training secret and style is being rediscovered known as thick bar or fat bar training. People, who train with thick or fat bars, will develop greater muscle growth and increased strength gains. Many gym goers are unfamiliar with thick bar training, but the benefits are undeniable. If you are not training with thick bars, you are limiting your workout gains.

Let’s examine:

  • What is the history of thick bar training?
  • Who trains with thick bars today?
  • What is thick bar training?
  • What are the benefits of thick bar training?
  • Should you only train with a thick bar?

What is the history of thick bar training?

During the 19th century, lifting heavy weights became popular to promote health and increase strength. Gymnasiums, which included free weights, sprang up throughout cities in Europe. With the increase and popularity of weight lifting, competitions arose where strongmen would show off their feats of strength. These contests became popular throughout Europe and the United States. Strongmen and women would compete in local contests as well as international events, such as the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. These events included lifting a barbell with people inside and lifting a horse off the ground. As a result of the popularity of weightlifting in the late 1800’s, weight lifting was included as an event in the first Olympics in 1896. To prepare for the feats of strength, strongmen had to train with free weight equipment. However, with the sport in its infancy, retail stores selling free weight equipment did not exist. Therefore, much of the equipment was homemade and often items were retrieved from scrap yards. Through trial and error from making their own equipment, strongmen accidentally discovered that working with a thick bar improved their strength gains. To learn more about the history of thick bar training and strongmen, check out Oldtime Strongmen.

[caption id="attachment_3427" align="aligncenter" width="203"]Oldtime Strongman lifting globe barbell Oldtime Strongman Lifting Globe Barbell[/caption]

Who trains with thick bars today?

Thick bar training is incorporated in the strength training regime of college and professional teams. To enhance performance and decrease the risk of injury, these athletes train with thick or fat Olympic bars, thick handle custom dumbbells, thick handle custom barbells, and thick handle attachments. With the increase in boutique athletic facilities catering to athletic performance and one-on-one specific training, these thick handle training tools are included in training programs to improve strength and muscle gains trainees are looking for. Powerlifters appreciate training with thick handle equipment to increase their lift performance. In the military, Special Operations soldiers are also discovering the benefits of this superior training modality.

[caption id="attachment_3396" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Football Player for the Kansas City Chiefs using Black Iron Strength Thick Handle Dumbbells Football Player for the Kansas City Chiefs using Black Iron Strength Thick Handle Dumbbells (Photo credit: Kansas City Chiefs)[/caption]

What is thick bar training?

Thick or fat bar training is simply using thicker diameter handles on Olympic bars, dumbbells, barbells, cable attachments, or chin-up/pull-up bars in an existing strength training program. The diameter for standard handles are typically 1 to 1 3/8 inches. The photo below compares a 1 3/8 inch handle to a 1 3/4 inch handle on  Black Iron Strength Strap Grips with Antimicrobial Copper handles.

Comparison of Handles 1 3/8 inches to 1 3/4 inches


For purposes of the remainder of the blog, the focus is on thick Olympic bar training, but as discussed many training tools have thick handles.

[caption id="attachment_3402" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Black Iron Strength® Thick Olympic Bar Black Iron Strength® Thick Olympic Bar[/caption]

What are the benefits of thick bar training?

1. Increased hand, forearm and upper body strength as well as endurance

As a result of thick bar training, your hand, grip and upper body strength will increase. This increase in strength is a result of the muscles of the hand, forearms and the upper body having to work harder to manage and control the bar. If you lightly grip the thick bar, you will not be able to hold the bar. When these muscles are having to work harder, it increases the stimulation to the muscle and nerve fibers, which is referred to as neural drive. When muscle and nerve fibers are stimulated with a greater demand, it will lead to an increase in strength and endurance.

2. Improved performance

As a result of increased strength, it will no doubt improve your performance in sports as well as everyday activities. Certain sports come to mind that rely on upper body strength such as combative sports, martial arts and weight lifting. However, hand, forearm and upper body strength is equally important in sports such as tennis, hockey, football, and basketball. Improved performance is why professional and college sports are including thick bar training in their programs. Even if you are only performing everyday tasks such are gardening, you will benefit from the strength gains.

3. Reducing injuries
When you are training with a thick Olympic bar, the thick bar will distribute the weight more evenly so you are incorporating more muscles in the upper body. When training with a smaller diameter bar, your forearms and wrist are doing the majority of the work, which increases your chance of injury. The muscles of the wrist and forearm are smaller than some of the other muscle groups of the upper body such as the lats, deltoids, and pectorals. Since your wrist and forearm muscles are smaller, there is an increased chance of injury because the smaller muscles are less able to absorb the forces generated by the movement. Not only are you less likely to get injured when lifting a thick Olympic bar, the benefits also transfer to sports and everyday tasks. This is an obvious 'cause and effect' that happens - when you are stronger, you are less likely to get injured in a sport or everyday activity. For example, tendinitis of the wrist, which is an inflammation of the tendons in the wrist, is less likely to happen if the wrist and forearms are stronger. Also, the stronger your wrist and forearms are, there is much less stress to your rotator cuff.  Tendinitis and injury to the rotator cuff are only two examples of injuries caused by weak hand and forearm strength.

Should you only train with a thick Olympic training bar?

With the strength gains attributed to thick bar training, one might conclude that it would be best to train only with thick Olympic bars. The saying, ‘variety is the spice of life’ applies here. There is no denying the importance of incorporating thick bar training in your workout routine. However, a variety of exercise routines is important because it prevents boredom as well as overuse of a particular group of muscle. Overuse can definitely contribute to injury.

Why does Black Iron Strength® lead the industry with thick Olympic training bars?

Black Iron Strength® Thick Olympic Training Bars have two distinct features - Rotating Sleeves and Antimicrobial Copper Finish. No one else in the industry can offer these features because they are protected by US Patents.

Black Iron Strength® Thick Olympic Training Bars have a feature that separates them from the competition - rotating sleeves. These rotating sleeves are a stand-alone feature. Black Iron Strength is the only thick Olympic bar on the market that has been awarded a US utility patent. The rotating sleeves reduce the chance of injury because they lessen the stress on the user’s wrists, elbows, and forearms. A thick Olympic training bar with a rotating sleeve reduces the rotational inertia of the weight plates and distributes the forces equally.

Black Iron Strength® also introduced a Thick Olympic Bar with an Antimicrobial Copper finish as an option. (Military hard chrome is still available.) Black Iron Strength has been awarded a US patent for the finish. Germs including super bugs have a natural enemy – Antimicrobial COPPER! Multiple independent research studies have proven that antimicrobial copper kills 99.9% of bacteria in less than two hours. Antimicrobial copper works naturally so there is no special cleaning or maintenance. A recent peer-reviewed study published in the American Journal of Infection Control demonstrates the effectiveness of antimicrobial copper in a fitness environment. The study showed that equipment with antimicrobial copper handles had a lower bacteria count by an average of 94%.

[caption id="attachment_3018" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Antimicrobial Copper on touch sufaces kill germs 24/7 Recent Study in the American Journal of Infection Control shows Antimicrobial Copper Touches Surfaces Decrease Bacteria by 94%[/caption]

These stand-alone features are why Black Iron Strength® Thick Olympic Bars have become the choice with professional and college teams. Safely training athletes so they can perform on the field is a paramount goal in the weight room. This is why such top tier programs as the Clemson Tigers Football, Ohio State Football, University of Michigan Football, Baltimore Ravens, Oakland Raiders, Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins MLB, Columbus Blue Jackets NHL, and St. Louis Blues NHL train on Black Iron Strength® thick Olympic bars.

[caption id="attachment_3409" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Baltimore Ravens Football Player training on Black Iron Strength® Thick Bar Baltimore Ravens Football Player Training on Black Iron Strength® Thick Bar (Photo credit: Baltimore Ravens)[/caption]

Click here to learn more information about Black Iron Strength® Thick Olympic Bars and why Black Iron Strength® are the choice of college and professional teams.