A review of big bar grip training!

Matrix Big Bar Grips are a simple addition to your gym arsenal and are easily added to Olympic barbells, dumbbells and even cables. They can double the thickness of a standard Olympic barbell, instantly increasing muscle fibre stimulation, forearm size and overall grip strength.

Using bar grips is relatively unknown among the mainstream fitness crowd but it is widely used by military and elites athletes across the world. The increase in popularity and rediscovery of thick bar training can in a large part be attributed to their use by top strength and conditioning coaches such as Charles Poliquin, Joe De Franco and Dave Tate. All of which claim their use will produce superior results in strength training.

There are four key reasons why thicker grip training works so well.

1. Weak links eliminated…

The human body is very intelligent and has protective mechanisms built in to minimize the risk of imbalance and injury. It will therefore hold back the strength and size of some muscles if it detects that the other surrounding muscles are too weak to support it. This is known as neural inhibition.

Thicker handles stimulate far more muscle activation in the hands,forearms,upper arms and whole upper body. How does working the hands and forearms harder increase muscle and strength gains in the whole upper body? It works by the principle of irradiation.

When you contract a muscle hard, the muscles around it contract as well. So, for example, to get a maximal contraction in your bicep, get your forearms contracting maximally too.

Because thick grips make your hands and forearms work harder, the contractions in other muscles including the biceps and triceps and even the muscles in the shoulders, back and chest, will contract much harder which means more strength and more muscle. This is called irradiation.

You can use a standard bar and squeeze it hard but this doesn’t work the way a thicker grip bar does. You won’t get the same control, and it isn’t always possible and it isn’t always safe.

2. …and lifts improved

The great thing about thick bar grip training is that you have no choice but to grip the bar hard because its hard to hold on to. If you use a weak grip doing thick bar pull ups, for instance, you simply will not be able to hold onto the bar. When you do pressing movements, you will be able to generate a better squeeze and more tension onto the bar compared to a thin bar. This will allow you to use the irradiation principle to the max. You will be able to lift more in the military press, bench press, etc.

3. All angle training

Thicker grips perfectly replicate the natural function of the human hand which moves in a variety of angles with varying loads. As humans have evolved, they have used their hands for carrying weights of different shapes and sizes.

Using a thicker grip training automatically trains your hands, fingers and forearms at all angles.

4. Less stress on joints, less injuries, less imbalances

Thick bars shift the stress off the joints and onto the muscles which is, of course, exactly what we want. This effect is because a thicker grip spreads the weight over a larger area of the hand which, in turn, means that that weight is more evenly distributed throughout the entire arm/hand.

Imagine the pressure exerted through a specific point from a stiletto heel, as opposed to someone wearing a flatter sole!

As a result, lifters who have long since given up various pressing movements like bench presses and overhead presses are often able to perform these exercises again pain free.

In addition, the thick bar also changes the biomechanics of the lift enough so that when you pick up a thick bar, forearms extensors (the muscles on the top of the forearm) and forearm flexors (the muscles on the bottom) both work similar amounts (if you just pick up a thick-grip dumbbell you will instantly feel that). With standard bars, the forearm flexors do almost all the work which can cause imbalances, injuries, strength plateaus and tendonitis.

This post was written by James Pickering.