Thick Bar Training by Steve ‘Mobster’ Gardener – aka ‘the thick bar daddy’.

Let’s lay down some numbers to get you all juiced up and excited first shall we.

In a ‘wot can he do?’ kind of way.

  • Lifted the Inch – yep.
  • Current record hold of Inch hold for time (today’s date being 7/5/19).
  • First to one hand pick up a Millennium Dumbbell.
  • Holder of the record on the Adjustable Thick Handle lift

…is that enough? In just recent efforts on a very old non-spinning Ironmind Rolling Thunder Handle I’m pulling over 140kg. That and more on my well used adjustable set up. Feel free to check out my Instagram and Facebook profiles for pics.

Let’s address the two elephants in the corner too. Yes big hands and a long thumb helps. But you have to work with what you have (by way of example I’m average at best on the smaller pinch stuff). And I do mean WORK. Back when I decided I want to lift an Inch (it was THE Inch) I dedicated a whole 12 months / 1 year to it. Most won’t.

I brought a thick handle (2.5-inches), collars and used a pin of of my power rack and trained it 2x a week. So 104 workouts later… How many want to put in the time, dedication and, yes, let’s be honest borderline obsession? If that sounds like you then read on.

Rule One

Put the time in – see above. It might take longer than I did but how sweet will it be for the work you did?

Rule Two

I DO micro-load. My jumps were sometimes as little as a ¼-kilo / 1/2 -pound. It works for me. On some thick bar lifts I’ve seen guys dominate (like as in for reps) one weight then go up 1.25-kilos / 2 and 1/2-pounds and fail.

Rule Three

I chalked where I was going to grip. I’ve seen guys just rub it everywhere – I put it where I think I gripped – so thumb pad and finger tips. Better a dry hand than an over chalked one too.

Rule Four

I almost never suggest a rep/set range. I have an idea of what works for many people and what works for me. What I DO suggest is what works for improving power and strength on other exercises will be a good suggestion of what will work for your hands. What worked and still does for me was a high percentage of my one rep max for 4-8 x 1 reps.

Occasionally I might go as ‘high’ as a 3 x 3 type program. I know people like Laine Snook do anything between 12 and 20 reps with 80-90% of their 1RM.
Experiment. I find, when I’ve checked, it’s usually a rep or two plus or minus what normally works on other lifts for you when it comes to grip.
The difference between competing/challenges and training Training: Right now I’m varying my thick bar training.

Once a week (on chest and back day) I’ll include 1 of the following: thick bar deadlifts or the Adjustable thick bar or my old IM Rolling Thunder Handle. So they all get hit 1x every three weeks. It’s fun, yes there’s crossover and it’s hard to get stale on it. On the thick bar (50mm) deadlift I do this (this was last Thursday’s workout):

  • Warm up with the bar (all 12 or so kilos) x 8-12 reps
  • 52kg x 8 reps
  • 92kg x 6 reps
  • 132kg x 1 rep (last set with no belt on and more of a ‘greasing the groove’ effort)
  • 177kg x 6 reps (there was more there I think – I’ll aim to hit 8-10 reps then up the poundage)

All of these were double over hand (knuckles facing forward of the bar) using the thumb. In the past I’ve also trained the same lift with a thumbless grip.
Worth noting is that recently I’ve been pausing to open and close / regrip my hands between reps. It pushed me to use better form and maybe, just maybe, gives me a tiny 1-2 second break. I’m of the opinion that you can and should train the hardest version (so thumbless DOH) to develop the best grip and then go back and try it with thumb and or using a mixed grip. It’s rarely the case that you – even as a world class strongman – will be anywhere close to your usual deadlift numbers. Ergo you’re not looking to improve deadlift power here – just grip. As an idea why not do one session DOH and the next thumbless and so on?

Competing: When I’m in competition mode I tend to clear the table, as it were, and focus almost exclusively on the event lifts.
If it was, by way of example, a thick wrist roller event, then that’s pretty much what I’d do. I WILL have carry over from any other thick bar work of course but I’m not training to beat my PB’s or do fun stuff – I’m training to take that medal off of you that you had your eye on. I want it in my trophy cabinet – not yours. And that’s not gonna happen if I’m doing fluff lifts for the likes on Instagram and Facebook. And I see this ALL the time. Guys doing their fave lifts even in the last week before THE day. No – just no. That’s ego stuff.

One final tip and I’ll sum up. Read the rules for an event – then go read them again 2-3 more times. It’s sounds kinda obvious that you ought to ‘get it’ on that first read but I’ve seen lifters fail to note nuances, train for months, then have me hand them their ass cos I read and ‘got’ every single word.
Take the example of the changes in both equipment and rules that have happened over the years with the Ironmind Rolling Thunder. I don’t know about you but I do not want to bomb after 16 weeks of sweat. Training to be good (even a ‘grip god’) takes time, effort and focus. Grind the work out. Be ‘that guy’. If you train at a commercial gym be the guy ‘killing it’ just as hard on what you’re doing as the powerlifting or bodybuilding champ.

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