Sunday, February 13, 2011

Homemade Thick Bar Handles for Barbell and Dumbbells

Many powerlifters, strongmen and bodybuilders acknowledge the value of thick bar training. Thick bar training challenges the hand and forearm muscles much more significantly than regular bar training.

So, why aren't many weight trainers using them?

Other than the reason they're much more difficult to use, thick bars are not cheap. Some would cost hundreds of dollars. That's the reason they're so hard to find in gyms. Even the commercial thick bar handles (or fat grips), which are basically adapters affixed to the bar cost more than $40.

Improvised Fat Grips for Thick Bar Training

Here's a simple DIY project that will allow you to make a couple of homemade thick bar handles or fat grips. The are made mostly from ordinary materials. In fact, I was able to get the materials while cleaning out the garage. The only store bought items were a couple of pvc couplings and they cost less than a dollar.

The parts of these improvised fat grips do not require any glues or messy adhesives. They're easily washable and can be assembled on most exercise equipment.

  • EVA or Foam Rubber Floor tile (interlocking mats), 1' x 1', 1/2" or 3/4" thick - 1 pc.
  • PVC pipe, 2" diameter, 6" long - 2 pcs.
  • PVC coupling, 2" inside diameter - 2 pcs.

  • Optional:
    foam handles, hose clamps, velcro straps

    The photo below shows 2 pieces of 6" PVC pipe and a PVC coupling on top of an EVA floor tile.

  1. With a hacksaw, cut 2 pieces of a PVC pipe that's 2" in diameter. The length of each piece is 6" (or longer for larger hands). Each piece will become one thick bar handle.

  2. Cut each PVC pipe lengthwise along the middle. You may need a bench vise to hold the pipe as you saw or ask an assistant to hold the pipe securely as you cut along its length.

  3. With a hacksaw, cut off both ends of the PVC coupling. Each piece is 1" wide. Discard the middle part of the coupling. Do this also for the other coupling. The two pieces for each coupling will become the 2 locking rings for one thick grip handle.

  4. With a coarse or bastard file, bevel the outside edges of the thick bar handles (pvc pipes). Also bevel the inside edges of the locking rings (coupling pieces) with a round file or rasp. This step is optional, but it will allow you to quickly slip on and remove the locking rings on the thick grip handles.

  5. With a flat file or sandpaper, remove all burrs and smoothen all rough edges. Do this for all the PVC pieces.

    Shown below are two halves of a PVC pipe and the two pieces cut from a PVC coupling.

  6. With a heavy duty pair of scissors, cut 4 rectangular pieces from an EVA floor tile. Each piece is 2 3/4" wide and 5 1/2" long. Two pieces will form the interior lining for one thick bar handle.

    The photo below shows the two pieces of interior lining (right) for the two halves of the thick bar handle (left).

  7. Position the interior lining (EVA floor tile piece) on top of the thick bar handle (half of the PVC pipe) with the rough side facing up.

  8. Push the interior lining down inside the thick bar handle. Position the lining so it's centered in the thick bar handle half. The concave shape of the thick bar handle compresses the lining and keeps it in place without the need for glue.

  9. With a pair of heavy duty scissors, cut off excess lining material that protrudes from the edges of the thick bar handle.

    The photo below shows the interior lining inside the thick bar handles. The inside lining is held in place by compression and no glue was used.

  10. Do the above for the other halves of the thick bar handles.

How to Assemble the Homemade Fat Bar Grip

The material mentioned above calls for a 3/4" thick EVA floor tile, but since the tile I had was 1/2" thick, the fat grip wasn't snug enough. To make the grip tight, I added a foam handle (colored blue) as shown below. You could also use a piece of pipe insulation (where available) for this purpose. If you used the 3/4" thick EVA floor tile, you probably wouldn't need the foam handle.

  1. Pass the locking rings through one end of the barbell. This is best done on an empty bar. Be careful if you need to unload weight plates from only one end of the bar.

    Shown below is the foam handle affixed to a barbell bar. The locking rings were slipped through one of ends of the barbell bar.

  2. Join the two halves of the thick bar handle grips together so they hug the bar. While still holding the two halves together, pass one locking ring on one end as shown below.

  3. Pass the the second locking ring on to the other end of the thick bar handle. The thick bar handle is now securely attached to the bar.

    If the PVC locking rings cannot be slipped through the ends of the barbell, you can optionally use hose clamps (2") or velcro straps as locking fasteners instead of the PVC locking rings.

Other Uses of the Homemade Thick Grip Bar Handles

The thick bar handles can be used in a variety of other gym and exercise equipment like the EZ-curl bar and dumbbells as shown below.

The homemade fat grips can be used in practically all other gripping equipment like chinning bars, pull-up bars, and even grip bars used for dipping. Here's a homemade dip station where the thick bar handles were fastened.

If you miss the knurling on the regular barbell or dumbbell bars, you could coat the homemade thick bar handles with a non-slip paint to prevent the fat bar from easily slipping from your hands.

See how you can coat the handle with a DIY anti-slip paint.

Or see the rest of my homemade gym and exercise equipment below:
(with photos and how-to instructions):

Dumbbell and Weight Plates Rack
Made of wood and includes an EZ Curl Bar stand.
Wooden Squat Stands
Assemble these squat stands from wood, with multi-level catches.
Homemade Metal Squat Racks
Adjustable metal safety squat racks, with no welding required.


LatestSportsNews said...

Very innovative.

Anonymous said...

Benefits of thick bars have never been proven.

Blackdove said...

Read up on articles by Charles Poliquin or Brooks Kubik. I'm using them and continue to see improvements in grip strength.

Tyciol said...

To Anon: the benefits are obvious if you've compared the feel of lifting something thick to narrow. It's a matter of the leverage the fingers have.

Pulling 50lbs with a 3 inch diameter's much harder on grip than pulling it with a 1 inch diameter.

Though beyond that, if you mean the claims about irradiation or hitting biceps better, I'd largely share the skepticism. I just don't care since grip's the priority.

Anonymous said...

I made a set for my homemade dip bars. Very easy to do. Thanks for posting!

Blackdove said...

You're welcome bro.

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