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:
    hard rubber 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.


At the minimum, you will need the following tools for this project:

  • Hacksaw - for cutting the pvc pipe and coupling
  • Pencil - for marking points
  • Ruler - for measuring
  • Sandpaper - for smoothing sharp edges
  • Heavy-duty Scissors - for cutting the foam rubber floor tile
  • File - for removing burrs and rough edges

  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).

(See Part 2 for the continuation of this article)

Go ahead, post your comment below!

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.

Ty 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.

Álvaro Shiokawa Alvarez said...

Awesome tutorial man :D!

But I have some questions:

- How thick should the PVC pipe's inner walls be for it to be extremely sturdy? 3mm? 4mm?

- Would it be feasible if I used double pipes (a smaller pvc pipe inside the bigger pvc pipe) in order to give it more sturdyness?

Thanks for teaching us about the home made fatgripz, and cheers from Brazil o/ :D

Blackdove said...

Thanx Alvaro. You know, I didn't even measure the wall thickness of the pvc. I just assume it's a standard. It was thick and durable enough for me. I still use them. Stay away from from thin-walled pvc that you can easily bend or deform with your hand.

A double pipe (one inside the other) setup is definitely sturdy. I just don't know how quickly it is to assemble. De nada.

Álvaro Shiokawa Alvarez said...

Man, I tried following your tutorial (got some materials hehe)... My pipe had some quite thick inner walls, so using the 3/4 inch EVA was not an option :(... I think I spent lots of tape wrapping it around, so as to stick together the foam and the pipe haha.

Now, what could be a nice way to wrap around each of the fat grip's halves on the bar? Ropes would do? I thought on using the pvc couplings, but I dont think they would be able to pass through some parts of my olympic bar :(...

Blackdove said...

Hi Alvaro. Instead of couplings, you could try using metal hose clamps. I've seen large ones up to 3 inches in diameter. But the ones I've seen require a screwdriver to tighten. There may be others that have an easier tightening mechanism.

The nice thing about a hose clamp is that you don't need to pass it from one end of the barbell bar. You could just position it anywhere on the bar, close the clamp and tighten. Good luck!

Álvaro Shiokawa Alvarez said...

Hey again man, thank you very much for the feedbacks :D. In the end I kinda gave up on the idea of using the hose clamps, because sadly lots of hose clamps they sell here in Brazil are really crappy, as in, you basically tighten and untighten them twice or thrice times, and BOOM, they are good as gone =/ ...

My temporary solution was to use some belts, the one we use to strap our pants LOL, but they are too big... So I thought on perhaps using those plastic straps, where once you wrap them, they get so tight you can only remove them if you cut them with a knife or scissors.

Perhaps two or three of said straps on each of the grips would hold them in place well.

In my case this would make it impossible for me to remove them... But at least, I can push them to the sides of the barbell should I decided to train without using them (For instance, imagine I wanna do overhead press with the grips, they are positioned at that shoulder width distance and all. But then I decided not to use them, so, while they are wrapped tight around the olympic barbell, I just slide them to the sides, out of the way, this would be an option too right?)

I emphasize this thing of kinda making the grips as a part of the barbell because, I have no dumbells here at home ,save for a random pair of 10 kg ones, but ugh, assembling the grips together using the belt, although it gives me freedom to separate them grips from the barbell so that I can use them elsewhere (With the belts lol), the process is too annoying and impractical, compared to this epic coupling system you showed us lolol.

As a bonus, I added some cheap skateboard grip tape to the grips, because I am really paranoid about hands escaping from the grip lol, and basically wrapped the grips and eva foam together with some duct tape thing haha.

But yeah, thanks for teaching us this, I dare saying this custom pvc grips you invented is FAR stronger than the commercial fatgripz... As far as I remember, the commercial grip apparently seems to be made of some thick foam, rubber or something, of course with the fancy "fat gripz" brand printed on it. And well, this foam thing will surelly wear off due to use. =/

All that remains now is to decide whether to tightly wrap the grips forever on the bar lol or use the annoying belt to give freedom to separate them from the bar haha.

Thanks man o/ :D

Álvaro Shiokawa Alvarez said...

A funy thing though is, because of the excess of duct tape used, the concave part of the grips kinda got smaller, so you could say the grips don't wrap around the bar totally lol, making it unnecessarily thicker.

But I am enjoying the experience, omfg, they sure add a higher difficulty to our workouts... Attempted experimenting on the bench press, and you could feel that new level of pain and burn on your hands lol.

Álvaro Shiokawa Alvarez said...

Hey again friend, in the end I made up my mind, I think I will stick with the belt as a way of holding the grips together. The reason is, if I put those plastic wraps I mentioned, everytime I have to remove them I would have to cut them off, disposing of lots of resources, which is bad =/ ...

So well, I understand that the belt won't wrap the grips extremely tight as a coupling or other means, however it should be enough to keep them together to the point they would not slide (Imagine you are doing deadlift without anything constantly holding the grips, the bar could fall down, "opening" the grips and escaping), so yeah, i norder to really make it tight I think it would fall to the strenght of our hands, so that, when we close the hands on the grips, it would force them against the barbell, closing a bit tighter, but if we don't close them, the grip would open up a bit.

Should be a decent solution I think, because it would not leave them grips stuck to the bar in my case...

Yeah I mentioned about the skateboard grip thing, I remembered, it is because I didn't have access to the materials you mentioned on the follow up tutorial to this one :( ...

Blackdove said...

It's good you found a viable solution. Good luck!

Álvaro Shiokawa Alvarez said...

Hahahah yes :D, to illustrate the stuff I told you, check this photo where I tried using the home made grips and the belts.

Don't mind the derpy photo quality and the random barbequeue stuff around (It was the only viable place at home where I could... install my home gym):


Blackdove said...

Nice. That setup seems to work for you.

Álvaro Shiokawa Alvarez said...

Finally my friend, I got two pairs of decent iron hose clamps, and retired them belts lolol.


Blackdove said...

Okay. Just be sure the clamps are adequately spaced apart so they don't touch or dig into your hands/fingers.