In most gyms you will only find standard barbells and dumbbells with thin handles - that means a diameter of about 2.5 cm. However, barbells and dumbbells with thick handles have become more and more popular in recent years. Many trainees make use of the opportunity to make a thick grip out of a normal dumbbell grip with Fat Gripz in a gym, for example, in order to have variety in the training and set a new growth stimulus.
At the YPSI we have two sets of dumbbells, one with a 5cm thick handle and one with a 4.5cm thick handle. In addition, we have a number of different types of thick grip barbells and grip strength tools like Fat Gripz, Gripz Fear and over a dozen other grip strength tools.
The reasons for using thick handles are as follows.
1. Thick grips recruit more muscle fibers. More muscle fibers are recruited when training with thick grips because the thick grips are harder to hold. In our case, the heavier an object is to hold the barbell, the heavier it "seems" to the nervous system, which in turn recruits more muscle fibers. More muscle fibers recruited equals more potential for strength and muscle mass gains. Which is the goal of most trainees.
2. Training with thick grips strengthens your grip. Grip strength is specific. If you have high grip strength on a thin-grip bar, that doesn't mean you have high grip strength on thick grips. Vice versa. Unless you have hands like frying pans. Then the thick handle may even be easier for you to hold. Basically, training with thick grips leads to an adaptation of your grip strength to the new stimulus and thus indirectly to a stronger upper body. Because you can only move the weight that you can hold. Grip strength is a limiting factor for many lifters, especially on pulls and exercises like pull-ups, deadlifts, and attempted curls that require longer and stronger holding power.
3. Thick grip training is healthier and more functional. Healthy means it's overall healthier for your wrists, elbows and shoulders as the thicker grips recruit more stabilizers and require the use of slightly lighter weights. The training is more "functional" in the sense that your hand is more open - which is also the case when you have to push away something in everyday life, for example when pushing a car or grabbing something.
Take advantage of these benefits and incorporate thick-grip barbells and dumbbells into your workouts. Greater grip strength is one of the most underestimated factors in increasing strength in training. There are many exercises that specifically train grip strength. Thick grips are an easy and efficient way to improve your grip strength during your regular exercises.
Good luck with training with thick grips!
Image: One of the two sets of dumbbells in the YPSI with handles that are 4.5cm thick and magnetic discs that allow the weight to be increased in 1kg increments.