Avoid the temptation to perform all exercises in a workout with thick bars. While the grip will be trained extensively, work for the rest of the body will be lacking. Due to the non-revolving weight sleeves, certain ballistic movements (such as cleans), may be too hard on the wrists for regular thick bar training.
Individuals with strong wrists will find they can lift more weight by cupping their hand under the dumbbell and flexing the wrist while hard before pulling the weight. This is a great exercise for training wrist flexion but will do little to improve the supporting grip.
To perform this exercise, stand in front of a loaded thick barbell, with the feet a little wider than shoulder width apart. Squat down with the arms outside the legs and grasp the bar with a double overhand grip (palms facing the body). Focus on crushing the barbell with the hands and driving through the heels to stand with the weight. Do not let the back round.
Experienced strength athletes will find that back strength is rarely a limiting factor in this lift. As a result, several deviations from conventional deadlift form should be experimented with for improved performance. These include:
Individuals who do not regularly train the deadlift may find their back is a limiting factor in this lift, rather than the grip. Switching to sumo deadlift form, as described above, may be enough to allow the lift with full range of motion.
Performing the lift over a partial range of motion is another option that will offer similar benefit. Try raising the bar to just above knee height using the pins of a power rack or by pulling from blocks. Keep control when setting the barbell back down in a rack, to avoid bending rack pins or smashing fingers.
Double overhand deadlifts on a 2” barbell are often referred to as axle deadlifts. With proper training, pulling 1.5 times bodyweight on an axle is within the reach of most individuals. Anything in the range of double bodyweight is exceptional. Advanced grip trainees often pull over 300lbs on this lift, with world class lifters occasionally breaking the 400lb barrier.
Another option is to cut a piece of 1.5" schedule 40 metal pipe to the desired bar length and add weights directly to it. Use schedule 80 pipe to handle monster weights. Create stops for the weights by welding washers or short pieces of 2" diameter pipe in the appropriate locations. Hose clamps or screw type barbell collars can be fastened in place if welding is not an option. To make the pipe bar thicker, cut a piece of 2" pipe to sleeve over it. Be sure to leave space to add weights on either end of the bar. The 2" pipe will act as a stop for the weights but should be welded on center if possible.
Keep in mind that because the outer diameter of the pipe acting as the weight sleeve is 1.9", spring style collars will not work to hold the weights on. Use screw type collars or a make collars out of some additional pieces of 2" pipe. Expect to spend $25-$50 to make a 74" long thick bar with pipe.
The timed hold consists of standing with a heavy barbell in a double overhand grip and holding it for 30-60 seconds. The movement usually starts with the barbell on supports in a power rack, a few inches below the locked out position. Weights near the lifter’s deadlift max are a good starting point. Great stress can be placed on the grip with lighter weights using a thick barbell.
The lifter with limited equipment can perform timed holds hanging from an overhead bar or tree branch. This will stress the supporting grip and can be progressively loaded by hanging weight from the feet. Little more than body weight is enough to challenge most, making this a good choice for those wishing to spare the lower back.
If a power rack and thick barbell are available, try placing the barbell on top of the rack and hanging for time or chinning for reps. This variation introduces an element of instability the greatly increases the challenge of the exercise.
When performing this lift, it is important to align the center of the grip (usually below the middle finger) with the center of the barbell. Missing this position by even a half inch will turn the lift into a wrist exercises and significantly lower the weights that are used. A hook grip is not allowed.
Exercise difficulty is impacted by how freely the weight sleeves on the barbell spin. Heavier weights can be lifted on a bar with poor sleeve rotation. A slight bend in the bar will also allow for bigger lifts. Traditionally the lift is done on a bar with a knurled center, making the quality of knurl another complicating factor in comparing performances.
Ironmind popularized the lift with their Rolling Thunder handle, a 2.375 inch PVC sleeved implement. Rolling Thunder deadlift contests are held throughout the world, usually coinciding with strongman competitions. The world record is quickly approaching 300lbs, with a cash prize for first person reach the milestone.
Bar diameter may vary from 0.75 to 2.5 inches. Large bar diameters prevent an individual from wrapping the thumb over the fingers when lifting, quickly reducing maximum weights and risk of injury. Narrow bar diameters allow much heavier weights but tend to result in torn skin.
Vertical bars are often seasoned by coating the top of the bar in chalk. This can increase the amount of weight that will be lifted and has the effect of reducing the impact of humidity on the lift. As this lift is heavily dependent upon friction, the surface condition of the implement must be considered when comparing performance between individuals.
Larger diameter vertical bars can be used to decrease loads needed to train the vertical supporting grip and reduce stress on the supporting tissues. While the lift can be a powerful training tool, it should be approached with caution.