Fat Grip Training for Strength and Muscle

by Chris on September 20, 2012

Grip training doesn’t get a whole lot of love. I mean, come on, when compared to the typical chest/bis/pack routine who really cares about having strong hands? I like doing some grip training, though. I am by no means a grip fanatic and it’s definitely not the focus of my training, but there is something about having a crushing grip that is just…manly.

Now don’t rush out and buy one of those crappy spring grippers. While heavy duty versions of those can be useful (I own a few) I don’t really focus my grip training around them. Instead, I’m a fan of using thick grips and bars.

Before anyone complains about their gym not having fat bars I say this: a good pair of thick grip attachments are really cheap. I personally favor the Grip4orce grips which retail for about $40. They snap right onto a dumbbell, barbell or handle and instantly make it much thicker plus add an extra grip component since you have to actively hold them closed. So investing 40 bucks opens up a limitless realm of grip and forearm training for you. There are lots of other options out there but those are personally my favorite. And no, I wasn’t paid to promote these. I’m not even an affiliate for them. Just something to consider.

 Seriously, though, why should you bother throwing thick grips into your training? Well, for starters, having a strong grip just makes you a better person overall. That’s just science. Besides that, here are some things to consider:

Squeezing your grip harder irradiates tension throughout your body and makes your muscles work harder. Need proof? Make a fist and slowly start squeezing your hand harder until you are clenching as hard as possible. Notice anything? I’ll bet that your arm, shoulder and probably your chest and back started to flex, too. In fact, one of the things that great bench pressers always say is to grip the bar as hard as you can. Even though I don’t consider myself a great bench presser I can back that one up.

Here’s something else that I’ve noticed with my clients and myself: using thick grips on rows makes the back muscles work harder and takes some emphasis off the biceps. Since that’s exactly what I want in a row this works out great while training the forearms and grip at the same time. Two birds.

Thick grip training has another benefit for law enforcement personnel and combat athletes. The open hand strength that you develop with a fat grip translates very well over to grasping and controlling a person’s wrist. I always work fat grips in with my law enforcement clients.

            So enough crap, how do you incorporate fat grips into your training?

Rows and Pulls

My go to movements for fat grips are rows and other pulls. As I mentioned above I’ve found that using fat grips on rows helps to get the right muscles firing on the movements. On top of this, because the weight is basically pulling out of your hand your are really challenging your grip to hang on. Here’s another benefit: since you probably won’t be able to use the same weight with a fat grip as without, it will keep you honest on your form and make sure you aren’t throwing the weight around with your body.

Exercise choices: Barbell/dumbbell/cable rows, Romanian deadlifts, pullups


Pressing movements may not seem like the first choice for grip work but I can tell you from experience that throwing thick grips on press work still hits the hands and forearms hard. Since your hand is open wider your fingers and especially thumbs have to fight hard to prevent the weight from dropping out. Explosive movements are hit even harder by this. I will note here that I don’t prefer to do my main movements with thick grips or bars, rather I save that for assistance work.

Exercise choices: bench presses, overhead pressing, push presses


Yeah, that’s right. I don’t talk a lot about direct arm work but doing thick grip work with curls is an awesome way to train the grip and forearms.

Exercise choices: Any type of curl!

Don’t have thick grips?

Well one way to fix that is to just pick up a pair. They cost less than most of the junk supplements that are out there and these actually work. If that’s just not an option I’ve had great success by looping a towel around cable handles or over pullup bars and grabbing onto the ends.

So there is something new for you to try. Next time you workout try doing at least one movement with a thick grip or challenging grip component.


Sven October 1, 2012 at 8:22 pm

Great post, you have convinced me to get some sort of fat grips. Do you do anything for the wrist / finger extensors?

Chris October 1, 2012 at 11:02 pm

Hey Sven,

Not regularly but when I do I stick to finger/hand extensions with a rubber band or two. For the wrist extensors I really like reverse grip EZ bar curls.


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