The axle, thick bar, fat bar, and any and all outré nom of a two inch outside diameter bar was first popularized in the realms of international Strongman, which means some have been using them since the late 1990’s. Thick-handled accessories have only become popular within the “mainstream” (the definition of which is best suited for the reader) within the last two or three years. What’s the science behind using thick bars? It doesn’t matter, they are harder to hold and build steel trap forearm and grip strength!
The axle is such an effective implement for strength training because it attacks a point ALL athletes and lifters can improve upon – GRIP. And no matter how proficient someone’s grip is, they are always looking to make it better. Strong hands mean strong arms and strong arms mean strong backs. A strong back is the foundation for having a big yoke – traps, lats, rear delts, and rhomboids. Strong does not always mean big, but the forearms are the calves of the upper body. They get a lot of time under tension with acute, menial tasks it takes a lot to stimulate them. Increasing the diameter of a bar is a big gross movement that has an enormous impact on hand, lower arm, bicep, and eventually back strength.
The axle should not just be used solely for rowing movements but should be used for ALL rowing movements. Axles can be used for all pressing movements (vertical and horizontal), deadlifts, squats (the 2011 World’s Strongest Man featured a squat with a thick bar), zerchers, Olympic movements, ANYTHING. They make a pathetic curl somewhat manly or at least rationalize doing curls.
Thick bars are also easy to make. If a lot of money is not in the budget, go to a local mom and pop hardware store and get a two inch outside diameter steel pipe that is 84” long. Screw a couple clamps 17” in from each end place a narrow piece of tape at 10” inside each clamp and another at 18” inside each clamp for bar landmarks and…BAM new thick bar. The hollow homemade thick bar at PANKO Strength & Speed has withstood numerous 600 pound zercher squats as well as tire carries (think Conan’s wheel) with a 580 lb. tire in the center and is still standing strong with a slight bend.
Most thick bars are hollow; solid-center thick bars can be purchased if individuals are willing to make that investment. Making a homemade thick bar solid is easy; cap the ends and fill it with concrete. Or for the technically-inclined, purchase a one and five-eighths outside diameter bar that is 84” long, slide it inside the bigger bar and weld the two together. Whether it is made or purchased, get to work, make that grip stronger and upper back more destructive by incorporating thick bars into the program.
PANKO Strength & Speed, Proud Stewards of the American Dream