[*Disclosure: Lean It UP and Josh have no financial relationship with Fat Gripz, LLC.]
If you’re not familiar with Fat Gripz, they’re an attachment that quickly converts any standard Olympic barbell into a thick bar; a technique originally popularized by old school strongmen (early 20th century) to increase forearm activation, spur new arm growth, and build unparalleled grip strength. Thick bar training has gotten so popular that it’s become a staple in the training programs of elite athletes, including everyone from powerlifters and bodybuilders to NFL pros.
Fat Gripz are designed to create greater muscular activation in the upper arm and upper body through a principle known as irradiation — the idea being that when you maximally contract one muscle, your body (specifically the CNS) will also activate surrounding muscles to help out with the contraction; ultimately amplifying their collective strength and power.
Sherrington’s Law of Irradiation — A muscle working hard recruits the neighboring muscles, and if they are already part of the action, it amplifies their strength.
In practice, when you contract your forearms during a curl — and, to a degree, squeezing your abs produces a similar effect — your body temporarily increases the strength produced by your biceps (the target) during the lift. Because the bar is a much greater diameter (2.25″ with Fat Gripz/1.1” with a standard barbell) it requires significantly more forearm activation, which produces better gains.
For a quick test of this principle flex your bicep with a relaxed fist; next flex your bicep with a clenched fist — do you feel the difference? That’s irradiation at work, and effectively a dumbed down version of what you can expect to get when training with Fat Gripz.
For only 40 bucks you can’t go wrong with a pair of Fat Gripz — they beat the hundreds of dollars you’d have to spend on a thick bar, plus they’re portable, versatile (they work on dumbbells, cable attachments, steering wheels, etc.), and only take a few seconds to set up. They’re another tool in your toolbox that can help you get the most out of your training, especially if forearms, biceps, and/or grip strength are a point of emphasis. An added benefit is that there will be no need to do additional forearm work.
I’ve been using Fat Gripz for the past two months and although I initially had to drop my weight a bit, I’ve experienced noticeable strength gains. For me the biggest improvement was in grip strength. As far as physique goes, I can’t really notice much difference but don’t assume that my experience is universal — I train for powerlifting, and because my training reflects that I wouldn’t expect any noticeable physique changes during only two months of inconsistent use.
Joshua Nackenson, CSCS, is a medical student at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine with a passion for all things related to fitness and nutrition.
His primary athletic focus is powerlifting, where he competes in the 165lb and 181lb weight classes. In between powerlifting training and competitions, he stays fit by competing in local 5ks and Tough Mudder events.