Tutorial Thursday #25 – barbell training makes the muscles lazy?!

Why we make it increasingly easy for ourselves and why this easiness can impede muscle growth is this week’s topic in Tutorial Thursday #25.

Yet again another bold claim but let me explain it first. Training with a barbell, dumbbell or a pull up bar is effective in a way but it is also very comfortable in another way! The average barbell has a grip diameter of 30mm. It is the same with dumbbells and pull up bars. But why is that so?

Tutorial Thursday #25 - barbell training makes the muscles lazy?!

Optimal grip?

These training tools have been molded to the human anatomy decades ago. The reason behind this diameter is that most people could exert the most grip strength when holding exactly this diameter. Additionally, the bar is often knurled, perforated or roughened to make the steel more anti-slip. And if the handle can be gripped tightly you can move more weight. Sounds plausible. BUT…

We at aerobis prefer to look at movement and training as a whole and from a natural perspective. If a training is meant to improve your performance in your daily life perfectly shaped and optimally handy tools don’t make sense anymore. Where do we find an object in our household that is big and heavy but has perfect 30mm handles that are shoulder-wide apart to make it easy to lift and carry??? I will go out on a limb here and claim: nowhere!

Looking at it from an evolutionary point of view the same applies. There is no perfectly grown horizontal branch with a diameter of exactly 30mm to climb up on or to brachiate through. And still, our ancestors had to get to those delicious fruits high up on that tree.

Trees with optimal grip diameter?

Variable and relevant to everyday life

With the perfect handles of every piece of equipment we can perfectly transfer the impulses to the bigger muscle groups and regulate them but our hand and forearm muscles get used to this kind of challenge and won’t experience any new impulses after a short time.

Thus, it makes perfect sense to get a hold of some other exercise tools. Try to hold a weight plate by itself or use a sandbag.

Especially sandbag training offers a vast amount of grip strength training variations. If you, for example, leave the handles aside and try to grab the sandbag by its corpus to lift, throw or press it you will reach your performance limit quickly even with moderate weight. These kinds of challenges are not only coordinatively more challenging but also demand higher exertion.

Maybe you also have the possibility to use a thicker pull up bar. Our verso360 frames, for example, have a bar that is 60mm thick. With this you can train your pull ups or similar exercises with a much less comfortable grip. Your hands and your body in general will thank you when they are challenged by new impulses once in a while.

Just as I have claimed two weeks ago: ‘Variation is king!

Get functional!

Your Fabien

Author: Fabien Mpouma

Fabien is bachelor of arts sportscience (DSHS) and since his studies he is working in the sector of health- and rehabilitation sports. He was course instructor for several institutions in the field of rehabilitation and mental and physical disease. He has a lot of experience in prevention with adults, youths, and children. He worked as regional manager for Outdoor Gym and now as a Personal Trainer and Foodcoach. Since 2014 he is Manager for Training & Education and Head Coach for aerobis. In 2016 he opened his own facility for Personal- and Grouptraining in his hometown Siegburg. Stay in contact with Fabien by sending him an email

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