Grip and forearm strength is an important but often neglected aspect of strength training. One way to improve your grip strength is to do fat grip training.
What is fat grip training, and how does it work? Fat grip training is when a lifter uses weights with thick handles or attaches thick grips to a barbell, dumbbells, or pull-up bars to increase the weight’s diameter. The increased diameter makes the weights harder to hold onto, allowing you to work on your grip strength and increase muscle mass in your forearms.
Like most training strategies, when it comes to fat grip training, there are certain things you need to keep in mind to ensure you’re getting the most out of it.
In this article, I’ll go into more detail about what fat grip training is, discuss the benefits of fat grip training, and show you some exercises you can do with fat grips. I’ll also discuss mistakes you should avoid when doing fat grip training and how to incorporate it into your routine. At the end, I’ll provide recommendations for three of my favorite fat grips.
What Is Fat Grip Training?
Fat grip training refers to using weights with thicker handles to make it more challenging on your grip.
Most barbells have a diameter of 25-29mm (about 1 inch). There are fat bars (which are sometimes called axle bars) that have 2” diameters or greater, but they aren’t available in many commercial gyms. They’re also not convenient for home gym owners with limited space who don’t have room to store more than one barbell.
But fat grips make it possible for you to work on your grip strength without spending money on an expensive barbell or trying to find a gym with more specialized bars. Fat grips are thick, cylindrical pieces of rubber or silicone that you can slip over a barbell, dumbbell handles, or pull-up bars to make the diameter larger.
Fat grips are inexpensive and don’t take up any space, so you can easily fit them in a gym bag or leave them in your home gym.
Another way to improve your grip strength is to use grip strengtheners. Find out how to use them in my complete grip strengthener guide.
Reasons To Include Fat Grip Training (5 benefits)
The top five benefits of fat grip training are:
- Improved grip and forearm strength
- Improved hypertrophy in your forearms
- Training variety
- Breaking through strength plateaus
- Improved muscular endurance
1. Improved Grip and Forearm Strength
The primary benefit of fat grip training is improved grip and forearm strength. Having to hold onto a weight with a larger diameter means your hands have to work harder to hold the weight.
Fat grip training activates the smaller stabilizer muscles in the hands and wrists that aren’t used as much when lifting with a standard-sized weight. Studies have also shown that fat grip training increases electromyography muscle activity (the stimulation of skeletal muscles) in the forearms and shoulders.
Most lifters know that grip strength is essential for the deadlift, but what about the bench press? Check out how a stronger grip can help your bench press in Does Forearm & Grip Strength Help Bench Press? (Yes, Here’s How).
2. Improved Hypertrophy in Your Forearms
For bodybuilders or anyone else who wants to develop a well-rounded physique, fat grip training can help you build muscle in the forearms.
This is because your hands and forearms are under a greater amount of tension for a longer period of time, and increased time under tension is beneficial for muscle gain.
If you’re looking for additional ways to train your forearms, check out 10 of my favorite forearm exercises with dumbbells.
3. Training Variety
If you’re feeling burned out from your regular training and want a new challenge, fat grip training can provide a new stimulus that prevents you from getting bored.
You also won’t be able to lift as much weight when using fat grips, so fat grip training can offer you a break from intense training if you need some time away from heavy lifting.
4. Breaking Through Strength Plateaus
It’s not uncommon for lifters to have the overall strength needed to pull a lot of weight in the deadlift, but grip is often a limiting factor.
Incorporating fat grip training into your routine for a training block or two can help you address weaknesses in your grip so you’ll be less likely to fail a lift due to your grip in the future.
Looking for more ideas on how to strengthen your grip for deadlifts? Check out How To Maximize Your Deadlift Grip (Never Fail Again On Grip).
5. Improved Muscular Endurance
In sports like CrossFit where you’re doing high reps of movements like deadlifts and pull-ups, your grip can often give out faster than the rest of your body.
By training your grip with fat grips, you can increase your ability to hold onto the barbell or pull-up bar for longer, thus reducing the amount of time you have to stop for breaks and helping you complete a workout in a shorter amount of time.
Exercises You Can Do With Fat Grips
Exercises that you can do with fat grips include:
- Bent-over rows
- Farmer’s carries
- Dumbbell lunges
- Bicep curls
Deadlifts are one of the most common lifts to fail due to a lack of grip strength. As such, using fat grips when doing deadlifts or any of its variations will have the greatest amount of carryover to your regular lifts.
However, as I mentioned earlier, you can’t lift as much weight when using fat grips. For this reason, you may wish to save your fat grip training for deadlift variations such as Romanian deadlifts or stiff-legged deadlifts.
These movements are often used as accessories for the traditional deadlift and done with higher reps at low or moderate weights, which makes them an ideal choice for fat grip training.
Wondering what the differences are between Romanian deadlifts and regular deadlifts? Check out Deadlift vs Romanian Deadlift: Form, Benefits, Differences.
2. Bent Over Rows
Like Romanian or stiff-legged deadlifts, bent over rows are often used as an accessory movement for high reps at low or moderate weights. Adding fat grips to the bar increases the amount of time under tension for your hands and forearms, forcing them to work hard in addition to your upper back muscles.
You can use fat grips for bent-over rows using either a barbell or dumbbells. Fat grip training also works well for bent-over row variations such as Pendlay rows and other Pendlay row alternatives.
Bent-over rows and Pendlay rows are very similar, but there are a few differences between the two movements. Learn more in Pendlay Row vs Barbell Row: Differences, Pros, Cons.
Pull-ups are another exercise where grip can often be a limiting factor in how many reps you can complete. Fat grips will fit over virtually any pull-up bar, and using fat grips for pull-ups can be especially beneficial for CrossFitters, gymnasts, and rock climbers.
You can use fat grips for pull-ups with either an overhand or neutral grip (palms facing each other). However, I don’t recommend them for chin-ups in which you use an underhand grip because it can put excess stress on your elbows.
If you don’t yet have the ability to do pull-ups or just want to vary your training, you can also use fat grips on the bar of a lat pulldown machine.
Don’t have access to a lat pulldown machine? Check out these lat pulldown alternatives you can do with cable machines, dumbbells, and bands.
4. Farmer’s Carries
Farmer’s carries are one of the best exercises for improving grip strength. They’re done by holding a pair of dumbbells or kettlebells and walking with the weight at your sides for a specified time or distance. This targets the smaller muscles in your hands and forearms.
Using fat grips for farmer’s carries is also an excellent way to make the movement more challenging if you don’t have access to heavy dumbbells or kettlebells.
5. Dumbbell Lunges
Dumbbell lunges are already a challenging movement, and you can make them even more difficult by adding a pair of fat grips to your dumbbells.
This allows you to bring more of your upper body into the equation, making lunges slightly more of a full-body movement rather than a lower body movement. However, I don’t recommend using fat grips for barbell lunges since the placement of the barbell in the front rack or back rack position means your hands don’t have to hold the majority of the weight.
Adding fat grips to your dumbbells is also a great way to make lunges more challenging if you’re unable to do them with a lot of weight.
Wondering whether you should do backward or forward lunges? Get our expert opinion in Is It Better To Do Forward or Backward Lunges?.
6. Bicep Curls
Bicep curls are another excellent movement to do with fat grips. Since you typically do bicep curls in higher rep sets of 8, 10, 12, or more, fat grip training with bicep curls can challenge your grip since you have to hold on to the weight for a long period of time.
Whether you prefer to do bicep curls with a standard barbell, a prefixed weighted bar, dumbbells, or an EZ curl bar, fat grips can fit on either.
Related Article: 6 Fat Gripz Alternatives (That Will Save You Money)
How To Use Fat Grips
Below are three of my favorite ways to incorporate fat grip training into your routine.
1. As a Finisher
If you’re a powerlifter or someone who’s trying to improve your overall strength, I recommend doing fat grip training as a finisher at the end of your main sets. This is so your grip is still fresh and won’t impede your ability to complete all of your working sets.
For example, let’s say your program calls for 4×3 deadlifts at 80%. Before moving on to your next exercise, you can strip the weight and do an AMRAP (as many reps as possible) set with fat grips on the bar at 60-65% of your 1RM.
2. Drop Sets
Another effective way to do fat grip training is to do drop sets. Drop sets are a training strategy in which you complete all of your heavy sets, then drop the weight and do more sets until failure.
For example, let’s say you just did a set of 10 EZ bar curls at 45lbs. You’d then drop the weight by 20-25%, put fat grips on the bar, and do another set to failure. You can complete this for a total of 3-4 sets, lowering the weight each time.
3. Static Holds
You don’t need to do multiple sets and reps with fat grips to realize their benefits. Fat grip training with static holds is an excellent way to build your grip strength.
You can put fat grips on a pull-up bar and do dead hangs, hanging from the bar for as long as you can. You can also hold a pair of heavy dumbbells with fat grips on them at your sides until your grip gives out.
Alternatively, when using fat grips for sets of deadlifts, you can hold your last rep at the top for as long as possible.
Related Article: What Attachment To Use For Cable Rows?
Mistakes When Using Fat Grips
Below are some of the most common mistakes I see when using fat grips.
1. Not Having a Spotter
Not having a spotter when using fat grips for movements like deadlifts or bent-over rows is usually not a big deal because you can just dump the weight if you fail. But failing on something like the bench press can have disastrous results if you don’t have a spotter.
Have someone spot you or use spotter arms in a rack when doing fat grip training in case your grip suddenly gives out at any point. A spotter can grab the weight from you if you start to fail and will prevent you from injuring yourself.
2. Using Fat Grips All the Time
Unlike something like lifting straps, which can sometimes be used as a crutch to mask your lack of grip strength, fat grips are meant to improve your grip strength. But you can still do too much of it.
Instead of using fat grips for every single set of every single lift you do, aim to keep your fat grip training to 2-3 exercises per week. Because you’ll lift a lot less weight when doing fat grip training, you could prohibit your strength progress by using fat grips all the time.
As well, even though fat grips can be used to strengthen the hands and forearms, using them for certain movements like chin-ups can also place extra stress on your joints. Limiting the use of fat grips on these exercises to just 3-4 sets per week can help prevent pain and discomfort.
You’ll also want to consider what your goals are for fat grip training and make it as specific to those goals as possible. For example, if you want to improve your grip strength for deadlifts, using fat grips on some of your deadlift sets or when doing variations of the deadlift will have more carryover to your traditional deadlift.
If you want to train your forearms more often but don’t want to use fat grips all the time, check out my tips for training your forearms every day.
3. Doing Too Much Too Soon
Fat grip training can be uncomfortable, especially when you’re new to it. Just like you need to gradually build up strength in your lifts or endurance in your cardio workouts, you need to work up to regular fat grip training.
I recommend starting with one day of fat grip training per week for 4-6 weeks and then increasing your fat grip training frequency slowly over time. This will give your forearms and grip ample time to get used to a new type of training and also ensure that you don’t wear yourself out too much for the rest of your workouts.
4. Not Incorporating Pinch Grip Training
Fat grips are great for building overall grip strength. However, they aren’t ideal for pinch grip training, or training the act of holding an object between your thumb and fingers. Pinch grip training is important as well because it improves your ability to hold objects that you can’t wrap your entire hand around.
If you want to add pinch grip training to your routine, you can practice holding plates between your thumb and fingers when you’re at the gym. If you want to do pinch grip training at home, you can try holding thick books.
Best Fat Grip Training Devices
Below are three fat grip training devices that I recommend if you’re interested in fat grip training.
Fat Gripz was one of the first fat grip devices to hit the market. They’re still one of the most popular products available today due to their durability and high quality.
Instead of silicone, Fat Gripz are made out of military-grade rubber and designed to last forever. They have a grooved exterior for better gripability, but they can get a bit slippery if your hands are really sweaty. They’re more expensive than other brands, but since you likely won’t have to replace them often (if at all), the price is worth it.
I recommend the Greententljs grips for anyone who’s new to fat grip training. They’re a bit more pliable than some other brands and not quite as large in diameter, so they’re a good entry-level option to use when you’re just starting out. The smaller diameter also makes these grips a good option for lifters with smaller hands.
The DMoose thick bar fat grips are a solid choice for experienced lifters who are ready to advance their fat grip training. These grips are made from a sturdy, high-density silicone. The extra density makes them a lot harder to hold on to, which is why I wouldn’t recommend them for anyone who’s new to fat grip training.
These grips are a little hard to attach to contoured dumbbell handles, but it can be done. They don’t move at all once they’re attached to a barbell, so you can rest assured that you’ll have a secure grip throughout your entire set.
Fat Grips: Frequently Asked Questions
What Do Fat Grips Do?
Fat grips increase the diameter of your barbell, dumbbell handles, or pull-up bars to make them harder to hold onto. By increasing the diameter of the weight, fat grips improve your grip strength and target the smaller muscles in your hands and forearms that are often neglected during regular strength training.
Do Fat Grips Really Work?
Most reports of the success of fat grips are anecdotal, but they do appear to work by making the larger diameter of your weights more challenging on your grip. More scientific research needs to be done, but some studies show increased muscle activation in the hands, wrists, forearms, and shoulders when using fat grips.
When To Use Fat Grips?
I recommend using fat grips for 3-4 exercises per week as a finisher at the end of your workout. They shouldn’t be used for any lifts over 80-85% of your 1RM. It’s also important not to overuse them since you can’t lift as much weight with them, and that can potentially limit your strength progress.
How Thick Are Fat Grips?
Fat grips vary in thickness from 1.75” to 2.75”. The thickness depends on the brand, though some brands do offer fat grips in a variety of thicknesses.
What Is The Best Way To Use Fat Grips?
I recommend using fat grips for 3-4 exercises per week. You can use them with most barbell or dumbbell exercises as well as on pull-up bars and some machines. Some of the best exercises to do with fat grips are deadlifts (and their variations), bent-over rows, pull-ups, bicep curls, farmer’s carriers, and lunges.
Other Forearm Training Guides
About The Author
Amanda Dvorak is a freelance writer and powerlifting enthusiast. Amanda played softball for 12 years and discovered her passion for fitness when she was in college. It wasn’t until she started CrossFit in 2015 that she became interested in powerlifting and realized how much she loves lifting heavy weights. In addition to powerlifting, Amanda also enjoys running and cycling.