Training on (or with) thick bars is something that I've always enjoyed. This could mean doing pull-ups on thick iron bars, swinging across the monkey bars in the playground, or simply lifting odd objects that have a thick handled grip. I enjoy training this way whenever I have the time, and believe you me, this type of training is one of the toughest you can do,especially when it comes to lifting, pulling and carrying movements.
Note that when I'm referring to thick bars, I'm not referring to your usual chinning bar or dumbell handle - I'm referring to bars which have a diameter of at least 2 inches, preferably more. I personally do my pull-ups and other related pulling movements out in the park - not on a pull-up bar - I use the thick, cast iron bars which make up the swing set, or the sides of the monkey bars.
And whats so special about thick bar work?
Well, for one, you build your grip without even thinking about it. Look, doing sets of 5 good pull-ups on a THICK bar is WAY different from doing them on a regular bar. First, you have to struggle to hold on during the entire set - which builds immense forearm and finger strength and power. Try completing that last pull-up when your fingers are struggling to just hold on to the bar - it's not easy.
Second, you build up the ligaments and tendons of your wrist and fingers to an amazing degree when you work with thick bars. The very act of gripping on to a thick bar (2.5" diameter or more) ensures that you build the gripping muscles - but more importantly, the ligaments and tendons that are the driving force behind the muscles. And it's nigh impossible to do well on thick bar exercises without strengthening everything. You may be able to curl impressive poundages in the gym, but chances are that you'll be able to curl less than half that if you work with thick bars (and the same weight) - and the reason will likely be weak connecting ligaments and tendons.
Third, working with thick bars ensures that you a) minimize the chances of wrist or finger injury in the future and b) the added blood flow to the fingers, wrist and forearms ensures that you recuperate faster from previous such injuries. I should know - I injured my thumb (and the ligaments in the palm as well) pretty badly a few days ago while doing fingertip pushups, but I could do pushups with minimum pain the next day, and a few days later - the thumb is almost back to normal. And part of the reason I've recovered so quickly is the thick bar work that I do.
Last, and by no means the last, your performance will improve tremendously on all your regular exercises once you begin doing them with thick bars. Stuck at a max of 5 reps for the pull-up? Well, find some THICK bars - and work up to doing sets of 5 reps on those for a couple of weeks, or however long it takes you. Then go back and test your self on pull-ups on the regular bar - I think your going to be amazed. And this doesn't just go for pull-ups; it applies to other exercises as well.
There are more reasons, but these three should give you enough motivation to get started with some thick bar work. I personally did 25 pull-ups along with assorted grip exercises out in the park today AFTER my regular workout - and my forearms are feeling it for sure at this point.
And lest you think that bodyweight exercises are the ONLY thing you can do when it comes to thick bar work, well, think again, my friend. You can incorporate this type of training into your routine even if you prefer lifting weights - or you can combine lifting odd objects with bodyweight work - which by the way is something I highly recommend.
Either way, make sure you DO incorporate some sort of thick bar work into your routine - you won't believe the gains you make!
PS: Thick bar work is something I talk about in detail in Fast and Furious Fitness. I also show you various exercises you can do on thick bars in the book. Grab your copy ASAP and get started on the road to astounding levels of gripping power.