Deadlifting 500 lbs. with a 2" thick bar.
One area of training where there has been an increase in interest of late is the lifting of thick or oversized barbells. This is not new. However, with the advent of the book, "Dinosaur Training", and with the increased popularity of strongman (woman) contests, suddenly lifting awkward implements has turned into a new fad.
I'm no stranger to using thick bars in my training, or using awkward shaped objects to exercise with. In my early weight training life, before I got a store bought set of weights, I used a discarded fence post. It was an old piece of 2" pipe filled with concrete. Also, I used a couple of army surplus knap sacks and filled them with rocks. These training aids worked fine in the beginning but I never figured I'd go back to this kind of stuff!
Well, after reading the dinosuar book and several magazine articles on the subject, I decided it might be fun to play around a little with some oversized barbells again. However this time I decided to make a proper commitment by making some proper barbells that could be loaded with Olympic plates.
Being that I'm a do-it-yourself kind of guy, I figured I'd just build my own thick barbells. Now the most logical thing to use when building an oversized barbell is pipe. The OD on 1 1/2" pipe is about 1.9" and it is ideal for a light duty barbell. However, if you want to make your barbell heavy-duty, you will need solid steel round stock.
Pressing 225 lbs. on a 2 3/8" thick bar.
A piece of 1 1/2" pipe about 7' long should only cost about $10 to $15. Solid steel round stock however will cost a little more depending upon the type of steel that is used. As an example, I bought a 7' piece of 2" cold rolled round stock for only $50. I then made a couple of stop collars out of 2" pipe. This bar unloaded weighs about 35kg./ 77lb., and it works great for deadlifts, squats, presses, and most other compound movements. However, on multiple compound movements like cleans, a thick non-revolving bar is not a good idea.
So to make a revolving bar I sleeved my 1.9" OD'd pipe with another piece of pipe with a 2" ID. This sleeve is about 52" long. The cost was about $19. for a 5' piece. The excess is what I made the stop collars out of. The OD is 2 3/8". Thus the cost of my light duty bar was only about $34.This bar will easily hold 500 lb. However the most that I've ever used is about 250 lb. It's held up quite well, but that is because I don't drop it.
Now you could sleeve a piece of 2" solid steel round stock with a 2" pipe to make a revolving bar, and such a bar would be very difficult to bend. However, beware, such a bar will weigh at least 90 lb. unloaded.
When lifting a thick oversized bar one must be cognizant of several things. First, when cleaning, your technique will suffer a little. This is because it is necessary to squeeze the bar much harder than normal, and this will many times put you into a bent arm pulling position. Thus the arms are worked more than normal.
Also, when pressing overhead, I recommend squeezing the bar through the entire movement. If you relax your grip your stability could be compromised. Also, when in the overhead position, I've found that not holding on as tight as I can will put a lot of stress on the metacarpocarpal joint, at the base of the wrist below the thumb (see drawing).
When doing thick bar overhead work, I recommend that it be done no more than once per week. Also, if you have any discomfort with pain at the base of wrist below the thumb, back off immediately and cease any thick bar activity until it subsides. To avert wrist problems wrapping helps a little. Allow the wrap to go up onto the heel of the hand. And remember, SQUEEZE THE BAR!
I have found that thick bar clean and presses with my 2 3/8" are great for strengthening my wrists, and deadlifts with my 2" bar have also been a lot of fun. The only draw back though, is that an overhand grip for a DL is impossible! It's over/under grip or nothing. However on the positive side, because the grip is the primary factor, I'm able to practice my DL's in good strict form with a flat back.