John Brookfield's Grip Tips
By John Brookfield
Author of Mastery of Hand Strength, Revised Edition, Training with
Cables for Strength, The Grip Master’s Manual, and Real-World Conditioning
Using the Long Bar
In this Grip Tip we will look at a proven method for developing the entire lower arm. It was also used many years ago by some of the old-time arm wrestlers. It is a very versatile way of training as a variety of exercises can be used. I remember seeing pictures of Arthur Saxon using some of these techniques in his stage acts. I call this tip Using the Long Bar because that is basically what it is.
All you have to do is take a bar that is much longer than a regular dumbbell bar and go to work. You can actually use a barbell once you get the feel of this movement. At this point you may be asking yourself what is so special about using a longer length dumbbell or even a barbell. Well, this time we will be using it with one hand for all of the exercises. The reason that this is a good method for building lower arm strength is that you have to fight to keep the bar balanced throughout the exercises. This balancing is all done with your hand and wrist strength.
To start out, you may want to use an old-type barbell—you know, the kind you used when you were in high school. These bars are a little bit shorter than the ones today. You can also use a heavy steel bar and clamp the weights on the bar in their desired positions, using four clamps or collars. Be extremely careful to make sure that the clamps or collars are fastened tightly to avoid the weights’ sliding. As always, experiment with the exercises to find the right weight for you.
There are many exercises that we could pick using a long bar. However, let’s look at three movements that are fairly safe. I say safe because these three do not require you to lift the bar overhead.
1. Barbell curl: with one hand, lift and curl the bar to your chest, using the classic curling technique. Use a slow curling movement, working to keep the bar balanced. This will intensely work your wrist and hand. Do not strain too much to control the bar. If it gets away from you, just let it fall to the ground. In this case, use a lighter weight or a shorter bar.
2. Wrist curls: perform classic wrist curls on the bar one-handed. Use the same precautions to keep from straining your wrists.
3. One-arm rows: bend over with the bar in front of you and row it toward your chest.
With all of these exercises, be sure to work both hands evenly. Using the Long Bar should be a fun, challenging way to work your grip.
Editor's note: John Brookfield’s books Mastery of Hand Strength, Revised Edition, The Grip Master’s Manual, Training with Cables for Strength, and Real-World Conditioning combine John’s limitless creativity with his friendly, downhome manner. John’s articles are also regularly featured in MILO: A Journal for Serious Strength Athletes.
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