What is an axle bar- and how it can help you build "Dad Strength" (and Mom Strength)

They're called Axle Bars, Fat Bars, Thick Bars, or my favorite... Thicc Bars- but what is an axle bar and how should you work it into your training? 

What is an axle bar?

At its most basic, an Axle bar is a barbell that is thicker than a normal Olympic barbell. Normal barbells have a shaft that is about 1 1/8" diameter and most axle bars are about 2" in diameter. This additional thickness smokes your grip on the bar, prompting you to develop enhanced grip strength, bigger forearms, and overall more muscle. 

Picture this: a barbell and a pipe had a lovechild, and that offspring turned out to be the axle bar. Unlike its sleek and slender barbell cousin, the axle bar is a thick, heavy-duty cylindrical bar, resembling the type you'd find loaded with goods on a construction site. This robust chunk of steel is designed to test your grip strength, challenge your stabilizing muscles, and bring a new dimension of pain – ahem, I mean, gains – to your lifting game.

What is the history of axle bars?

The origins of the axle bar can be found within the realm of strongmen exhibitions and the vaudeville spectacles of the early 20th century. During this era, strongman competitions captivated audiences with astonishing displays of power, often involving the lifting and manipulation of unconventional objects.

What is the history of axle bars - a vaudville strongman about to lift an axle bar

Among these feats was the introduction of the axle bar. This implement posed a unique challenge to strongmen, who were required to elevate and maneuver it. The allure lay not only in the sheer weight of the axle bar but also in the inherent difficulty associated with its unwieldy diameter.

In subsequent decades, the axle bar transitioned from the realm of circus acts to the realm of serious strength training. The principles of strongman training, including the incorporation of axle bar exercises, began to permeate mainstream weightlifting methodologies. As lifters grappled with the unorthodox shape of the axle bar, they found themselves compelled to engage supplementary muscle groups, thereby fostering a holistic approach to strength development. The axle bar, once a novelty act, matured into a pivotal tool within the contemporary strength training landscape.

Fitness facilities globally recognized its utility, prompting the production of specialized axle bars designed to meet the demands of discerning lifters. In the present day, the axle bar stands as a testament to the enduring pursuit of physical excellence, bridging the chasm between innovation and tradition.

Its legacy connects modern practitioners with the formidable strongmen of bygone eras, encapsulating the spirit of relentless determination that propels individuals to transcend their physical limitations, one lift at a time. Thus, grasping an axle bar echoes far more than a mere demonstration of strength; it serves as a direct link to a storied lineage of strength seekers who preceded us.

What is an axle bar good for?

Most lifters consider an axle bar as a supplemental tool in their gyms- typically lifters lift on a "normal" olympic barbell and work the axle bar in for deadlifts, farmer's carries, bench pressing, overhead pressing, curls, and more.

All of those preceding exercises can be done with a normal barbell, but the axle bar adds an additional element of difficulty and stimulus to the lift.

How heavy are axle bars?

 "Normal" olympic barbells are usually 45 pounds- although some bars are 35 pounds. You might think that axle bars would be heavier than normal barbells. Surprisingly, they are lighter!

Old school axle bars that are made from welded pipe are typically about 20 pounds. Newer versions often vary between 20, 22, or 45 pounds.

How can you tell how much your axle bar weighs? Check the end cap. Or, if your bar does not have a "signed" end cap, step on a scale without the barbell. Then grab the axle bar and step on the scale again. Subtract our your weight and et viola- you have the weight of the axle.

In the above case, write the weight on the bar for future reference!

Or, if you don't want to play guessing games, pick up a high quality axle barbell like the El Gordazo Axle Bar or El Gordito stubby rackable axle bar, both from Fringe Sport.

How to use an axle bar in your workouts

Time to put theory into action! The axle bar can be used for a variety of exercises, from deadlifts and cleans to rows and presses. When incorporating it into your routine, start with a lower weight than you're used to with a regular barbell. Focus on maintaining proper form and gradually increase the weight as your grip strength and technique improve. Brace yourself for a serious love-hate relationship – you'll curse the bar during your sets, but thank it for the gains it bestows.

Try this axle bar workout:

"Dead Diane"

Load the deadlifts at a weight that is taxing, but you can lift the first set unbroken. Suggested loading for a strong man is 185# and 135# for a strong woman 

  • 21 axle bar deadlifts
  • 21 pushups
  • 15 axle bar deadlifts
  • 15 pushups
  • 9 axle bar deadlifts
  • 9 pushups

Unleash Your Inner Beast with the Axle Bar

And there you have it, a crash course in the enigmatic world of axle bars. These rugged tools might not boast the glamour of fancy gym gadgets, but they pack a punch where it truly counts. Grip strength, stabilizing muscles, and a new dimension of lifting await those brave enough to wield the mighty axle bar. So, next time you're at the gym or outfitting your garage powerhouse, give the axle bar a spin – your muscles will thank you, and you might just earn a nod of respect from the Vikings of old.

Until next time, keep lifting, keep growing, and keep conquering those gains!

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