industry, I had for some time come to believe that there really wasn’t
anything all that new and exciting in the realm of resistance strength
training. Many gizmos, most of little use, had come and gone over the
decades. The tried and true muscle building tools that emerged from the
pioneering gyms of the 20th century slowly anchored themselves through time
into the hearts of the hardcore lifters, especially with improvements via
advanced engineering and expanding technologies. Rarely at this point after
years of tuning this equipment do you encounter innovation of any real
noteworthiness, let alone a revolutionary evolution in design. Rarely.
In early spring of 2014 I was sharing with former Natural Mr. USA, Josh
Trentine, about these beautifully built neutral and angled grip full Olympic
size barbells manufactured by Tim Fitzpatrick of TGrip Barbell
(www.tgrip.com). I was also updating him on some new triceps and lat
pulldown bars I had just purchased. Regarding my cable bars he simply
emailed, "I hate to break the news but I have something that's going to ruin
all of your other lat bars forever. Enjoy while you can." I more or less
brushed off his statement as exaggeration, but Josh typically wasn't prone
to such assertions without just cause so he did pique my interest.
Nonetheless, in the back of my mind I did believe I was going to experience
just another pulldown bar that would be relegated to a growing collection
which was slowly migrating into my fruit cellar.
Coincidently, during that exact time I had been conversing with a seasoned
trainer, Leon Sohn out of St Louis, Missouri. We had been discussing each
other’s equipment preferences extensively for hours. Out of appreciation,
Leon generously purchased for me as a gift what he referred to as a "MAG"
bar which again was yet another pull-down bar probably destined for my fruit
cellar - or so I believed.
Surprisingly, the bar arrived rather quickly considering that it had to cross
the Canadian border . The first thing that I noticed was that this so-
called "MAG" bar did not resemble anything like I expected. The traditional
lat pulldown bar has decades of visual recognition and most probably
wouldn't even know what the MAG bar was or what to do with it. Being
blind coupled with the fact that there wasn't a single piece of round bar to
grip took me a moment to properly orientate the apparatus and figure out
just what exactly I was holding on to.
What I did have in my possession was a Maximum Advantage Grip (MAG) pulldown
bar manufactured by Tom Barton of Barton Innovations. The hand grips were
definitely very unique. As mentioned, this MAG bar had no standard round
bars to grasp and I was immediately enticed to go downstairs to the gym and
see how it felt and how it performed in action. Leon had sent me one of seven bars
with his choice being Tom's medium width (22"), neutral grip (palms facing
each other) bar.
The movement was amazing! The Maximum Advantage Grip was able to actually
place more emphasis on the back muscularture by diminishing the use of the
arms. The bodybuilders of old use to get close to this by wrapping their
palms and thumbs up high on the standard round bar, but Tom had successfully
nailed this down with his unique MAG bar grip. The best way to describe the
handles would be a total palm oriented grip somewhat like pulling on the
edges of two specially contoured 2” by 6" pieces of lumber. I immediately
moved the bar over to my cable row whereupon I received the same feel of a
very strong grip again minimizing arm action, thus placing more on the
targeted back muscles. I was very impressed to say the least. This bar was
fantastic! It literally adds yet another dimension by becoming a union
between body and machine as a very intuitive lady client of mine pointed
The bar simply felt good and was a natural extension of my body rather than
a bar I was wrestling with. The bar assisted me in doing the movement and
in achieving my weight/rep goal. I thought less about 'form' and was able
to experience the feeling of success and motivation to do more.
I immediately emailed Leon thanking him for this awesome gift. I had no
idea what the bar cost nor did I care. I took a chance the next day which
was a Saturday to contact by phone Barton Innovations. I was surprised when
Tom himself picked up and took the call on what I figured would be his day
off. I wanted to tell him how enamored I was with his bar and that I wanted
the remaining six bars regardless of cost. In my opinion, his products are
very reasonably priced considering the technology, quality, and
functionality compounded with his steadfast stance on personally
manufacturing in the United States, which also appealed to me
Tom Barton is a veteran in the Iron Game industry with a background in
powerlifting going back to the 1970s. When I asked how he came up with the
idea for his amazing grips he told me that way back he wondered why he could
do more pull ups when jumping up and performing them off roof rafters than
when grabbing a standard round bar. The concept and products began their
physical evolution beginning in 1985 and he patented his intellectual
property in 1996. His bars experienced some variations before he settled on
the current models in 2009.
As mentioned, Leon had sent me the medium width, neutral grip MAG bar. I
received two more bars from Tom Barton with the medium width (22” from middle
finger to middle finger) one with a pronated (overhand) grip and the other
with a supinated (underhanded)) grip. Both those grips were pronated and
supinated 45 degrees off a straight bar. Tom also sent me three bars with
the exact same grips but narrower having a width of 5" between middle
fingers. The seventh and final bar was a 38" wide pronated grip.
All seven bars were bang on even the two I was skeptical about, both the
wide and narrow pronated grips. I just wasn't fully confident of those
widths for that grip orientation. However, Tom obviously knew his business
as both bars are amazing with the narrow version being probably the favorite
for most who have tried them all at my facility thus far.
Unfortunately it has become very difficult to express true sincerity over
the quality and functionality of an excellent product line in an industry
long over-saturated with such extensive hyperbole. It seems as though
anything new entering the game is now accompanied with marketing hype so
over-the-top it can often surpass skepticism, leaving one nauseated.
Nevertheless with that said, I am more than willing to stake whatever
credibility I have by stating that Tom Barton's MAG bars really are that
With his numerous years in the business, Leon Sohn had a similar disposition
I first saw the Mag bar on Dante Trudel's popular Dog Crap website,
Intensemuscle.com. I am very skeptical about claims and view most of what
I read as just excessive 'marketing.' I honestly was not expecting it to be
anything except a substitute once in a while for my conventional handles.
When I received one of the bars and used it I was totally jazzed. It works
so much better than a regular attachment. I was very happy that it exceeded
my expectations.... by a lot!! Best cable attachments on the market in my
When I then asked Josh Trentine if he had heard of the MAG bars it was in
fact these very bars he was referring to and he had planned to bring them from Ohio for
me to experience. Again, he was emphatic in his own promotion by stating,
“The bars are genius. Best bars I’ve ever used...Everything else ever is a
waste next to those!" Josh is not only a champion bodybuilder, he is an
equipment expert and manufacturer who also happens to be a physiotherapist.
The ergonomics of the MAG bars inspired Josh to write an extensive article
on exercise movement synergy and its relationship to these wonderful tools
from Barton Innovations.
Tom Barton is well on his way in successfully accomplishing the formable
task of usurping the long standard rowing and pulldown tools with his
Maximum Advantage Grip bars. Everyone who tries his products will want them
and it is simply a matter of time before his bars are pulling weight stacks
in thousands of gyms worldwide. You might say that Tom is inevitably
building a MAGnificent grip on the strength and muscle building industry.
See his products at www.maxagrip.com.
Trainer and author of “Muscle, Smoke & Mirrors"