Saturday, August 23, 2014

Get a Grip - By Randy Roach


Looking back well over a hundred years at the emergence and growth of the fitness industry it is amazing to see the breadth of equipment that has evolved into the crazy market we see today. There have actually been some very effective tools going right back to the dawning of the basic gymnastic apparatus, to early dumbbells, kettlebells, indian clubs, cable expanders, followed later by specialty benches, cable pulleys and finally the emergence of full exercise machines beginning in the 1950s with Harold Zinkin’s Universal Gym and then exploding in the 1970s with variable resistance machines thanks to Arthur Jones and Nautilus. Nonetheless, the capstone for what we know as progressive resistance training is, has been, and probably always will be   the good, old fashioned BARBELL.  It is the instrument that constitutes the competitive strength sports of weightlifting and powerlifting and no doubt the first tool used by most beginner bodybuilders throughout the 20th century.

Over the past 30 years, the barbell has become somewhat forgotten amongst the myriad of exercise gear that has come to saturate the fitness market.  Regardless of the excuses and pseudo rationale for migrating to and even leaping at the latest exercise contraptions and methodologies, nothing over the past century has come close to building the level of muscle as the barbell.   Needless to say, the barbell has unfortunately been all too often relegated to the corner rack due  to fear, injury or simply just boredom.

It is within this growing void that I was very pleased to learn that Tim Fitzpatrick has shone some light with his great effort in resurrecting the barbell through his T-Grip Barbell company.  T-Grip has introduced a line of bars from standard to Olympic size that offers various hand grip orientations and spacing.  I became aware of these bars through world champion bodybuilder, Boyer Coe, who had mentioned that he now prefers a neutral grip (palms facing each other) for more shoulder comfort.  

I have been training for over 4 decades and have been involved in building some equipment myself for a good number of those years.  I have always been keen and excited over custom bars for variety and getting around anatomical anomalies. I know what is involved in building custom tools and it takes a lot of precision and cost.  I jumped at the opportunity to acquire a unique barbell from someone who specialized in that particular craft such as what Tim was doing at T-Grip Barbell.

My only dilemma was that I could not decide on just what bar I wanted.  T-Grip offers a variety to choose from.  I was looking at three barbells.  The first was a seven foot Olympic size bar with a 23” neutral grip.  The second bar offered two neutral grips with the first at 19” apart and the second at 25”.  There was yet a third option that also had two grips built into its design.  Like the second bar the grip widths were set at 19” and 25” but were angled at 45 degrees from neutral.  As mentioned, I knew the cost involved in producing this level of bar and I thought his prices were extremely reasonable for what he was offering, I also liked the fact that he built them right in the United States.  I bit the bullet and bought all three barbells.

Bringing them up to Canada did add significant additional costs, but after receiving the bars I had absolutely no regrets.   The bars were totally impressive and between the three there were just so many perfectly placed grip options for joint comfort.    The way the bars are constructed there are even additional grips besides the neutral and angled positions.  In fact, if asked to choose just one bar, I still haven’t determined for sure just which one I would take.  A client who had recently injured his shoulder came to try the bars and with his very first angled grip selection he found he had no pain in that movement.  He is also a professional machinist with his own company and he immediately commented on the quality and appearance of these custom barbells.  He was very impressed with how perfectly the TIG welding was stitched to the bars.  My own welder made similar comments on the quality of the T-Grip products.

With that level of quality it was inevitable that the TGRip bars have made their way throughout the industry  from the likes of bodybuilding legend Lou Ferrigno to the harcore camps of powerlifting.  In fact, Powerlifting USA in acknowledging the growing popularity of neutral grip exercise stated the following on the versatility of the bars:

“The T-GRIP BARBELLS were designed with certain curves that contour to the body of every person which will enable you to perform certain movements and exercises with complete comfort, balance and stability.  The bars are crafted with the highest quality and can handle a lot of abuse and more weight than can be lifted by any human.  The T-GRIP BARS are great for powerlifting, bodybuilding, post rehabilitation, sport specific training, injury prevention and all around weight lifting, health and fitness.” 

The bars have also earned great reviews in the IHRSA trade showpublication, Flex, and labeled “Gear of the Month” by the popular Muscle & Fitness magazine.  The bottom line is that for any level of lifter these unique custom bars add some fun and variety to the training routines.  However, as a trainer, these tools are invaluable when dealing with a clientele varying drastically in shapes, sizes, and injuries.  It is my professional opinion that any commercial gym or private training facility is incomplete without them and greatly short changing their equipment arsenal!  Do your training a great service and check the variety of bars and cable attachments offered at www.tgrip.com,

Randy Roach,
Trainer and author of Muscle, Smoke & Mirrors

A Magnificent Grip on Pulldowns! - By Randy Roach


With over 40 years of  interaction within the bodybuilding and exercise
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
out: 


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
philosophically.

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
good!

With his numerous years in the business, Leon Sohn had a similar disposition
as myself:



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
opinion!



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.

Randy Roach,
Trainer and author of
“Muscle, Smoke & Mirrors"    

Does modern bodybuilding make you sick? You should write for Natural Strength! I always need good articles about drug-free weight training. It only has to be at least a page and nothing fancy. Just write it strong and truthful with passion! Send your articles directly to me: bobwhelan@naturalstrength.com
BODY • MIND • SPIRIT

Bob Whelan

Bob Whelan

This site does not provide medical advice. We assume no liability for the information provided in NaturalStrength articles. Please consult your physician before beginning any exercise or nutrition program. Copyright © 1999-2017 NaturalStrength.com | All Rights Reserved.