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I’ve received several questions recently regarding the use of thick handled dumbbells. Many have asked where to find such handles, and others have asked why it makes sense to use a thick handle.
Personally, I prefer building my own dumbbell handles. For a few dollars, you can build yourself a fully functional (and strong) handle. If you prefer to buy a “professionally” constructed thick handle, be prepared to fork over some serious cash. A quick search of the market brought about several expensive handles, with some even surpassing the hundred dollar mark.
Before building or buying, it’s first useful to know what is in it for you. Why bother building or buying a thick handled dumbbell?
Thick handle lifting was very common in past generations, and is starting to make a comeback in the modern era. The renewed popularity shouldn’t come as a surprise, particularly when you consider the almost instant benefits associated with such handles. Thick handle lifting will quickly strengthen the forearms and grip. Such handles will enhance the difficulty of almost any lift.
I’ve lifted with thick handles for several years now, and will continue to do so. These handles have made a huge difference in my hands. As many who read this site are aware, I had hand problems for many years as a young fighter, so I’m always looking for ways to strengthen the hands. Thick handles have become a favorite of mine.
There are several options for thick handled dumbbells. Perhaps the easiest methods are the use of duct tape or foam pipe insulation. With duct tape, you can add a little at a time, to gradually thicken one of your handles. Another option involves wrapping your dumbbell handle with foam pipe insulation. Look for foam that is at least somewhat rigid, so it maintains it shape. You can then wrap the foam with duct tape if you wish (to keep it in place).
The picture below shows each of these options. Both handles were constructed from galvanized iron pipe (purchased at Home Depot for a few dollars each).
A similar method involves the use of an inexpensive pool noodle. Refer to the link below for more information regarding this method (and several other grip tools):
Another inexpensive option involves the use of rope. Tightly wrap rope around the gripping surface. Cut it to the desired length, and then secure the rope in place with a tight later of duct tape. You can then add a second layer of rope if necessary to increase the thickness of your handle. You can see an example of this method in the picture below:
Next, you can see how the handle looks with a second layer of rope. You can also see the handle before and after it was altered. This handle was one of the inexpensive spin collar handles sold at Walmart for a few dollars.
It is worth noting that I’m not a huge fan of these Walmart handles (particularly the collars). I much prefer a fully homemade handle, using the galvanized iron pipe method seen above.
Another common thick handle solution involves the use of PVC pipe. You can find an example of this method (along with much more information regarding grip strength) at the link below:
What To Do With It?
Thick handle dumbbells can be used for almost any traditional dumbbell lift. Heavy rows and farmer’s walks are two of my favorites. You can however use these handles for other (more conventional lifts) such as dumbbell swings, various overhead presses, Zottman curls, etc.
I am not suggesting that you perform all of your work with thick handles, but these handles do make a nice addition to a complete strength program. I will often start with a traditional handle (where I can go heavier), and then switch to a thicker handle with less weight (within the same workout). I mix and match conventional and thick handles within the workout. Another option is to perform a traditional strength workout, and close with a thick handle finisher (ex. a few sets of farmer’s walks with the thick handles).
For more information regarding homemade equipment construction, please refer to this link: