Acute muscular strength assessment using free weight bars of different thickness

Nicholas A. Ratamess, Avery D. Faigenbaum, Gerald T. Mangine, Jay R. Hoffman, J. I.E. Kang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


The purpose of the present investigation was to examine strength performance of 6 common resistance training exercises using free weight bars of different thickness. Eleven resistance-trained men (8.2 ± 2.6 years of experience; age: 22.1 ± 1.6 years; body mass: 90.5 ± 8.9 kg) underwent 1 repetition maximum (1RM) strength testing on 6 occasions in random order for the deadlift, bent-over row, upright row, bench press, seated shoulder press, and arm curl exercises under 3 conditions using: (a) a standard Olympic bar (OL), (b) a 2-inch thick bar (5.08 cm grip span), and (c) a 3-inch thick bar (7.62 cm grip span). Significant (p < 0.05) interactions were observed for the "pulling" exercises. For the deadlift and bent-over row, highest 1RM values were obtained with OL, followed by the 2- and 3-inch bar. Significant 1RM performance decrements for the 2-and 3-inch bars were ∼28.3 and 55.0%, respectively, for the deadlift; decrements for the 2- and 3-inch bars were ∼8.9 and 37.3%, respectively, for the bent-over row. For the upright row and arm curl, similar 1RMs were obtained for OL and the 2-inch bar. However, a significant performance reduction was observed using the 3-inch bar (∼26.1% for the upright row and 17.6% for the arm curl). The reductions in 1RM loads correlated significantly to hand size and maximal isometric grip strength (r = -0.55 to -0.73). No differences were observed between bars for the bench press or shoulder press. In conclusion, the use of 2-and 3-inch thick bars may result in initial weight reductions primarily for pulling exercises presumably due to greater reliance on maximal grip strength and larger hand size.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)240-244
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Strength and Conditioning Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Bent-over row
  • Deadlift
  • Grip strength
  • Thick bars
  • Upright row


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