The deadlift is an excellent exercise for developing strength and muscle mass. The ways to train the deadlift are many and varied, and the benefits are numerous.

The axle deadlift is a variation of the standard pull that uses an axle bar, which is much larger and thicker than a standard barbell.

In this exercise guide, we’ll discuss the axle deadlift, grip strength and everything you need to know to integrate this movement into a strength training program:

Grip strength

Although grip strength is commonly associated with the strength of one’s hands, there are other factors to consider when thinking about grip strength.

Grip involves all the muscles near the elbow down to the fingers.

The muscles that influence the forearm and hand originate above the elbow.

As we move downward, the gripping muscles pass through the forearms and into the hands, fingers, and thumbs. These muscles not only run through the front of the forearms, but also the back.

This is important to remember. When looking at grip in this way, we can see that there are many movement patterns that are controlled by the lower arm muscles.

When we work on strengthening the lower arms, we must also do exercises that work the muscles in the opposite direction (flexors and extensors) to maintain a balance.

Many forearm injuries that cause pain, such as tendonitis, tendonosis, and epicondylitis, can be caused by incorrect training of the forearm muscles, or by neglecting certain muscle groups or movement patterns.

Benefits of having a strong grip

A strong grip is important for many reasons. There are many reasons for this ranging from social reasons to training reasons. Let’s highlight a few.

Stronger grip, stronger handshake

Whether it is right or wrong, people often judge men by how strong they seem. A strong, hearty handshake is a good example of this.

A man who looks you in the eye and gives you a firm handshake is seen as more confident and trustworthy. If somebody greets you with a limp handshake, it makes them seem untrustworthy and possibly slimy and weak.

Stronger grip, bigger lifts

The stronger your grip, the more weight you will be able to lift.

A good grip will help you get better results when you’re doing exercises like deadlifts, rows, pull-ups, and chin-ups.

Stronger grip, better endurance

When you have stronger hands and lower arms, you can do more repetitions than someone who has weak hands.

This means that you will be able to do more repetitions of an exercise in a set, which will help you burn more calories, lose more fat, and build more muscle.

Stronger grip, better later life quality

According to recent research, grip strength is a good predictor of quality of life later in life.

Stronger grip, better injury resiliency

If your muscles and connective tissues are stronger, they will be less likely to get injured. If you do get injured, stronger tissue will heal more quickly so you can get back to your normal activities.

It is especially important for athletes who play contact sports to take care of their hands, since they play such a big role in their success.

An athlete’s performance in football or basketball can be substantially hindered by an injury as small as a jammed finger or pain in the wrist or forearm.

An injury to the wrist will force an athlete to sit out and watch the game from the sidelines.

Now that we have established that there is a lot more involved in grip training than just using our hands, and now that we know just how beneficial it can be to have a strong grip, let’s take a look at some of the many ways to train our grip strength.

Types of grip strength

There are many defined forms of gripping. Some exercises focus on using the hands while others use the wrist and forearm. See below.

Hand specific movements

Crushing

To crush something is to put your fingers against it with enough force that it breaks. While clamping and crimping are similar in nature, the latter is often forgotten. Crimping occurs when you direct force with your fingers toward the callous line.

Pinching

Pinching involves holding something between your thumb and fingers on opposite hands. The amount of force that is applied can be static (no movement, such as gripping a board) or dynamic (such as squeezing the handles of a clamp).

Supporting

The gripping of something in order to lift it with the fingers is known as a support grip, which generally happens in an isometric fashion – like with deadlifts, rows, and kettlebells.

When selecting a grip, it is important that the fingers wrap around the bar securely. If the handle is too small for there to be a space between the fingers and thumb, it is referred to as closed hand support.

Extension

Hand extension is the opposite of hand flexion, which is the closing of the fingers and thumb.

Wrist and forearm postures

Ulnar / Radial Deviation

The wrist can be angled toward the inside or outside edges of the forearm. Shown above is ulnar deviation. Movement toward the thumb side would be radial deviation.

Flexion / Extension

The act of flexion is bending the wrist forward so that the palm moves towards the front of the forearm. The movement pattern known as extension involves moving the wrist so that the back of the hand moves toward the back of the forearm.

Pronation / Supination

These are the terms given to forearm rotation. Pronation is the turning of the forearm such that the palm faces downward, while supination is the turning of the forearm such that the palm faces upward.

Circumduction

The above movement patterns are combined to form a circle around the wrist. The above shot device can be used as a leverage move.

Elbow movement patterns

Flexion (with Pronation)

To do a reverse bicep curl, bend your elbow so that your forearm is near your bicep, with your palm facing downward. performing the exercise shown above is very important for preventing and getting rid of inflammation injuries like tennis elbow

Flexion (with Supination)

To do a reverse bicep curl, bend your elbow so your forearm is close to your bicep and your palm is facing up.

Extension

Straightening the elbow, such as in the bench press. Any weakness or liability in the surrounding musculature can negatively affect your numbers on the bench and other movements.

Axle deadlift

Below is a step-by-step guide on how to properly perform the axle deadlift. If you don’t have a deadlift bar, you can get some grip attachments that make a regular barbell thicker.

Get set up

Standing with your feet hip-width apart, grab the axle bar with an overhand grip, exactly how you would during a conventional barbell deadlift. Be sure to keep your back flat.

To execute the move properly, focus on pulling your shoulder blades down and creating tension in your lats as you load the pull.

Push into the floor

From a standing position, quickly lower your body down by bending your legs and hips until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Keep your back straight and your shoulders over the bar. Keep your back straight and your hips and shoulders in line as you lift.

When doing this exercise, keep your hips down, chest up, and focus on driving through the legs. This will help ensure that you are doing the exercise correctly.

Lock and hold

Just like you would for a regular deadlift, complete the same steps for this movement. To get the most out of the barbell, hold the weight at the top — glutes and shoulders engaged — with a strong grip.

If you want to develop more isometric grip strength, try holding the barbell at the top for a longer period of time.

Benefits of the axle deadlift

The axle deadlift is a two-for-one deal—by slightly increasing the size of the weight you’re lifting, you’re able to get all the benefits of the “King of All Exercises” while also emphasizing your grip strength.

Perfect your start

If you’re worried about not being able to keep a tight grip on the barbell during a deadlift, the axle barbell is an easy way to fix that. If you only put in a minimal effort when starting with a smaller weight, you will be able to get away with it. However, if you’re starting with a larger barbell, you will need to put in more effort from the beginning.

If you don’t grip the bar tightly, it might roll out of your hands as soon as you lift it off the ground.

Better grip strength

If you’re using an axle that’s thicker than what you’re used to, you might have to lower the amount of weight you’re lifting at first.

As you improve, the contractions in your forearm muscles will become stronger and more forceful, and your nervous system will be able to send signals more effectively, enhancing your ability to pull things.

Improve deadlift technique

There is no secret that improving your technique when pulling can increase your overall performance and help prevent injuries. A larger bar diameter will make it harder to train with heavy loads at first.

If you want to improve your form and make sure the tension is in your back, you should work with moderate weights.

Refine bar path during the pull

If you make a mistake while lifting a barbell, you may be able to fix it and finish the lift successfully. The axle bar must stay against the body at all times.

If you don’t keep the bar path airtight when using the axle bar, you will likely fail the rep. This can help make your pulling technique more accurate by limiting horizontal displacement or other adjustments.

Muscles worked by the axle deadlift

The axle deadlift targets the following muscle groups:

This means that the axle deadlift is a move that uses more than one joint and muscle at the same time and thus works nearly every muscle in the body to some extent. The below muscle groups are just the prime movers.

Hamstrings and glutes

The axle deadlift works the hamstrings and glutes in the same way as the conventional deadlift.

A thicker bar is often not as good as a standard bar for attacking the glutes and hamstrings because it limits the overall amount of weight that can be used. You may want to perform more isolated hamstring work like hamstring curls or GHDs.

Lats and upper back

The back muscles stabilize the trunk during the deadlift and keep the bar close to the body during the pull.

Adding weight to your deadlift by using a thicker bar will help build strength in your back by recruitment of more muscles and challenging your body to keep the bar closer to your body. This will help with developing a more aesthetic back.

Trapezius

The traps contract isometrically during every type of deadlift.

The workers have to be extra careful when working with the axle to stabilize the shoulder girdle. If the grip is not strong, it can affect other areas of the kinetic chain.

Forearms and grip

The axle deadlift specifically targets the forearms and grip muscles, as the bar is thicker and larger in diameter than a normal barbell.

The axle deadlift is an ideal movement for individuals who have trouble gripping the bar, have a weak back, or need to improve back tension in the conventional deadlift.

Axle deadlift alternatives

This exercise is effective in building overall strength, a thicker back, and strong forearms.

If you don’t have an axle bar at your gym or home facility, you may not be able to do this exercise. There are other ways you can develop a great grip.

Farmer’s carry

If you’re looking for an exercise that will let you lift heavy loads and is limited by your grip strength, the farmer’s carry is a great option.

If your upper back is weak, this exercise is a great way to build strength without having to pull heavier weights from the floor.

Axle rack pull

The axle rack pull is a variation of the rack pull that is performed using an axle bar instead of a traditional barbell. This exercise is beneficial for developing strength in the lower back and hamstrings, as well as improving grip strength. You can overloadtrap, and upper back muscles by working off the floor without tiring your legs and glutes.

Rack pulls are an exercise that let you overload the right portion of the range of motion, allowing you to focus on grip work.

Snatch-grip deadlift

If you’re trying to focus on your hands and you don’t have access to an axle, you can still do so by deadlifting with a snatch grip.

Olympic lifters have great grip strength, which partly comes from grabbing the barbell as wide as possible.

When you use a snatch-grip, it works your hands more and also allows you to move more during your reps, which can help lead to additional muscle growth.

 

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Rhoda is an award-winning dietitian, mature age model, and CEO of Sayvana Women.  

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