The Inch Dumbbell is named after the inventor of the implement, an old-time performing strongman named Thomas Inch, from Scarborough England. He would travel about the country challenging bystanders to lift the globe dumbbell, offering prize money to anyone who could do so.
To read more about the history of this tremendous test of Grip strength, check out Joe Roark’s excellent read on the Bodybuilding.com site on the history of the Inch Dumbbell, INCH 101. Again, much respect and appreciation to Joe Roark for his excellent website, Iron History.
Eventually, companies like IronMind and Sorinex began to understand the allure of the Inch Dumbbell and began producing replicas of this extraordinary test of Grip strength. Now, many Grip enthusiasts have their own Inch Dumbbell replicas.
In my opinion, one of the most impressive feats of Grip strength is lifting the Inch Dumbbell. This dumbbell weighs 172 pounds.
172 pounds doesn’t sound too heavy, does it?
If you train at a gym where they have heavy dumbbells, they may have some dumbbells that weigh this much or very close. No problem.
In fact, I bet most people reading this can load 172 pounds on a normal weight lifting bar and pick it up with one hand fairly easily.
However, the Inch Dumbbell is a different story altogether.
The Inch Dumbbell, weighing in at 172 pounds, has a handle 2.38 inches thick! Compare that with the handle size of the run-of-the-mill dumbbell and the deadlift bars at your gym, which are about one inch thick, and you’ll understand right away why it is so difficult to lift. In all my years of Grip training, I have never seen anyone that could wrap their fingers around the handle and touch their thumb. Not even me, and my hands are close to nine inches in length!
Take a look at the dumbbells in your gym next time you are there. Some dumbbells at your facility probably have weights that are loaded over a handle and tightened so they do not shift around while you are using them. You will notice that when you do curls or presses, the weights my spin, but they do not change their position on the handle. The weights rotate freely, completely separate from the handle, and so then do not torque your wrist too aggressively while you are training with them.
If you have dumbbells at your gym that are indeed solid, remember that the handles are still only one inch thick, so you are able to wrap your fingers completely around them and pin your thumb down on top to secure your grip. Even the most violent and explosive lifts, such as the one-hand snatch, do not pose much of a challenge for maintaining a grip on them because of the small handle size.
However, the Inch Dumbbell is made of solid cast iron. The handle and the bells at the end are not separate. Conversely, the bells and handle make up one unit.
Combine the challenge of the handle size with the fact that the Inch Dumbbell is one huge chunk of cast iron, and you have a grip implement that literally tears your grip open when you try to lift it.
When you apply your grip on the handle, as I mentioned, there will inevitably be a space between your thumb and fingers. This space means your control of the implement is hindered.
Upon trying to lift the Inch, it may indeed begin to leave the ground, but the lifter soon finds out just how nasty this piece of iron history is. Quickly the globes, whose mass lies far out beyond the edge of the handle, start to turn downward away from the thumb, out of control. If you do not have mighty thumb strength to suppress this spinning action, you are not going to be able to break this implement more than a couple of inches off the ground. On numerous occasions, at the World Series of Grip, a strength challenge Diesel Crew often holds at strongman contests, athletes of all shapes and experience levels have tried to pull this piece of iron to lockout only to find out that they are lacking the power needed to fully lift the Inch.
I too was unable to lift the Inch Dumbbell on my first attempts in September of 2003 at Rick Walker‘s Battle for Grip Supremacy. After my first attempts on the Inch Dumbbell, I quickly became obsessed with lifting it. I fashioned my own thick-bar implements from house-hold items with hopes that I could at the very least build my grip strength levels so that the next time we crossed paths, I could lift it. Unfortunately, the various things I tried were not enough, and again I fell to my knees in defeat the next time I attempted to lift the Inch.
However, I never ever give up.
Just as the Wright brothers tried for years to perfect the design of their aircraft and finally persevered by getting their airplane to fly, eventually I too was able to get the Inch Dumbbell aloft.
But this accomplishment was slow in coming, and did not happen until I was able to purchase the very Inch Replica that gave me so much trouble all those times. Specific training was the key to success in lifting the Inch for me.
In future instalments of this series, I will discuss training methods that I have used in order to fully lift the Inch Dumbbell. There are many tactics that grip athletes have used in order to replicate the replica. You will soon understand why some of these strategies are more successful in developing a grip strong enough to lift the inch and why some are not very successful at all.
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