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.
(C) 2007 National Strength and Conditioning Association