When it comes to building up a home gym, there’s a lot of crap you probably don’t need. I’m in a garage gym group and I’m amazed at the number of people who fill their limited space with things like Nautilus equipment and things of that sort. That said, it’s their money and space, so they can do whatever they want.
In the end, though, you don’t really need all that stuff. What you need is a barbell, some weights, a rack, and a bench. If you’ve got that, you can do some seriously heavy lifting and work pretty much every muscle group.
But that also gets boring after a while, so people will want to start adding to their gear list. I sure as hell did.
And that’s why I picked up the axle bar from Titan, and you might want to get one of these too.
At its core, an axle bar is about as simple a thing as you can get. It’s a 2″ pipe with some collars on it to keep plates from sliding up. Some people have made their own axle bars by getting a pipe, slapping duct tape on it to serve as collars, and then got to work.
What Good Is An Axle Bar?
For me, I wanted an axle bar pretty much from the start of my training. I’ve always liked strongman stuff, and the axle bar is a key part of strongman competitions and training. With the wider grip required with an axle bar over a regular barbell, things change a good bit during training.
Axle bars are a staple of strongman work, so getting one eventually was a no-brainer.
However, after having gotten mine, I’m now of the opinion that pretty much everyone should consider getting one for their home gyms and I really urge any commercial gyms that still have barbells–that means Planet Fitness is out–should have some of these as well.
For one thing, an axle bar is a grip workout as well as training for a given muscle. The thicker handle rules out using something like a hook grip to hold onto the bar, so you just have to crush it in your hands and hope to hold on.
This takes a movement like the deadlift, which already trains a massive amount of muscles, and adds forearm muscles to the list, thus making it more effective.
Now, that said, I wouldn’t train axle deadlifts exclusively. After all, your grip is a limiting factor, which means the rest of the muscles aren’t getting as much work as they could.
I like to use the axle for volume days with the deadlift.
But it’s not just a deadlift implement, either. It’s also awesome for overhead pressing as well, and for the same reason. It requires you work your forearms in addition to the deltoids and triceps.
There are downsides to axle bars, though. Primarily, it’s nothing but a smooth pipe. There’s no knurling, no rings to help you have an even grip, nothing. This increases some of the challenges of using an axle bar, but it’s not anything you can’t work around.
Details Of Titan’s Axle Bar
I tend to dog Titan a fair bit, despite spending a good bit of money with them, but this is one of the items that is really starting to change my mind about Titan.
Yes, it’s a very simple item and it still came in a jacked up box with chipped powder coating, but it’s still an outstanding piece of equipment.
It takes all the plates I have, which are mostly Rogue Echo bumper plates and a few of Rogue’s iron plates for the smaller weights the Echos didn’t cover. The all fit just fine and while there’s a slight bit of “give” there, it’s really just enough clearance so you can put the weights on and off easily.
The bar is 84″ in length. That’s about 2.5″ shorter than the Ohio Power Bar I have. However, the inner collars are also only about a quarter of an inch. That means you have just as much “real estate” for plates with the axle bar as you do with the power bar. Not quite as much, as the sleeve length is about .75″ shorter, if I remember correctly.
Of course, you’re probably not going to need as much weight on the axle as you would on a standard barbell.
One downside of the axle is its weight. While a standard barbell is 45 lbs (unless you get one in kilograms), Titan lists the axle as weighing in at 30 lbs. That means plate calculations you’ve memorized such as how two 45s on each side is 225 lbs will need to be adjusted slightly.
This isn’t a huge issue, though. You just subtract 10 lbs from the total.
After using it for a couple of weeks and actively looking for ways to incorporate it into my routines, I’ve found that the bar functions beautifully and the power coating is rather durable in the “sleeve” portion of the bar.
It also tolerated a hurricane like a champ. Just saying.
However, perhaps the most interesting feature of the axle bar is its price. At just $47, it’s stupidly affordable for anyone putting together a home gym.
That’s Great, But Why Should I Get One?
In and of itself, unless you want to do strongman movements or increase your grip strength, you probably shouldn’t…
…unless you get a landmine, which you should totally do (that review coming next week).
One concern I had with getting a landmine was I didn’t want to do something that would bend my bar. A $285 bar isn’t something to be treated badly, after all, but I kept hearing horror stories about people bending their bars doing landmine work.
My plan was to get a beater Olympic bar for not much money and then if it bent, I wouldn’t be out nearly as much.
However, I bought my landmine from Titan on a lark (I had credits built up with them to cover the cost). Because it cost me nothing, I decided to also pick up the axle bar as well.
When they arrived, though, I realized something important. An axle bar is just a barbell. That means it’ll fit in things like landmine attachments.
That meant I could slap the axle bar into the landmine and still have my barbell free for other things…as well as free from being bent because I dropped the weight while it was in the landmine.
It worked like a dream.
Not only that but at $47, if it does somehow get bent, I can easily replace it. However, I don’t think that’ll be an issue. I suspect the nature of the pipe will actually prevent that from happening. It might dent, but I don’t think it will bend.
Basically, it serves all the purposes of a beater barbell at a fraction of the cost for even one of those. It will also train your grip without the need for fancy implements like Rolling Thunders or any of that other stuff.
In other words, for a ridiculously low cost, you get a tool that will help you work virtually every muscle in your body in new and interesting ways. What’s not to like?
Look, personally, I think everyone needs to incorporate strongman movements into their lifting. The real world doesn’t give you things to lift that are a nice, uniform 29mm diameter. It gives you thicker stuff that makes you work even harder to move despite being a bit lighter.
Working with an axle bar will, in part, help with that. The fact that even Rogue’s offering is less than half the cost of their power bars means you can increase the benefit to your training for not a whole lot of money.
I can tell you based on my recent experience, though, axle bar training is a huge benefit if you’re training to move heavy things in the real world. It won’t make it easy on you, so why not train your muscles to be able to take it?
If you’re interested in that sort of thing, you need an axle bar.
Plus, if you’re at a commercial gym, for this kind of money, it might be easy enough to talk the owner/manager into making an investment in this piece of equipment. It’s a lot easier to convince people to risk a hair under $50 for this than just under $1,800 for a belt squat machine.
Either way, it’s worth it to pick up something like this and take your training in new directions with movements you already know how to do.