To understand the who, what, why about the dumbbell itself. First let's look into the man who created and brought this wonderful dumbbell and it’s mysteries to life.
Thomas Inch was born in Scarborough, a seaside town on the North Yorkshire coast in the U.K on 27 December 1881. At just the age of 19 Thomas Inch became the ‘World’s Strongest Youth’ which declared him a major Strongman of his time.
One of his inspirations include German showman Eugen Sandow. Inch was attending one of the shows where Eugen ripped a pack of cards in half and threw them into the audience. Inch was said to have caught one half of the pack and actually tore that in half too! Then have the cheek to throw it straight back to Sandow.
Thomas Inch specialised in more traditional lifting with barbells and dumbbells. He was also known for famously bent pressing humans with one arm, an awesome, entertaining feat of strength very complicated to perform.
Something that makes him very unique was his ability to capitalize on his growing fame. Publishing multiple books and training guides on physical fitness. Inch travelled the British countryside performing his feats of strength whilst selling his books.
In June 1910, Thomas Inch won Britain’s Strongest Man. This incredible feat helped spread his reputation further. It is said, at the ripe old age of 68 he was still able to deadlift 240kg!
The Thomas Inch Dumbbell
Weighing a pretty meaty 78kg, the Thomas Inch dumbbell’s weight is quite a comfortable lift for most modern day strongmen and strength athletes. However, the handle on the Inch dumbbell was very thick, measuring in at 2 3/8" (just over 6cm) in diameter and 4" in length (10.1cm) it makes lifting the dumbbell almost impossible for most.
You require an outstandingly strong grip to hoist up the dumbbell, this is due to the ‘roll’, when picking up the dumbbell, if your grip’s not strong enough, it will just roll out of your hand.
Thomas claimed that it was impossible to clean and press the dumbbell with one hand. In his lifetime nobody ever managed this feat, even the great Arthur Saxon and Reg Park couldn’t manage this.
Enter Mark Henry, Powerlifting Champion, Professional Wrestler and Olympic Weightlifter.. If there’s a man for the job it’s him.
On June 22, 2002 he managed to perform a one handed clean and press of the Thomas Inch dumbbell. The first man in recent history to perform this feat. We’ve seen it replicated by one other man to our knowledge, Carl Myerscough, another giant of a man.
Lifting The Dumbbell
Lifting a Thomas Inch dumbbell replica is seen as one of the holy grails of the grip sport community. There are a few ways you can train to lift it. But honestly nothing beats just raw bone crushing grip strength. It also helps if you have giant hands like Mark Felix.
A successful lift would be using one hand to pick up the dumbbell and stand up straight with it, locking out. Not using any other part of your body to assist you.
There are a few different techniques employed by people these days to help make the lift easier. The main issue with the Inch Dumbbell is its ability to just roll out of your hands. If you can combat the roll, you’ve got a great chance of lifting it.
One way to do this is by tilting the dumbbell, it helps eliminate some of the roll, therefore making the lift easier.
That said… Deep down, you know you’ve been cheating (a little bit anyway). The best way to showcase your mammoth grip strength would be by balancing an object on either globe of the dumbbell, then lifting it whilst they stay on. This shows a completely level lift. A lifelong goal achieved, and membership to a very exclusive group of lifters.
Where Can I Get A Thomas Inch Dumbbell?
Increasingly rare these days, replicas are going to set you back a fair chunk. It's quite a big risk to take on something you probably won’t even be able to lift, ever.
So we would recommend trying one out before you commit to buying one. Or building up a very good level of grip strength
We are currently working on manufacturing a small batch of these dumbbells which will hopefully be released in the future. There are a few thick grip style loadable dumbbells available, but they just don’t have the same effect as replicas due to weight distribution and roll.
How Can I Train To Lift It
Grip train, train your grip and grip train a little more. That’s the simple answer, a lot of thick bar work is going to greatly enhance your chances of lifting the Thomas Inch Dumbbell.
We will delve into a few different exercises that will improve your chances of lifting the dumbbell. Crush and pinch strength are going to be essential for this feat, so we will focus on those.
Thick Bar Work
If you’ve got access to an axle, that’s a great start. Axles are usually 2” thick which is almost the same as the Thomas Inch, it gives you a good idea of what you’re up against.
Performing axle deadlifts, or even double overhand deadlifts with a regular barbell is going to massively improve your crush grip.
You can even add holds in, at the top of the lift just simply hold on for as long as you can, when you feel the bar slipping out of your hands, just hold tighter!
Rolling handles are another excellent way to improve your grip strength and chances of lifting the Inch. As they ‘roll’ similarly to the Inch it really gives you a good idea on how to control the movement. Our rolling handles are available in sizes 2”, 2.5” and 3”, the 3” handle is going to be awesome for overtraining on the width, if anything it makes the Inch feel quite comfortable after a few weeks of lifting.
If you combine the two, you’ve basically got to lift a thicker axle with one hand, with more roll and loaded with 78kg. That’s the Inch.
One of my personal favorite areas to train. Pinching is crucial for combatting the roll of the Inch, this is due to pinch heavily relying on the finger / thumb strength.
The best way to focus on pinch grip is by using pinch blocks. Our pinch blocks are manufactured for both one handed and two handed lifting. It’s better to train one handed lifting if your main target is to lift the Inch.
Another option would be plate pinching, excellent for developing pinch and forearm strength. It also looks awesome when you’re able to hoist up 2 x 25kg, smooth side of course, just using one hand.