The British Strongman and performer Thomas Inch was an early-twentieth-century strongman famous for his grip. He, for decades was proclaimed ‘Britain’s Strongest Man’. Inch was known for lifting what is today called the ‘Thomas Inch Dumbbell’, a cast iron thick handled bell that weighs a hundred and seventy two pounds.
It was said no man in his era could even clear it off the floor. Inch offered a prize of more than twenty thousand dollars in today’s currency to anyone that could lift the fabled dumbbell with one hand. Todays strongmen still proclaim success when they match the 100 year old feat of Thomas Inch.
Mike Gittleson was the Director of Strength & Conditioning at the University of Michigan for 30 years and was a part of 15 Football Championships in that time. He explains, what can happen when you emphasize training the grip.
Kim Wood is my friend and was the Head Strength Coach of the Cincinnati Bengals. He owns the original Thomas Inch dumbbell, which he purchased and had shipped to the USA. Kim sent me a replica as a gift. I had a stand constructed and placed it in the football weight room. If anyone could pick up the bell with one hand and stand straight I placed their name on a plaque and dated it.
I figured and rightfully so, that today’s football players were as strong as many amateur and professional strongmen from any decade and with our hand strengthening program athletes would be able to accomplish picking up the Inch dumbbell over time.
The dumbbell sat on it’s mount and became a silent goal in the weight room. Year after year athletes’ names began to grace the dumbbell stand. One of our centers, Rod Payne thought it was too easy to pick up and believed athletes should clean it or press it to be recognized. Lifting the Inch dumbbell is far from easy yet once you get your hands strong maybe for some it is.
I used many exercise devices for augmenting hand and finger strength. Yet my favorite tool for developing hand strength was the Pendulum Gripper. I had four lined up in the grip area and they were used every hand training session not only to strengthen, but to measure and record progress. A great tool for Getting Strong.