There’s a street hustle in parts of Europe where passersby are offered the chance to win 100 euro if they can hang from a bar for two minutes.
To play the game, an entry fee of 10 euro is required, which seems like a small price to pay if you’re confident in your ability to hang.
The only problem is that nobody ever wins. That’s what makes it such an effective hustle.
A two-minute bar hang is no easy task, but it’s something that any serious calisthenics practitioner can accomplish.
So what’s the catch? How come nobody wins the 100 euro?
The answer is simple, but hardly noticeable upon first glance, hence the effectiveness of the con: The bar they have you hang from is very thick and – more importantly – it rotates.
Perhaps you’re thinking that a little bit of spin shouldn’t make it harder to hang. That’s what I thought, too, which is precisely why people fall for this game.
As The Bar Turns
I recently found myself in London teaching a Progressive Calisthenics Certification workshop at The Commando Temple, a fantastic place for calisthenics training, and home to some very serious grip enthusiasts. In fact, their head calisthenics coach and PCC Team Leader, Fitsz Dubova, is also a world-record holding grip strength competitor.
During one of the breaks at PCC, Fitsz showed me a pair of rotating handles that can be hung below a standard pull-up bar. Then he had me try to hang from them, so I could see for myself how they felt.
I was immediately surprised by how tough it was to hold onto the rotating handles, but I was still able to hang for a bit in spite of the increased difficulty.
Then Fitsz challenged me to try hanging from it on one arm.
On a standard bar, I can hang for a minute or longer on one hand, but on this thick, rotating apparatus, I was barely able to hang for two seconds!
Though I was intrigued, I didn’t get much time to play around with the revolving handles that weekend. After I returned home to NYC, however, I began thinking about them again.
I started looking around online, and came across an article on Jedd Johnson’s blog detailing how to make your own rotating grip handles. Then I went to my local hardware store and got everything I needed to assemble my own revolving pull-up bar handles.
Each handle consists of two pieces of PVC pipe – one inside of the other – with a foot and a half of chain threaded through and attached to a climbing strap with a carabiner. Placing one piece of pipe inside of the other is what causes the handles to rotate smoothly. They are cheap and easy to assemble.
Roll With It
Training with these handles has been a humbling experience. I’m no stranger to thick bar pull-ups, but the rotating nature of these handles makes them very tough to hold onto. I have pretty strong hands from decades of doing pull-ups on various types of bars, and I’ve messed around with a few kinds of grip boards and other climber’s training tools. Those of you who follow my blog also know that I recently started training to rip decks of cards in half. All of these things offer their own unique challenges, but these rotating thick grips are one of the most difficult grip tools I’ve encountered over the years.
If you have a very strong grip, you might not notice right away how much harder it is to hold onto a rotating bar or rotating handles, but as soon as you begin to fatigue, it will become immediately apparent.
Think about what you do when you are hanging from a bar and start to lose your grip. Most people instinctively try to choke their hands up a bit higher on the bar for more surface contact and improved leverage.
When you try to do this on a rotating handle, however, it just spins right back to where it was, forcing you to grip from a position of unfavorable leverage. It’s impossible to utilize any type of false grip on a bar that turns.
On top of that, these 2-inch grips are too think for most people to wrap their hand completely around, which makes the idea of hanging for two minutes that much more daunting.
Though I usually prefer to grip with my thumb on the same side of the bar as the rest of my fingers, as I feel that gives me the best leverage, I’ve been practicing pull-ups and hangs on these handles with my thumb wrapped around the other side in order to purposely increase the grip challenge.
I can hang from a standard pull-up bar for close to four minutes, but so far I’ve yet to stay on these handles for a full 60 seconds.
If I ever get to two minutes, I’ll be ready to try and win that 100 euro.
Watch the clip below to see my max set of pull-ups on these revolving pull-up handles: