Benefits Of The Circus Dumbbell For Strongman Strength

Generation Iron Eugene Sandow

What started at the circus is by no means a laughable dumbbell lift.

When we look at a Strongman event, the uniqueness of each exercise is part of the spectacle. Watching strongmen and strongwomen lift logs overhead, pull trucks, deadlift ungodly amounts of weight, and perform the medley which not one of us dare touch can be exhilarating, even from the comfort from our couch as we munch on cheese puffs and encourage them to lift more. It’s impressive, and while we may not engage in that form of training and competition, it is fun to imagine what that would be like nonetheless.

You’re at the turn of 19th/20th century and someone offers to take you to the circus. A grand tent, beautiful spectacle of colors, animals, and performers. Probably a tight roper walker, maybe someone wrangling a tiger. Suddenly, the ring master brings out what looks like a massive dumbbell, bigger than anything you’ve seen before. He points to you and wants you to come down. So, you do. He instructs you to lift the weight.

Simple, right? So you try. It doesn’t budge. The crowd laughs, the ringmaster chuckles at your misfortune, but you simply cannot lift this weight. A Strongman appears, shirtless, wearing tight, colorful pants. The crowd now erupts in laughter. He walks over, grips this massive handle, and effortlessly, lifts this giant dumbbell overhead. The crowd cheers and you’ve just experienced one of the oldest Strongman events of all time: the circus dumbbell.

As a fun staple in Strongman events and a serious test of overhead pressing capabilities, the circus dumbbell has stood the test of time. Let’s take a closer look at the circus dumbbell. From what it is, to the benefits of it, and even how to perform it, this event can be a fun exercise if you have access to this giant dumbbell. A spectacle of an event can make for a fun and engaging workout.

What Is The Circus Dumbbell?

The circus dumbbell is essentially an oversized dumbbell with a very large grip and longer in length. While this is mainly used in the traditional sense of a Strongman event being the one-arm overhead press, the circus dumbbell has great uses for many other exercises like farmer’s carries, swings, rows, and anything where a dumbbell is your main piece of equipment by choice.

Due to its sheer size and awkward grip, this is a unique training tool that can make a workout quite difficult. The grip is unique in that it requires a certain level of grip strength, so strong wrists and forearms are required, and the length can be challenging especially when going overhead.

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Benefits Of The Circus Dumbbell

Develop Upper Body Strength

The sheer mass of this dumbbell will improve upper body strength as you recruit many muscle groups to get this weight overhead. The movement, which requires certain muscles at different stages of the lift, will certainly help with that muscle growth you want to see as you get stronger and more efficient with it.  Not only are your larger muscle groups worked, but those smaller stabilizer and assistance muscles you so desperately seek to grow. For developing upper body strength, the circus dumbbell is a great option.

Challenge Your Core

The necessity of your core with this lift is imperative as it requires the utmost balance and support to really get that weight lifted overhead. Helping you stay grounded, your core will be engaged and braced as it will challenge your ability to stay as stable as possible. While this may not work your core to oblivion like other ab exercises, it certainly will challenge it.

Enhance Grip Strength

Grip strength is something often times overlooked for we never really think about why we exactly need it. But it helps with functional movements and everyday activities, as well as those big lifts especially as we increase in weight. The massive size of this handle is enough to challenge grip and requires strong forearms and wrists, both of which we tend to ignore. With the help of this lift, it will illuminate how strong of grip strength you have, or make you think about ways to really enhance that grip strength.

Have Fun With An Old School Strongman Lift

We are always looking for ways to challenge ourselves and add variety in our workouts. This lift is one way to do so. By incorporating a fun and challenging Strongman lift, especially one with history, our gains will not only grow, but we will have fun doing so. Approaching a challenge like this should be fun and while we want to compete with others, sometimes its best to start competing with ourselves.

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How To Perform The Circus Dumbbell

Here are the steps for performing this dumbbell lift:

Begin in a squat stance with the dumbbell in the middle of your feet. Grabbing the dumbbell, drop your hips and pull your chest up, similar to a deadlift. Then, pick the dumbbell off the floor with an explosive movement and guide to a press. This will be about at your shoulder. You can use your free hand to help guide it to your shoulder.

Once in this position, get yourself in a stable place to lift the weight overhead. You can use your free hand to help guide you and get set-up. Remember to engage your core and feel grounded and stable throughout your body.

Now it’s time for the press. Remove your free hand and perform a slight dip, then hoisting the dumbbell overhead, locking out the arm. Gently lower back to the ground and repeat for your desired number of reps.

Wrap Up

The circus dumbbell is an old and storied Strongman lift that can provide for a fun way to add diversity to your workouts. With benefits towards your strength and stability, this can really challenge you physically and mentally as if you were under the bright lights of the Strongman stage. With proper form and real overhead pressing efficiency, you will be well on your way to lifting big like the pros.

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*Images courtesy of Envato

Austin Letorney is a writer, actor, and fitness enthusiast. As a former rower, he has shifted his focus to sharing his knowledge of the fitness world and strength sports with others.