What if I told you that wearing the right kind of t-shirt could increase your strength on squat and bench press? Because that's exactly what I'm telling you. Let me explain.
This page is my review of the A7 Bar Grip Full shirt. The Bar Grip Full is more than a t-shirt. It's a gym accessory that helps you achieve and maintain perfect position on bench and squat. (I'll get into the details shortly.)
I've trained in this shirt 1 to 2 times per week for the past 4½ months. I didn't go easy on it either. I put it through some long and intense squat and bench workouts. So I've had more than enough "wear-time" to be able to tell you what to expect from this shirt.
UPDATE: This is a minor detail but worth noting -- the Bar Grip "Full" were originally named as such when they were launched because they had full grip coverage on the upper back, traps and shoulders, compared to previous versions with less coverage. However, A7 has since switched to calling these new and improved shirts simply "Bar Grip" (i.e. they dropped the "Full") because all their Bar Grip shirts have full grip coverage by default.
About the Bar Grip Line of Shirts
In case you're unfamiliar with the Bar Grip apparel line, they're shirts with sticky grips built into the upper back region of the shirt. The grips serve two important purposes:
I'll expand on these two items in the next section.
The Bar Grip line of functional fitness shirts has been around for a few years. The Bar Grip Full is the forth and most recent version.
The Bar Grip Full shirt I'm reviewing now is the third Bar Grip I've owned. I own two other Bar Grip 3.0 shirts. The 3.0 was the previous iteration of the Bar Grip line. I've already reviewed both of my 3.0 shirts, which you can read here:
The older Bar Grip 3.0 shirts are similar to the newer Bar Grip Full in many ways. However, there are some key differences that I'll be discussing in this Bar Grip Full review.
Benefits of the Bar Grip Full
Improves Squat Strength & Technique
The Bar Grip Full prevents the bar from sliding down the traps on squats due to:
- shallow or dull center bar knurling and/or
- too much sweating
Having the bar move down the back on squats reduces power output. The lower-than-optimal position shifts the lifter's center of gravity and thus changes the biomechanics of the movement.
Your torso drops and becomes less upright. You lift less weight and have a higher risk of injury as a result.
The Bar Grip Full eliminates this problem because the bar won't budge a bit once you set it on the grips and begin the lift. This holds true even for bars with no center knurling whatsoever.
All of this means you'll have experience an acute performance boost on squats with the shirt. You'll get stronger over time from the combination of better performance and form.
Improves Bench Press Strength & Technique
The Bar Grip Full stops your back from slipping during bench press due to:
- excessive sweating and/or
- excessively slick upholstery on the bench backrest.
This ensures you'll be able to have achieve and maintain a strong upper back arch while using leg drive throughout the lift, which is essential to minimizing instability and maximizing power output on bench.
In the short term, this means you'll have better performance on this lift for a given session. This translates to better form and increased strength in the long term
A7 Bar Grip Full vs. Alternatives
Obviously, you don't *need* a Bar Grip shirt to bench or squat. The problem of bar and back slipping existed way before this shirt was invented. People had other solutions to fix it.
Below, I'll discuss the most common alternative solutions and how they stack up to the Bar Grip.
Bar Grip Full vs. Chalk
Rubbing chalk on your back and/or the bar is by far the most common alternative solution for preventing slippage during squats and bench press.
The biggest pros of using the chalk method are:
- it's super cheap
- it's fast and easy to apply
Overall, it's reasonably effective for preventing slippage if and only if you're sweating lightly to moderately. If you truly are a profuse sweater like I am and are trying to use chalk when you're already drenched, it'll just get washed away and it lose it's efficacy. Trust me.
The only way to use chalk somewhat effectively when you're soaked in sweat is to REALLY load it up on your back. Not just once, but for every set.
Also, if you can only squat on bar without center knurling, chalk will provide minimal help. It may stop sweat, but it won't provide the traction needed to actively keep the bar in place. The Bar Grip Full, however, will do just that.
The other cons of using chalk to prevent slippage that are more obvious:
- It can get really messy, really quickly. This includes the equipment, the floors, you and your clothes, your gym bag and innocent bystanders.
- It's banned in some gyms (because it's so messy).
Bar Grip Full vs. Shelf Liners (or Similar Solutions)
Another alternative is using shelf liners, which are mesh rubber sheets typically used to prevent items from sliding around in drawers, cabinets or on shelves. This solution is specific preventing slipping on bench press.
The concept is simple: you simply drape the shelf liner over the backrest and then you get into position and proceed to bench.
Overall, this works surprisingly well and is my favorite alternative to wearing my Bar Grip Full.
A7 Bar Grip Full vs. Bar Grip 3.0
Thicker and Grippier Grips
You can tell that the grip material on the Bar Grip Full is stronger than the 3.0 just by looking at it. It's even more apparent when you touch it.
The grips are thicker on the new Bar Grip shirt. They're more 3D. This means that it will last even longer than its predecessor.
The Bar Grip Full's grips are not only thicker, but they're stickier, too. I believe the grips are may be made from an altogether different adhesive material this time around. According to A7, they're made from same stuff on football wide receiver gloves.
It's important to note that I've never had the need for stronger grip when using the 3.0. It never once slipped from too much traction or excessive sweat during any of the hundreds of squat and bench sets I've worn it through.
Still, stronger grips is a plus, especially as my squat and bench grows. Not to mention, the greater strength of the grips only contributes to their durability and increases the lifespan of the shirt.
Deeper Grips: IN the Shirt, Not Just ON It
The grips on the old 3.0 shirt were simply adhered on top of the shirt's surface. However, the grips in the Bar Grip Full are anchored deep into shirt's fabric.
You can think of the Bar Grip Full grips as truly being a part of the shirt, as opposed to just being attached to the shirt.
What does this mean from a practical standpoint? The benefit is way more durability. There's no chance of chunks of the grip material peeling off because it's physically rooted into the shirt (as an aside, there's been no signs of peeling with my 3.0, though I'd assume it would start to happen given enough time and abuse).
Even if the Bar Grip Full grips get worn down and flatter over time, they'll still work. The grip material extends deep into the shirt fabric. Accordingly, they'll still be exposed if worn down and therefore capable of gripping.
FULL Coverage of Upper Back
This is what I would consider the biggest improvement of the Bar Grip Full over the 3.0. Hell, it's in the name of the shirt ("FULL")! That is, the grip material on the Bar Grip Full covers the full upper back.
The Bar Grip 3.0 covered noticeably less surface area. Its grips spanned a rectangular area across most, but NOT ALL of the upper back.
Specifically, the 3.0 missed a few important areas:
The new and improved Bar Grip Full, however, now covers all of these areas. Specifically, the Bar Grip Full coverage includes:
- the entire width of the lats from shoulder to shoulder
- the majority of the trapezius muscle from the midback to the edge of the collar
The additional neck/upper traps coverage was my personal favorite upgrade in the Bar Grip Full. It made the bar placement during the setup for high bar squats a seamless process.
With the 3.0, I have to take extra care to ensure the bar is actually on the grips and not on the fabric above. Sometimes this requires hiking my shirt up higher on my back so that the grips are high enough on my traps for optimal bar placement.
New Moisture Wicking Fabric
The Bar Grip Full shirts are constructed from a 95% cotton and 5% lycra blend. This fabric blend gives the shirts the ability wick away sweat much effectively than the 3.0.
The 3.0 t-shirts have a 60% cotton / 40% polyester blend, which only allows for some moisture wicking. The 3.0 muscle tees are 100% cotton, which allows for even less moisture wicking.
I've worn and sweated profusely in both the Bar Grip Full and the 3.0. I'm much less drenched after workouts in my Bar Grip Full.
The new fabric is softer against the skin. Plus, I've noticed it returns to it's original shape faster after temporarily stretched and wrinkled when wearing a weight lifting belt.
New Athletic Fit Is More Athletic Than Before
Like the Bar Grip 3.0, the Bar Grip Full has an athletic fit. This means that both versions of the shirt are designed to accentuate the physique. Specifically, both the 3.0 and the Full:
- Are meant to have a snug but not overly tight fit against the body, as opposed to being loose or baggy.
- Have a tapered cut. It is wider at the shoulders/chest/lats and narrower at the waist. This tapered cut accentuates the natural v-taper look that's present on anyone with decent upper body muscular development.
- Have shorter sleeves. The sleeves go just about 1/3 to 1/2 of the way down the biceps. This is essential because you gotta let the guns breathe! ;-P
To reiterate, the above three items above describe the similarity of the athletic fits between the older and newer versions of the Bar Grip shirts. Below, I'll discuss the improvements made to the new Bar Grip Full that give it an edge over the Bar Grip 3.0 with respect to fit:
- More Room to Breathe (Bigger Neck Opening). The Bar Grip Full has the welcome addition of a slight but noteworthy increase in the size of the collar. This provides a more spacious fit around the neck. We lifters usually have somewhat thicker than average necks so this makes sense. I still wear my 3.0 and while I wouldn't say the collar is "restrictive," I can say that I notice the difference compared to the Bar Grip Full. The Bar Grip Full is more comfortable in that respect. Furthermore, I'm glad A7 decided to make this improvement when they did, since I've just recently started to train my neck directly. I'm sure I'll appreciate this added space even more as my neck gets thicker!
- More Accommodating Armpit Region. A7 made some subtle changes to the shape and size of the armpit region (i.e. armhole opening and the sleeve) to better accommodate larger lats and shoulders. The older 3.0 shirt caused some "pinching" at the widest point of the lat -- where the lat and arm attach in the back of the armpit. I only noticed this flaw after hearing about it from someone else. Still, I'm glad A7 fixed this issue on the Bar Grip Full. It improves the natural fit, freedom of motion and overall comfort.
The only negative with the Bar Grip Full is that I can't really drag my traps into place under the bar anymore as part of my squat setup. This dragging was my way of finding the perfect spot on my traps to hold the bar.
I realize not everyone has a similar setup habit like this, so this may not even apply to you.
Anyhow, the I've had to modify this part of my squat setup because the shirt bunches up if I try to drag my traps into place because the grips do what they're meant to do and catch on the bar as soon as there's contact.
I've worked around this issue by remembering exactly which part of my traps is optimal for placing the bar. I precisely "land" that part of my traps under the bar, as I show in this video:
Other than that, I have no complaints.
Are There Any Other Designs?
Yes! There's a bunch. I created this image to show you all the different ones available:
Are There Bar Grip Full Shirts for Women?
Yes, A7 makes a women's version for every Bar Grip Full design.
The women's versions have a cut / fit that is specific to the athletic female's physique:
- It is wider at the chest
- Then it tapers to its narrowest point at the waist
- Finally, it flares out to conform to and accentuate wider hips and glutes
It's built to amplify the ideal hourglass physique look.
The Bar Grip Full fits true to size for an athletic fit shirt.
Please remember that athletic fit shirts in general are meant to fit more snugly than regular fit. If you insist on having the shirt be looser, then you can order one size larger than usual. However, I personally prefer and recommend getting your normal size.
Refer to the official sizing chart below to make sure you get the right size:
Who Should Get the Bar Grip Full?
The Bar Grip Full t-shirt is right for you if any of the following is true:
- You sweat a lot
- Your barbells have dull or non-existent center knurling
- Your back slips on bench press
- The bar slides on squats
- You want the cleanest, fastest and most effective solution to prevent slipping and sliding
Who Should NOT Get the Bar Grip Full?
The Bar Grip Full might not be right for you if any of the following is true:
- You don't squat or bench press
- You have no issues with slipping or sliding
- You prefer to use chalk or other alternatives methods to prevent slipping and sliding
How Much Does It Cost?
The Bar Grip Full shirts are affordable. They're less expensive than most shirts from so-called "gym fashion" companies that don't have the added functionality of grips.
The exact price of a Bar Grip Full t-shirt varies between $32.95 to $37.95 depending on which design you choose. There are also Bar Grip Full hoodies which are $54.95 for all designs.
My Recommendation & Where to Buy
If you couldn't tell by now, I'm a big fan of the Bar Grip shirts. I own three already (two 3.0 shirts, and the one Bar Grip Full).
I plan on getting at least one more Bar Grip Full shirt soon. I like to have a variety of colors and designs to choose from--gotta mix it up!
Shipping Information & Overseas Ordering
I've got feedback from some folks wanting to know more about shipping costs and overseas ordering. I spoke to owner of A7 and here's the points he made:
- The main site (A7.co) ships mostly to just the USA and Canada. (NOTE: There are exceptions - see the last bullet point!)
- USA shipping under $100 is $4.95 per order. It is free for orders over $100.
- USA customers also have the option for expedited shipping with USPS Priority Mail for $7.95.
- Canadian shipping is a flat $5.95. There is no expedited option.
- The A7.co site stopped shipping to the following regions: New Zealand & Australia (A7Oceania.com), the European Union (A7Europe.com), China (A7China.cn), Singapore (Ferocity.com.sg) and Japan (site coming soon). These regions have their own distribution networks set up, so A7.co tends not to ship to them.
- If you're ordering from a country that is not served by any of the regional distributors, then shipping is $15.95 and you need to buy from A7.co.
Got any questions? Please leave them in the comments section below. I'll answer as soon as I can.