Build Your Own Kroc Dumbbell
I write this spill with the knowledge that I possess little mechanical ability or any type of genetics for building anything. I have great friends that harness these talents – Jim Messer (creator of the N.O.V name and friend since our days at MacArthur Junior High School) is quite the carpenter and Jason Pegg is my hired gun when I need help getting stuff done. So with that in mind, I feel highly qualified to write this piece simply because I truly believe that if I can do this, anyone can. Before we start with the simple process, let me define the Kroc Row. Named after everyone’s favorite Polish American Powerlifter, Matt Kroczaleski, the Kroc Row has quickly become a staple exercise in many lifting circles. In its infancy this exercise was simply a single set of high rep dumbbell rows with the heaviest weight possible. Matt did this because of necessity – the dumbbells he had access weren’t heavy enough to perform the requisite “10-12” reps that is often prescribed. To combat this, he just did a ton of reps with the heaviest dumbbell available. Initially done to build his upper back for his bench press, this exercise also gave him great deadlift lockout strength as well as grip strength. Never one to stand still, Matt began training the row heavier and heavier and built his own dumbbell to accommodate his strength. With this the Kroc Row expanded into a ridiculously heavy one-arm row often done with straps. Matt has done 300lbs with this exercise and he swears by it. So the Kroc Row can now be defined as two things:
• Insanely heavy dumbbell row, approaching mythical weights, done with straps.
• High rep dumbbell row (20-40 reps) with highest possible weight without straps.
There is a 4 step process to building your own Kroc Row Dumbbell (this is for version 1, the one with straps).
1. Purchase a section of 1” diameter of cold rolled steel. You can find this online for very cheap. You can get it cut to whatever length you want. If you want to approach the 300lbs mark, a 30 inch bar of steel will work. Most people don’t need that and 24 inches would work fine if you want to go around 200lbs. You can find hollow steel tubes at Home Depot but I’d rather have something solid, just for my piece of mind. I purchased mine from onlinemetals.com. 2. Purchase a bike grip, preferably for a BMX bike. I used a very awesome rubber chopper grip given to me by Matt Nealon (he posts on T-Nation and is my main supplier of chopper porn mags). With a little manipulation and some cutting, slide the handle onto the steel. Put in in the middle of the handle (obviously). Thank you Matt!
3. Purchase some 10, 5 and 2.5lb standard plates (not Olympic plates). I got mine at Play it Again Sports for very cheap. Buy whatever you think you will need to support your rowing habits.
4. Get some clamps for standard barbells. I use 2-3 standard sized spring clamps PER SIDE. You can never be too careful. You can also find clamps used for plumbing; the ease of getting the spring clamps on and off are great.
Once you get these things, simply slide the plates onto the steel bar and do some practice reps to see if the handle is centered. Because there is no knurl on the handle and the rubber is slippery, straps will be essential. Because the dumbbell is going to be much longer than you are used to, you will have to modify your rowing motion a little bit. I can tell you from experience that rowing a VERY heavy dumbbell will do things for your upper back and lats that no exercise can replicate. You will be sore in places you hadn’t thought possible. Plus, it’s just cool to row with one hand what others can barely do with two.