To some lifters, a barbell is just a bar. A strong, straight, grippable steel rod with rotating end sleeves that’ll hold whatever weight plates fit on them. But with even a little strength and conditioning, CrossFit training or weightlifting experience it becomes clear that the differences between Olympic barbells are often subtle but extremely effective.
WHAT IS AN OLYMPIC BARBELL?
An Olympic size barbell is any barbell with sleeves (the rotating plate-loaded ends) of 2inch (50mm) diameter. These differ from ‘standard’ size barbells of 1inch (25mm) diameter. The larger diameter of Olympic barbells not only gives the bar greater load-bearing strength, but minimises any ‘rocking’ movement of weight plates on the barbell sleeve.
Before we get further into the weighty subject of barbells, we need to first understand the terminology. Here are a few common terms you’ll hear a seasoned lifter using:
BEARINGS & BUSHINGS: The mechanisms that sit inside and between the sleeve ends and the barbell to reduce friction during rotation. These barbell bearings allow smoother rotation and are found in almost all Olympic weightlifting barbells. Barbells with bushings are pretty standard and commonplace in most gyms.
COLLAR: A ring-shaped clamp or spring that fits onto the sleeves of a barbell to secure the weight plates and stop them from slipping during weight training.
FINISH: The coating applied to the exterior of a barbell. Popular options include chrome and zinc. Important for reducing corrosion due to sweat and lifting chalk.
KNURLING: The rough, textured pattern on the barbell to increase grip during barbell lifting.
SHAFT: The middle portion of the barbell between the sleeves.
SLEEVE: The ends of the bar where you load the weight plates.
TENSILE STRENGTH: The maximum amount of weight or stress that a bar can hold before fracturing or breaking. The tensile strength of barbells is typically rated in pounds per square inch (PSI), with the best bars scoring above 200,000 PSI.
WHIP: The bounce or flex that occurs in a barbell, which may be useful in certain lifts that benefit from momentum—for example, the transition between a clean and a jerk.
OLYMPIC BARBELL SIZES
Olympic barbells come in a variety of lengths and weights. Most commonly, 7ft Olympic barbells (51-52inch) weigh 20kg and their 6ft (45-46inch) counterparts weigh 15kg. A 7ft bar has around 52″ of grippable barbell shaft between the sleeves, so it will fit on a 48″ wide squat rack (or bench press rack) with the sleeves sitting just outside both sides of the rack. Some 6ft bars are made to the same dimensions but with the sleeved ends cut short, so they also fit in a 48″ wide rack. Most 5ft and 6ft bars, however, will not fit in a rack this size.
The sleeve length of a 7ft bar is about 16″. A bar with a shorter overall length than 7ft will have shorter sleeves, but they vary. With 16″ sleeves you may be able to load about 9 low profile plates on each side (plus collars) but that all depends on the style of plates. With thicker rubber bumper plates you may only fit about half that.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT OLYMPIC BARBELL
Are you using the right bar for your training style? There are so many types of barbell out there it’s important that you’re choosing the right barbells for your gym. But what’s the difference? Here are a few of the varieties you’ll find in our Absolute Performance warehouse, ready for delivery:
APEX ELITE OLYMPIC BAR
The Apex Elite Olympic Bar perfectly represents our standard of strength & conditioning equipment. A robustly engineered ‘all-rounder’ bar, halfway between a 28mm standard bar and a 29mm power bar, and slightly stiffer than most specifically Olympic Lifting bars, giving greater all-round function as a powerlifting bar too. The Apex Elite Olympic bar is favoured by barbell training lovers, strength & conditioning coaches and home gym users who want the extra professional edge without breaking the bank. It even comes in a slick black-sleeved version, as used by former WRU and Lions Captain Sam Warburton in his home gym.
WERKSAN LIONFIT TRAINING BAR
A world-class training bar made by IWF accredited Turkish manufacturer Werksan. Made from a specially formulated chrome plated tungsten Swedish steel tested at 195,000 PSI. Lionfit barbells encapsulate 8 bearings and 4 bushings strategically distributed throughout each barbell for a perfect rotational spin. Silicone gel is also preserved within the bar to sustain longevity and protect the barbell against corrosion from sweat. We’ve supplied these unparalleled pro-level training barbells to all kinds of clients, ranging from Team GB Olympic training facilities to home gym users who want the ultimate in elite barbell training equipment.
Werksan create International Weightlifting Federation accredited equipment. This means that the weight tolerances, longevity and performance of their barbells are rated to professional athletic levels. Most recently, Werksan provided training and competition equipment to the 2021 World Weightlifting Championships in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. With Werksan equipment you can train in confidence that you’re using the very best gym equipment money can buy.
APEX OLYMPIC TECHNIQUE BAR
The ideal training partner in aiding form, posture, power and safety in barbell lifting. This bar is constructed from lightweight but sturdy aluminium allowing lifting technique to be developed without overpowering the user. This aluminium technique bar is popular with our CrossFit clients, functional training gyms and schools where good barbell lifting is encouraged before heavy weight plates are used.
APEX OLYMPIC STEEL BAR
With a much lower price tag than our Elite barbell, this sturdy steel bar features a slightly thicker 32mm shaft, with more than sufficient rotation for entry level lifters and the more money-conscious gym owner. This much more economic bar is favoured by garage home gym enthusiasts and commercial gyms who cater to large barbell training and functional fitness group circuits. They’re also regularly used by our clients in the public sector for military style training.
DON’T KNOW WHICH OLYMPIC BARBELL IS FOR YOU?
We love to talk equipment, usage and performance goals. If you’re still unsure what type of equipment is right for you or your gym users, get in touch with our friendly and experienced sales team.