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Shorter and lighter barbells can also be used in general fitness training.

A barbell is a piece of exercise equipment used in weight training, bodybuilding, weightlifting and powerlifting, consisting of a long bar with weights attached at each end.

Barbells range in length from 4 feet (1.2 m) to above 8 feet (2.4 m), although bars longer than 2.2 metres (7.2 ft) are used primarily by powerlifters and are not commonplace. The central portion of the bar varies in diameter from 25 millimetres (0.98 in) to 2 inches (51 mm) (e.g. Apollon's Axle), and is often engraved with a knurled crosshatch pattern to help lifters maintain a solid grip. Disc weights (plates) are slid onto the outer portions of the bar to increase or decrease the desired total weight.[1] These weights are often secured with collars to prevent them from sliding off during the exercise, which can result in injuries, or flinging the unevenly loaded barbell through the air.[2]

Olympic barbells

Men's bar

An Olympic bar mounted on a bench press bench

A men's Olympic bar is a metal bar that is 2.2 metres (7.2 ft) long and weighs 20 kilograms (44 lb). The outer ends are 50 millimetres (2.0 in) in diameter, while the grip section is 28 millimetres (1.1 in) in diameter, and 1.31 metres (4.3 ft) in length. The bars have grip marks spaced 910 millimetres (36 in) apart to allow intuitive grip width measurement.[3] It is the standard used in competitive weightlifting where men and women compete at the highest level - the Commonwealth Games, Pan-American Games, World Championships, and the Olympics. Bars of this kind must have suitable "whip" (ability to store elastic energy), sleeves which rotate smoothly, as well as capacity to withstand multiple dropped lifts from overhead.

Powerlifting requires use of stiffer bars to better accommodate the heavier weights being used in the sport (particularly in the squat). These bars can be longer (to allow loading of more plates) and thicker (to deform less under load, with exception being longer, but thinner, flexible deadlift only dedicated bars). Sleeves do not need to rotate as fast as in Olympic weightlifting dedicated bars, so usually simpler, robust bushings are used (which historically was traditional design of most Olympic weightlifting bars too) in place of more complicated, almost frictionless, modern bearings.[4] Additionally, powerlifting bars have their grip marks spaced closer, at 810 millimetres (31.9 in). This closer spacing is used to check legal grip width in the bench press.

The International Powerlifting Federation requires using the same kind of bar on all lifts, being between 28 millimetres (1.1 in) and 29 millimetres (1.1 in) in diameter, not more than 2.2 metres (7.2 ft) in overall length, and between 1.31 metres (4.3 ft) and 1.32 metres (4.3 ft) between the inner faces of the collars. Another visual difference from typical Olympic bar or IPC approved one is that the IPF bar's knurling shall not be covered by chrome.[5] Stating that bar should weigh 25 kg (55 lb) with collars on, effectively permits use of 20 kg (44 lb) bars only, because same as IWF,[3] IPF requires collars to weigh 2.5 kg (5.5 lb) each.[5]

The total weight of the barbell varies based on the type and number of plates loaded onto the ends of the bar and the lift being performed, and easily can be as much as over 540 kilograms (1,190 lb) with squat dedicated bar (which itself can weigh up to 65 lb (29 kg) and have up to 35 mm (1.4 in) grip section diameter).

Most "Olympic" bars one can see in commercial gyms, although superficially similar to real Olympic bars to the untrained eye, actually do not share IWF nor powerlifting essential characteristic. They are just generic strength training bars, with wide variations in markings, grip section diameter, and, most importantly, stress capacity prior to permanently bending or dangerously failing.[6]

Women's bar

A women's Olympic bar is similar to the men's bar, but is shorter - 2.01 metres (6.6 ft) [7] - and lighter - 15 kilograms (33 lb) - with a smaller grip section diameter (25 millimetres (0.98 in)).[3] Also in contrast to the men's bar, the women's bar does not sport a center knurl. Powerlifting utilizes the same bar for both male and female competitors.[5]

Bumper plates

Plates used in Olympic lifting, which are often termed "bumper" plates, need to be able to be safely dropped from above head height and as such are coated in solid rubber. General strength/hypertrophy training plates are made from cast iron and are considerably cheaper.

Currently, following colour code is required by IWF:[8]

Colour Weight (kg) Weight (lb)
25 55.12
20 44.09
15 33.07
10 22.05
5 11.02
2.5 5.51
2 4.41
1.5 3.31
1 2.20
0.5 1.10

50 kilograms (110 lb) green bumper plates were only officially approved for use by IWF from 1976 to 1980,[9] Montreal being the only Olympic venue where they were deployed.

Presently, Olympic plates of 10 kilograms (22 lb) or more are 450 millimetres (18 in) in diameter. 450 millimetres (18 in) versions also exist of the lighter 5 kilograms (11 lb) and 2.5 kilograms (5.5 lb) plates to accommodate the proper starting position for beginner athletes. These can be aluminium or plastic and may have rubber edges.

Additionally, differently coloured plates are or were used outside of IWF sanctioned competition, most prominently in powerlifting.

These include:

Colour Weight (kg) Weight (lb)
50 110.23
50 110.23
45.36 100
45.36 100
45.36 100
25 55.12
20.41 45
20 44.09
15.88 35
15 33.07
11.34 25
10 22.05
10 22.05
10 22.05
5 11.02
5 11.02
5 11.02
4.54 10
2.5 5.51
2.5 5.51
2.5 5.51
2.27 5
1.25 2.76
1.25 2.76
1.13 2.5
0.57 1.25
0.5 1.10
0.5 1.10
0.5 1.10
0.25 0.55

Powerlifting plates in contrast to Olympic lifting ones are usually thinner (to accommodate more plates on bar) and as they are not meant to be dropped, do not need to utilize additional coating.

Nowadays, 100 pounds (45 kg) plates are fairly rare, typically only used in some of the powerlifting federations still using plate sets scaled in pounds, such as IPA, SPF and their affiliates.

Black 50 kilograms (110 lb) polyurethane coated plates were introduced by Eleiko in IPC sanctioned London 2012 Paralympic Games. Apart from them and 0.25 kilograms (0.55 lb) record discs, IPC approved set uses the same plates as IWF one.[10][11]

Technically, 10 kilograms (22 lb) and smaller plates can be of any colour in IPF approved sets,[5] although only colours listed above were used for them by few certified manufacturers.

Plates used in training need not conform to IWF nor powerlifting specifications, and can be of any colour, which can be misguiding e.g. Kraiburg bumper plates are rated in pounds, and one notch lighter than expected, regarding their traditional place in colour code- red plates are 45 pounds (20 kg), blue ones 35 pounds (16 kg) etc.


Standard collars can be of any material, usually metal, and they can weigh up to 2.5 kilograms (5.5 lb) each for both men and women.

Typical Olympic bar with a pair of collars, the plates not counted, can weigh as much as 25 kilograms (55 lb) for men and 20 kilograms (44 lb) for women depending on the collars.

Other types


Barbells with a short rod are called dumbbells.

"Standard" barbell

Despite the name, "Standard" barbells have little in common between them dimension wise. However, there are at least two things they all share. First, as opposed to a 50 millimetres (2.0 in) loading sections on Olympic bar, a "Standard" barbell has thinner loading areas (most commonly 1 116 inches (27 mm) in USA or 28 millimetres (1.1 in) in Europe, but 1 inch (25 mm) as well in cheaper ones). They can be threaded or plain, requiring use of different collars. Second, they are made of a single solid piece of metal without rotating parts. Grip section varies in diameter from 1 inch (25 mm) to 28 millimetres (1.1 in) or even 30 millimetres (1.2 in) in most sturdy ones. The bar can weigh even 11 kg (24 lb) for thickest and longest (2.16 metres (7.1 ft)) ones, but is usually lighter. EZ Curl bars of this type are shorter and weigh less — estimate weight of 1 inch (25 mm) bars is approximately 2.7 lb/ft (4.0 kg/m).

EZ curl bar

Originally known as a Dymeck curling bar after its inventor Lewis G. Dymeck, the EZ ("easy") curl bar is a variant of the barbell that is often used for biceps curls, upright rows, and lying triceps extensions.[12] The curved profile of the bar in the grip region allows the user's wrists and forearms to take a more neutral, less supinated position. This reduces the risk of repetitive stress injury in these exercises.[13][14] However, when performing the biceps curl, using an EZ curl bar prevents full contraction of the biceps-which can only occur with the wrist fully supinated-and thus may prove a less effective exercise.[15]

Fixed barbell

Primarily found in gyms, these are usually fairly short bars with weights already attached and welded to the bar, and in some cases, a covering of plastic/rubber around the plates. A typical gym might carry a range of fixed barbells from 5 kilos to around 40 kilos. They are handy as they take less space than full-length bars and are useful for many exercises where less weight is required. They can also provide an easier starting point for beginners before moving on to using the full olympic bars. In addition, they provide for speedy transitions between various weights if one is doing multiple weights in quick succession.

Thick-handled barbell

These specialty items are designed to challenge the grip. They're used in strongman competitions for the deadlift and overhead presses, such as Apollon's Axle. Recently, even such exotic as 3 inches (76 mm) diameter bars appeared, however their practicality could be disputable. They are made in China, and can weigh up to 135 pounds (61 kg).[16]

Triceps bar

Similar in function to an EZ curl bar, the triceps bar consists of two parallel handles mounted in a cage. It is used to perform triceps extensions[17] and hammer curls.

Trap bar/Hex bar

A hexagon-shaped bar in the middle of which the user stands and grasps the bar, via handles, with a neutral grip. The use of trap bars places the center of gravity closer to the lifter. Trap bars are used primarily for performing deadlifts and shrugs.

See also


  1. "Pickyguide Guide to Barbells". Archived from the original on 17 April 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-23.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. National Strength & Conditioning Association (U.S.). Certification Commission, Exercise Technique Manual for Resistance Training, page vii, Champaign, IL : Human Kinetics, 2008
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 "IWF Hand Book 2009-2012 Annexes". Hand Book 2009-2012 Annexes. International Weightlifting Federation. Retrieved September 10, 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "Understanding Olympic Barbell Specifications".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 "IPF Technical Rules Book 2012" (PDF). IPF Technical Rules Book 2012. International Powerlifting Federation. Retrieved September 10, 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "Ivanko on Olympic Bars". Ivanko on Olympic Bars. Ivanko. Retrieved September 15, 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "IWF Hand Book 2009-2012 Technical and Competition Rules". Hand Book 2009-2012 Technical and Competition Rules. International Weightlifting Federation. Retrieved September 15, 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Dresdin, Archibald. "Weightlifting Equipment Through The Ages". Retrieved September 10, 2012. External link in |publisher= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "2011-2012 IPC Powerlifting Rules and Regulations" (PDF). 2011-2012 IPC Powerlifting Rules and Regulations. IPC Powerlifting. Retrieved June 12, 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "Eleiko Disability Competition". Eleiko Disability Competition. Eleiko. Retrieved December 10, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. "Common uses of the ez curl bar". Retrieved 2009-04-25.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. Repetitive Strain Injuries, Timothy J. Jameson, MD., pages 79-80, ISBN 0-87983-802-7, ISBN 978-0-87983-802-7, McGraw Hill Professional
  14. "What is an EZ Curl bar?". Retrieved 2010-09-17.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. Rippetoe, Mark. "Platform: The Lying Triceps Extension". The Aasgaard Company. Retrieved 22 April 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. "New York Barbells Special Fat/Grip Bars". New York Barbells, Elmira. Retrieved September 20, 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. "Types of barbells used in weight training". Archived from the original on 3 November 2009. Retrieved 2009-11-15.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>