When first getting started with a fitness routine, it’s common to have questions about the equipment and how to use it. A common issue that comes up is the difference between Olympic and standard weightlifting bars.
Both bars are a type of barbell, which is a long, straight metal bar you can add weight to in order to do strength training exercises. There are two different types of barbells: regular or standard bars, and Olympic barbells. While they are very similar, there are some key differences between the two types of barbells.
Read on for a comparison of the two different types of barbells and figure out which might be right for you!
A standard barbell tends to be lighter (around 15 to 25 pounds) and shorter (5 to 6 feet long) than Olympic bars. They are usually easier to manage and more commonly found in home gyms. Standard barbells can’t hold as much weight as an Olympic bar, only around 100 to 200 pounds.
Like Olympic bars, standard bars can come with knurling in a variety of patterns, depending on your preference. It tends to be thicker and more pronounced that the knurling pattern found on an Olympic bar.
The main difference between standard and Olympic bars is the diameter of their sleeves, the part of the barbell which holds the weight plates. A standard bar has a uniform 1-inch diameter throughout the entire bar and sleeves. In addition, a standard bar has sleeves that do not rotate in the same way the sleeves on Olympic barbells do.
Another important distinction is that there isn’t any regulation of standard barbells, and their size and load capacity can vary from brand to brand.
In contrast, Olympic barbells are specifically designed to meet the standards set by the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) for weight-lifting competitions. That means every Olympic barbell you pick up will be the same size, length and diameter.
Men’s Olympic barbells are 7.2 feet long and 45 lbs. Women’s Olympic barbells are 6.6 feet long and 33 lbs. Both types of bars have a 2 inch sleeve diameter, and around a grip of around an inch. An Olympic barbell can also hold significantly more weight than a standard bar, up to 1,100 pounds or even more.
Finally, the sleeves on an Olympic barbell rotate or spin. When lifting heavy weights, the wrists can be pulled into uncomfortable positions, putting a great deal of pressure on the joints. Having sleeves that spin helps to eliminate the directional pull that causes this strain.
Like standard bars, many Olympic bars have knurling in various patterns. However, the knurling tends to be much lighter and less pronounced on Olympic bars, simply because the bars are built to accommodate much higher weights. A thicker knurling could be irritating when sitting on your shoulders with hundreds of pounds of weight sitting on the bar.
There are some big differences in the weight plates as well. The biggest difference is the plates that fit on to standard and Olympic bars are not interchangeable. The plates that fit onto a standard bar will not fit onto an Olympic bar and vice versa. This is because Olympic weight plates have a hole with a 2-inch diameter, and standard weight plates have only a 1-inch diameter.
There are adapters that allow you to use an Olympic plate on a standard bar; however, you can’t use both types of plates on the same barbell. Once the adapter is in place on the bar sleeve, the standard plates will no longer fit. It is also important to remember the load your barbell can accommodate, since standard bars are not able to hold as much weight as an Olympic bar.
There are a couple of other differences as well:
- Olympic plates are covered with a rubber coating, which allows users to drop them without risking damage to the plates, the barbell, or the floor.
- Some Olympic plates are color coded according to IWF standards. Standard plates do not conform to these standards and can vary from brand to brand.
- Some Olympic plates are made with handles in the actual weight plate. This allows you to do other exercises with the plate, independent of a weight bar. It also makes them easier to lift and move around.
Which Is Right For Me?
It depends on your goals and your level of fitness. Standard plates tend to be less expensive and are better for beginner weightlifters. They also might be better for someone who isn’t looking to go too heavy.
If you are looking to lift weights competitively or lift very heavy weights, then Olympic bars are the way to go. Olympic bars give you the most room for growth because they can handle so much extra weight. In addition, Olympic bars are heavier and sturdier, making them less likely to bend or tip over if the weight isn’t distributed evenly between the two sides.
It is possible to start with a standard bar and then upgrade to an Olympic bar later on. However, you’ll find the plates used with a standard bar won’t fit on the Olympic bar later on and you’ll need to purchase additional plates as well. Depending on your goals, it may make more financial sent to just start with the Olympic bar and plates.
Whichever size you decide on, don’t forget to have the correct size weight plate collars available as well. Collars secure your weight plates onto the bar so they don’t slide off while you are lifting. Look for collars that are durable and simple to put on and take off to make switching weights during your workouts quick and easy.
Storing Your Weight System
Make sure to pick up a place to store your weights when they are not in use. Leaving your weights loaded on the barbell isn’t good for the bar in the long run because it can cause the bar to bend and flex, eventually permanently.A weight tree has Olympic or standard size bars on which to hang your weights. It is made of heavy duty steel framing and keeps your weights organized and out of your way. Make sure to purchase the correct size (Olympic or standard) for the weights you have.
There is no difference in the exercises you can do with a standard or Olympic barbell. You can get a full body workout using this one simple piece of equipment, making it a great choice for a home gym. Here are 5 simple exercises that are good for both fitness beginners and experts.
- Squats: Place the bar on your upper back across your shoulders and squat down as though you are sitting in a chair. Keep your thighs parallel to the floor, and then stand back up, keeping your back straight.
- Deadlift: Start with the weight on the floor. Pull the bar to your mid-thighs and lock your hips and knees. Return the weight to the floor by moving your hips back while bending your legs.
- Bench Press: Lie down on your back on a weight bench with the barbell on the rack. Hold the barbell above your chest with your palms facing forward. Slowly lower the weight down to your chest and once you make contact, push it back up to the starting position. Make sure your feet are flat on the floor, and your bottom is flat on the bench. Widen your grip to focus on your chest, bring your hands closer together to target your triceps.
- Bent over rows: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your knees slightly bent. Hold the barbell in your hands in front of your body. Hinge your chest and abdomen forward and gently pull the barbell up to your chest. Make sure to keep your back straight and pull your shoulder blades in while performing the lift. Gently lower the weight back down to the starting position.
- Shrugs: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, and holding the barbell in front of your body. Keeping your knees bent slightly, lift your shoulders in a shrugging motion and then lower them back down.
As you can see, barbells and weights are an essential part of every fitness routine and home gym. If you’re ready to make a purchase, check out the selection of equipment at MarcyPro, where you’ll find a large variety of weight systems to meet every budget, floor space and workout needs!