A man bench pressing 345lbs (156kg).

A barbell is a piece of exercise equipment used in weight training, weightlifting and powerlifting. Barbells range in length from 4 feet (1.2 m) to 8 feet (2.4 m) although bars above 7' in length are used primarily by powerlifters and aren't commonplace.[1] The central portion varies in diameter, but is close to one inch (2.54 cm), and is often engraved with a knurled crosshatch pattern to help lifters get a good grip. Disc weights (plates) are slid onto the outer portions of the bar to obtain the desired total weight.[2] 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.[3]


Olympic barbells

An Olympic or weightlifting barbell consists of a bar in which the sleeves rotate. This enables the discs to spin on their own axis, which eliminates the rotational-inertia effect placed upon the lifter during such explosive lifting and enables him/her to descend under the bar easier.[4]

Men's bar

A men's Olympic bar is a metal bar that is 2.2 m (7.22 ft) long and weighs 20 kg (44.1 lbs).[5] The outer ends are 50 mm (1.9685 in) in diameter, while the grip section is 28 mm (1.1024 in) in diameter, and 1,310mm (51.57 in) in length. The bars have grip marks spaced 910 mm apart to allow intuitive grip width measurement. 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. 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 can be as much as 1,200 pounds (540 kg) which is the limit of total load.[1]

In addition to regular Olympic bars, powerlifting often requires use of sturdier bars to better accommodate the heavier weights being used in the sport. These bars can be longer (to allow loading of more plates) and thicker (to deform less under load). Additionally, powerlifting bars have their grip marks spaced closer, at 810 mm. This closer spacing is used to check legal grip width in the bench press. The International Powerlifting federation does not, however, allow the use of bar with different dimensions than 29 mm grip section diameter and 2.2 m overall length.

Women's bar

A women's Olympic bar is similar to the men's bar, but is shorter - 2.05 m (6.73 ft) - and lighter - 15 kg ( 33.07 lbs) - with a smaller grip section diameter (25 mm). Also in contrast to the men's bar, the women's bar does not sport a center knurl.


Plating 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.

Colour Weight (kg) Weight (lbs)
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

Additionally, different plates are used outside of IWF sanctioned competition, most prominently in powerlifting. These include:

Colour Weight (kg) Weight (lbs)
50 110.23
45 99.21

45 kg plates are fairly rare, typically only used in some powerlifting federations, including the IPA, WDFPF and their affiliates.

Plates used in training need not conform to IWF or powerlifting specifications, and can be of any color.

All Olympic plates of 10 kg or more are 450 mm in diameter. 450 mm versions also exist of the lighter 5 kg and 2.5 kg plates to accommodate the proper starting position for weaker athletes. These can be aluminum or plastic and may have rubber edges.


Standard collars can be of any material, usually metal, and they can weigh up to 2.5 kg each for both men and women.

A bar with a pair of collars, the plates not counted, can weigh as much as 25 kg for men and 20 kg for women depending on the collars.

Other types

"Standard" barbell

Apart from olympic barbells, there is no standard length or weight -- although for computing total plate/bar weight, the "standard" bar is 7 feet (2.1 m) long and weighs approx. 22 lb (10 kg). As opposed to a 2 inches (51 mm) thick olympic barbell, a standard barbell is approx. 1 inch (25 mm) thick all the way along, except for wider rings delimiting the end sections. It is a single solid piece of metal without rotating parts. EZ Curl bars are shorter and weigh less -- estimate weight of bar at approx. 3 kgs./ft.

EZ curl bar

The EZ curl bar is a variant of the barbell that is often used for biceps curls, upright rows, and lying triceps extensions.[6] 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.[7][8] 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.

Fixed barbell

Primarily found in gyms, these are bars with weights already attached and welded to the bar, and in some cases, a covering of plastic/rubber around the plates. These allow for speedy transitions between various weights if one is doing multiple weights in quick succession. Additionally, fixed barbells are great for beginning lifters who often lack the upper body strength to pick up an empty olympic bar, as the total weight of fixed barbells can be far less than even a 5' long, 2" thick bar.

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.

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[5] and hammer curls.

Trap bar

A diamond 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.


  1. ^ a b Yousaf, Omar. "A Beginners Guide To Gym Equipment". Amateur Body Builders' Guild of Pakistan. Retrieved 2009-04-23. 
  2. ^ "Pickyguide Guide to Barbells". Retrieved 2009-04-23. 
  3. ^ National Strength & Conditioning Association (U.S.). Certification Commission, Exercise Technique Manual for Resistance Training, page vii, Champaign, IL : Human Kinetics, 2008
  4. ^ "Wayne,Bar & Plate sizes". Retrieved 2009-04-23. 
  5. ^ a b "Types of barbells used in weight training". Retrieved 2009-11-15. 
  6. ^ "Common uses of the ez curl bar". Retrieved 2009-04-25. 
  7. ^ Repetitive Strain Injuries, Timothy J. Jameson, MD., pages 79-80, ISBN 0879838027, 9780879838027, McGraw Hill Professional
  8. ^ "What is an EZ Curl bar?". Retrieved 2010-09-17. 

See also

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