You’ll find a barbell at every gym with freeweights in the world. They’ve not really changed in the last 50 years, with the concept and design being pretty simple. There are 3 main different types though, fixed weight barbells, ‘standard’ one inch bars and ‘Olympic’ two inch bars. The latter two allow users to swap out weight plates and increase weight over time as muscle mass and strength increase. These are much more common due to this benefit, making them a much more flexible and over time, affordable option as you can easily purchase additional weights without having to buy an all new fixed weight bar.
Fixed Weight Bars
Fixed weight barbells are popular in gyms with people looking for a simple bar for lifting lighter weights. They are more commonly used for barbell curls and overhead press. They typically range from 10KG to 40KG and usually step up in 5KG increments. They are normally constructed around a solid steel bar, with either steel of high density rubber weights on each end, which are not removable. At a gym you will often find these in a steel rack, in weight order with the heaviest on the bottom and lightest on top.
- Simple and sturdy, nothing to adjust or change
- Good for quick sets of bicep curls
- Quick to get working out; no need to ‘build’ the bar before hand
- Limited by the weight amounts available
- Cannot adjust weight to desired amount
- Usually only available upto 40KG
- Can be expensive if you want a set
Standard one inch bars
Standard one inch bars are more common for beginners and people looking for a cost effective way to lift weights at home, but there are more and more affordable Olympic bars out there now too. Standard bars use weights with a one inch diameter hole on the weight plates, and the weights are usually cast iron, or vinyl coated concrete/ concrete. They come in varying sizes and weights. The standard bar is made from one piece of steel, usually chrome plated, or stainless to enhance longevity and improve the aesthetics, with spin locks on each end to prevent the weights sliding off. The standard one inch bar is normally 10KG and approximately 180cm in length. If you are just starting out, and on a budget, standard bars are a great place to start, and are good for chest press, floor press, barbell curls, squats, overhead press.
- Affordable, making them very popular in home gyms
- Generic bar design means any weight plates with a one inch hole will fit
- You can add and build your weights up over time with ease and cost effectivley
- Good for bench press, barbell curls, overhead press
- Most can easily take upto 150KG
- Not great for deadlift
- Smaller diameter bar means more concentrated pressure on heavy lifts
- Weights can try to rotate even with spin locks tightened, and come loose after your set
Olympic bars more commonly use ‘bumper plates’ or ‘bumper discs’ which have a standard 45cm diameter for consistency, important in heavy lifting. This also gives the bar the correct height for the starting position for dead lifts and other floor lifts. Bumper plates feature a 2 inch diameter hole with a steel lining for the Olympic bar. The Olympic bar, unlike the standard one inch bar, is made of 3 main parts; the central bar, which will usually have a knurled pattern to enhance the grip for the lifter, and then on each side the bar that the weights slide on to, which has a 2 inch diameter. Olympic set ups are designed to handle more weight, which is why they have the large diameter. These parts usually spin independently of the central bar to neutralise any movement they create. Some manufacturers, including Elite Home Workout are now also offering more affordable weight plates with a 2 inch hole now to enable users would want the improved feel of the Olympic bar, without the high cost of bumper plates. The 20KG plates commonly still feature a 45cm diameter but the smaller weight plates will usually have a smaller diameter to make them more affordable for home lifters. Olympic bars can vary in weight, but are normally 20KG in commercial settings, and 16KG or 20KG for home use bars. Lengths can vary too, but are normally 220cm.
If you are more experienced, or looking to lift heavy weight, over 100KG, Olympic bars are a better option. They are also much more suited to deadlifts, which when done correctly are one the most effective exercises to burn fat.
- Better grip from bar with larger diameter
- Wider bar helps you to balance better
- Most can take over 200KG in weight with ease (check manufacturer limits to be safe though!)
- Generic 2 inch size means adding weight later is easy as your strength improves
- Great for all lifts; deadlifts, barbell curls, squats, bench press, floor press, squat etc
- Can be more costly that standard bars
- Longer bar takes up more space
Hopefully you now have a much better idea about the different types of bars and weights available. If you are looking to shop online for affordable home weights and barbells, you can view our range here.