A barbell is essential for strength training.

Different types of barbells and how they are used in weight training

Olympic barbell

Olympic barbells are the gold standard. Typically, an Olympic barbell is around 7 feet in length, allowing even a super-heavyweight to get his hands far apart during the snatch. The weight is 20 kg (44 pounds). Sleeves mounted on roller bearings allow the weight plates to rotate freely during overhead lifts. This way, you can keep a tight grip on the bar without fear of abrasions caused by the bar’s knurling.

An Olympic barbell: bar, weight plates, and collars.

An Olympic barbell: bar with rotating sleeves, weight plates, and collars.

A huge array of styles is available. Prices range from $60 to several hundred dollars depending on the machining tolerances and the guarantees offered by their manufacturers. Olympic barbells used in traditional weight lifting competitions are springy, but those used in powerlifting meets are stiffer. Because of the increased diameter associated with the roller bearings, these barbells only accept plates with 2-inch holes (51mm).

Use this type of bar if:

  • You’re strong enough to handle a lot of weight
  • You like to lift overhead
  • You have a lot of room in which to work out
  • You plan to compete in weight lifting or powerlifting competitions

Check out the selection at Amazon: Olympic Barbells.

Standard barbell

Most home weight lifters are familiar with standard barbells. These bars accept weight plates with 1-inch holes, and they’re usually shorter and significantly lighter than Olympic barbells. It is rare to find a standard bar that holds as much weight as an Olympic barbell.

Ez curl bar

Ez curl bars are cambered to take pressure off the wrists during curls and other exercises. They are commonly used by bodybuilders (and others) to handle more weight than with a straight barbell without overstressing the wrist joints.

EZ curl bars give you several grip options to reduce wrist stress.

EZ curl bars give you several grip options to reduce wrist stress.

Although originally designed for curling, these bars are also useful during some triceps exercises, upright rows, and even during close-grip bench presses.

You can pick up a standard ez curl bar relatively cheaply, or spring for a rotating curl bar that accepts Olympic-sized plates.

For many casual fitness buffs, ez curl bars are the first piece of specialized equipment they purchase. Compare prices and features at Amazon: Ez Curl Bars.

Want to read a comprehensive article about EZ-curl bars? Check out EZ curl bars

Triceps bar

With a triceps bar, you can use a parallel grip.

With a triceps bar, you can use a parallel grip.

Triceps bars allow for a parallel grip, which is useful during triceps presses. You can use more weight during behind-the-head triceps exercises if you use one of these. Although they’re probably less useful in the grand scheme of things than an EZ curl bar, they are more expensive because of the extra welding required to manufacture one. If you’re in the mood to shop, check out a selection of triceps bars at Amazon: Triceps Bars.

Trap bar

Trap bars are uncommon, but some well-equipped gyms have them. Usually, however, they’re used by long-time lifters who can no longer do regular squats or deadlifts because of a bad back.

Trap bars take stress from the lower back during deadlifts.

Trap bars take stress from the lower back during deadlifts.

A trap bar gives you the chance to perform heavy deadlifts without bending over at the waist. Performing a trap bar deadlift is similar to using a leg press machine because the lower-back muscles are not put under as much stress as they are during a conventional deadlift.

Of course, you can use this bar to train the trapezius muscles of your upper back and neck. But most bodybuilding gyms have a trap machine that is more convenient and does away with time-consuming plate loading.

Check out the specs at Amazon.com: Shrug/Trap Bars

Specialty bars

Over the years, many people have invented barbell replacements that serve a specialized weight lifting niche. Thick or cambered bars, and safety squat bars are some of the most popular.

Safety squat

Safety squat bars make it easier to grab the bar by taking pressure off the shoulder joints, and they lower the center of gravity, aiding stability.

Check them out at Amazon.com: Safety Squat Bar

The safety squat bar is one example of a specialty barbell

The safety squat bar is one example of a specialty barbell

Thick barbell

Thick barbells are used by trainees who want to improve their grip. Generally, they’re heavier than normal barbells. See one at Amazon.com: Fat Olympic Barbell

For an in-depth look at thick-bar training, check out thick handle barbells.

Cambered or bent bars

World-class powerlifters sometimes use bent bars for squats or bench pressing. During squats, these bars enhance stability by taking some of the load from the lower back and shifting it to the legs; during pressing, they increase the range of motion.

Cambered bars are useful during bench rows for the lats and upper back. They allow lifters to increase the range of motion on this exercise which is designed to work the upper back without putting any stress on the lower back.

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