Where Barbells Come From

By Marty Mitchell with Mark Rippetoe

In Equipment

August 01, 2007

PDF Article

The bar is the heart and soul of barbell training. A good bar is the most important piece of gym equipment you will use in a correctly designed strength training program. If you are buying it for your home gym, it is the purchase that will have the greatest bearing on the quality of your training experience. A cheap bar is not a pleasure to train with, and it may make some of your more critical exercises more difficult to do. You can't clean or snatch any real weight with a bar that doesn't spin dependably. And you can't train heavy with a bent bar, or a bar that might actually fail under a load. Anyone who has trained for any length of time in a commercial gym has grown fond of a certain bar in the rack, and might even be inclined to wait for it if it's being used by someone else. Bars have different characteristics, and lifters develop a taste for certain types. Buying one for your home gym should be a careful process since you'll be using it every time you train.

Barbell varieties and variables The type of bar you buy should be determined by what you want to do with it. Many factors play into the quality of a bar, and understanding them is important to the informed consumer. Olympic weightlifting bars are produced in training and competition grades and are designed to comply with International Weightlifting Federation specifications regarding markings and dimensions.

They are made to be springier and more lively--"whippy" is the term usually used--than other types of bars, because of the dynamic nature of the snatch and the clean and jerk. Powerlifting bars, again in either training or competition grade, are stiffer than weightlifting bars, since bar oscillation is not desirable in the squat, bench, or deadlift. Specialized thicker bars for squats and longer bars for deadlifts are available and used in some federations. "Multi-purpose" bars are produced for generalized strength training, gym use, and the institutional and scholastic markets. The surface of the bar can be finished in a variety of ways: chrome, zinc, black oxide, or unfinished, or stainless steel can be used.

Thicknesses vary from 25mm for women's weightlifting bars to 1 3/8 inches for squat bars, on up to 3 inches for specialized fat bars designed for grip training.

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