The Missing Barbell Link?

By R. Don Hollinger

In Equipment

February 04, 2010

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Many CrossFit athletes start with a PVC pipe before jumping to a training, women’s or full-size Olympic bar. Inventor and CrossFitter R. Don Hollinger introduces one more step to help smooth the transition from PVC to metal.

After a good warm-up, I overhead squatted 400—a PR. I’ll never forget that day.

An OHS of 400 isn’t bad for a 62-year-old who has been CrossFitting for about a year. One little detail is missing, however. While the reader might think the “400” was pounds, it was actually ounces, which converts to 25 lb. Well, it was a lot for me.

The piece of equipment that made this humble PR possible was a 5-lb. Olympic barbell I made out of common hardware or home-improvement-store parts. Even a naked Olympic barbell at 45 lb. was way too much for me, so I solved this predicament by creating a “stepping stone” barbell that has the same basic characteristics as the full Olympic bar without the high weight. I call it the “Hyperlite Bar.”

The Hyperlite Bar loaded with two 10-lb. bumpers and 40 lb. of metal plates (65 lb. total) can be dropped from the overhead position without damage to the bar. After a great effort, a big, crashing barbell bounce is a just reward. Sixty-five pounds is the max needed on the Hyperlite because one can then move to the 45-lb. Olympic bar with two 10-lb. bumper plates.

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23 Comments on “The Missing Barbell Link?”


wrote …

Great idea. Really like that for working with beginners and kids. Thanks!!!!


Mauricio Leal wrote …

Genius! Although I have been using PVC with dangling change plates trapped between the hands and shoulders for beginner squats, this fills the gap needed for progressing the fast lifts. Thank you!


Matt Charney wrote …

That is awesome! It would go well with my 3/4" plywood technique plates. They are 3-3/4# each so it would be a total of 12-1/2# sitting at the proper height.

I bought a couple 15# york training bars at over $100 each. If I had seen this I would not have bought those bars.



wrote …

This is really fantastic! I just made it, and it works great. Quick correction to table 2: you only need 1.5" of the 2" diameter PVC, not 10" minimum as the table says. Good work on this article, saved me about $100!



Olivia de Santis wrote …

What a good idea!


wrote …

Holy crap, this is genius. What a great article!
Thanks Hollinger!


wrote …

I just made one... it is going to be great for the people afraid to shoot a 33lb ladies bar over head. Can't wait to have someone use it!!

awesome job on these designs!


Brandon Nugent wrote …

Great stuff! Yet another excuse... I mean valid reason... to get some power tools :) Home depot trip is in my future.


wrote …

Magnificent! Thank you!


wrote …

Building one today! Thanks!


wrote …

Built one. Used it. 8 year old son loves it.


wrote …

This is a fantastic idea! I have had something like this kicking around in my head for a while but there were just a couple things about the sleeves I couldn't work out in my head. This address all the ideas. I will be making one in short order for my fact I will probably let them help me make it!

Thank you for sharing this!


wrote …

You just helped me pay for 3 more years of the CF journal. I built one of these while watching the Superbowl. Cost me $20 total and I have left over material. Saved me $80+ and now my wife has a great trainer bar to get her comfortable before going to the 45lb bars I have.

Easily one of the best journal articles recently. Every box should have a couple of these for techinique work.

Great work!


wrote …

This is a brilliant idea. I'm just in the process of cutting my PVC sleeves on this and I noticed one thing. For the PVC I bought from Lowes, I only have to cut the 1 1/2 inch sleeve. I also upped the ante by going for the 6 foot bar instead of the 5 footer. I'm making this for my girlfriend so she can get more comfortable with the movements before making the plunge to a 45# bar.

Thanks again for sharing.


wrote …

Thanks for all the comments and suggestions. I appreciate everyone taking the time to write.

It is very rewarding that athletes are enjoying the fabricating process, and sometimes sharing it with their children. I hope this barbell will help everyone experience the benefits of CrossFit.



wrote …

Kudos! This is a GREAT bar... I made one for my daughter to start training with. It only took 30 minutes start-to-finish and looks great too. Thanks again!


wrote …

I've built six of these ... so far! Great tool.

One additional idea - spring clips, bull dog collars and muscle clamps all slip so much that almost any dropping of the bar necessitates readjusting the plates/collars (nothing sticks to PVC). if you cut all the PVC to six inches, you can drill a hole through the end of the bar, and build 'collars' from PVC with a pair of hitch pins to hold everything in place.


wrote …

Just finished building mine. My variations are:
I opted for a 6 foot piece of iron pipe.
I used my table saw to cut the pipe to 10" lengths, then split in the 1" and 1.5" PVC. I only exposed enough blade to cut the thickness of the PVC, then rotated the pipe for the cuts to length. I used 2 feather boards and a push stick to make the lengthwise slits.
Instead of sheet metal screws, I used this project as an excuse to buy a tap and die set (no really honey, I NEED the set). I used a 2 inch wide piece of 2 inch pipe to have enough room so the screws are offset at approx 120 degrees and at a different distance from the end of the pipe.
I used bat tape the length of the bar. Left over from another project.


wrote …

Thank you Don! My wife is looking forward to using it!


wrote …

Great idea, I've made two and used them a bunch already. I do have a question though. Have you thought of a way to make either the sleeves or shaft spin freely?

I was thinking about using a smaller diameter black pipe for the full length. I would then put another sleeve of the desired size of pipe, or pvc, in between the collars (over the 5' length of pipe). That way, the extra sleeve could rotate freely while being held between the collars. I think I might give it a shot this week unless you've already tried it (and it didn't work).


replied to comment from Mitch Medeiros


Thanks for the suggestion. If you go any smaller in diameter on the metal pipe, it will bend under the load of the 30 pound plates on each side.

The 10 pound Wright Rubber bumper plates I use rotate OK for me - about twice to three times the the friction of an Olympic bar.

While bearings could be fabricated into the 2" diameter outer ends, it would require a complicated design, and take the construction out of reach of the average home craftsman.



wrote …

I made this bar using original specs and I have to say that I love it.


wrote …

what do you mean when you say to cut the 2" pvc to O" ? I mean, I can make a guess based on the picture, which I may have to do since this thread is so old...

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