There are many different types of barbells out there. The right bar for you will depend on a number of factors, including your lifting goals, your budget, and sometimes the amount of space you have.
So – what weight lifting bar types are right for you? By the end of this guide, you’ll hopefully be able to answer that question with ease.
9 Types of Barbells and When To Use Them
The standard barbell used to be the most common type of barbell, but it has been superseded by the olympic bar, especially in gyms. The standard barbell is still popular for the home gym market, as it is shorter than an olympic bar, making it easier to store and use at home.
A standard barbell is a straight bar with 1-inch sleeves on each end for the weight plates. It’s the simplest design of a barbell and usually comes in 5 ft or 6ft lengths. As the bar sleeves are 1 inch, they only fit plates with a 1-inch hole in the middle.
If you’re just starting out lifting weights, this is a good barbell to get started. Standard barbells can be used for many exercises, including the overhead press, bench press, and deadlift.
In recent years, the Olympic bar has become the standard in gyms, Crossfit boxes and barbell clubs. At 7 ft, it’s longer than a standard bar and has 2-inch sleeves. This means that the plates used on this bar must have a 2-inch hole in the middle.
Olympic bars are best for strength training, as they can bear much more weight than a standard barbell. The sleeves are designed to rotate, putting less strain on the wrists in lifts such as the snatch, clean or deadlift.
If you want to perfect your Olympic lifting technique or master the power lifts, you’ll need an Olympic barbell. But if you’re just starting out lifting weights, a standard barbell might suffice. It all depends on your strength and fitness goals.
You can also get thicker olympic bars, which are often called thick or fat bars. Thick grip bars are the same length as an olympic barbell, but they’re thicker, usually about 2 inches in diameter. Fat bars can be helpful if you have grip strength issues or if you want to build up your forearm muscles.
A powerlifting bar is similar to an Olympic bar, but it’s designed specifically for the three powerlifting exercises: the squat, the bench press, and the deadlift. When compared to Olympic barbells, Powerlifting bars are more rigid and inflexible. They do not bend or compress under stress as much as Olympic bars do.
Some powerlifting bars are slightly thicker than an olympic bar and have slightly longer sleeves to allow a greater amount of weight to be loaded onto the bar. If you’re interested in competing in powerlifting or really boosting your bench presses, then a powerlifting bar is beneficial.
A deadlift bar is a type of Powerlifting bar, with a smaller diameter for a better grip, and no knurling in the middle of the bar to help keep your hands from slipping. Deadlift bars are also slightly longer than standard powerlifting bars and bend more, which makes the deadlift slightly easier as the weight plates don’t travel as far off the floor before lockout – and this advantage is seen even more in the sumo deadlift.
If you want to focus on increasing your deadlift strength, then a deadlift bar can make a good investment, but olympic barbells can be just as useful as deadlift barbells if you want a more varied workout.
EZ Curl bars
An EZ curl bar is a type of weightlifting bar that’s designed for curls and other upper body exercises. EZ curl bars have a “wavy” shape, which allows for a better grip and puts less stress on the wrists and elbows.
If you want to focus on building your arm muscles with perfect form, then an EZ curl bar can be a good choice. Including this bar in your arm workout routine can help to improve your performance and decrease the risk of elbow tendinitis or wrist injuries. It also makes an extremely efficient bar for building strength in your biceps.
Trap bars, also known as hex bars, are hexagonal-shaped weightlifting bars that are designed for trap bar deadlifts, shrugs, carries and other upper body exercises. The hex bar shape allows for a more upright deadlift position, due to the hands being at the sides of the body rather than in front. This puts less strain on the lumbar spine (lower back), and is a great option if you are recovering from a back injury, or don’t have the mobility to get into a good start position in the conventional deadlift.
If you want to focus on increasing your back and leg strength while putting less force through the lower back, then a trap bar is a good investment. Trap bar deadlifts can help build the quads, glutes, hamstrings, back and grip.
Safety squat bar
A safety squat bar is essentially a padded cambered squat bar with dual handles, designed with safety and comfort in mind. Safety squat bars are often used by powerlifters and strength athletes to help reduce the stress on the shoulders and neck during heavy squats. They can also be a good choice for people with back pain or mobility issues.
The weight is also distributed differently on a safety bar, which can be an advantage for some lifters. If you’re looking for a bar that will help you to squat more safely and with less stress, then a safety squat bar is a good option.
The Swiss bar, also known as a football bar, has multiple handles which allow the bar to be gripped with the palms facing inwards. This neutral grip is useful for anyone who has shoulder issues or poor shoulder mobility.
A swiss bar can be used for many of the same upper body exercises as olympic bars, such as chest press, row, tricep extension and bicep curl. If you’re looking for a bar that will allow you to perform these exercises with a neutral grip, then a Swiss bar could be a good option.
Understanding Bar Grip
It’s important to understand your bar grip when choosing the right barbell for you. If you have small hands or you want to use hook grip, then you might want to consider a bar with a thinner shaft diameter, such as 28mm or less. This will enable you to lift heavy weights without the bar slipping out of your hands.
If you have large hands, then you might want to choose a bar with a wider shaft diameter, over 28mm. This will give you more surface area to grip the bar and will make it more comfortable to hold.
If you need a workout that’s easier on the joints, particularly the shoulders and elbows, then a bar that allows for a more neutral grip workout can be a good way to minimise strain in these areas. The neutral grip is when the palms of your hands are facing each other, as opposed to an overhand or underhand grip, and can help to reduce stress on the joints. Bars that are more suited to a neutral grip include the trap bar, Swiss bar, and safety squat bar.
Looking To Start Weight Training in London?
Now that you know more about the different types of barbells available, you can make an informed decision about which bar is right for you and your training goals.
There’s no need to feel overwhelmed by all of the options, just take your time, do your research, and choose the bar that’s best for you. Alternatively, why not get in touch with a Powerlifting coach or personal trainer to get their expert opinion?
If you’re based in London and are looking to start weight training, then get in touch with us today. At Strength Ambassadors, we offer personalised coaching and strength classes to help you reach your fitness goals. We also have a range of barbells and other weightlifting equipment available for our clients to use.