There’s a ton of barbells on the market, and there’s only going to be more and more in the future. There’s a few things you should look out for when purchasing your own.
First, NEVER buy a "standard" barbell
You might be thinking, “What? Isn’t that the kind of barbell you sell at Fringe? What other kind of barbell is there?” And NO, this is not the kind of barbell we use and sell. The barbells we sell are Olympic barbells, and we’ll explain why.
There’s quite a few differences between standard bars and Olympic bars, and they’re super important to know because buying the wrong bar for your goals can really put a damper on your training. Firstly, Olympic bars are held to International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) standards, and standard bars are not.
Instead of thinking of typical standard barbells as “standard,” think of them as the “old standard.” Standard barbells are much less functional than an Olympic barbell, which we can think of as the “new standard.”
One of the main differences between the “old standard” and Olympic barbells is their sleeves. The length, the diameter, and their ability to spin are just some of the differences.
Standard barbells typically have a 25mm (1 inch) diameter, which causes issues when you’re looking for bumper plates. Unlike an olympic barbell, a standard barbell needs special plates OR plate adapters to be able to use most bumper plates you’ll find on the market as Olympic-standard bumper plates tend to have a 2” diameter in the middle.
All of our barbells fall under Olympic standards, therefore making your life so much easier when you’re searching for bumper plates. All of our bumper plates feature 2” diameters, so you don’t have to worry about them fitting on your barbell. If you're looking specifically for bumper plates for Olympic lifting, we have those too, and they fit on all of our bars ;) You can see how it might be a huge pain to invest in 1” weights for a standard bar, and not be able to use ANY of them on an Olympic barbell if you were to invest in one in the future.
On a standard bar, the sleeves do NOT rotate, and a standard bar can’t hold nearly as much weight as an Olympic bar, like our 20kg Oly Weightlifting bar. Typically, a standard bar can tolerate between 100 to 200lbs at the very maximum, and that’s significantly less than even a low-end Olympic bar, which can hold as much as 1,100 pounds or more! Our favorite Olympic barbell features needle bearings and has a moderate whip so you can load it up and move it well.
An Olympic bar will contain bushings or bearings in it’s sleeves, allowing the sleeves to spin as you work and reducing the torque from the plates on the bar which reduces stress on your wrists and elbows and provides a smoother, stronger grip as the barbell moves where you want it to. No chasing around an Olympic bar with bushings or bearings like you might a standard bar with no spin in its sleeves.
Standard vs. Olympic Bar Length and Weight
Standard barbells are generally shorter and lighter than any Olympic barbell. Standard bars usually weigh in around 15 to 25 pounds, and range between 5 and 6 feet long whereas an Olympic bar weighs in between 33 to 45 pounds depending on whether it’s a women’s 15kg Olympic Weightlifting Bar or 20kg men’s bar, and is either 6.6 feet or 7.2 feet in length. Both the men’s and women’s olympic bars feature 2” sleeves for bumper plate compatibility and ease.
Standard vs. Olympic Quality
The quality of a standard barbell usually doesn’t match the quality of Olympic bars, either. The knurling on a standard bar tends to be thicker and more pronounced than knurling on an Olympic bar (unless it’s a specialty bar with shark-tooth-like knurling on purpose!). On a standard Olympic bar, the knurling is lighter and less pronounced for a more comfortable grip.
Because the weight capacity is so low on a standard bar vs an Olympic bar, there are severe limitations on your training as you get stronger, not to mention the difference in sleeve diameter that could potentially cause issues in finding bumper plates and increasing your garage gym arsenal if you invest in 1” diameter plates and then upgrade your barbell to an Olympic bar. Because there is such a low weight limitation, there’s more potential for breaking a barbell and keeping you from the gains you work for.
Standard bars are appealing because they are MUCH cheaper than an Olympic bar, but we’ve all heard the saying, “buy once, cry once,” and it’s SO much better and more economical to invest in a quality Olympic bar once than buy a standard bar once, invest in 1” diameter plates, and have to scrap it and repurchase your barbell and bumpers when you finally go for an Olympic bar (because it’s inevitable, and you WILL eventually).
Get yourself an Olympic Barbell
DO NOT go for a standard barbell, no matter where you’re at in the garage gym game. We have many different types of barbells, including the best barbell for beginners, and when you invest in an Olympic bar, you’ll set yourself up for success, gains, and longevity of your gear.
Let's review the major differences.
Olympic Barbell vs. Standard Barbell
In case you missed it, we are strongly biased to Olympic Barbells. In short, olympic barbells are rated for more weight (1000 pounds or more), fit the "normal" weight plates with a 2" diameter center hole, have spinning collars, and are used (and abused) from garage gyms to professional strength and conditioning facilities. "Standard" barbells are not the standard! They are rated for much less weight, take plates with 1" diameter holes, have non-spinning collars, and... are not used by professionals.
If you're new here and would prefer more info on our barbells, check out this blog that deep-dives into the knitty-gritty details of everything barbells.
And if you'd like to buy an AMAZING Olympic Barbell, check out our best-selling Wonder Barbell. 100,000 customers CAN'T be wrong!
Need some help with finding the best barbell option for you? Trust us, it’ll be an Olympic bar, and we’ve got you covered. Send us a message on our site, an email at email@example.com, or a DM on Instagram or Facebook and we’ll get you outfitted with the perfect bar for you and your goals, but trust us, it will NOT be a standard bar. Stay away from those, and you’ll get all the gains you could ever dream of.