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    Post Barbells - Everything you ever wanted to know

    I don't think a thread like this exists for the barbell, so I wanted to start one. The Olympic barbell is one of the most important purchases one can make for their home gym. A barbell is the interface to the weight and although they may all look similar to an untrained eye, there are actually a lot of differences and a lot of reasons for someone to choose a specific bar.

    Below I'll talk about the characteristical differences which will hopefully help people make informed decisions about which barbell is right for them.

    Shaft diameter is one of the most important characteristics and determines what the bars intended use is.

    Shaft diameter:

    [<25 mm][Technique/Junior bars] - 10kg or less, used by youth and/or for technique work
    [25 mm][Women's Weightlifting bar] - These are 15kg womens bars per IWF specification [1]
    [27 mm][Deadlift bar] - These bars tend to longer and more flexible to allow lifters to deadlift more weight.
    [28 mm][Men's Weightlifting bar] - These bars offer good whip for Olympic Weightlifting. The IWF bars are of this diameter [1]
    [28.5mm][General/Crossfit bar] - This is one of the most common shaft diameters and is traditionally a good compromise between 28mm and 29mm, offering some whip
    [29 mm][Powerlifting Bar] - These are stiff bars and offer a minimal amount of whip. The IPF PL bars are this diameter [2]
    [30+ mm][General purpose/beater bars] - Typically beater bars which are made to fit a certain price point. It's a way for the bar manufacturer to use lesser grade steel without the bar deforming under commercial use.

    There are of course some of the exceptions to the above and some weightlifting bars come with powerlifting markings and vice versa. For someone who competes the choice is simple, buy the bar (or bars) which match the federation's specifications. Those who don't compete will have to use their judgement based on the type of lifting they do, their goals, their experience levels, whether they want a single do-it-all bar or multiple and so on.

    Whip:

    Whip refers to the fact that the bar bends under load. In dynamic movements, such as the clean & jerk, the energy is stored in the bar and is used to accelerate weight upwards. The closer the grip is to the center of the bar and the further out the weight, the more the bar will deform, given that all other variables stay constant.

    All bars have whip, however the diameter of the shaft and the distance of the weight on the bar will determines the amount of whip a bar will have. There isn't a qualitative difference in whip between quality bars of the same diameter[3]. Additionally, tensile strength ratings tell you nothing about whip. So, for example, don't assume that a 215k psi 28mm bar is stiffer than a 190k psi 29mm bar. It isn't.

    Specifications/Markings

    Although a 28mm bar is traditionally a weightlifting bar, it doesn't mean a manufacturer can't add powerlifting markings or even markings with dimensions of their own choosing. For example, the Ivanko OBS-20KG bar has 3 sets of rings (see below). Additionally, unless specifically stated, do not assume that a single set of markings on a 28mm bar will be to IWF spec and 29mm bar will be to IPF spec. Check with the manufacturer.

    If you compete or plan on competing, this is the second-most important feature you must look for in a bar, after diameter.



    REFERENCES:
    [1] http://www.iwf.net/doc/technical.pdf (page 31)
    [2] http://www.powerlifting-ipf.com/file...ck_section.pdf (page 6)
    [3] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ttlpKdeTWDU&t=20m13s (20 minutes 13 seconds)
    Last edited by bobcat255; 10-25-2016 at 08:42 PM. Reason: Added references
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    Knurl:
    Knurl is one of the few features which isn't described with a specification. There's no way of measuring knurl and being able to compare it between the manufacturers. This is where we must rely on others' experience and knowing what we like.

    Someone who does high-repetition work will wear out their skin by getting a sharp/grippy bar. However, someone who's going for a PR would't want a bar they can't hold on to. Again, this is the most subjective and the most personal of decisions.

    Some bars also have center knurl. This is an extremely important feature for single-hand deadlifters (uncommon) and back-squatters. Both IPF and IWF male bar mandate a center knurl, however a bar not designed for competition can be different. Bars geared more towards powerlifting will typically have a center knurl which is just as aggressive as the rest of the bar. For weightlifting movements, where the bar is racked on the front deltoids having a center knurl is more personal. However, when this knurl is present, it is typically going to be lighter/more passive relative to the rest of the bar as not to tear the neck.

    The type of finish on a bar will also impact grip, despite the knurl.

    Here's a neat picture showing the difference in knurl from Rogue:



    Steel:

    Tensile strength is the resistance of a material to breaking under tension. This is the most often quoted number for barbells.

    Yield strength is the stress at which plastic deformation is produced. In other words, this is the amount of stress it takes to bend the bar where the bar will not bend back. This is probably a more important yet less often quoted number.

    Price does not always indicate a better bar stock and plenty of expensive bars use weaker steel. According to Ivanko, commercial-grade Olympic bars have a minimum requirement of 150k PSI steel, however they've found that this steel deforms with time. Ivanko recommends a bar with a minimum tensile strength rating of 190k PSI [1]. It's interesting that recommendations are made for tensile strength, while the problem is exhibited due to yield strength.

    As stated previously, many bars which use steel with lower tensile/yield ratings are made thicker to combat this problem. Given how much less expensive quality bars have become recently, it would be advisable - if budget affords - to get a bar with a minimum 190k PSI tensile rating and maintaining the diameter which makes sense for your lifting style.

    Lastly, most bars are made of alloy-steel, however there are a few manufacturers, such as Ivanko, York Barbell, American Barbell and Vulcan Strength, who make stainless steel bars. These bars are highly desirable for their raw finish, while being more resistant to corrosion; needing little to no maintenance.

    REFERENCES:
    [1] http://www.ivankobarbell.com/press/w..._they_cost.pdf (page 1)
    Last edited by bobcat255; 10-25-2016 at 08:48 PM. Reason: Added references
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    Finish:

    Here is another place where the choice is highly personal.

    When it comes to pure performance, raw (unfinished) bars are typically preferred. However, unless the bar is made of stainless steel, it'll require more maintenance. In some environments raw bars can start developing surface rust within days. For this reason, most bars come with some type of coating. Coatings reduce maintenance while keeping equipment looking better, longer.

    If you take knurl out of the mix and purely look at finish, then the raw (alloy & SS), black oxide, magnetite and phosphate will offer the most grip. Zinc and especially chrome will provide less grip. However in conjunction with knurl, these bars typically maintain good grip.

    Not all chrome plating is the same. A cheap department store bar will flake, while a quality hard-chrome plated bar can stay looking great for decades. Flaking shouldn't be a concern if buying a chrome bar from a manufacturer such as Eleiko, Rogue Fitness, Werksan or others who produce quality IWF and/or IPF approved bars.

    Below is a list of the most common finishes ordered by the amount of rust resistance they provide:
    - Raw (No protection)
    - Decorative chrome
    - Black Oxide
    - Phosphate
    - Zinc
    - Hard-Chrome
    - Stainless

    For more information about finishes see rlundregan's post below.

    Here's a look at some of these finishes:
    Last edited by bobcat255; 10-25-2016 at 08:57 PM. Reason: Added rust resistance information
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    Sleeves:

    Sleeves on a quality barbell will be 50mm in diameter [1] to allow quality machined plates to be used. Quality plates are usually bored out to ~50.5mm diameter. This allows for a tight fit on the sleeve.

    Sleeves may be of a different material and finish than the bar. For example, the American Barbell Power Bar has a raw stainless steel shaft with hard-chrome alloy steel collars [2]. The finish on a collar isn't important for grip, so the only conciderations there should be rust-resistance and durability (aesthetic, not functional).

    The most common ways of attaching a sleeve to the bar is with a screw, snap-ring or roll-pin. It is recommended to avoid the cheap bars which use a screw.

    Lastly, pay attention to the distance between the sleeves and the width of the collars (raised portion of the sleeve against which we stack plates). A competition barbell will usually have sleeves closer together or with thinner collars to allow loading of more weight. This may interfere with your rack (depending on the dimensions) and even if the distance between sleeves is adaquate, a thin collar means that the weights may touch the rack or J-hooks as you walk out the weight.

    Example of a thin collar on the Rogue Ohio Power Bar (20kg competition model) vs 45lb Ohio Power Bar:



    Bushings:

    - Bronze
    - Composite
    - Needle Bearings [quantity/quality]

    - Spin (+ controversy)

    Coming soon...

    Weight:

    Standard men's barbells are either 20kg (~44lbs) or 45lbs. A woman's barbell is 15kg. However, there are also "technique" barbells which can be as light as 2.5kg/5lbs.

    Unless advertised with the exact specifications, assume that the bar isn't calibrated and isn't precisely the stated weight. Barbells manufactured outside the US are 20kg and competition barbells are all 20kg. Most American men, however, will be buying a 45lb training bar to keep math simple. Although this may just be a ~20kg bar with a 45lb sticker.


    REFERENCES:
    [1] http://www.iwf.net/doc/technical.pdf (page 31)
    [2] http://americanbarbell.com/products/...lite-power-bar
    Last edited by bobcat255; 10-25-2016 at 10:28 PM. Reason: Added sleeve info
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    Reserved in order to group the information together.

    ------------

    Please let me know if you find any information which is incorrect (I plan on providing references in the future as well). Additionally if there's something not covered or needs further expansion, let me know. Thanks!
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    Registered User rlundregan's Avatar
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    Great thread--repped.

    Keetman created a barbell thread a few years ago, but he talks more about how bars are constructed. His thread makes a nice companion to this one, so here is the link to it:

    http://forum.bodybuilding.com/showth...barbell+thread

    If you don't mind me adding some information from that thread about bar finishes, here is a ranking of finishes according to their level of rust resistance. It seems like it could be helpful to have this information on the first page. Let me know if you want me to change it somehow so it flows with the rest of your information.....

    Bare Steelno rust protection at all. A lot of people like the feel of the knurl without any sort of coating, which can sometimes fill in the knurling. Just be prepared to oil the bar regularly/frequently.

    Decorative Chromethis is the coating on a cheap bar that comes with a cheap set. It will help prevent rust, until it starts to flake off, which usually happens pretty quickly. Not really something that is found on a serious bar.

    Black Oxide-this is more of a finish than a coating. It allows the knurl to feel more natural, while providing some rust protection, but not much. You will need to do regular maintenance.

    Phosphate--I don't know much about this coating, but Mech says it belongs here in the scheme of things, that's good enough for me. Has a slightly "tacky" feel to it, which I like. This is the coating on the CAP OB-86B. I don't do a lot of maintenance on mine, but no rust after 3 years.

    Zinccan be silver or black. Zinc provides good rust protection, but can sometimes fill in the knurl a bit. My experience has been that zinc will flake off over time, but not nearly to the same extent as decorative chrome.

    Hard ChromeOffers superior rust protection. My understanding is that it will last for a long time. It will fill in the knurling somewhat.

    Stainless SteelOffers superior rust protection. This is not a coating, so it doesnt fill in the knurl at all, resulting in a natural feel. It will begin to rust over a long period of time, but it doesnt require much maintenance at all.

    There are a few other coatings out there, but I don't believe they are very common.

    On the subject of bar maintenanceit is a good idea to use a nylon-bristled brush to brush out the dead skin/chalk out of the knurling once per week. It is also a good idea to rub a little 3 in 1 oil on the bar shaft periodically, let it sit overnight, then wipe it off. A few drops of 3 in 1 in the sleeves once in a while can be helpful to keep them spinning as well. Never put WD-40 in the sleeves of the bar.
    Last edited by rlundregan; 10-25-2016 at 05:53 AM.
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    Registered User bcradio's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by rlundregan View Post

    On the subject of bar maintenanceit is a good idea to use a nylon-bristled brush to brush out the dead skin/chalk out of the knurling once per week. It is also a good idea to rub a little 3 in 1 oil on the bar shaft periodically, let it sit overnight, then wipe it off. A few drops of 3 in 1 in the sleeves once in a while can be helpful to keep them spinning as well. Never put WD-40 in the sleeves of the bar.
    Is WD-40 or 3-in-1 preferred on the bar itself? Does this make the bar slick at all?

    Just ordered a Rogue bare steel bar and want to make sure I care for it correctly.

    Thanks for the thread
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    Originally Posted by bcradio View Post
    Is WD-40 or 3-in-1 preferred on the bar itself? Does this make the bar slick at all?

    Just ordered a Rogue bare steel bar and want to make sure I care for it correctly.

    Thanks for the thread
    It doesn't really matter.....I personally prefer 3 in 1. The bar might be a little slick after you wipe the oil off, but not to the point where I've had problems holding onto it.
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    Although it is completely personal preference, would it make sense to have a section of which bars (size, knurling, etc) are often preferred for which exercise (primarily just the compound lifts)? Great thread, repped.
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    Originally Posted by cwcmac View Post
    Although it is completely personal preference, would it make sense to have a section of which bars (size, knurling, etc) are often preferred for which exercise (primarily just the compound lifts)? Great thread, repped.
    I could see this being useful... Kind of like a "Recommended Bars" section.
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    Great thread.
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    Originally Posted by bcradio View Post
    I could see this being useful... Kind of like a "Recommended Bars" section.
    On the other hand, there are new bars coming/going all the time. Also, suggesting "recommended bars" is a really subjective thing. I hate seeing good bars get ignored just because something else gets recommended by a guy because he prefers bare steel, or deep knurling, or whatever. Let's just be careful with that.....
    Last edited by rlundregan; 10-25-2016 at 11:44 AM.
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    lots of good info. nice to have a good primer out there
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    Originally Posted by rlundregan View Post
    On the other hand, there are new bars coming/going all the time. Also, suggesting "recommended bars" is a really subjective thing. I hate seeing good bars get ignored just because something else gets recommended by a guy because he prefers bare steel, or deep knurling, or whatever. Let's just be careful with that.....
    Fair enough; I was thinking not necessarily specific bars but specific specs for certain lifts. In my case, I like using my thicker bar for squat and bench, thinner bar for DL, rows, etc. Obviously I wasn't clear what I was getting at and I agree with you 100%
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    Originally Posted by rlundregan View Post
    Great thread
    Thanks and thanks for Keetman's thread and the additional info. I'll update my post.

    P.S. Sorry, you're on spread

    Originally Posted by rlundregan View Post
    On the other hand, there are new bars coming/going all the time. Also, suggesting "recommended bars" is a really subjective thing. I hate seeing good bars get ignored just because something else gets recommended by a guy because he prefers bare steel, or deep knurling, or whatever. Let's just be careful with that.....
    That's kind of how I felt. I'm extremely biased when it comes to bars and I don't want to impose that bias on others. I was even hesitant about naming some of the manufacturers above.

    We can definitely guide people when it comes to technical aspects of a bar and understanding specifications, however so much else is really just preference and can be left for discussion in the thread.
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    Great thread, especially since I plan on getting a bar after the holidays.
    Hard to decide since I will only be getting and using one bar, so it will have to be all purpose with very low maintenance on it.
    I don't like a lot of Knurl, so I guess and Olympique or Ohio bar.
    It would be nice to have markings.

    Real interested in what you will have to say about the collars as I know **** about barbells.

    Are you going to talk about the weights as there seem to be lots of types or would that be another thread.

    Ron

    Thks for doing this.
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    Originally Posted by bobcat255 View Post
    Knurl:
    Knurl is one of the few features which isn't described with a specification. There's no way of measuring knurl and being able to compare it between the manufacturers. This is where we must rely on others' experience and knowing what we like.
    Beyond fine, medium, and coarse, there are standard knurl dimensions, i.e. pitch, teeth per inch, depth, that are specified for production that would make it pretty easy to quantitatively compare knurl between models and manufacturers.

    It would take a bit of education and consistent use for the numbers to be useful to consumers so I can see why the information isn't publicized. Equipment forum types would love to geek out on knurl comparison charts though, and the data already exists, so it's kind of a shame the makers keep it to themselves.

    As you said, the reality we are left with is sharing user experience to help make purchase decisions.
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    Where is the love for a stainless steel finish? Love my curl bar and ivanko bar!
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    Originally Posted by ubernoob View Post
    Where is the love for a stainless steel finish? Love my curl bar and ivanko bar!
    Stainless is written about above
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    Originally Posted by bobcat255 View Post
    Stainless is written about above
    Missed it!
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  22. #22
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    Originally Posted by rlefebvr View Post
    Great thread, especially since I plan on getting a bar after the holidays.
    Hard to decide since I will only be getting and using one bar, so it will have to be all purpose with very low maintenance on it.
    I don't like a lot of Knurl, so I guess and Olympique or Ohio bar.
    It would be nice to have markings.

    Real interested in what you will have to say about the collars as I know **** about barbells.

    Are you going to talk about the weights as there seem to be lots of types or would that be another thread.

    Ron

    Thks for doing this.
    Ron, are you in Montreal or Quebec City?
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    Originally Posted by CliveWarren View Post
    Ron, are you in Montreal or Quebec City?
    Montreal, why
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    Originally Posted by rlefebvr View Post
    Montreal, why
    Just an illness I have. I often check Kijiji for other cities and if I see something in Montreal I'll keep you in mind.
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    Originally Posted by rlundregan View Post
    On the subject of bar maintenance……it is a good idea to use a nylon-bristled brush to brush out the dead skin/chalk out of the knurling once per week. It is also a good idea to rub a little 3 in 1 oil on the bar shaft periodically, let it sit overnight, then wipe it off. A few drops of 3 in 1 in the sleeves once in a while can be helpful to keep them spinning as well. Never put WD-40 in the sleeves of the bar.
    Just wanted to tack on my opinion here regarding barbell maintenance for new bars. If you are purchasing a new barbell that is not top-tier, I highly recommend breaking down the bar immediately when it arrives and thoroughly cleaning and re-greasing the sleeves. I have done this with my CAP, Vintage York Bars, and now my new Troy GOB-1800 and have seen significant results in regard to spin. For the minimal time/effort it takes to do this I think its WELL worth the investment. I bought a new pair of Channellock Snap Ring Pliers from Lowes for $22, and a tube of Red N' Tacky that should last damn near a lifetime for only $6.
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    Originally Posted by urbanlifter View Post
    Just wanted to tack on my opinion here regarding barbell maintenance for new bars. If you are purchasing a new barbell that is not top-tier, I highly recommend breaking down the bar immediately when it arrives and thoroughly cleaning and re-greasing the sleeves. I have done this with my CAP, Vintage York Bars, and now my new Troy GOB-1800 and have seen significant results in regard to spin. For the minimal time/effort it takes to do this I think its WELL worth the investment. I bought a new pair of Channellock Snap Ring Pliers from Lowes for $22, and a tube of Red N' Tacky that should last damn near a lifetime for only $6.
    Good add! I think I've read some other folks recommending this same thing. I know that a lot of folks have taken apart their new CAP OB-86B's and found a lot of gunk in the sleeves. Once they cleaned and regreased, they said it felt like a whole new bar.
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    Absolutely, my CAP bar had metal pieces on the inside floating around. After fixing it up it doubled the spin and smoothness, and also gave me a chance to wipe off that ugly green sticker. The Troy bar was more of the same, I'm much happier with its performance than I was initially, the spin seemed rough and only lasted for about 12-14 seconds when tested (both sides). Now it seems much smoother and is going for 18-20 seconds on average when using a 45lb plate and several spins. I saw a video a long time ago where someone suggested doing this initial maintenance with every bar you buy, even if it's an Ivanko or Eleiko. I would just be nervous as hell breaking one of those down LOL
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    Originally Posted by urbanlifter View Post
    Just wanted to tack on my opinion here regarding barbell maintenance for new bars. If you are purchasing a new barbell that is not top-tier, I highly recommend breaking down the bar immediately when it arrives and thoroughly cleaning and re-greasing the sleeves. I have done this with my CAP, Vintage York Bars, and now my new Troy GOB-1800 and have seen significant results in regard to spin. For the minimal time/effort it takes to do this I think its WELL worth the investment. I bought a new pair of Channellock Snap Ring Pliers from Lowes for $22, and a tube of Red N' Tacky that should last damn near a lifetime for only $6.
    Unless your wife throws it out of course.
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    If you have OIL IMPREGNATED bushings, you should use OIL to lubricate, not GREASE.
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    Those oil impregnated bushings didn't spin that great, would rather use the grease.
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