When it comes to using barbells to lift weights, the amount of weight you are lifting is not always clear, especially for beginners who are unsure of how much a barbell weighs.
Although you can readily calculate how much weight you are adding to the bar by the number and type of weight plates you slide onto either end, the barbell weight must also be added into the equation to tally the total weight that you are lifting.
So, how much does a barbell weigh?
There are actually several different shapes and sizes of barbells, each with a different purpose and weight. In this article, we will discuss the weight of barbells and answer the common question, “How much does the bar weigh?” so you can more easily plan your workouts.
We will cover:
- What Is a Barbell?
- How Much Does a Barbell Weigh?
Let’s jump in!
What Is a Barbell?
Although there are a bunch of specialized bars for weightlifting, a standard barbell is a straight metal bar that has loadable sleeves or collars on either end to accommodate weight plates.
The long shaft is usually about 1 inch in diameter, or more precisely, about 28 mm. Along the shaft of the barbell is knurling, which is essentially engraved crosshairs of varying depths to improve grip and prevent slipping when your hands get sweaty.
High-quality barbells can support very heavy loads, so they can be used for all sorts of strength training exercises, such as squats, deadlifts, overhead presses, bench presses, snatches, cleans, and more.
Most barbells have smooth rings along the shaft that interrupt the knurling. These areas are typically spaced about 32 to 36 inches apart and are used to help guide you to the proper hand placement for different lifts.
One additional characteristic of barbells that can vary between the type of barbell as well as the materials used is something known as the whip. This refers to the amount of permissible up-and-down flex of the bar.
Of course, as all barbells are crafted from some metal, usually solid iron or steel, there is not a significant amount of flex or whip in any barbell.
However, some amount of flex is desired in Olympic barbells or barbells used for Olympic lifts, such as cleans and snatches, because it helps add momentum to the lift and aid movement.
On the other hand, powerlifting barbells are typically more rigid and have less whip because having flex in the bar is not desirable, especially with powerlifting exercises like squats wherein the bar is loaded up with extremely heavy weights and the bar is staying on the body.
Unlike dumbbells, which have been used in some sort of form as far back as the fifth century BCE, barbells are a relatively “new“ strength training implement, arising around the mid-1800s.
However, barbells are now one of the most common and versatile pieces of strength training equipment, and numerous specialized bars have since been developed to better facilitate certain exercises, demographics, or lifting techniques.
How Much Does a Barbell Weigh?
Although many barbells look similar, there are actually a variety of types and sizes of barbells. Barbell weights depend on the particular type of barbell, the overall dimensions, and the material used to create the barbell.
Novices and beginners often assume that there are “standard“ barbells and that the weight of the barbell is standardized accordingly.
However, as an increasing number of manufacturers are designing and creating barbells for different uses and at different price points, the weight of what appears to be a standard barbell can actually range significantly, from as little as 3 pounds to 30 pounds or more.
On the other hand, there is much more standardized sizing for Olympic barbells, and the Olympic barbell weights are more straightforward and clearly defined.
A standard Olympic barbell is 220 centimeters or 86.6 inches long and weighs 20 kg or nearly 45 pounds. The shaft is 51 inches long and 28 mm in diameter, and the sleeves are 2 inches in diameter.
A women’s Olympic barbell is 6.5 feet long and weighs 33 pounds or 15 kg. The shaft is 51 inches and 25 mm in diameter, and the sleeves are 2 inches in diameter.
Finally, the barbell weight for the Olympic barbell for juniors is 22 pounds, or 10 kg, and measures 5.5 feet long.
Overall, Olympic barbells are longer, heavier, and stronger than what most people consider to be standard barbells found in home gyms and commercial gyms. They can hold more weight, often upwards of 1000 pounds, whereas most standard barbells have a much lower maximum weight capacity in the neighborhood of 300 pounds.
Besides differences in the barbell weights, the size of the collars on standard and Olympic barbells also differ.
The collars are the portions on either end of the bar where you load up your weight plates.
When comparing standard barbells vs. Olympic barbells, the collars on standard barbells are typically fixed, not designed to rotate, and often have a 1-inch diameter or slightly larger.
In contrast, Olympic barbells have a standardized 2-inch diameter that is designed to rotate freely. The rotation helps to dissipate the torque and transfer it to the weight plates instead of your body to reduce the risk of injury and improve comfort.
Although many people mistakenly call all straight barbells with 2-inch sleeves rather than 1-inch sleeves an Olympic barbell rather than a standard barbell, not all barbells with 2-inch sleeves are necessarily Olympic barbells.
Olympic barbells have standardized weights, dimensions, knurling, and whip.
In addition to standard straight barbells and Olympic barbells, there are a variety of specialized barbells. The sizes, shapes, and weights of these barbells can vary significantly.
Powerlifting bars are even stronger and more rigid than Olympic barbells because they are designed for the heaviest lifting loads.
When comparing powerlifting barbells and Olympic bars, powerlifting bars have less whip (up and down flex) than Olympic barbells
They are specifically designed for the “Big 3 Lifts” in powerlifting—bench press, squat, and deadlift.
In accordance with the guidelines set by the International Powerlifting Federation, powerlifting barbells also must meet standardized sizes and weights.
The bar must be no longer than 2.2 meters, or 7 feet, 4 inches, and powerlifting barbells weigh 20 kg or about 44 pounds.
The shaft itself is always between 1.31 and 1.32 meters, which is 51-52 inches and is 29 mm thick.
There is often aggressive center knurling for powerlifting bars for back squats but none for deadlifts. There are smooth rings located 810 mm apart on the shaft to guide hand placement for certain lifts.
Let’s take a look into some more detailed information for different types of barbells.
Although beginners often assume that all barbells are the same or that they are automatically using an Olympic barbell if it’s a long, straight barbell at the gym, in reality, most gym barbells are technically multi-purpose (MP) barbells.
These bars are very similar to Olympic barbells and powerlifting barbells, but ultimately sort of a hybrid of both.
Essentially, this means that the bar’s stiffness or whip, the knurling and smooth ring placements, and the amount of permissible sleeve rotation falls somewhere in the middle of the Olympic bar and powerlifting barbell.
Multi-purpose barbells weigh 20 kg, or about 44 pounds, like powerlifting bars. They typically have the grip patterns of both types of bars.
Although Olympic barbells and powerlifting barbells are often used for squats, competitive weightlifters and powerlifters often use specialized squat barbells designed specifically for the squat exercise.
Given the nature of the exercise, squat barbells are usually more rigid, meaning that they have less whip and are longer than normal Olympic barbells.
Olympic barbells are usually 7.2 feet long, whereas squat barbells can be as long as 7.8 feet, so they tend to fall in the 86 to 90-inch range.
The shaft of a squat barbell is also thicker than a normal Olympic barbell, usually around 28 to 32 mm rather than the standard 28 mm for an Olympic barbell. This increased thickness is designed to enhance rigidity and reduce whip, making for a stiffer and more stable bar.
When you squat, the explosive up-and-down movement generates a lot of momentum, and if the barbell has too much whip, this momentum can get transferred to the bar, which could be dangerous.
Moreover, the thicker shaft improves comfort as the barbell sits on your upper traps and back.
Given a squat bar’s extra thickness and length, the barbell weight is usually 25 kg or about 55 pounds.
Deadlift barbells are specialized bars designed for the deadlift. Unlike the squat, having more whip in the deadlift bar is ideal, so these bars tend to be slightly thinner than normal Olympic barbells and may be slightly longer.
Usually, the diameter of the shaft is 27 mm instead of 28, and the bar might be as long as 7.5 feet. However, given the thinner build of the shaft, the barbell weight is still typically 20 kg or about 44 pounds.
There are also differences in the grip knurling and shaft length.
EZ Curl Bars
EZ curl bars have a specific geometry and shape to improve the ergonomics and comfort for exercises such as biceps curls.
They are formed from bent solid steel and have a vague “W” shape.
The weight of these bars varies widely, as they are not standardized in the way that an Olympic barbell’s weight and dimensions are.
Most EZ curl bars weigh between 14-30 pounds or 6-14 kg.
As you can see, answering the question of how much does the bar weigh isn’t a standard or simple answer.
However, it’s important to know how much the barbell weighs so you can accurately calculate how much you are lifting and employ the principles of progressive overload.
Some barbells, particularly standard straight barbells that aren’t Olympic barbells, may have a weight etched into the side, but if not, you might be able to ask at the gym or look up the product online if you see the brand name.
If you are buying a barbell for your home gym, the manufacturer should list the barbell weight under the specifications, along with the dimensions and the maximum load capacity.
If you cannot find any of this information and have no idea how much the barbell weighs, you won’t know the exact amount of weight you are lifting during your exercises.
If this is the case, as long as you are using the same barbell consistently, you can still keep track of your progress and essentially “zero out“ the weight of the barbell when you are recording your lifts in your workout log and make note of how much additional weight you are loading onto the bar for each exercise.
However much the barbell weighs will essentially be the “bonus weight“ that you are lifting.
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