Different Types of Barbells – Introduction
What are the different types of barbells and how do you choose the right one for you?
While they’re easy to take for granted, the barbell is probably the most essential strength training tool.
Just add some collars, weights, a bench, and a squat rack, and you have everything you need to build muscle, get stronger, lose weight, or get fit.
Barbells are incredibly versatile.
But did you know there is more than one type of barbell, and each one serves a different purpose?
So, if you are in the market to buy a barbell, you must know the different kinds available to get the right one for your needs.
This article lifts the lid on the most common types of barbells and how to choose the right bar for you.
Types of Barbells 101
Here are the 12 main types of barbells you will likely find in a home or commercial gym:
#1. Standard barbell
Barbells don’t come much more basic than a standard barbell.
Made to accommodate plates with a one-inch hole, standard bars do not have rotating ends, and are available in a range of lengths, typically four to seven feet.
Standard barbells are relatively cheap and often found in home gyms.
However, they aren’t usually strong enough for things like heavy deadlifts or squats and will bend if overloaded.
This sort of bar is okay for beginners or anyone who doesn’t take their strength training too seriously.
However, if you have aspirations of lifting heavy weights, this is probably not the barbell for you.
Best standard barbell: BalanceForm Standard Weightlifting Bar
#2. Olympic barbells
Olympic barbells are made for Olympic lifting, although they can be used for other exercises, including squats, deadlifts, bench presses, and power cleans.
They are made to take weight plates with two-inch holes and are flexible to provide “whip” during explosive lifting.
The ends or sleeves of Olympic barbells rotate, which takes stress off your hands and wrist during cleans and jerks.
Olympic bars are not as heavily knurled as other types of bars.
Men’s Olympic barbells are 7-feet long, and weigh 20kg/44lbs, whereas women’s Olympic barbells are 6.6-feet long and weigh 15kg or 33lbs.
Best Olympic barbell: CAP Barbell Classic 7-Foot Olympic Bar
#3. Powerlifting bar aka Power bars
Power bars, AKA powerlifting bars, are similar to Olympic bars and are usually the same size and weight.
However, they tend to be a little stiffer, have a larger weight capacity, and have deeper knurling for a more secure grip.
Power bars also have knurling in the center of the bar for squats, although some are available without.
Like Olympic barbells, power bars accommodate weight plates with two-inch holes.
Best power bar: CAP 7-Foot Powerlifting Bar
#4. Trap bar (hex bar)
Trap bars were invented in the early 1980s by powerlifter Al Gerard.
They consist of a diamond-shaped frame that allows you to stand between two parallel handles.
This hexagonal frame puts the weight closer to your center of gravity, which takes stress off your back when deadlifting.
However, deadlifting with a trap bar feels a lot like doing squats as your torso is more upright, and your quads are more involved than conventional or sumo deadlifts.
Also known as hex bars, shrug bars, and Gerard bars, trap bars can also be used for a few upper body exercises, such as;
- floor presses,
- bent-over rows, and
- overhead presses, but they are not as versatile as regular barbells.
Best trap bar: HulkFit Olympic 2-Inch Hex Weightlifting Trap Bar
- Hulkfit Hex Trap bars come in two stlyes: Regular and Open design....
- Both bars are made of fully solid heavy duty steel (not hollow) with...
- Overall Dimensions: 56.1" L x 21.65" W | External Bar Length: 11.42" |...
#5. EZ curl bar
EZ curl bars have bends in them to provide a variety of hand positions.
Typically used for biceps and triceps exercises, EZ curl bars can also be used for rows and presses but are less useful for squats and deadlifts.
EZ curl bars are usually shorter and lighter than even standard barbells and, depending on their design, can accommodate one-inch or two-inch plates.
The EZ bar is best thought of as an addition to and not a replacement for something like a standard or Olympic barbell.
Best EZ curl bar: Everyday Essentials Olympic Super Curl Bar
#6. Safety squat bar
Safety squat bars are made for doing squats, and they’re not really suitable for much else.
You can do good mornings, lunges, and step-ups with this type of bar, but you cannot use one for upper body exercises.
A safety squat bar is not unlike an old-fashioned yoke.
It drapes over your shoulders, and the ends of the bar hang down and forward, which means you have to work harder to keep your torso upright.
Powerlifters use safety bar squats as an assistance exercise.
This barbell type is also helpful if you have sore shoulders and find it hard to reach back and hold the bar during squats and good mornings.
There are handles on either side of the shoulder bars, and you can even do safety squats without holding the bar at all.
This is a very specialist piece of equipment and not as versatile as a regular straight barbell.
Best safety squat bar: Happybuy Olympic Safety Squat Bar
- 【700 LBS LARGE CAPACITY】- This safety bar squat is made of sturdy...
- 【SAFETY & ANTI-SLIP】- This safety squat bar is designed with a...
- 【COMFORTABLE PADS】- There are 3 comfortable pads on the safety...
#7. Swiss bar
A swiss bar, also known as a football bar, is designed for upper body training.
It provides lots of different hand positions, most of which are parallel.
A parallel grip is often more shoulder-friendly than the more common pronated (overhand) or supinated (underhand) grips for bench presses, overhead presses, and bent-over rows.
While Swiss bars are useful, they are best thought of as an addition to your regular barbell if you still want to do squats, deadlifts, and lunges for lower body training.
However, if you want to take some shoulder stress out of your upper body workouts, a Swiss bar would be an excellent addition to your training toolbox.
Best swiss bar: Synergee Multi-Grip Swiss Bar
- ★ SUPERIOR CONSTRUCTION ★ – The Swiss Bar, the American Bar, the...
- ★ 4 ANGLED GRIPS ★ - Our Multi Grip Barbell comes with 4...
- ★ EASY ON THE SHOULDERS ★ - Each bar is angled to reduce stress on...
#8. Log bar
If you have ever watched a strongman competition, you will undoubtedly have seen a log bar in use.
They have a parallel grip and look, as their name suggests, just like a log.
Some are even made of wood.
Log bars are mainly used for cleans and overhead presses, although they could be used for rows, too.
They are a very specialized type of bar and, unless you are a strongman (or strongwomen) in training, you probably won’t need a log bar.
Best log bar: Popsport Strongman Log Bar
#9. Deadlift bar
Unsurprisingly, deadlift bars are made for deadlifting!
That doesn’t mean you can’t use them for squats, bench presses, overhead presses and power cleans, but they are specially designed to maximize your deadlift performance.
However, some deadlift bars are not supposed to be placed in squat or power racks, which could damage them.
Deadlift bars are super-strong and flex more than other types of power bars to make the initial pull off the floor a little easier.
They also tend to be slightly thinner to allow for a better grip.
While you can squat using a deadlift bar, it’s worth noting that these types of barbells don’t usually have knurling in the middle.
Best deadlift bar: Valor Fitness OB-DL Deadlift Bar
- HEAVY DUTY DEADLIFT BAR- The OB-DL is constructed of high-quality...
- ENHANCED BAR FLEX- This deadlift bar measures 90.5" in length,...
- AGGRESSIVE KNURLING- Allows you to have a stronger, firmer grip on the...
#10. Multipurpose barbells
If you want to do powerlifting, weightlifting, and bodybuilding training but don’t want to buy different barbells for each type of workout, a multipurpose bar could be your best choice.
Multipurpose bars are great all-rounders that can be used for any type of strength training.
They’re not as flexible as a deadlift bar or as whippy as an Olympic bar, but they’re strong enough for hardcore workouts and should provide many years of faithful service.
You can use a multipurpose bar for cleans, snatches, deadlifts, squats, and any other barbell exercise.
They’re ideal for CrossFit, too.
Best multipurpose barbell: Prosource Fit Olympic Barbell Multipurpose Weightlifting Bar
#11. Cambered bar
Like the safety squat bar, cambered bars are designed for squats and are not really suitable for other barbell exercises.
With a cambered bar, the weights hang down by your hips, providing you with a lower center of gravity which increases lower back, glute, and hamstring engagement.
Also, you hold the bar low down by your sides, taking stress off your shoulders.
Powerlifters use cambered bar squats as an assistance exercise to increase their squat performance.
Still, unless you are training for powerlifting or bad shoulders stop you from doing regular squats, you probably won’t get a lot of benefit from this specialist barbell.
Best cambered bar: Titan Rackable Camber Bar
- Weight: 85 LB; Weight Capacity:1,000 lb.
- Overall Length: 88" ; Sleeve Diameter: 1.95"
- Overall Width: 18"
#12. Axle barbell
Most types of barbells are designed so you can grip them tightly.
They aren’t too thick or thin and have knurling to stop your hands from slipping.
Axle bars are the opposite!
Also known as thick or fat bars, axle bars have a greater diameter and are usually smooth.
Axle bars do not have rotating collars and don’t flex much either.
This makes them harder to lift and grip, which increases forearm strength and size.
You can use an axle bar for most strength training exercises, but they are best for things like curls, rows, and presses.
While you can deadlift an axle bar, your grip will probably be the limiting factor, and that could make your workout less productive.
Axle bars provide a challenging workout but aren’t really suitable for full-time training.
However, adding an axle bar to your collection of barbells would be an excellent way to increase workout variety.
Best Axle barbell: Titan Fitness Axle Barbell
- Great substitute for a standard Olympic barbell.
- 1.9" fat grip builds more grip strength and wrist control over a...
- Makes lifts more challenging than a standard bar. Don't up your weight...
Types of Barbells – Wrapping Up
With so many different types of barbells available, buying your first bar can be daunting.
After all, your barbell should last many years, so you could be stuck with your purchase for a long time!
How to Choose a Barbell
The best way to choose a barbell is to work backward from your training goals.
Decide what you want from a bar, and then select the model that matches your needs.
If you’re going to specialize in deadlifts, a deadlifting or power bar would be your best choice.
But, if you want to do the Olympic lifts, an Olympic weightlifting bar should serve you well.
If you cannot decide, maybe because you do CrossFit or just enjoy all types of strength training, you can’t go too far wrong with a multipurpose bar.
Once you’ve chosen your main bar, you might want to add a specialist bar to your training armory to increase workout variety.
A safety squat bar will add a new dimension to your lower body workouts, whereas a swiss bar would do the same for your upper body training.
Or, if you want to pump up your arms, what about an EZ curl bar?
Barbells are tools, so just choose the best tool for the job.
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