THE OLYMPIC BARBELL IT IS THE CORE TOOL OF OLYMPIC WEIGHTLIFTING AND ALSO AN EFFECTIVE TRAINING TOOL FOR ALL OTHER SPORTS.
Basically you don’t need much more than a barbell with weights for a good strength training.
However, not every barbell that can be found on the market is suitable for Olympic weightlifting. The differences in the quality of barbells are serious, so when buying you should pay attention to some essential points.
In general, barbells are divided into two types, the powerlifting barbell and the Olympic barbell. As the name suggests, the powerlifting barbell is designed for the three classic powerlifting exercises: bench press, squat, and deadlift. It is much stiffer than the Olympic barbell, as it also usually has to withstand more load.
The weightlifting barbell is more elastic and requires a good ability to rotate. Especially during the clean or snatch, it is enormously important that the barbell rotates easily and quickly. Good rotation not only leads to a faster turn over but is also gentler on the athlete’s wrists, elbows, and shoulders.
The bearing is one of the most important features of a good barbell and is responsible for the ability to rotate. In product descriptions of barbells often circulate misleading terminology regarding the bearing of the barbell. You should always keep your hands off barbells where the supplier does not provide specific information about the type of bearing.
In the course of the continuous development of barbells by well-known manufacturers, two types of bearings have become established: Rolling bearings and plain bearings. The rolling bearings include the so-called needle bearings. If you find the term Bearings in a product description, then it is usually a needle bearing.
The compact design of a needle bearing is characterized by small, cylindrical rollers that contribute to faster rotation of the barbell inside. In a plain bearing, on the other hand, rotation occurs through direct contact with the material without any interposed rolling bearings. Pivot bearings belong to the group of plain bearings.
A pivot bearing consists of several bushings that are inserted into each other. The rotation, therefore, takes place on the material itself. A barbell with a pivot bearing, therefore, does not rotate as fast as one with a needle bearing. However, for weightlifting, fast rotation is an important factor and therefore an Olympic barbell should usually have a needle bearing.
However, pivot bearings are still commonly found on powerlifting barbells, as rotation is not as critical here as it is in weightlifting. Needle bearings are more expensive to manufacture than pivot bearings but are higher quality for an Olympic barbell.
Ball bearings, which were popular in the past, are outdated because they cannot withstand high loads for long and break quickly, especially when dropped from a certain height. Consequently, a barbell with ball bearings should not be used for weightlifting.
2. INTERNATIONAL STANDARDS
In addition to the bearing, the dimensions and weight are especially important for an Olympic barbell. The International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) has set certain standards for competitions and also licenses manufacturers that meet all criteria and standards. t’s not necessarily important that your barbell is licensed, but it should at least meet standardized measurements and weights.
A man’s barbell weighs 20 kg and has a total length of 2200 mm, whereas the woman’s barbell weighs 15 kg and measures 2010 mm. The length of the grip surface of both barbells is 1310 mm, the diameter of the receptacle includes 50 mm. This means that the difference in length results only from the length of the receptacle for the weights.
However, the most significant difference between the men’s and women’s barbells is the diameter of the grip surface. For men, this is 28 mm, and for women – 25 mm. Thus, women’s barbells are thinner, because they usually have smaller hands than men. In powerlifting, men and women lift with the same barbell, which corresponds to the dimensions of the men’s barbell.
Not only the diameter is decisive for the grip, but also the knurling. For a firm grip, the knurling should be rather coarse. Weightlifters also often refer to a “sharp barbell” when the knurling is pronounced.
A coarse knurling unfortunately also leads to the fact that the pants/skin is rubbed on the thighs or the pants tear at some point, because the barbell should be guided close to the body. For prevention, tape is wrapped around the barbell where there is body contact.
Weightlifting is a sport that requires, above all, a lot of weight to be lifted. Consequently, the Olympic barbell must also have a high load capacity. Barbells are made of steel, but simple steel without coating would oxidize quite quickly without intensive care. The steel is alloyed and hardened to withstand the high loads. Each manufacturer has its own methods and keeps them a well-kept secret.
Therefore, the three load parameters that provide information about the quality of the Olympic barbell are relevant for us.
1.Static Load Capacity
The first parameter is the static load capacity, where the barbell is loaded with weight, must withstand this load for a certain period of time and then returns to its original shape. The static load capacity of a good barbell should be >400 kg.
2. Yield Strength
The second parameter is the yield strength. The load tests determine at what point plastic deformation of the barbell occurs.
3. Tensile Strength
Closely related to this is the third parameter, tensile strength. Fatigue testing is used to determine the steel’s load capacity by stretching the Olympic barbell until it breaks. Tensile strength is expressed in the unit PSI (Pound force per Square Inch). A proper Olympic barbell should have a tensile strength of >160,000 PSI.
As a rule, manufacturers state the results of the load tests in data sheets or product descriptions. Potential buyers can thus inform themselves in advance about the tests performed and maximum values achieved. A static load capacity of +400 kg and a tensile strength >160,000 PSI can serve as a guide here when choosing for a high-quality barbell.
In the clubs and also predominantly in boxes and gyms mostly high-quality barbells are available. However, when buying a barbell, you should carefully read about its features and go for high-quality products.
There are now a variety of equipment manufacturers that produce barbells according to the standards of the IWF and offer good value for money. A high-quality Olympic barbell will not only withstand the stresses of daily training for several years, but in some cases even decades, so the investment is definitely worth it. The rotatability and quality of the barbell is also of health importance for the athlete.
Poor rotation of the barbell not only results in a more difficult tunr over in the clean or snatch, but also injures wrists, elbows and shoulders. Weightlifting is not a particularly costly sport, so you should pay attention to all the quality features of the most important piece of sports equipment, the barbell.