If you want to make some serious gains in the gym, you will need to use the correct equipment. Whether you’re a bodybuilder or not, barbells are a great piece of kit to help you get stronger and build muscle. However, barbells come in different shapes and sizes so you need to understand what suits you best.
Different barbells and bars can be used in a variety of ways. They can be used to target certain muscle groups of the body thanks to their unique knurling (grips), different sleeves, and varying weights. Whether you’re looking to increase strength, power, or endurance, bars and barbells are essential.
By adding bars and barbells to your workout routine, you can change up your exercises. They allow you to train safely, improve your technique, and become the beast you’ve been striving to become! Even if you do not want to become overly muscular, barbells can help you tone your muscles and help you look and feel fitter.
In today’s article, we are going to give you a rundown of the different types of bars and barbells that every lifter should know about. By the end of this blog, you will be ready to tackle different weights and start your journey to becoming the strongest you have ever been.
Types Of Bars And Barbells
If you’re building a home gym or growing your knowledge of what barbells to use, read on to discover the main types of barbells available. Just warn your shoulders, traps, back, and legs because your workouts are never going to be the same again.
Visit just about any gym and you will find standard barbells. Whether it’s a commercial or home gym, standard barbells are always available and for a good reason too. They are incredibly adaptable and can be used for many different lifts.
Deadlifts, bench presses, curls, hip thrusts, and squats are just a few workouts you can perform with standard barbells. Trust us, the list goes on and on!
Standard barbells are probably the most versatile out of all barbells. Other examples tend to be utilized for specific lifts such as squats or bench presses but a standard barbell can be used for many kinds of exercises.
So, don’t be surprised to see someone squatting with a certain weight on standard barbells before moving onto deadlifts. This versatility is why you should always have a standard barbell in the gym, especially if you’re building one at home.
When it comes to the size of standard barbells, they are usually around 1-inch in diameter and approximately 7.2 feet long. This typical size means they are easier to grip for different types of lifts and allow you to add different levels of weight on the sides.
That brings us to the weight of standard barbells. While they can differ in weight, they are almost always 45 pounds. So, you don’t have to be built like Jason Mamoa or Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson to use standard barbells. Just set it to a weight you are comfortable with.
Standard barbells have very pleasing knurling. This helps lifters gain a better grip on the bar with less risk of it slipping out of the hands. When benching or deadlifting, this knurling is essential.
However, you will usually have to pay extra for the best kind of knurling as the cheapest bars tend to sport quite a smooth knurling which can slip from the hands more easily.
As for the price of standard barbells, they can vary. As you can guess, the cheapest options will not last as long and are less durable. But, for only a hundred dollars or so, you can start to find good-quality barbells that should last longer.
Nevertheless, we recommend investing in bars specifically for weightlifting and powerlifting if that is your goal. Standard bars are great for a variety of lifts but the whip or rotation with powerlifting and weightlifting can be a little difficult to achieve.
Think about what suits you and your needs best. Only then can you decide if standard barbells are what you need. If you like to perform a range of different lifts, then you should certainly consider a standard barbell.
If you have a little extra cash to splash and are looking for a great deadlift bar, then the Hex bar is a must. Also known as a trap bar, T-bar, or square bar, this is an easy-to-use deadlift bar. It boasts four sides that allow you to stand inside and grip the handles on all sides.
Conventional deadlift training and Hex bars just go together like muscle ache and gyms. This bar forces you to lower your bottom end rather than crouch forward as you lift. Therefore, there is less chance of injuring yourself which is a common occurrence with newbie deadlifters.
This bar helps you change the mechanics of a deadlift as well because you have to place your hands on both sides of your body instead of having them directly in front of you.
Hex bars are designed in a way that pressure is relieved off the lower back. This is because of the arm’s position to the sides. If you have ever performed a conventional deadlift before, you would have probably positioned your hands in front. Try with a hex bar and you should feel a lot more comfortable.
For regular lifters and powerlifters, the hex bar is a fantastic piece of equipment. If you have been trying to perfect your deadlift form but so far failed, a hex bar could be just the thing you need to complete your goal. Just bear in mind that these bars can be pretty expensive.
But, if you’re serious about lifting, the investment will be worth it in the long run.
Olympic Weightlifting Bar
Are you an Olympic weightlifter? If so, you will already know how important a good-quality, reliable weightlifting bar is. The best bars help you improve your form, become stronger, and limit the risk of injury.
When it comes to Olympic weightlifting, there are three main lifts:
- The clean lift
- The jerk lift
- The snatch lift
At first, you may think that an Olympic weightlifting bar is just like a standard barbell but this isn’t the case. For a starter, Olympic barbells roll a lot easier. This helps a lifter achieve a proper, more thorough grip throughout the whole lift movement.
Also, the grip size is considerably wider at 2 inches in diameter. All of this helps with the overall grip.
Olympic barbells also sport more whip. This is the oscillation that happens as the bar changes direction quickly through the lift. And, this is critically important for the safety of an Olympic lifter.
The knurling of these barbells is also a little softer than many other bars. This is because the bar moves in the hands of the lifter to a greater extent. If the knurling is too tough, it could damage the weightlifter’s hands and rip the skin.
Moreover, these bars are specially designed to withstand and handle Olympic plates rather than regular types. Try and put Olympic plates on other barbells and you will not get far. And, an injury will be waiting around the corner for you.
Generally, Olympic bars are not cheap. They are constructed from the best quality steel which is very expensive. Yes, you can get lower-quality models for a reasonable price but you will be looking at quite a substantial sum of money for a good-quality Olympic weightlifting bar. Check out our list of the best affordable Olympic barbells for your home gym.
Powerlifting bars are a necessity for, you guessed it, powerlifting. The only problem is that the majority of lifters find it hard to distinguish between these bars and other types of barbells. Furthermore, coming across powerlifting bars in commercial gyms is not always so easy.
So, if you’re a powerlifter, you may need to visit a specialized powerlifting gym to find the right equipment for you.
As we mentioned, many people can not tell the differences between a powerlifting bar and a standard barbell. However, one key difference is the rigidity. Although both types are around the same size, a powerlifting bar is designed to support a lot more weight.
Therefore, the steel metal used in its construction has to be a lot stronger and less flexible. Why? This is so the bar doesn’t start to bounce when it is loaded with high levels of weight.
These bars are also designed to not rotate as powerlifters lift them. This allows you to maintain a grip through the entire lifting motion.
The knurling of powerlifting bars is much rougher than most barbells. Even experienced lifters will be left with calluses and torn skin let alone beginners with softer hands. However, this roughness is vital in helping lifters maintain grip. Yes, you may have painful hands afterward but the gains are usually worth it.
The high-quality steel construction means powerlifting bars are pretty expensive. Nevertheless, bars that do not support huge weights (1,500 pounds and over) are generally more affordable.
We move on to another specialty bar, the log barbell. If you have never seen a log barbell before, you can probably guess its appearance from its name. That’s right, it looks like a log! It boasts a cylindrical design with two holes that are cut out to hold the handles in position. Each end also sports a spoke where the weight is loaded on.
Compared to other barbells, the log is one of the heaviest, weighing a little over 110 pounds (50 kg). This added weight means it is not for the faint-hearted. Or the weak! The log bar is essential and widely used for those who compete in strongman competitions.
So, if you have little experience in lifting weights, you should probably lay off the log bar for a little while until you have become significantly stronger.
As you can guess, the log bar can support very, very heavyweights. This allows the strongest of the strong to become even stronger. Super-strong lifters will not gain much by using standard barbells as the weights are not heavy enough.
Instead, they will have to fork out a bit more money on a log barbell and lift weights that most of us can’t even imagine.
However, log barbells are not only for the super-strong. You can adjust the weights to suit your strength. Therefore, if you’re looking to get as strong as possible, a log barbell may be worth considering.
Looking to increase your deadlift strength? If so, a deadlift bar is essential. These bars are almost identical to a standard barbell but with slight variations. One key difference is that the deadlift barbell has more whip. This makes it easier to pull off the floor in a quicker motion and with better effectiveness.
Deadlift bars tend to have deeper, more rigid knurling as well. This is vital as the grip tends to be more important with deadlifts than standard lifts. Even with these slight variations, a deadlift bar is typically much more expensive than a traditional standard barbell.
If you’re looking to improve your deadlift form and break some personal, or world, records, then the extra cost of a deadlift bar is always worth it. Remember, the more expensive bar you buy, the longer it should last so the investment will be worthwhile. But, only buy deadlift bars, and all barbells for that matter, from reputable fitness centers or lifting specialists.
Deadlift bars have a similar weight to standard bars at 45 pounds and an almost identical 1-inch diameter. It’s just the grip control that helps it stand out the most.
If you want to perform a variety of lifts, a deadlift bar is not the right choice. These are specifically for deadlifts so should only be considered for those dedicated to deadlifts.
Another type of specialty bar is the Swiss barbell. This is a great piece of kit for those looking to perform a variety of lifts. Its versatility means many different exercises can be executed on the barbells and it is functional for a range of gym settings both commercial and at home.
The appearance of this bar is very unique. It has a rectangular design with numerous grip widths that connect the longer sides of the rectangle. Here, the handles stand out allowing lifters to use different grip widths. This helps them maintain a neutral, comfortable grip during the entire movement.
If you experience pain in your shoulders, elbows, or wrists during pressing movements, a Swiss bar can help ease this pain quite significantly. This is why it is used by many who are recovering from certain injuries as it allows you to maintain fitness without putting too much strain on certain areas of the body. Check out our total guide to Swiss bar bench presses here.
The Swiss bar category is quite diverse in terms of collar sizes and weights. This is great for all lifters as you can choose a Swiss bar that suits your lifting style and strength best.
Again, the more you spend, the better quality Swiss bar you will receive. However, these are generally cheaper than some other specialized barbells but still more than standard bars.
You have probably seen these around most commercial gyms. Known as EZ or curl bars, these have a served design and typically come in a small size. This allows lifters to get an easy grip for the best bicep curls possible as well as extension exercises.
EZ bars are superb for those with shoulder, elbow, or wrist pain. Many arm exercises that target specific areas only exacerbate these types of pains but EZ curl bars help to minimize such discomfort.
EZ bars are pretty easy to use, hence the name. They tend to weigh only 10 pounds allowing lifters to customize the weights to suit their strength. This is why you will see anyone from bodybuilders to lean athletic types use EZ curl bars to stay fit and strong.
Compared to other barbells, an EZ bar is relatively cheap. Best of all, the best types are not too pricey either. So, whatever you pay for one, it should last quite a while.
Safety Squat Bar
Have you ever squatted only to experience irritation in the shoulders? If you have, a safety squat bar should be introduced to your fitness regime.
Originally made for light lifters or beginners, safety squat bars have become a popular piece of equipment for all lifting types. This bar sports a padded area that comfortably rests on your neck.
The handles are wonderfully easy to hold which helps to reduce any muscle strain and pain during the squatting motion.
More than any other type of barbell for squatting, the safety squat bar will usually be forced higher on the neck. This, in turn, forces additional weight on your quads while simultaneously taking stress off of the lower back.
As you probably know, back pain is one of the most common complaints during squats and other exercises so it’s very important to reduce any risk of such injury when possible.
A lot of lifters like to use the safety squat barbell alongside regular low-bar squats. This helps to activate different muscle groups and eventually improve their lifts.
These are just some of the important reasons why you should do safety bar squats. However, when it comes to the price of safety squat bars, they are typically a little on the expensive side. This is mainly down to the high-quality construction and the heavier weight of 60 pounds. Nonetheless, a safety squat bar is a great tool to use if you want to improve your gains as quickly as possible.
For a brand new experience, while performing standing squats, you should utilize a cambered bar. Don’t worry, most people haven’t heard of this one either!
This barbell is considered best for next-level lifters rather than beginners, especially when you compare it to other types of barbells. If you have many years of lifting experience and have perfected your squat form, then you are probably ready to add some serious weight to your bar and take your squats to the next level.
The cambered bar allows lifters to hold on to two handles on either side of their body. This helps to stabilize the lift while making the squat more challenging. However, it also allows you to add more weight to improve your squats like never before.
If you suffer from shoulder pain and find other bars only make this discomfort worse, then a cambered bar is a great option. However, its thicker design can make it more painful on the traps but this shouldn’t be too much of an issue for heavy lifters.
Cambered bars tend to put more emphasis on your glutes and hamstring too. While this can be painful, it will force you to perfect your squat form and become better than ever before. Therefore, a cambered barbell is a great tool for lifters looking to maximize their squats as well as improve their existing form.
As for price, cambered bars sit around the average cost for barbells with good-quality types being a few hundred dollars. While the price may put some people off, the investment is totally worth it if you already suffer from knee or hip pain.
Using a cambered bell may help ease these aches and pains whilst helping you improve your squats. Win-win!
Another specialized piece of gym equipment is the Tsunami barbell. The main aim of this bar is to help lifters achieve maximum results. However, this is for experienced lifters rather than novices.
This bar is designed to help increase power and strength. It is also great for improving the contraction speed of muscles. If you want to find out more about this bar in deeper detail, the manufacturers (Tsunami Bar) explain everything via their website.
Unlike some other types of barbells, the Tsunami bar is an oscillating flexible type. This means it comes with carrying flexibility, weight, and grip levels to suit different lifters.
The actual bar flexes and bends throughout the entire movement but the largest amount of flexibility occurs during the top and bottom of the lift. The barbell produces oscillating waves at different points that exercise muscle groups in certain, unique ways. Throughout a movement, this helps to improve power and strength.
The earthquake bar, also known as the Bamboo bar, is designed to put emphasis on bar stability. Although earthquake and bamboo bars are often interchangeable terms, earthquake bars are considered to be able to hold more weight.
These bars create OKE (Oscillating Kinetic Energy) which is thought to increase and improve your muscle stabilization.
As you can guess from the name, the bar is bamboo-based. Unsurprisingly, this means the bar has some serious flex. As well as this flexibility, these bars are highly durable and can hold over 400 pounds of weight.
Earthquake bars do not absorb vibrations. Therefore, vibrations are amplified. This creates a kind of shaking feeling or quiver in the bar, like an earthquake.
Some earthquake and bamboo bars hold traditional weights but others sport collars with slits built-in. These are designed for bands rather than weights. In this instance, the weights will dangle from the band as you lift.
Here is another barbell that is very popular among those competing in strongman competitions.
The axle bar has a straight design and is often considered to be a thicker substitute to the standard barbell. Axle bars are primarily used for axle clean and press exercise routines, especially in competitions.
The additional thickness of the bar also forces lifters to focus more attentively on their grip rather than the weight itself.
This thicker bar design means people with smaller hands or poor grips may find it pretty difficult to use them. However, the thicker grip can help those with poor grips improve their grip strength faster than any other traditional barbell.
As you can see above, there is a range of different barbells to suit all types of lifters. From beginners to those competing in strongman competitions, there is a barbell for you.
However, it’s important that you know the differences between these types of barbells and remember their names. This will help you achieve gains far quicker than using the wrong type of bar for your specific needs.
We hope this article has helped you understand what barbells you need to use from now on. All that’s left is for you to hit the gym and build those muscles!