A decade ago, a one-rep max PR was something that was reserved for strength athletes.
The average joe in the gym would focus on hypertrophy instead.
‘Moving more weight than what you’ve ever done before? Nah. That sounds uncool.’
Cut to today, most coaches emphasize on strength development along with hypertrophy and the one-rep max lift is used as a yardstick to measure an athlete’s strength.
What is the absolute max amount of weight that you can bench or deadlift or squat?
That’s the new chest-thumping right for you.
But there’s one tiny detail that many new lifters miss out on.
The weight of the barbell.
Do you include the weight of the barbell when you measure your 1 RM? More importantly, how much does that barbell really weigh?
Is there any difference in the weight of an Olympic barbell and a standard one?
Let’s decode the barbell, what it is, how much it weighs and the differences between the standard and olympic bar.
What is a Barbell?
A Barbell is an industry standard weightlifting bar that is designed for heavy free weight workouts such as squats, bench press, deadlifts, hang cleans and other compound movements.
There are 3 different types of barbells:
- Standard Barbell
- Olympic Barbell
- Training barbell
The thing about the barbells at your local gyms and rec centers is that none of them list the weight of the barbell on it at all.
This makes it very challenging when you want to know exactly just how much weight you are pressing.
It’s especially important when you are trying to top your personal record for things like bench press.
The good news is the weight of the bars only varies a bit as there are industry standards set for barbells that most manufacturers follow.
The training bar is the only exception
What Is a Training Barbell
A training barbell is one that is designed to be lighter, shorter, and easier to use for other types of workouts that require less weight to be loaded on the bar.
Training bars are excellent for use with workouts such as shoulder presses, tricep raises, lunges and other lighter workouts.
How much Does a Standard Barbell weigh?
This is the bar that you will find scattered around in your local gym.
It depends on the manufacturer.
Standard barbells weigh between 12-25 lbs. with 20 lbs. being the average weight.
How much does an Olympic Barbell Weigh?
An olympic barbell is one that you will find at most competitions and heavy weight lifting meets as these are the bars that can handle lots of weight without bending unlike the standard bars.
The Olympic barbell weighs 45 lbs. This is a standardized measurement and only a ladies Olympic barbell will weigh lesser than this.
How much Does a Training Barbell weigh?
you will find a standard barbell at most big gyms and rec centers. These bars are great for women and lighter weight style workouts.
Training barbells weigh in at 15-25 pounds.
Standard Barbell Vs Olympic Barbell, what are the differences?
If you still haven’t done this, then walk into your gym and take a good look around at the different types of bars that adorn the racks.
You should find standard barbells / universal bars as well as Olympic barbells. Each one can be identified by its width and size.
But if this is the first time that you are starting to lift, then even this is enough to confuse you.
Here are some more details.
The Standard Barbell
Standard barbells are 5-7 feet long and have a carrying capacity that is designed to be able to handle lighter weight compound movements.
Standard barbells vary quite a bit in weight as there are several different brands and designs.
You need to keep in mind that most bro dudes that read things online or think they know what they are talking about will tell you that it weighs 45 pounds when in fact it actually does not.
Standard barbells refers to universal barbells which have varying weight based on the manufacturer and the intended purpose.
These bars are better suited for lighter weight workouts and have an average load bearing capacity of about 250 lbs. Not the ideal choice if you are looking for maxing your deadlifts.
The thickness or the diameter can vary greatly. But 1” or 25mm is a good ballpark figure to go by.
Some can be thicker, depending on the manufacturer. The thicker the bar, higher the tensile strength.
However, most manufacturers of standard barbells do not include the tensile strength in the description.
That’s partly because these bars are used by beginners as an inexpensive starting point into weight lifting. Once they get more experienced, most lifters will graduate to an Olympic bar anyway.
The standard barbell may or may not have knurling. Even if it does, the knurling is not as aggressive nor as prominent as what you’d find on an Olympic barbell.
The sleeves do not rotate or spin either.
The Olympic Barbell
The Olympic Barbell is the gold standard for heavy lifting. It is 7-feet long and weighs 45 lbs. with the thickness ranging from 28-32mm.
Most of these have a weight bearing capacity of at least 800-1000 lbs. if not more.
Apart from the difference in size and thickness, Olympic bars have sleeves that spin or rotate, courtesy the bearings/bushings that are integrated into them. This is very helpful for an athlete looking to perform compound moves like the Clean and Jerk as well as deadlift with extremely heavy weights.
It helps reduce the torque that can be created by the truckload of plates that are loaded on the bar and this in turn, reduces the strain on the lifters wrists and elbows.
Olympic bars have prominent knurling on the sides and on the center which allows the athlete a firm grip. Some manufacturers have started to do away with the center knurling as it rarely serves any purpose except for being an annoyance for some lifters.
Every Olympic bar will have the tensile strength mentioned on it. And it has to be at least 190k PSI if not more.
The Sleeves on Olympic Barbells do rotate which allows for better weight distribution
What Workouts is the Barbell used for?
Both these barbells are used for compound, free weight exercises like bench press, Overhead shoulder press, Bent Over Rows, Deadlifts and Squats.
These exercises are the bedrock of any workout program focused on building strength and inducing hypertrophy.
Your choice of one of these barbells should depend on your experience level as well as the amount of weight that you are looking to lift.
If you are lifting anything more than 200 lbs., we highly recommend that you pick an Olympic barbell.
Whereas if you are an inexperienced lifter or a beginner, then get started with a standard barbell until you can lift heavier as well as master form needed to perform these lifts with heavier plates.
Do people count the barbell weight when lifting?
Absolutely. Irrespective of whether you are lifting a standard barbell or an Olympic one, you will and you should count the weight.
If you are lifting 200 lbs. of plates on an Olympic bar, you are lifting 245 lbs. That’s a significant amount of weight to discredit.
Try curling with a 45 lbs. dumbbell. Would you consider that you just curled with 0 lbs. dumbbells? We are sure you won’t.
Anyone who says that the weight of the barbell must not be included is just peddling outdated, bro-science.