Olympic Bars Vs Standard Bars: What’s the Difference?
For many of us, standard barbells were our introduction to weight training, particularly during our teenage years. Since most of us didn’t have a large budget back then, the topic of Olympic bars vs standard bars didn’t even cross our minds. We just went with the cheapest option.
Although it isn’t the most durable type of barbell out there, the standard bar served its purpose, which was to be a non-expensive starting point.
Most of us eventually graduated to Olympic barbells, but there are those who can’t seem to let go. This could be due to a number of reasons, such as not knowing the differences between the two or not having the budget to buy an Olympic bar.
In an effort to convince those that are still using standard bars to make a change, let’s look at why Olympic bars are superior in almost every way.
Olympic Bars Vs Standard Bars: Specifications
Olympic Bar Specifications
- Tensile Strength – Around 190k PSI
- Bar Weight – Around 45lbs
- Length – Around 7′
- Shaft Diameter – Usually 28-32mm
- Knurling Aggressiveness – Mildly aggressive to very aggressive
- Knurl Marks – Olympic weightlifting or powerlifting
- Sleeve Rotation – Bushings or bearings
- Sleeve Diameter – 2”
- Finish – Varies
Standard Bar Specifications
- Weight Capacity – Around 250lbs
- Bar Weight – 12-20lbs
- Length – 5-7′
- Shaft Diameter – 1”
- Knurling Aggressiveness – Not aggressive
- Knurl Marks – None
- Sleeve Rotation – None
- Sleeve Diameter – 1”
- Finish – Usually chrome
Length, Shaft Diameter and Sleeve Diameter
The average Olympic barbell is around 7 feet long, while the average standard bar is 6 feet long. Generally, if the bar is longer, the sleeve length will be longer, meaning you’ll be able to add more weight plates. Also, a longer bar means you’ll be able to take a wider grip if necessary.
The shaft of an Olympic bar usually has a diameter of 28mm to 32mm, and a standard bar’s shaft diameter is 1”, or about 25mm. While a thinner bar shaft is easier to grip, it also means the bar isn’t as strong.
A standard bar’s sleeves are 1 inch in diameter, and an Olympic bar’s sleeves are 2 inches in diameter, so you’ll have to buy specific plates for each. They aren’t interchangeable.
Standard bars can weigh anywhere between 12 and 20lbs, and Olympic bars usually weigh around 45lbs. Typically, the bigger and stronger the bar, the heavier it is, so it isn’t surprising that Olympic bars weigh more.
Most standard bar manufacturers don’t mention the bar’s tensile strength. What they do is include the bar’s weight capacity, which isn’t as reliable. This is probably due to the fact that people who are most likely to purchase a standard bar are uninformed about the importance of a barbells tensile strength, so manufacturers don’t bother including that information.
With all that being said, it’s common for most companies to label their bars as having a weight capacity of around 250lbs, which is significantly lower than what some Olympic bar manufacturers label their bars as having.
A standard barbell’s knurling is fairly smooth when being compared to that of an Olympic bar, which isn’t a good thing. Coarser knurling makes it easier to keep a solid grip on the bar.
While Olympic bars have knurl marks, standard bars don’t. Markings are used as a means of measuring grip width, so not having them would make it harder to use the same grip width every time you perform an exercise.
The sleeves of an Olympic bar are able to spin, while a standard bar’s sleeves aren’t. Spinning sleeves are necessary when performing Olympic-style movements such as the clean and jerk because they assist in completing the lift.
Olympic plates aren’t compatible with standard barbells, and standard plates aren’t compatible with Olympic barbells. Now, there are adapters available for standard bars that allow you to use Olympic plates, but if you want to use Olympic plates, you might as well buy the proper barbell.
Each of these types of bars has its own additional equipment that can be used with it, such as weight benches, power racks, etc. The equipment that’s compatible with Olympic bars is usually of a much higher quality than those made to be used with standard bars.
Although the price of Olympic barbells varies, they are much more expensive than standard barbells. This is because Olympic bars are much more durable and are better made. Even the cheaper, low-quality Olympic bars can take more stress than a standard bar.
More Information About Their Differences
The Bottom Line
After looking at all the advantages that Olympic bars have over standard bars, it’s easy to see why the Olympic bar is preferable. Even if your budget doesn’t allow for it at the moment, if you’re serious about lifting weights, you should save up to purchase one in the future.