What kind of features should a good barbell have?
The barbell is the key element of Olympic weightlifting and even for a plenty of other sports an effective training accessory. For regular strength training, there is not much more needed than a barbell and some weight plates. But not every barbell found out there is appropriate for Olympic weightlifting. The differences regarding the quality of the barbells are huge and when considered to buy one, a few important characteristics should be kept in mind.
Usually, you can divert barbells into two kinds: powerlifting barbells and Olympic barbells.
As the name already reveals, powerlifting barbells are made for the three regular exercises bench press, squat, and deadlifts. In comparison to Olympic barbells, they are way stiffer because they need to handle more load than the Olympic ones. Those are more elastic and must be able to rotate faster than a powerlifting barbell. Especially with the clean and jerk so as the snatch, it is important that the barbell rotate fast and easy. This feature is way more gentle for the wrists, elbows and shoulders of the athlete.
The bearings are one of the most important aspects of the barbell and responsible for the ability to take the turn the barbell needs. Product descriptions often contain missleading terms regarding the bearing or bushing of the barbell. Keep your hands of barbells with no further description. As a part of the ongoing futher developement of barbells, to different types of bearings are used, rolling bearings and plain bearings
With rolling bearings, needle roller bearings are meant. Needle roller bearings have have high load capacity cylindrical roller bearings and deliver a diverse range of track for rollers for rotary and linear motion. Plain bearings are indicated through the direct contact on the material without the cylindrical roller bearings. Pivot bearings are a version of plain bearings and because the rotation is taking place on the material, the barbell doesnt rotate as fast as a bearing with cylindrical roller parts. For weightlifting, the fast rotation is an important aspect and therefore barbells with a cylindrical roller beaing are highly recommended. Plain bearing are mostly found in powerlifting barbells, because the rotation is not so important for powerlifting as within weightlifting. Rolling bearings have a better quality and are therefore more expensive as plain bearings. ball bearings are not recommended because of their fragility. They tend to break quick, especially when dropped with weight and height.
Besides the bearings, the size and weight of an olympic barbell is important. The international weightlifting federation, The world association for weightlifting, set up standards for competitions and hands out liceces for manufactors, who meet all the standards. Your barbell doesnt need to be licensed but it should match all the standards and have the right weight. The barbell for men weights 20 kg and has a lenght of 220vcm, the barbell for woman weights 15 kg and has a lenght of 201 cm. The lenght of the grip area measures 131 cm on both versions. The diameter on the part for the weight plates measures 50 cm on both versions as well. That means the difference in lenght results only from the part the plates get placed on. A significant difference between those two versions is the diameter of the grip area. For men, it measures 28 mm and for woman 25 mm. The woman barbell is thinner, because in regular, women just have smaller hands than men. Within powerlifting both gender use a barbell for men.
For the grip is not only the diameter significant, much more the knurling. For a good grip, the knurling is supposed to be rough. Weightlifter often call a barbell sharp when it has a rough knurling. A rough knurling often leads to abrasions at the thighs or cause the tights to rip in the striven contact area.
To prevent this, a tape is placed on the particular parts of the barbell
4. Load bearing capacities
Weightlifting is a sport where a lot of weight is moved, therefore a barbell needs a high resilience.
Barbells are made out of steel, but simple steel without any kind of coat would quickly oxidate especially without the right care. The steel gets alloyed and hardened to withstand all this strain. Every manufactor has its own methods and secrets for that. For us are three load parameters relevant. The first parameter is the static capacity, where the loaded barbell has to withstand the load for a certain time span and has to return into its original position without any deformations. The static capacaty of an olympic barbell should be 400 kg. The second parameter is the Yield strenght, it measures when a deformation of the barbell takes place. Connected with the second parameter is the third parameter, the Tensile strenght. The capacity of the barbell is tested through pressure and the fatigue test. The barbell is put under pressure until it breaks, the pressure is measured in PSI (Pound force per Square Inch). A good barbell should withstand a PSI of 160.000. A manufactor will always test their product and publish the results. Orientate on a static capacity of +400kg and 160.000 PSI to purchase a high quality barbell.
In weightlifting clubs so as CrossFit boxes, are mostly high quality barbells available and used. Before purchasing a barbell you should inform yourself about the charasteristics of the different barbells and definitly choose a high quality product. Even if the price is scaring high in the first moment, the investion is worth it. A good barbell is durable and can be used almost for decades. The rotation and the quality of the barbell is for an athlete also a health decision. A bad rotation of the barbell not only makes the lift more difficult, much more it damages wrist, ellbows and the shoulders of the athlete. Weightlifting is not an expensive sport, therefore the most important equipement should be a high quality product.