A barbell is a metal bar with weights on each end. It is used in many different free weight lifting exercises such as the dead lifts, squats, bench presses etc. They come in various sizes and diameters. If you are serious about lifting, you will get olympic sized (and quality) barbell and use it for a long long time.
Olympic bar is a steel bar that is 2.2 metres (7.2 ft) long and weighs 20 kilograms (44 lb). The outer ends (sleeves) are 50 millimetres (2.0 in) in diameter. Grip section is 28 millimetres (1.1 in) in diameter and 1.31 metres (4.3 ft) in length. The bars have grip marks spaced 910 millimetres (36 in, 3 feet) apart to help with intuitive grip width measurement.
Olympic bars have suitable and constant 'whip' (they store elastic energy when bending), sleeves must rotate smoothly and they must be able to withstand multiple dropped lifts from overhead with considerable weight on the bar. Hence, these bars are not cheep.
Powerlifting bars are stiffer than olympic bars to better accommodate the heavier weights. These bars can be longer and thicker than olympic bars and their sleeves do not need to rotate smoothly as olympic bars' sleeves - they can be simpler and more robust. True powerlifting bars have their grip marks spaced closer, at 810 millimetres (32 in) - often used to check if grip width in the bench press is legal or not.
For 99.9% of people, olympic bars are way to go.
EZ ('easy') bars have curved profile of the bar in the grip region allowing the user's wrists and forearms to take a more neutral, less supinated position. This reduces the risk of repetitive stress injury in exercises like biceps curls, upright rows, lying triceps extensions etc. Weights and dimensions differ significantly and when purchasing be sure that you have weight plates that can be used with such bars.
Weight plates are placed on each end of the bars and are used for achieving desired weight resistance. It is highly recommended to get plates with good plastic or rubber coating for many reasons - less trouble cleaning them, no rust issues and they tend to make less noise when dropped. And you will drop them, sooner or later ...
Weights on the bars are often secured (and should be secured) with collars to prevent weights from sliding off the bar during the exercise. Such incidents can lead to serious injuries or worse. Collars for olympic bars have 2.5kg (pair of them - 5kg), but collars often come in the form of simple, lightweight wire coils that are attached to the sleeves to prevent weight plates from sliding - although such collars are easily put on and removed, they don't hold as good as 'normal' collars. Not even close ...
Olympic weight plates that are 10kg or heavier, are 450mm in diameter. There are also 5kg (or lighter) plates with 450 mm diameter, but they are not used often. Olympic weight plates come in different colors:
|Color||Weight (kg)||Weight (pounds)|
In powerlifting, olympic weight plates are often used, but there are also other plates standards and such plates come different colors and weights, so be sure to pay attention well. Powerlifting plates are often thinner for the same weight, so that more plates can fit onto the bar.
As said before, 99.9% of people will be more than happy with olympic style weight plates.
Barbells and weight plates reviews and recommendations, ordered according to the date added or modified:
Body Solid Olympic Bars are 'classic' bars - strong and durable, can accept heavy loads without problems, can last very long time. And have acceptable price tag. Of course, there are cheaper bars around, but invest once and forget about them ...
Cap Barbell 1500 Pound Solid Test Bar 7-Feet is expensive olympic standard barbell, but one of the best buy heavy-duty bars around. It can tolerate plenty of punishment and if you treat it as it deserves, it can last a long time.
Body Solid Rubber Grip Olympic Set is set of plates for olympic bars. Sets come in 255 lbs, 355 lbs or 455 lbs versions and if you are serious in heavy lifting, one 455 lbs set is the minimum of weight you need.