EP.85 | The DIFFERENCE Between a Weightlifting and Powerlifting Bar

Don't know the difference?  Maybe you're in the market for buying a barbell or maybe you're at the gym and don't know which bar to use.  If you fall in the beginner/novice category, this will be especially helpful for you.  Let's dive in!  

Although there are many different types of barbells, the focus for today's episode will be on two specific types: Olympic Weightlifting & Powerlifting bars.  There are several factors and characteristics to consider when choosing a bar.  It all depends on what sport you are competing in!

Below we'll address the bar's diameter, whip, sleeves/spin, and knurling.

Olympic Weightlifting

28mm (the majority)

Bar whip is when the bar flexes or bends.  The easiest way to see whip in action is by watching the video below starting at one minute, 54 seconds.  The stored elastic energy can give the lifter a huge advantage by correctly timing or "riding" the whip.  As demonstrated in the video, the bar bends around the lifter as he dips down before going overhead.  Oleksiy (@torokhtiy) times the whip perfectly on this clean and jerk, utilizing the stored energy to drive the bar overhead for three whites.

Video by @hookgrip
One main differences between Olympic weightlifting bars and Powerlifting bars is going to be the sleeves.  Olympic bars must have a reliable spin.  Why?  A barbell that spins well will decrease the risk for injury and give the lifter the best experience possible.  Think about it this way... do you want to be going for a 1 Rep Max Clean or Snatch with a barbell that doesn't spin properly?


*Needle bearings in bar sleeves are becoming the go-to for barbell manufacturers due to their reliability and quiet spin.


The knurling on Olympic bars ranges greatly.  Typically you won't want your every day training barbell to have a super aggressive knurling, but everyone has their preference.  When it comes to competition, an Olympic bar's knurling will be much more aggressive AND will have a center knurling to help the lifter grip the bar.

*Many manufacturers such as Rogue Fitness offer various options for bar finish and knurling pattern depending on what you are looking for*



29mm (the majority)


Powerlifting bars are going to be much more rigid/stiff than Olympic barbells.  Powerlifting is about moving the most weight possible, therefore bar whip is negligible.  Bar whip is not something you want much of in this sport.


While in Olympic weightlifting you want free-spinning sleeves, in the world of Powerlifting you simply don't need this.  It's not going to help you pull a new 1 Rep Max Deadlift.

Most Powerlifting bars have bushings in the sleeves.  The sleeves will still turn but it's not going to help you lift more weight.


Powerlifting bars traditionally have a sharper and more coarse knurling.  Do you want to be deadlifting for reps or pulling a heavy single with a passive knurling?  Chances are slim because it will be much harder to hang on.  

Depending on the gym you go to, they'll sometimes have deadlift-specific and squat-specific bars.  An example would be a 55 lb. Texas Squat Bar.  This bar has an added knurling in the middle that is designed to help keep the bar from sliding around or down your back on heavy squats.


Have a bar that needs tended to?

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