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What Is a Weight Bar?

Powerlifters compete to lift the most weight.
As a piece of workout equipment, the weight bar is available in a variety of forms and sizes.
Standard barbell equipment includes a straight bar and weight plates, and usually have smaller holes and thinner bars than Olympic equipment.
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  • Written By: Shelby Miller
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 16 November 2014
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A weight bar is a piece of exercise equipment used in strength training. Typically made of steel, weight bars were introduced as a tool for training muscles in the second half of the 19th century. They are available in multiple forms, including Olympic bars, barbells, EZ curl bars, and light rubber-coated fitness bars like those used in group exercise settings. Not only is the weight bar extremely popular as an exercise tool, it is the equipment of choice in the sports of bodybuilding, powerlifting, and Olympic lifting.

As a piece of workout equipment, the weight bar is available in a variety of forms and sizes. The most standard form is the straight, long bar seen at gyms in squat racks and bench presses. Known as the Olympic bar, it weighs 44.1 pounds (20 kg), is 7.22 feet (2.13 m) long, and is intended to be loaded with circular weight plates that can rotate freely around the bar. Barbells are another popular form of weight bar. They tend to resemble oversized dumbbells, feature a pair of circular, sometimes rubber-coated weights that are permanently fixed to either end of the bar, and come in a wide range of lengths and weights. Those sold in sets to gyms and health clubs commonly range in weight from 25-125 pounds (11.34-56.70 kg).

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Another form of weight bar is the EZ curl bar. Only around 3 feet (0.91 m) in length, the EZ curl bar has a zigzag shape and is designed to reduce stress on the wrists and forearms during exercises like biceps curls and French presses, a type of triceps extension that is performed while lying on one’s back. The fitness bar is another popular variation on the weight bar. Entirely coated in rubber, it tends to be available in lighter weights like 9 pounds (4.08 kg) and 12 pounds (5.44 kg) and is commonly utilized in group strength-training classes.

As the weight bar is used as a tool in the sports of bodybuilding, powerlifting, and Olympic lifting, the type selected may differ depending on the goal of the athlete. Bodybuilders focus more on appearance than technique, so they will choose whatever style of weight bar is specific to the muscles they want to train. Powerlifters compete to lift the most weight in three exercises: the bench press, squat, and deadlift. All three exercises use the standard Olympic bar with plates loaded on either end to reach the desired amount of weight, though longer and thicker bars are sometimes used to handle the excessive weight load.

Olympic lifting, for which the Olympic bar is named, differs from bodybuilding and powerlifting in that it focuses on lifting the maximum amount of weight in a single repetition of one of two exercises: the clean and jerk, and the snatch. Both explosive exercises requiring strength and speed, they require the use of a weight bar that allows the plates to move freely about it in order to reduce rotational forces on the wrists and arms. The women’s Olympic bar is smaller than the men’s, coming in at 6.73 feet (2.05 m) in length and 33.07 pounds (15 kg).

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