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What are the technical characteristics of a weightlifting barbell?

How do I choose my weightlifting bar? Why is this Olympic bar more expensive than another? What are the differences between these two barbells? Anyone wishing to buy an Olympic bar has already asked one of these questions. More broadly, all weightlifting equipment has technical characteristics that may be difficult to understand for the uninitiated. Throughout this worksheet, we will give you all the information you need to choose the weight lifting bar that will meet your expectations.

The terms PSI, rings, sleeves will no longer be unknown to you. Performance also requires knowledge. Knowing your equipment will allow you to equip yourself according to your needs to fulfill the objectives you have set for yourself. Your weightlifting, gym or conditioning equipment is an extension of your body. We will then end up with a comparison of our bars to allow you to quickly understand which bar will suit your use. And now, follow the guide to discover all the secrets of a weightlifting barbell.

What are the differences between man/ woman/ junior weightlifting barbell ?

Not all Olympic barebells are identical. To adapt to different weightlifters and users, there are three variations of Olympic barbell. The three main characteristics are the weight, the size of the bar and the diameter of the axis. Below are the standard features of each Olympic bar:

Weight Axis diameter Bar length Sleeve diameter
Men Olympic Barbell  20 kg 28 mm 2200 mm 50 mm
Women Olympic Barbell 15 kg 25 mm 2010 mm 50 mm
Junior Olympic Barbell 10 kg 25 mm 1070 mm 50 mm

There are also 5 kg barbells. These last barbells support a low load and allow to work technicity from the different movements that you will find in weightlifting.


What are the differences between an Olympic barbell and a powerlifting barbell?

It exists 3 principals barbells types

  • Weightlifting Olympic barbells: they are used for the two weightlifting movements: the snatc) and the the clean and jerk. As said above their diameter is 28 millimetres. The ratio between strength and elasticity (usually measured by PSI) differs between each weight lifting bar. It allows them to have a whip that athletes use to their advantage when performing  movements. The markings are further from the center than for a powerlifting barbell and they are called single olympic knurl mark. They allow athletes to find their way to grab their bar.

  • Powerlifting barbells: they are designed to practice deadlift, bench press and squats. They generally bear very heavy loads. These barbells are stiffer than the others to limit the rebound effect that can be found on weight bars. They also have a larger diameter to allow them to lift large loads. Their marking is different from a weight lifting bar, it is called powerlifting knurl mark. 

  • Double-marked Olympic barbells: the latter type of bar is increasingly used. These bars are the most versatile since they show both the marking of the Olympic barbells and the marking of the powerlifting barbells. They are therefore adapted to people who want to have a multidisciplinary bar and which allows them to carry out all the movements. These bars are also the most frequently found in affiliated boxes.

Barre olympique double marquage halterophilie powerlifting

What are the different types of bearings on a weightlifting barbell?

The bearings allow the sleeves to rotate more or less smoothly. This rotation is necessary for your weightlifting barbell to follow your movements during the training. The fluidity of your bearings determines the reactivity of your barbell. More importantly, the strength of the bearings will have a real impact on the life and use of your bar. Indeed, poor quality bearings will hardly withstand daily drops. They will lose fluidity and can even break, making the bar unusable. Bearings are one of the most important elements of a weight lifting bar. Below are the two main types of rolling:

  • Needle bearings:  These bearings usually rotate better than ring bearings but are more expensive. Number of needles per bearing varies from one weightlifting bar to another. These are high-tech, high-precision parts. However, needle bearings are also not the guarantee of a high-end bearing. Other parameters such as the number of needles, the design material and the quality of the needles will need to be considered. Good quality needle bearings allow for quieter rotation and a more reliable bearing to lift large loads.

  • Bushing bearings: Generally cheaper but also less efficient, these bearings are used on entry or mid-range bars. They are suitable for medium intensity use. Many parameters affect the quality of your ride. As with needles, you will need to consider all the elements to assess their quality.

We could also add other types of bearings such as ball bearings. However these are of lower quality and are rarer on Olympic barbells. It is possible to find on some bars several bearings. Needles being expensive some suppliers may combine needles and rings for example.


What is tensile strength or PSI?

Here is another very important element that can be indicative of the quality of your barbell. The tensile strength allows you to know the ratio between the strength of the steel and its flexibility. It is usually expressed in PSI (Pound-force per Square Inch or French pound per square inch) which is a unit of stress and pressure measurement. So the PSI tells you the tensile force your Olympic barbell will resist. The variation in PSI from one bar to another depends on the quality of the steel used to produce your weightlifting bar.

The PSI generally correlates significantly with the maximum load your barbell will support. It's an important factor in determining the quality of the bar in general. Several recommendations can be given:

  • The system for measuring the PSI of a bar is a process that remains unknown to the general public. Some Olympic bar suppliers voluntarily overestimate the PSI of their bar to give a quality impression. Some weight bars are sold as being of very good quality while the reality is quite different. The PSI, the description, the bearings and the price of the bar must therefore be compared to obtain a general opinion. Don’t hesitate to compare several suppliers.

  • Depending on your practice, we advise you to avoid Olympic bars with an index of 160,000 PSI (or 160K PSI) that will have very low tensile strength. We recommend that you choose indices equal to or greater than 180,000 PSI (or 180K PSI).

  • Of course the above argument is not valid for technical bars of 10kg and 5kg. These barbells are used to work the technique they do not need to have a very high PSI since the work of the athlete will be carried out on light loads.

We can add a second stress test that is done by the Olympic barbell producers, the torsion test. It is usually never indicated by the suppliers in the product sheets. Olympic barbells are subjected to different torsional powers. This measures the extent to which the axis of the bar deforms and realigns.

The center knurl 

  • Olympic Barbells 20 kg: Some babells include a central knurling. This knurling has little interest in the context of a versatile use as for example for an affiliated box. For series with many high intensity repetitions the knurl center can burn and hurt the athlete. It is generally softened compared to the side knuckles that serve as a grip for athletes. However, this knurling is enshrined in the regulations of the IWF (International Weightlifting Federation) and the IPF (International Powerlifting Federation). All barbells that you will find in weightlifting competition will therefore have a central marking that measures 120 millimetres.

  • Olympic barbells 15kg: The IWF and IPF did not include the central knurling in their regulations for 15 kg weight barbells. As a result, the vast majority of 15 kg barbells do not include any centering knurling.

Shaft and sleeve finishing

Why are not all weight barbells of the same colour? What impact can this have? Indeed, there are several types of finishes. Each finish has its specificities and brings precise characteristics to your Olympic barbell. It also happens that on the same barbells the finishing of the shaft and sleeves are different. Here is a non-exhaustive list of finishes:

  • Finishes and treatments for your Olympic barbellsBlack oxide :

  1. Black oxide: The most natural finish feeling. Limited oxidation protection.
  2. Manganese black: Rarer finish. Same adhesion as oxide.
  3. Bright zinc: It provides very good protection against oxidation. This treatment is very expensive.
  4. Hard chrome: Very time-resistant finish for standard finishes. Does not rust except in very poor conditions. (includes polished and satin chrome)
  5. Decorative chrome: It usually makes up the entry-level bars. It corresponds to an imitation of hard chrome. Rust develops rapidly under the finish.

  • The different knuckles

The knurling of your Olympic barbell will allow you to have more or less "grip" when you perform your movements. Some weightlifters prefer marked knurling to hold the bar firmly. However, this type of knurling may tear your hands off if you train on series with a large number of repetitions. There are also less deep knurling or with different types of grooves. The choice of knurling is very personal, so it is very difficult to give an opinion.

  • Sleeve Finishing

  1. Smooth Sleeves: Your weight plates will grip the sleeve, which can slow down the loading and unloading of the bar
  2. Striated or micro striated sleeves: They will allow you to load and unload your bar faster because your weight lifting discs will slide better on the sleeves.


How to maintain your weightlifting barbell?

To keep your weightlifting barbell in good condition, you must maintain it regularly. Here are some tips we can give you:

  • Clean your Olympic barbell after each use: Perspiration, magnesia, moisture can damage your bar, to prevent the appearance of rust points, It is necessary to clean your bar after each use with a soft plastic bristle brush and a cloth. In the case of an affiliated box we advise you to perform this brushing at least once a week. Insist on knurling. Note that weight lifting bars that have a zinc-plated finish require less maintenance than other finishing types because they are the most resistant to oxidation.

  • Store your barbells preferably horizontally: For maximum maintenance and longevity it is preferable to store your barbells horizontally. This remains a detail for perfectionists.
  • Apply oil to your bearings: It is necessary to add oil so that the bearings retain their perfect fluidity. Preferred liquid oils that keep less microparticles in your bearings. Thicker oils can clog the bearing which will become less efficient. The frequency of application depends on your use and your bearings. Nevertheless, we advise you to apply oil at least twice a year.
  • Use technical floor: Weightlifting slabs are designed to cushion shocks when you drop your barbell. Your flat bumpers and bar will be protected. Depending on your budget, we advise you to choose a floor thickness of 15 to 25 millimetres. Thicker floors can provide a larger rebound depending on the type of bumper used. Floors with a higher thickness will be useful when you want to practice weightlifting on fragile floors or upstairs in a building.

Comparison Board: The CrossLiftor Olympic Barbell Range

What are the characteristics of our men’s Olympic barbells?

Olymic Barbell SQUAT Olympic Barbell AxLR Olympic Barbell NRV Olympic Barbell DtR
Weight 20 kg 20 kg 20 kg 20 kg
Total Dimension 2200 mm 2200 mm 2200 mm 2200 mm
Diameter of the axis 28 mm 28 mm 28 mm 28 mm
Marking Double marking Double marking Double marking Single olympic knurl mark
Central knurling No No No Yes
PSI 190 000 PSI 190 000 PSI 190 000 PSI 215 000 PSI
Diameter of sleeves 50 mm 50 mm 50 mm 50 mm
Sleeve Bearing Bushing 4 needles 4 needles 8 needles
Sleeve Finishing Smooth Micro Stripping Micro Stripping Micro Stripping
Sleeve colours Chrome Chrome Black Chrome
Axis colours Chrome Black Black/ Gold / Green army Chrome
Axis finishing Zing plating Zing plating Zing plating Zing plating
Maximum load 300 kg 700 kg 750 kg 750 kg
Use Middle intensity High intensity High intensity Very high intensity
Guarantee 3 years / 1 year * 3 years / 1 year * 3 years / 1 year * 3 years / 1 year *
Price 179 € 249 € 299 € 399 €

* 3 years warranty = steel / 1 year warranty = bearings and manufacturing defect

What are the characteristics of our Women's Olympic barbells?

Olympic Barbell AxLR Olympic Barbell NRV Olympic Barbell DtR
Weight 15 kg 15 kg 15 kg
Total Dimension 2000 mm 2000 mm 2000 mm
Diameter of the axis 25 mm 25 mm 25 mm
Marking Double marking Double marking Single olympic knurl mark
Central knurling No No Yes
PSI 190 000 PSI 190 000 PSI 215 000 PSI
Diameter of sleeves 50 mm 50 mm 50 mm
Sleeve Bearing 4 needles 4 needles 8 needles
Sleeve Finishing Micro Stripping Micro Stripping Micro Stripping
Sleeve Colours Chrome Black Chrome
Axis colours Black
Black/ Gold/ Green army Chrome
Axis Finishing  Zing plating Zing plating Zing plating
Maximum load 700 kg 750 kg 750 kg
Use High intensity High intensity Very High intensity
Warranty 3 years / 1 year * 3 years/ 1 year * 3 years/ 1 year *
Price 209 € 279 € 319 €

* 3 years warranty = steel / 1 year warranty = bearings and manufacturing defect