What do you need to look for when deciding what barbell to buy?
Barbells come in a range of prices, diameters, grip spacing and finish but it is important you understand the difference between them all
– The diameter of a barbell ranges from 27mm (The Texas Deadlift Bar) up to 32mm+ (Your standard olympic barbell). The Diameter of a barbell should be an important factor when placing an order as it should tell you a lot about the quality and its purpose.
27mm Powerlifting Bar
–Due to the narrow diameter this steel is used to produce Deadlift bars and gives a large amount of flex in the steel when lifting heavy loads. With a smaller diameter material comes a decrease in strength therefore most bars with a 27mm diameter would be using a higher grade of steel and carry a higher price tag.
28-29mm Olympic or powerlifting Bar
– These bars are competition specification bars and are used to produce items such as the Texas Power Bar or Eleiko Powerlifting Bar. These bars should be the main bars used due to the high strength of steel used and the optimum diameter for a wide range of movements such as squatting or bench pressing.
30-32mm Standard Olympic Bar
– These are your budget bars which can be found on most well known auction sites and low cost retailers. Selling for approximately £90-£150 each these bars use lower quality steel and use a thicker diameter in order to additional material and therefore strength. These bars, although serve a purpose should not be high on your shopping list if you are looking for the best however if you are limited to a budget they will suffice, just don’t expect them to stand up to huge personal bests.
- The finish of a barbell also gives clues to the quality. Standard bars that are lower in cost usually have a chrome finish or have black oxide finish (chemically blacked) where as higher quality bars usually have a zinc and clear or zinc black colour, the elite level bars will most likely be manufactured from an aerospace grade stainless steel and therefore require no finish.
Zinc Barbell Finish
- Although there are several methods of applying a zinc coating to a freeweight barbell the most common would be an electroplating process. Essentially the process follows a relatively straight forward procedure. Your bar is cleaned and placed in a solution where a zinc anode (positive charge) is connected to a power source. Ions of zinc are then transferred from the positive anode to the negative cathode (your barbell) and cover it in a layer of rust proof zinc. Due to the thin layer of zinc which is usually only 43 microns (0.043mm or the thickness of a human hair) it is perfect to maintain tight tolerances and unlike chrome or nickel will not chip.
Chrome Barbell Finish
- Although only one way to apply Chrome plating which is through electroplating there are several different finishes of chrome with the most common chrome barbells being finished in Nickel Chrome Plating as opposed to the hard chrome plating which needs to be polished. This involves plating the part in copper, then nickel then chrome on top. The copper adds a good medium for the nickel to bind to and the nickel is applied which adds the shine and reflection then chrome is applied over the nickel to stop the nickel tarnishing
AN IMPORTANT FACT
- The process of rusting involves steel losing electrons. Zinc is ‘anodic’ to steel meaning it will sacrifice itself and allow electrons to flow from the zinc to the steel in order to coat it and stop corrosion. HOWEVER unlike zinc which is ‘anodic’ to steel when you use Nickel or Chrome you need to be made aware that Steel is ‘anodic’ to Nickel or Chrome meaning that steel will rust in order to protect the nickel or chrome.
- Should you have a poorly nickel or chrome plated part with pin holes not visible to the human eye you will find the steel will start to rust underneath the plated part. Believe it or not having a poorly coated nickel or chrome part speeds up the process of rusting as the nickel/chrome is forcing the steel to sacrifice itself and loose electrons therefore speeding up the steel corrosion. Nickel and chrome can also be more likely to chip or flake than zinc plating
Stainless Steel Barbells
- Stainless steel as the name suggests offers the ultimate protection as the actual steel won’t rust. Because of this chemical composition the barbell is machined, cleaned and left without any secondary plating processes. Because of this high quality steel usually comes a higher price tag
- There are several variations of barbell on the marketing ranging from Powerlifting bars to Olympic Weightlifting Bars, although only slightly different there are various features which are different on each barbell
- This barbell will usually measure 2200mm long and weight 20kg with the outer sleeves measuring between 49-50.8mm thick and are usually machined from a thick wall tube or solid bar on a lathe.
- This barbell will usually measure the same as the Power Bar but have a far greater whip to allow for movements such as the snatch or jerk to be performed.
Barbell Grip spacing
Barbell grip spacing can vary from bar to bar but in general the following would apply
– A power bar is used for a wide variety of exercises ranging from Deadlift to the squat so will usually feature center knurling and may not be knurled all the way to the bar sleeves. The most common spacing is below
– A deadlift bar unlike the power bars will have no centre knurling. The central section of centre knurling is used to grip the back in the squat
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