Different Types of Barbells (18 Weight Lifting Workout Bars)

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There are a lot of different bars at the gym. Straight bars, short bars, skinny barbells and bent bars! What do all these lifting bars do? In this article, we look at the different types of barbells and their uses; explain what they are and how to use them in your workouts.

List of all different types of barbells and their uses

Let’s jump into the list of all the different barbell weights that we know of. We’ll explore the set up of each barbell, the types of weights used on it, and what type of training it’s best for. There are some bars that you may be familiar with and some you may not know existed!

Different types of barbells

1. Standard straight barbell

A standard straight barbell could be any type of straight bar. General purpose exercise will include, muscle toning, muscle building and strength training in a none competitive setting.

I would advise on either a full length straight bar or a half length straight bar with rotatable sleeves. This way, there is plenty of scope for progression and a wide range of exercises and exercise methods available. High quality barbells are always worth investing in if you are serious about exercise and even a decent, half length barbell is viable for general fitness.

On the other hand, if the trainer is new to lifting and is looking to develop lifting techniques and a foundation of basic muscle strength, a small barbell set can be an affordable and worthwhile option for use in general training and fitness.

  • Bar weight: 2.4kg – 10kg
  • Bar length: Variable
  • Tensile strength: variable

2. EZ curl bar

EZ curl barbells have many iterations and are available in many different quality variations. EZ bars can be used for more than bicep curls too, but a good EZ bar shaft should have a subtle “M” shape to allow for a comfortable, semi pronated grip rotatable sleeves as per the Olympic barbell and the length should be about half the length of an Olympic barbell.

A quality EZ curl barbell should have stats close to the ones listed below. The tensile strength of an EZ curl bar does not have to be as aggressive as the Olympic bar as the exercise choices it’s designed for do not require as much resistance. Most quality barbell brands will have this more than covered.

  • Bar weight: 10kg – 12kg
  • Bar length: 130cm
  • Tensile strength: 44,000 PSI – 51,000 PSI

3. Swiss bar or multi grip barbell

The main benefit of using a swiss barbell (also known as a “multi grip barbell”) is that the grip position means that the hands are turned inwards. This can help trainers with pronation issues due to injury or inflexibility perform exercise choices that would otherwise be uncomfortable or even inaccessible altogether.

  • Bar weight: 20kg – 28kg
  • Bar length: 210cm – 213cm
  • Tensile strength: variable

4. Olympic barbell

Olympic barbells are long and straight, and can be used for many exercises. This bar has sleeves on each end that rotate allowing the weighted ends to spin if needed for certain exercises. The clean and jerk is a great example of this. Rotatable sleeves on the Olympic barbell will minimize stress to the wrists and other joints during these exercise movements.

These bars are usually made of steel with a tensile strength allowing them to be strong enough for very heavy resistance levels, whilst also allowing a degree of flexibility, so the bar will bend rather than break. Olympic bars also have knurling around the shaft with a smooth section directly in the center and smooth rings placed to offer a visual aid for hand placement to also help when getting ready to perform certain exercises.

The Olympic barbell is a very specific piece of kit. If you are lucky enough to own one, you will most likely never need a replacement.

  • Bar weight: 20kg
  • Bar length: 213cm (7 feet)
  • Tensile strength: between 170,000 – 190,000 PSI

5. 5 ft, 4 ft and 3ft Olympic barbell

These short Olympic types of barbell have all the benefits of the full size Olympic bars; knurling, center marks, clear rings marked on the shaft for a visual on hand spacing and rotatable sleeves and they are available as 5ft, 4 ft and even 3ft barbell variants.

The benefits of training with a small straight barbell is that the starting weight is lower and for some trainers the length is more manageable. These barbells are a good option for beginners to weight lifting or general purpose training and may be easier to store for some when compared to a full length bar.

  • Bar weight: 10kg – 15kg
  • Bar length: 150cm (5 feet) – 122cm (4 feet) – 91cm (3 feet)
  • Tensile strength: variable

6. Body pump barbell

Body pump barbells are generally used for circuit training style workouts for toning and fat loss training goals. These bars are relatively light and sometimes hollow. They can be made of metal materials or durable plastic, often with a rubber coating for comfort in the grip.

Body pump bars can be either plate loaded or single weighted bars with specific resistance loads. All plate loaded body pump exercise bars are a single piece, straight bar and do not tend to have separate sleeves to add weighted plates to, there is an exposed end and collars designed to hold any discs in place.

The plate loaded bars are often the best choice for body pump trainers as small increments of weight can be easily added to intensify workouts and storage space is drastically reduced when compared with a set of barbells with weights attached and non adjustable.

  • Bar weight: 2.4kg – 5kg
  • Bar length: 130cm – 140cm
  • Tensile strength: variable

7. Trap bar or hex bar

The trap bar is not a bar as such, it’s a hexagonal frame with sleeves for weighted plates on either side and handles on opposing sides in line with these sleeves. The position of the handles are set up for an inward grip (palms towards the body).

Trainers most commonly use trap bars for deadlift-type movements and shrugs, but these bars can be used for other strength and endurance exercises such as “farmers walk” or even squats if other barbells are not available or comfort is an issue with more traditional methods.

  • Bar weight: 20kg – 25kg
  • Bar length: 145cm – 150cm
  • Tensile strength: variable

8. Safety squat or yoke bar

A safety squat bar or yoke bar is essentially an Olympic bar with offset sleeves, padding for the shoulders and neck, and forward-facing handles. The idea behind these barbells is based on comfort, correct exercise form, and posture during squatting exercises.

From a comfort point of view, the most obvious observation is the padding. Squats with a regular barbell can be very uncomfortable on the neck, but this bar takes care of that problem.

The next thing to notice about the safety squat bar is the handle position. Grasping a straight bar can be awkward for some trainers due to flexibility issues in the shoulders, elbows, or wrists. These front facing handles take these potential issues away.

The final thing to note about this bar is the offset sleeves where weight plates are loaded. Once the bar is on the trainer’s shoulder, because of this position, the load is more forward than it would be on a straight bar, this can help with posture and exercise form, especially for beginners learning the squat movement.

Because of the offset placement of the sleeves, more advanced trainers can take advantage of this bar and incorporate it in their barbell workout plan as this simulates a front squat or treat the movement as a variant of hack squat.

  • Bar weight: 20kg – 22kg
  • Bar length: 220cm
  • Tensile strength: variable

9. Tricep bar or Hammer curl bar

The tricep bar is basically a shorter version of a Swiss bar. It’s a rectangle frame with space for plates on each end and two cross bars for each hand to grip. The spacing of the grip is fairly narrow to allow a hammer type grip for tricep exercises such as overhead tricep extensions, skull crushers, or close grip bench presses.

Because of the narrow hammer grip set up on this bar, it’s also good for other exercises like hammer curls for the biceps and is useful for bent over rows for the lats.

  • Bar weight: 2.5kg – 5kg
  • Bar length: 84cm – 86cm
  • Tensile strength: variable

10. Powerlifting barbell

A powerlifting bar is similar to an olympic barbell, but they are not the same thing. A powerlifting bar is the same weight, length and appearance as an olympic bar, but it has some subtle differences.

Powerlifting bars are not designed for olympic lifts like the snatch and clean and jerk as the sleeves will rotate as easily. Also, a powerlifting bar will have a rougher knurl around the bar.

This is to help with grip when performing powerlifting movements. Perhaps the most notable point on a powerlifting bar vs olympic bar is that the powerlifting barbell is less flexible, meaning that it can be loaded up with plenty of plates, but it is not designed to be dropped from height as per some olympic lifts.

Powerlifting bars are great if you just want to focus on powerlifting movements like bench press, squats, deadlifts.

  • Bar weight: 20kg
  • Bar length: 220cm
  • Tensile strength: 220,000 PSI

11. Deadlift bar

A deadlift bar is an option if the main fitness goal is deadlift. Although you can perform deadlift on powerlifting bars with no issues, there are a few options of barbell that have specifically been designed for deadlift movements.

Thicker knurling and a thinner diameter shaft for even better grip and a slightly lower tensile strength, but the most notable variable that defines a deadlift bar from a powerlifting bar is that the deadlift bar has more flexion.

This means that with a heavy load on this bar at the start of a deadlift, the bar will bend a little before the weight is lifted off the floor. The idea behind this is to allow for slightly more progressive load bearing during the lift.

  • Bar weight: 20kg
  • Bar length: 229cm
  • Tensile strength: 190,000 PSI

12. Cambered bar

The cambered bar is not normally something you will find in a mainstream gym as it’s often seen as a specialist piece of kit for strong man competition. The setup of the cambered bar is similar to that of the yolk bar or assisted squat bar but it’s not advised for beginner trainers to learn the movement of a squat.

The bar has wider spacing and longer lengths of front facing bars designed for the opposite effect of the yoke bar.

Cambered bars are set up so that the loaded plates on either side will swing in the direction of travel forcing the trainer to stabilize during the movement.

Squatting exercises are the most common uses for cambered bars but with a bit of creativity, these bars can be used for all types of exercises to enhance stabilization in different muscle groups.

Due to the set up of the cambered bar, different grip positions can be used when squatting; traditional grip (hands on the main shaft inline with shoulders), hammer type grip on the downward bars or palms down grip on the lower horizontal bars in line with the plates.

  • Bar weight: 25kg
  • Bar length: 200cm
  • Tensile strength: variable

13. Log bar

The log bar is used for strength training or “strong man” competition training.
It’s a hollow metal tube with cutouts where two cross bars are located inside the log for a hammer type grip position.

Weight is loaded onto each end, much like other bars. Using smaller discs like 5kg or 10kg will become an extension of the log. This way, when placing the log on the floor, it will maintain its lowest position. This is especially good for extra range of movement with exercises like log clean and press. The bigger discs are more commonly used, however.

Log bar training for strength requires a lot of skill with lifting technique and a good foundation in body strength.

  • Bar weight: 22kg – 30kg
  • Bar length: 180cm
  • Tensile strength: variable

14. Tsunami bar

The tsunami bar is in essence a flexible barbell that is designed for fitness and strength development with sports specific or functionality in mind.

When training with a tsunami bar, many powerlifting movements and regular weight lifting techniques can be used, but as this is a flexible bar, there is a “push pull” effect during the exercises. The more explosive the movement, the more of these forces are present.

Like other barbells, these bars can be loaded with weighted discs and collars used to keep them in place.

The tsunami bar is trademarked, so there is only one genuine manufacturer of these pieces of equipment. There are also different types of tsunami bars in the range that include variations in flexibility and max weight load.

  • Bar weight: 3kg
  • Bar length: 203cm
  • Tensile strength:

15. Earthquake bar or bamboo bar

Earthquake and bamboo bars are lightweight, flexible wooden bars used for similar training effects as the Tsunami bar.

Bamboo bars usually have sleeves with a slot running down the middle so kettlebells or weighted discs can be attached using bands, as these weights are suspended by bands, they have a fair amount of movement that has to be controlled throughout any exercise which requires significantly more use of more stabilizer muscles during exercise than it would with a regular barbell.

The earthquake bar is a progression in development of the bamboo bar in that instead of having the slotted sleeves, the earthquake bar has a series of grooves on the sleeves, so more suspended weights can be attached and secured in place.

The tsunami bar vs earthquake bar: On the surface, it may seem that these two bars are pretty much the same thing, but there are differences.

The tsunami bar has a design to allow the loading of discs directly onto the bar as is done in a more traditional method of training, but it is possible to use suspended kettlebells or weighted discs on this bar too.

The tsunami bar is also available in different levels of flexibility, so depending on the sports specific training, a more or less flexible bar can be used.

Because of the disc loading option on the tsunami bar, there are options to have a more aggressive or explosive workout without having to worry about swinging weights.

The earthquake bar is designed for suspended weights, so does not lend itself well to the same level of explosive movements that the tsunami bar does.

  • Bar weight: 3kg
  • Bar length: 203cm
  • Tensile strength: N/A – ( About 135kg recommended weight limit)

16. Axle bar

An axle bar is pretty much what it says on the tin. Imagine an axle from a car or truck converted into a weightlifting bar. It has no knurling on the bar so it’s completely smooth and the diameter is thicker when compared to olympic type bars.

This extra thickness coupled with the lack of knurling on the bar makes it harder to grip, meaning that lifts performed with the axel bar will improve grip strength.

The axle bar is also a one piece bar, so it has no rotatable sleeves, just an inbuilt ring to stop the weight discs sliding into the shaft.

Another point to note about the axle bar is that it has zero flexibility. Most other bars have some degree of flexion which is useful for a lot of exercises.

Most exercises that can be performed with other straight bars can be done with an axle bar, but because of the traits of this bar, they will be more challenging when it comes to grip strength in particular.

  • Bar weight: 20kg
  • Bar length: 218cm
  • Tensile strength: variable

17. Freak bar

The freak bar is a similar size, weight and set up as an olympic type bar but instead of having a shaft that can be gripped in any width variation, it has a set of sliding hand grips that are kept in place by springs which are wound around the bar on either side of the handles.

This is designed to allow bilateral movement of the hands during exercise. This inward or outward movement of the hands during an exercise, mimics the side to side movement that can be achieved by using dumbbells, meaning that a fuller range of movement can also be achieved.

  • Bar weight: 20kg
  • Bar length: 213cm
  • Tensile strength: 102,000 PSI

18. Buffalo bar

The buffalo bar is used for a lot of the same exercises as a regular straight bar that can be loaded with plates on the olympic style sleeves, but the shaft has a bow style curve to it.

The reasons to train with this bar are pretty much the same as the yoke or safety squat bar, trainers with limited movement in their shoulders or trainers that find a straight bar uncomfortable.

As the buffalo bar does not have front facing handles, it might still be uncomfortable for those with limited range of movement when squatting as there is a more subtle position change from a straight bar.

Due to the bow shaped curve of the buffalo bar, the loaded weights on the bar will be slightly in front of the trainer when squatting, much like the safety squat bar, but again the buffalo bar is more subtle here when compared to the yoke bar.

Because the buffalo bar has a single shaft (no front facing handles like the yoke bar), it can also be used for other exercises like bench press to give a bigger range of motion for trainers looking for a deeper movement. This makes it a more versatile bar than it may first appear.

  • Bar weight: 20kg
  • Bar Length: 220 cm
  • Tensile strength: N/A (Max load 320kg)

Weight lifting bar types according to specific exercise needs

As you can see, there are lots of different types of weightlifting bars, but the type of barbells that you will use might be different to the types of barbells another trainer uses. Your specific training goals will dictate the best choice of bar for you.

Different types of squat bars

Different squat bars can be used for a similar training result, or in some cases the same. If you are interested in muscle toning, endurance or fat loss, a bodypump bar will do the job nicely. These are light and are easier to add smaller increments of resistance to, so the set up is perfect for higher repetition, continuous training. Bodyweight squats can be hard at high reps, so a smaller, lighter bar can add that edge to progression.

Trainers interested in strength training will be well suited to Olympic style bars, depending on ability or comfort, a shorter Olympic bar will be just as good for some.

For beginners to squats or people with flexibility issues that are also interested in strength training, the safety squat bar or yoke bar is a good option as all the benefits of the squat can be achieved with a bit more comfort and guidance.

Different types of deadlift bars

Deadlift bar types are much the same as squat bar types, with the exchange of the yoke bar for the trap bar.

The deadlift is a big compound exercise that is used for strength training and it’s traditionally performed with a quality, robust straight bar. I would argue that this is an advanced lift that should be properly understood and exercise form perfected before loading up the plates.

Enter the trap bar for deadlift! With a trap bar, performing a deadlift can eliminate the potential for knee graze when foot position is not correct during a deadlift, or for trainers that have longer legs.

The setup of the trap bar also allows for a narrower foot position if needed. This is a great option for beginners to the exercise too as it affords the opportunity to develop muscles needed for a traditional deadlift with a straight bar.

Different types of bench press bars

Bench press is another compound exercise and different bench press bars can be used to get the same training effect.

A short barbell like the 4 foot bar can be used for most people as the hand spacing area is usually sufficient for wider grip widths (trainers who use a wider than shoulder width hand spacing). The standard Olympic bar is a good choice too. The Swiss bar is a solid option also for trainers who suffer with pronation issues in the wrists.

Bench press bars are usually thought to be used for chest exercises only, but whether it’s the swiss bar or a regular straight bar, they can be used for tricep exercises too. This is done by narrowing the grip on the barand performing a bench press with the elbows close to the body. This puts the main focus of the movement onto the triceps. Swiss bars have several options for hand placement to make this bar fairly versatile when it comes to bench press exercises.

It’s worth mentioning that bodypump bars are a good choice for some trainers depending on ability. A beginner wishing to improve strength with bench press may find that a body pump bar has the scope for enough resistance to sufficiently challenge them and for them to make progress, but these can be outgrown quickly.

Different types of curl bars

There are many different types of curling bars. In Fact if the resistance level is at the right spot for the trainer, most barbells excluding exercise specific bars like the trap bar and the safety squat bar can be used as curl bar types for different training effects.

If the resistance level is challenging for the trainer, a lighter barbell can be used as a curl bar for good fitness progress.

An EZ curl bar can be used for comfort or to put slightly more focus on the long head of the bicep. This exercise can be performed standing or as a preacher curl.

A regular straight bar of any length can be used for bicep curls as a good building exercise. The Swiss bar can also be used as a curl bar, but as the structure of this bar is set with an inward grip, this is limited to hammer curl movements, an exercise to put focus mainly on the long head of the bicep.

Final points about the different kinds of barbells

As you can see, there are plenty of different barbells to choose from!

The types of workout bars to use should be relevant to your training. There is no point in getting a trap bar if you don’t intend to perform deadlifts or shrugs, and it would probably not be the right choice to work out with a loaded bodypump barbell if strength training is your thing.

It’s about choosing the right tools for the job. Olympic style barbells, short and long, are the most versatile type of weight bars around, however. A good quality straight bar can be used for many exercises and it will last a very long time.

For exercises such as bench press, squats, deadlift, shoulder press, bicep curls, close grip bench press, and bent over rows to name the most useful movements, the Olympic-style straight barbell is the best barbell for home gym use and remains king of the barbells in public gyms worldwide.

FAQs on the different types of weight bars

Is it worth buying a barbell?

It is worth buying a barbell if you are interested in any type of resistance exercise. Barbells are great pieces of exercise equipment and often a barbell and a few plates are all that’s needed for effective workouts, whether the goal is strength training, bodybuilding, fat loss or general fitness.

What are the weights called that go on the bar?

The weights that go on the bar are usually called, “discs” or “plates”. Usually, each disc has its weight printed or engraved on it in lbs or kg. Once the bar is loaded, a collar is used to fix them in place.

How many types of barbells are there?

There are many barbell types and variants, but we have covered the most popular barbells and their uses in this article. It’s a good idea to get familiar with these different variants in order to train correctly with each piece of kit and effectively align it with your training goals.

What is the most common barbell?

The most common barbell is a straight bar. These are found in most gyms as they are very versatile and can be used by trainers of all abilities for all types of workout goals. You are also likely to see sets of fixed weight, shorter barbells and EZ bars.

Can a barbell break?

Yes, a barbell can break! But this depends on the quality of the barbell and the load put on it. For example, if a hollow, general fitness type bar is loaded with too much weight, it can break. Bars that are designed for heavier weight are less likely to break.

This is because the tensile strength of a quality barbell is set to bend if it is overloaded, rather than break. This is why it’s important to understand what the barbell you are using is designed to do.

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