Barbells are available in one of two types: Olympic or standard. Olympic barbells are used in Olympic weightlifting competitions and have certain size specifications. These are the barbells you see in commercial gyms and fitness centers. Standard barbells, which are typically used in home gyms, don't have size standards.
Standard barbells are smaller and lighter than Olympic barbells. Commercial fitness centers typically don't use standard barbells because they don't hold as much weight as an Olympic barbell, but they are convenient for home gyms because they don't take up as much space. A standard barbell is usually between 5 and 6 feet long and about 1-inch thick the entire length of the bar. The weight of the bar varies among models, but is typically between 15 and 25 lbs.
An Olympic barbell is longer and heavier than a standard barbell. These bars are used in Olympic weightlifting competitions because they hold so much weight. They are 7 feet long and weigh 45 lbs. The center of the bar is a little over 1 inch thick, but the sleeves, the end of the bar that hold the weight plates, are 2 inches in diameter. You can purchase Olympic bars that are shorter than the standard, 7 foot length. These 5 or 6 foot bars are 2 inches thick and hold more weight than a standard barbell.
Olympic weight plates have 2-inch center holes and fit Olympic barbells. Standard weight plates have 1-inch holes and fit standard barbells. You can use Olympic plates on a standard barbell if you use an Olympic adapter sleeve; however, the standard barbell can't handle as much of a load as an Olympic barbell. Depending on the specific bar, a standard barbell typically has a maximum weight limit around 200 lbs. Olympic barbells can handle loads between 800 and 1,100 lbs.
EZ bars, which are usually between 4 and 6 feet long, are shorter and more compact than standard barbells. These bars have angled hand grips, which are more comfortable for some lifters when doing isolation exercises such as bicep curls and tricep extensions. EZ bars are available with 1-inch standard sleeves or 2-inch Olympic sleeves.
Dumbbells are short bars designed to be held in one hand. They are between 12 and 20 inches long.
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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.