What’s the Difference Between a Standard and Olympic Weightlifting bar?

When you’re first starting it’s easy to assume that all bars are equal but there are differences between standard and Olympic weightlifting bars. 

It’s not the end of the world if you pick the wrong one, but if you have long-term goals, or if you’re a beginner, then choosing the wrong type might mean replacing the bar later.

They’re called Olympic bars because along with Olympic weights they’re used in the Olympic games. Standard is something of a vague term but you’ll often see them in home gyms.  

Standard bars are cheaper and are popular with anyone new to weightlifting but during the COVID-19 pandemic and the big rush towards building garage gyms, the price of standard bars has gone up sharply.  Now that outdoor gyms are open and with regular gyms slated for a mid-July reopening, hopefully, prices should start to drop.

We wanted to take a quick look at the differences between the two.  If you’re in the UK, you can buy an Olympic weightlifting bar on the GymHugz website along with barbells, weight plates, resistance bands and sweat-proof headphone covers.


The Difference between Standard and Olympic Weightlifting Bars


  • Most Olympic bars are 7-foot-long and most standard bars are around 6 foot. 

  • Olympic bars are heavier and they hold heavier weights than a standard bar.  As a standard bar is shorter and lighter, it can bow in the middle if too many plates are added.

  • Olympic bars are just shy of 2 inches at each end so you need to use 2-inch Olympic plates.  Standard bars are 1 inch and take standard plates.

  • Standard bars have a poorer grip which can make lifting heavier weights more difficult and less comfortable.

  • Olympic bars are thicker at each end which helps with balance and stability during the lift.

  • Olympic bars are more expensive

  • Standard bars may be more suitable for beginners as they’re lighter and less expensive.

  • Olympic weights are manufactured with a greater level of accuracy which makes it easier to track your progress, maintain good balance and reduce the chance of injury.

  • But as Olympic bars are heavier, beginners may be at greater risk of injury if they don’t take a sensible approach to their workout.

  • Olympic bars have ends that revolve which reduce torque during the lift – standard bars do not have this.  It helps relieve stress on the elbows.

  • Olympic bars are made to the same specifications but standard bars can be manufactured differently.  There’s less consistency between standard bars than Olympic.


Will Olympic weights fit on a standard bar?

Standard weight plates will not fit on an Olympic bar but you can buy adaptive sleeves.  If you don’t buy sleeves, the weights will slide around.


How much does a non-Olympic bar weigh?

An Olympic bar weighs 20 kilos and a standard bar can weigh anything from 12 pounds to 20 pounds, according to Strengthomatic.


What’s the difference between an Olympic bar and a powerlifting bar?

According to the garage-gym website, Olympic bars and powerlifting bars are different because the two disciplines focus on different elements.  Olympic weightlifting is all about ‘strength, power and technique’, whereas powerlifting is ‘a pure strength sport’.  A powerlifting bar is, therefore, stronger and lacks the flex of an Olympic bar.  They go on to recommend the Olympic bar for cross-fitters.


Where can I buy Olympic bars?

You can pick up an Olympic bar from most reputable bodybuilding retailers.  If you’re in the UK, you can check out the GymHugz website right now for both a bar and plates.


Which is Better?

It depends on what you’re looking to do and what your budget is.  Olympic bars allow for progression and are more durable and robust and are better for balance.  Some people choose to buy the standard bar because it’s noticeably cheaper and it’s seen as a more beginner-friendly piece of equipment.

There’s no right or wrong answer. Pick whichever best suits your needs. Progression from standard to Olympic will probably take some time so don’t feel too much pressure to jump for the latter straight away.  Standard bars are a great way to learn the art of lifting and when you’ve reached the maximum weight, then you can always upgrade to Olympic.

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