Power bar vs Olympic bar: What’s The Difference?

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You can call me the Fitness & Health GEEK. I've been involved in the fitness industry since 2015. Exercise and Nutrition are my bread and butter.

When you first go to a gym, you will notice that there are different platforms with different barbells and movements trained in. You may wonder why not everybody just uses the same barbell and unites things together

It is a little bit more complicated than that.

Power Bar vs Olympic Bar: Compared

There two main sports when it comes to strength training are powerlifting and weightlifting. These two sports have different movements and are trained for with different barbells. As the Power bar vs Olympic bar title says, the power bar is used for powerlifting and the Olympic bar is used for weightlifting.

Simply put, Weightlifting is a sport that consists of 2 movements, the snatch, and the clean & jerk. These movements test something called the 1RM “1 Rep Max”. In competition, you try to do these 2 movements with the heaviest weight possible for 1 rep.

It will sound a bit easy for you when you first hear it but, it is a quite hard sport. Weightlifting requires high-explosive power, strength, and technique.

Powerlifting, on the other hand, is a sport that consists of 3 movements, the squat, deadlift, and bench press. As weightlifting, powerlifting also tests your 1RM on these movements. But it doesn’t need explosive power, it tests your pure strength.

You may notice that the powerlifting and weightlifting movements are barbell-based movements, meaning that they require a special barbell for each sport. Barbells’ special functionality for the sport maximizes the athlete’s performance and makes him train with bigger weights, which means bigger PRs and more wins.

We will get specifically to each barbell.

Power barbell

The “power barbell” A.K.A powerlifting barbell is the bar that is being used for the powerlifting’s three movements, the squat, the deadlift, and the bench press.

Most powerlifting barbells have a length ranging from 2 to 2.4 meters long. It differs whether you need a long bar so you can put more weights or not.

Typically, a powerlifting bar weighs 20 kilograms or 44 pounds. That’s why when you enter any weight you lifted the website say do not forget the 20 kilos for the barbell weight.

Powerlifting barbells should be stiff enough that it withstands very heavy weights. As we know, the squat and deadlift record is set to near 500 kilograms! Imagine someone lifting 500 kilograms on a metallic barbell, it should be stiff and rigid enough. But other than that, a tragedy would happen.

Moreover, a powerlifting barbell differs in many aspects from the Olympic weightlifting barbell, such as the knurling, sleeves, and the grip marks. We are going to talk about each in-depth later.

Best Powerlifting Barbell: Rogue Ohio Power Bar

Ohio power bar

Rogue is a famous company that manufactures a lot of fitness equipment. It is quite respectable when it comes to powerlifting barbells, weightlifting barbells, and weight plates.

The Rogue Ohio Power Bar is a stiff and durable barbell that is used in the famous decent federation USAPL.

The Ohio Power Bar is stiff and has high-quality knurling and has a PSI of 205,000. It has been the way to go for most lifters.

Check it out here

Olympic barbells

The Olympic barbell is the barbell used for the 2 weightlifting moves, the snatch, and clean & jerk. You might wonder why it is popularized with “Olympic barbell ” rather than “weightlifting barbell”.

The reason is that the weightlifting sport is considered an Olympic sport, as the only sport in the Olympics using barbells, the barbell got popularized in this name.

Typically, an Olympic barbell would have a length of 2.2 meters as the normal powerlifting bar. Also, it weighs 20 kilograms and now we know how the power bar and the Olympic bar are similar. But, in weightlifting, there are men’s barbells, women’s barbells, and sometimes even youth barbells. The main difference is the weight.

A normal women’s barbell weighs 15 kilograms. However, the norm and the most used is the men’s barbell.

In every gym you go to, you will see the men’s barbell, that’s for sure, but not all gyms will have the women’s barbell.

Olympic barbells have some characteristics that get them far from the standard power bars. An Olympic bar should have the whip. The whip is simply defined as the elasticity and the bouncing of the bar at the end of the rep.

This feature allows weightlifters to use it to their advantage. However, it needs much practice and professionalism in the technique.

The second feature that sets the Olympic bars away from the powerlifting ones, is the smooth rotating sleeve. The sleeve of the bar which is at the end in both directions of the bar is called the sleeve.

The smooth rotating sleeves allow the weightlifter to take advantage of it and make it easier for the athlete to perform the movement.

Best Olympic Barbell: Rogue Olympic Weightlifting Barbell

olympic bar

The Rogue Olympic Weightlifting Barbell is by far the best barbell when it comes to weightlifting. It has a smooth and high-quality bearing that allows for rotation and maximizes the weightlifter performance.

Also, it has the dimensions of the IWF, so it is IWF approved which means anyone who competes in weightlifting will be better off with this barbell unlike any barbell else.

Not only that, Rogue has made one of the highest tensile strengths out there with 215,000 PSI, this barbell made to last long despite high weights and frequent use.

Check it out here

Sleeves

As we said, the barbell sleeves are at the end in both directions of the bar. In other words, the barbell sleeves are where you put your weights so you can start your workout with the bar. The length of the sleeves determines how much weight you will be able to put. Longer barbells mean longer sleeves.

The barbell sleeves determine whether it will rotate and spin on the shaft or not. Different barbells are made with different materials and different construction ways. The most used are bushings and bearings.

You might have heard someone saying to you that you should buy a barbell with bearing sleeves, but that’s not always true. The bearings spin smoother and quieter but unfortunately, they are more expensive.

The needle bearings are found on the top-notch Olympic barbells. Even the cheap barbells use bushing which is not ideal for weightlifting.

Bushings are commonly used in the standard barbells and the powerlifting barbells, as powerlifting movements do not need the spin or rotating sleeves. As a result, powerlifting bars are cheaper than Olympic ones. Bushings are fine even with weightlifting.

But as a professional weightlifter, you have to get anything to maximize and help you perform better, and that is the bearing sleeve.

Strength

The barbell strength determines whether this barbell is going to last a long time with you and withstand heavy-weights or it is going to break and not endure that heavy-weights you are training with especially as a powerlifter.

The barbell strength is known with three different methods, Tensile strength, Yield strength, and test strength.

It might sound a little bit of a science lesson but it’s not! The tensile strength is the most common method used to determine a barbell’s strength. Basically, it is the breaking point of the barbell.

In other words, Tensile strength is the weight that can be handled by the bar without breaking. Tensile strength is measured by PSI “Pounds per Square Inch”.

Most barbells come within the 150,000 to 215,000 range. The more the PSI, the better the barbell. A barbell that is 175,000 and above is a high-quality barbell that you can count on.

Anything near 200,000 and 215,000 is the best you can get but watch out, it will be more expensive. Powerlifting barbells should be bought in the higher-end of that range because it is trained in higher weights than weightlifting.

Load capacity

As we said before, the Load capacity is determined from the length of the barbell sleeves. The longer the barbell, the longer the sleeves.

The longer the sleeves, the more you weights you can put. Another thing that determines how much load capacity the barbell carries, is the weight plates.

Weight plates come in different shapes and different materials. The most common two are the iron weight plates and the bumper weight plates. The iron weight plates are thinner and carry more weight in small sizes.

The bumper, on the other hand, is wide and big. Obviously, the iron weight plates are much cheaper and can be bought from a garage sale with a negligible price when compared to bumpers.

The main function of bumpers that it can be dropped frequently, so if you are a weightlifter or a crossfitter, you should get bumper plates, but also, do not get a short barbell so you can put on your weights freely.

As a powerlifter, Iron weight plates will do the job required, it is thin and strong, you will be able to put the weights you need despite the bar being long or not.

Knurling

When you first grip a barbell, you will feel like your hands hurt, that’s because of the barbell knurling. The knurling of the bar is the tiny diamond shapes that dig into your skin when you grip the bar. It is the thing that lets you grip and hold the bar onto your hands and prevents them from slipping.

The width and depth of these diamond shapes will determine how hard and aggressive is the barbell knurling. Barbell knurling differs from powerlifting and weightlifting.

More aggressive knurling is better made for heavy deadlifting, as the main issue in heavy deadlifts is the grip failure. The bar is more likely to slip in the deadlift more than any other exercise, especially when it’s heavy. The aggressive knurling helps the deadlifter to hold onto the bar more.

The powerlifting barbells have knurling that is narrower and have a center bar knurling. The first reason is that some powerlifters prefer to grip the deadlift sumo, which is near shoulder width.

The second reason for why powerlifting bars have center knurling is to assist heavy back squats. The center bar knurling rests on the squatter back and holds onto it, which prevents slipping away.

The center knurling may be a bad idea for weightlifters and Crossfit players, as it might hurt your neck when doing your volume work. In other words, when doing multiple reps in the clean & jerk, your neck might get hurt.

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Conclusion: What is good for me?

To wrap it up, We have talked about the barbell sleeves and how they differ from the Olympic barbells and the power barbells, the barbell knurling, barbell strength, and the load capacity.

If you are a bodybuilder that loves to squat, deadlifts, and bench press, as these exercises are crucial to bodybuilders because they involve many muscle groups and build muscle fast, consider yourself in the powerlifting category.

Powerlifters and bodybuilders should aim to get a powerlifting specified bar that has bushing sleeves, has a high PSI, and aggressive knurling as well as center knurling.

But if you are a Crossfit player or someone with interest in Crossfit, you should consider yourself in the weightlifting category. I am aware that this sport involves weightlifting and powerlifting. If you could get an all-purpose barbell that can be good for both, this will be ideal of course.

Weightlifters and Crossfit players should aim for a weightlifting specified bar that has bearing sleeves, not as aggressive knurling, and a good to high PSI.

In the end, see what you are interested in and read carefully the aspects that affect the barbell, and you are ready to choose.

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