How to Choose Between Different Weightlifting Bar Types

Step-by-step Instructions

Here is what you need to do...
Step 1

Whether you're putting your own gym together, or stepping into a gym for the first time, it's pretty common to get overwhelmed by the types of weightlifting bars available. Each bar has different angles and lengths that provide different benefits. Below, I'll go through a list of the different types of bars you'll find in most gyms, and the benefits that they offer individually.

Step 2

Normal Olympic Barbells Olympic barbells are the ones that are straight and a little over 2 meters long, with fat ends that are the right size to load weights onto. These bars can be found on the bench press and on squat racks. They weigh about 45 pounds. These bars are great for lifts that require you to set your hands on a wide plane. They balance the weights at a length that provides manageable resistance. These bars are necessary for lifts like bench pressing, squatting, military pressing, bent over rows, shrugs; and Olympic lifts such as clean and jerks, powercleans, clean and presses, etc. Grabbing one of these bars for a home gym will prove helpful, as they can be used in so many different exercises for the larger parts of your body.

Step 3

EZ bars EZ bars are the bars that are about 4 feet long and have a squiggly shape. These bars are primarily used in exercises that involve the arms: bicep curls, skullcrushers, seated preacher curls, close grip presses, front delt raises, upright rows. Olympic barbells aren't preferred for arm exercises because the weight distribution makes close-grip exercises uncomfortable and difficult to manage. EZ bars fit perfectly in this category because they distribute the weight in a way that makes arm exercises doable. Furthermore, the 'squiggles' that run through the bar provide a great gripping tool, as they bend with the natural position of the wrist during arm exercises. These bars are very helpful for a home gym, since they are necessary for all heavier arm exercises.

Step 4

Trap Bars Trap bars are long bars that weight close to the same as an Olympic barbell. They have a diamond shape, with handles in the middle that are gripped laterally. These bars are used almost exclusively for exercises such as shrugs, deadlifts, farmer's carries, and upright rows. They might not be necessary for a home gym, but they are certainly handy if spotted in a gym that has them. The lateral hand position allows you to do exercises with a comfortable grip, which gives you more of a focus on the weight, rather than sustaining a grip.

Special Attention

Difficulties people often experience or parts that need special attention to do it right.

The difficulty in choosing the right bar simply comes down to the exercises you're dealing with. As a rule of thumb, if it's a heavy exercise done for large muscles groups, grab an Olympic barbell. If it's a heavy exercise done for smaller muscles groups, primarily the arms and shoulders, grab yourself an EZ bar. If it's a deadlift, shrug, or farmer's carry, it wouldn't hurt to use a trap bar if you have access to one. Finally, no matter which bar you use, you can increase the effect of the grip-forearm workout by applying a set of fat gripz. They fit on all bars, and they do a great job of increasing your grip strength.

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Funny or interesting story about this topic...

There are a lot of unconventional methods when it comes to weightlifting. Some people like to bend the rules as much as possible, thinking that the different ways of lifting will provide them with the holy grail to size and strength. Sometimes these oddball methods work- other times they definitely do not. In this particular case, I was watching a grown man attempt to do heavy bench presses with an EZ bar. He had 315lbs. loaded onto the bar, and his grip was angled weirdly because of the squiggle grips. He went down for a rep, hurt his wrist from the way the resistance pressured his bones, and needed 2 spotters to get the weight back up. Needless to say, he'll be doing his bench pressing with an Olympic barbell from now on.

When did you first do this & how did you get started?

I learned the ins and outs of correct barbell usage when I was young. My dad had a lot of fitness magazines laying around, and I took full advantage of learning the proper techniques and benefits of each bar. Now I'm passing that helpful knowledge on to you. So like I said, whether you're setting up a home gym or walking into your first gym, choose the right bar for the right job. Happy lifting,

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