A barbell is the most commonly used weight bar in weightlifting. This bar is used for basic lifts like the bench press, squats, deadlifts and pullovers, and can add weight and structure to lunges, shrugs and more.
As such, a barbell is the most common type of bar you’re likely to see at a gym. You’ll typically find a standard barbell on both the bench and the squat rack.
Standard Barbell Weight
A standard barbell (the one you’re most likely to find waiting on the bench at the gym) weighs approximately –
- 44 pounds (20 kg)
This is the also the standard powerlifting barbell, the one used for men’s competitions.
The standard bar is designed to specifications that should suit most men, 7 feet in length and 44 pounds, and can support up to 2000 pounds of weight.
Women’s Barbell Weight
The term “women’s barbell” is a bit of a misnomer. These bars are made to be used by anyone who isn’t quite ready for a standard weight bar yet. But you’ll likely hear it referred to as the “women’s bar” at your local gym.
These bars are slightly smaller, weighing in at –
- 33 pounds (15 kg)
This bar is the standard bar used in women’s powerlifting competitions.
Women’s bars are shorter than the standard bar, coming in at around 6.5 feet in length, and can support less weight than a standard bar, around 1,200 pounds.
More important than the weight of the women’s bar is the bar’s grip.
“Women’s” barbells have smaller grips than the standard barbell – 25 mm in diameter compared to a standard bar’s 28-29 mm diameter.
This smaller diameter makes it considerably easier for people with smaller hands (typically female lifters, but some men can also benefit from a smaller diameter) to get a good grip on the bar, which makes lifting safer and often allows a lifter to lift more weight.
Junior’s Barbell Weight
An even smaller bar you might find in a gym (or buy for your kids) is a junior’s barbell. Junior’s barbells, like women’s barbells, have smaller grips – usually the same 25 mm as a women’s bar – and a lower weight. A junior’s bar weighs approximately –
- 22 pounds (10 kg)
Junior’s barbells are also shorter in length than both women’s and standard barbells, typically coming in between 5 and 5.5 feet.
These barbells can be beneficial for anyone who can’t lift the standard or women’s bars and for those with particularly narrow shoulders/grips. Less length means less excess bar to control.
Junior’s bars can usually support about half the weight of a women’s barbell, 500 to 600 pounds, still well above what the average weightlifter can lift.
Lower Weight Barbells
While a junior’s barbell is the lowest-weight barbell you are likely to find in a gym (and you may not even find that), lower-weight barbells do exist.
The 15-pound barbell is a weight training bar meant to help ease smaller lifters into weightlifting. Taking nearly a third of the weight off the junior bar makes a considerable difference, especially for younger kids who want to start weight training.
These smaller barbells are still designed to hold weight plates just like a regular weight bar.
That 7-pound weight difference between a junior’s barbell and a 15-pound barbell makes a big difference though in how much weight the bar can actually hold. That’s because of a difference in metal.
While standard bars are made out of steel, 15-pound bars are almost always made out of aluminum, which weighs less, but is also a weaker metal. Due to that, these bars can usually support about half the weight of a junior’s bar, or around 250-300 pounds.
Of course, once a lightweight lifter is reaching those higher-end numbers, it’s time to graduate to a standard steel bar anyway.
Other Types of Barbells
The term “barbell,” by definition, only refers to a weighted bar. That bar doesn’t necessarily have to be able to hold weight plates.
This can make it a bit confusing when you are looking to buy a barbell online.
If you put in a specific weight, 10 pounds, for instance, you will find barbells of this weight for sale at sporting goods and fitness stores. These barbells are not “traditional” barbells, though, like those you find on a bench or squat rack.
Very lightweight barbells (those under 15 pounds) are not designed to hold weight plates or for weightlifting. They are designed for use in aerobics and other fitness classes where a lightweight bar can add some resistance and strength-training benefit.
However, if you have a young lifter, a 10-pound barbell may be useful while teaching proper lifting techniques.
While barbells are designed with “average” lifters in mind – most men should be able to handle a standard barbell, most women should be able to handle a women’s barbell – don’t be embarrassed to use the bar that works best for you.
With different lengths and grips, it’s not just about strength.
These bars are designed in a multitude of weights and sizes for a reason, so everyone feels empowered to get healthy and get strong.