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Informational Guide

Bushing Vs. Bearing Barbells

Buying a new barbell can be a challenging task. We’ve compared bushing vs bearing barbells to find out how they differ.

by Josh Mitchell

Buying a new barbell can be a challenging task. Narrowing down your search between a bushing or bearing barbell is even harder, especially when you’re uncertain of the uses and differences between the two. Don’t worry; we're here to help! This guide will go through both types of barbells' pros and cons, but first, let’s go through the basics.

There are two key parts of a barbell:

  • Barbell Shaft 
    The shaft is the middle area of the barbell. It includes tiny diamond-shaped areas (known as knurling), and it provides grip for your hands when weight lifting. Many barbells will have different widths of knurl. If you see a barbell with knurling in the center, it’s there to help with grip on your back during squats.
  • Barbell Sleeve 
    The sleeves are on both sides of a barbell, and it’s where plates are loaded. A barbell's sleeves should be about 2″ in diameter so bumper plates can fit appropriately. The sleeves and shaft are separated with collars. These collars or clips are designed to keep plates securely on a barbell while they spin.

Why is Barbell Spin Important?

Most sleeves on barbells rotate. If you find a cheap bar that comes without rotating sleeves- stay away. Those cheap bars can leave you with wrist and elbow injuries in a hurry. Spinning sleeves provide users with smoother lifting experiences, so you don’t get hurt in the process.

It’s important to find a barbell with a quality spin that will allow the weight plates to rotate with you as you lift the bar. By rotating the weight with you, it reduces the amount of force produced by the weight plates, leaving you with fewer risks against injuries. There are two popular ways to create barbell spin; these are with bearings or bushings.

Bushing Vs Bearing Barbell

Bushing vs. Bearing Barbell Spinning Mechanisms

Bushings

Bushing barbells are typically constructed of brass or bronze one-piece rings. These rings sit under the outer sleeve and reduce friction to the inner sleeve. You’ll often get a barbell with one bushing in the inner edge or have two bushings at the inner and outer edges under the sleeve. As they separate the inner and outer sleeves from coming into contact, they provide smoother barbell spinning.

Barbells with bushings don't have as much spin as those with bearings, so they're typically used more for powerlifting. If you enjoy squats, benches, and deadlifts, then bushing barbells will suit your needs. Just be sure to pick a barbell with good quality bushings. Between the two types of bushings available, bronze bushings work best as they’re self-lubricating, and they tend to wear better.

Bearings

You can find bearing barbells in three versions- ball bearings, thrust bearings, and needle bearings. Generally speaking, ball bearings are made of small metal balls and are the cheapest option of the three. Thrust bearings are better suited for axial loading as the balls are sandwiched between the two rings limiting their movement.

Needle bearings don’t have balls but thin bars inside the bearing. These long cylinders rotate inside the sleeve and result in less friction. Thrust and needle bearings are often found in better quality Olympic bars.

All of these bearings are found between the bar and the sleeve and provide you with smoother, quieter, and faster rotations. If you practice Olympic lifts like the clean and jerk, a barbell with bearings will be better suited as they spin faster.

Bearing Vs Bushing Barbell

Which Mechanism Should I Buy?

Now that you have a better understanding of bushings and bearings, the decision between the two is yours to make. If you’re solely focused on a budget-friendly option, then barbells with bushings are at a lower price point. You won't get as nice a spin on a bushing-only bar, but they are fine for lower weights or for powerlifting style lifts where spin is not as important.

If your focus is on quality, then invest in a barbell with good-quality bearings. The smoother movement will be something you’ll appreciate, especially when performing Olympic-style lifts. At the end of the day, the choice is yours to make. Just keep in mind what it’ll be used for, and the quality of the overall barbell


People Also Ask (FAQs)

Does the amount of bearings matter in a barbell?

Many manufacturers say the more bearings, the smoother the spin. However, we recommend focusing on the quality of the bearings within your new barbell and not the quantity. If you purchase a barbell with 1-2 high-quality bearings, they typically last longer and run smoother than a barbell with 10+ cheaper bearings.

How can I make my barbell spin better?

If you’ve got a barbell with bushings, you can simply improve the spin by adding a silicone lubricant to the bushing. Be sure to spin the sleeve when applying the lubricant to get it all around the bushing. For a barbell with bearings, you shouldn’t have any trouble with spinning unless your bearings are damaged or worn. If this is the case, the bearings will need to be replaced.

Can you straighten a barbell?

A bent barbell can be straightened, but you’ll need to bend it back to a specific point to relieve the stress. We recommend bringing your barbell to an experienced press operator to straighten the bar without damaging it further.

Do power bars spin?

Yes. As we discussed in our guide, most power bars have bushings and very few feature bearings. This is because power bars don’t need to spin as much as Olympic-style bars.


Conclusion

Now you know that bearings and bushings are suited for different tasks and budgets. Choosing the right style is up to you and your needs. If you’re looking for a simple barbell for your home gym, then one with bushings could be all you need. Otherwise, get a barbell with bearings as it will have noticeably smoother movement during every lift.

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