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Informational Guide

Olympic Vs. Standard Barbells

When choosing between Olympic vs standard barbells there’s a lot to consider. We compare the two to help you decide which one.

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With the days of going to your local gym dead and gone, you may be looking to get your very own weights to use at home. Where do you start? Will you need Olympic weights or standard weights, and what is the difference? Fear no more; this short read will give you the information you need to start on the right foot.

For starters, when searching for your new weights, you are going to come across "standard barbells" and "standard plates." These are the small sets of weights you may see in places like yoga studios. Lighter weights in smaller sizes, standard weights are for novices or beginners. The bar itself is about 1" in diameter and weighs roughly 19lbs. Here are some pros and cons.

  • Much Cheaper (Pro)
    Standard sets are smaller and lighter. They weigh less and cost less to ship, therefore cheaper for the consumer.
  • Better For Lightweight Training (Pro)
    Small and light, these are great for people looking to do some physical therapy or toning work.
  • Fewer Options (Con)
    Because they are for lightweights and beginners, there are fewer options to upgrade sets or purchase additional pieces of equipment.
  • Fewer Exercises (Con)
    The standard bar has no sleeves on the ends for weights to rotate on. The plates are unable to spin and therefore limit some of the motions necessary for more advanced exercises.

What Is An Olympic Barbell?

Now, an Olympic will be the other set of weights you come across in your hunt for what to purchase. The better of the two, Olympic barbells and plates are much more heavy-duty and durable. These barbells are over an inch in diameter, weigh 45lbs, and have 50mm rotating end sleeves that can rotate. Pros and cons as follows

  1. 1
    Better Quality (Pro)
    Tougher, longer-lasting, and more durable means that Olympic sets are of better quality all around.
  2. 2
    More Plate Options (Pro)
    The 50mm end caps are universal across all major and even some minor brands. So weights in any size and shape will fit the Olympic bar, as long as they are not specifically marketed as standard.
  3. 3
    Better Spin (Pro)
    The 50mm end sleeves give weights the ability to float and spin on the bar as an axis. This opens the door for a wider assortment of plates and exercises.
  4. 4
    More Stable (Pro)
    Being so much more sturdy and heavy than the standard barbells, Olympic Barbells have less deflection and elasticity when lifting heavy. This provides much more stability for the user.
  5. 5
    Heavy (Con)
    The only real con of an Olympic barbell is that it may end up being too heavy for smaller individuals or beginners at first. That issue can be overcome relatively quickly with some bodyweight style exercises.

Olympic Barbell Vs. Standard: Which Is Best For Who?

  • Length 
    Olympic barbells are 7 feet long when referencing the bar used for bench pressing or squats. There is a variety of other lengths for specialty bars. The key to having a uniformly 7’ bar is that squat racks are designed specifically for that size. Standard bars are usually about a foot shorter so that they are easier to maneuver in smaller spaces.  
  • Torque 
    Because Olympic bars are used more often by experienced weight lifters, they are thicker and heavier duty than standard barbells. With more weight being added to each end, Olympic bars will not bend or bow when in use, while a lighter duty standard barbell will.
  • Rack Compatibility 
    Olympic Squat racks not only have arms that reach out and support the barbells when empty or loaded, but they also have plate storage on either side. Standard barbells do not fit well in the arms, nor do standard barbell plates fit on the storage racks of an Olympic rack.
  • Bar Options 
    Standard barbells come in basic configurations of a bench or squat-style flat bar or a curl bar. Olympic barbells come in dozens of configurations and are compatible with any Olympic plates.
  • Thickness 
    When it comes to the diameter of a standard barbell vs Olympic barbell, the ends where you place the weight plates are drastically different. Standard barbells have a 1" bar end, while Olympic barbells have a 1-31/32" or 50mm bar end. This is so that Olympic barbells can accept the 2" center hole that is uniform across all Olympic-style plates.
  • Plate Options  
    Weights that will fit on a standard bar will not fit on anything but a standard bar. Olympic plates will not safely fit on a standard barbell. This is due to the bar ends being one inch and 50mm, respectively.
  • Strength 
    The simple fact is that Olympic barbells are built much heavier and are much stronger than their smaller and lighter duty standard counterparts. Some standard bars can weigh as little as 5 pounds, where Olympic bars are 45 pounds.
Olympic Vs Standard Weight Plates

Plate Diameter & Thickness Compared (Standard Vs. Olympic)

Plate size varies between the two styles. Standard plates have a center hole that measures just over 1," and Olympic plates have a center hole of 2". While center holes do not change, the plate diameter for each plate changes drastically depending on the weight and intended exercise. See the table below for clarification.

Weight in Pounds

Overall  Plate Diameter (Standard)

Overall Plate Diameter (Olympic)

Overall Plate Thickness (Standard)

Overall Plate Thickness (Olympic)

1.25 lb

3.94″

-

0.44″

-

2.5 lb

4.94″

6.38″

0.56″

0.44″

5 lb

6.44″

8.06″

0.69″

0.56″

7.5 lb

7.44″

-

0.75″

-

10 lb

8.19″

9.13″

0.81″

0.81″

12.5 lb

8.94″

-

0.88″

-

20 lb

9.88″

-

1.13″

-

25 lb

11.38″

11.0″

1.06″

1.31″

35 lb

-

14.5″

-

1.88″

45 lb

-

17.75″

-

1.88″

50 lb

14.5″

-

1.19″

-

100 lb

-

17.75″

-

2.5″


Exercises: Is There a Difference Between Standard & Olympic?

Whether you are training with an Olympic or standard weight set, there are no exercises that you physically can not do with either. You can squat or bench press with either set and potentially get the same results.

The difference is that with an Olympic weight set, you can add more weight and do that easily. The only advantage to a standard weight set is that you could potentially use it in a more confined space.

If you have a small home gym in a bedroom or office, the difference would be that the smaller standard weights would be easier to store away and use periodically. For serious strength training, though, you will want a larger space and a more extensive Olympic-style weight set.

Olympic Barbell Vs Standard

People Also Ask (FAQs)

How much do Olympic barbells cost? Why are they so expensive?

Olympic barbells are more expensive than standard barbells because of their composition and build quality. These are larger and heavier than a standard bar, which makes them cost roughly $150-$200 each.

How much do Standard barbells cost?

Cost is relative to brand and quality. If you look around for deals and reviews, you should be able to purchase a quality standard bar for less than $150.

Can a barbell break?

Barbells will never break. Some plates, depending on what material they are made from, could have the potential to break when exposed to extreme drops. Overall though, weights, in general, are built to last.


Conclusion

Olympic barbells and plate sets are, no doubt, better suited for strength training than standard weights. The opposite is true for yoga or toning. Either way, as long as you are doing your research and choosing what is best for your style, you will be headed down a healthier path. Fitness is the key to longevity, so find a weight set and get after it!

Josh is a trained HVAC and Plumbing specialist who loves all things DIY. He has been featured in Forbes, USNews, Homes & Gardens, Family Handyman and several other leading publications.

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