Olympic vs Standard Barbell – 9 big differences

olympic vs standard barbell


Barbells are the most basic piece of equipment you see at every gym, still, many people do not have a clear understanding of these. Soo many people do not have any idea about the difference between an Olympic barbell and a Standard barbell. 

Do you know there are more than 20 types of barbells available in the market, and today, we are going to clarify the differences between the most common barbells you will encounter.

Difference between Olympic vs Standard barbell: 2 inches spinning sleeves are definitly the most visible difference between Olympic bar and standard bar. Additionally, both barbells also differ in the quality of knurling, tensile strength, whip, knurling marks, price, and weight plates.

Whether you are looking to buy a barbell for the garage gym or for regular gym training, knowing a few basics truly determines the quality of the workout. Let’s start our comparison-

Olympic vs Standard Barbell

1# Size and weight

The size difference between the barbell is definitly the first thing you will notice. 

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Olympic and standard barbells differ largely in size and weight. 

While Olympic barbells are designed to meet competition standards designated by the IWF, thus Olympic barbells have the standard weight, length, and sleeves diameter.  

On the other hand, there is no regulation on the size and weight of the Standard barbell resulting in differences in dimensions. 

Standard barbell: They can differ in size and weight, the standard barbell size may range from 5 ft to 7ft. Its weight can range between 10-25 lbs. Commonly, the standard barbell has a 1” diameter of the shaft with a fair quality of knurling.  The standard barbell also features non-rotating sleeves with 1” diameter. 

Olympic barbell: Every IWF certified Olympic bar has to have a same dimension. The quality of material and tensile strength may differ from the manufacturer but all will have uniform weight, length, and diameters.

The Olympic barbell weighs 20 kg and is 7.2ft long. Their shaft has a diameter of 1.1 inches and the outer sleeve has a diameter of 2 inches. 


There is also a Women’s Olympic Bar which is 5 kg lighter and has a shorter diameter of shaft for better grip. 

 BarbellWeightLengthSleeve DiameterGrip Diameter
Standard Barbell15-30lbs 7.2 ft (2.2m)1 inch (25mm)1-1.1 inch (27-28mm)
Men’s Olympic Barbell44lbs (20kg)7.2 ft (2.2m)2 inch (50mm)1.1 inch (28mm)
Women’s Olympic Barbell33lbs (15kg)6.6 ft (2.1m) 2 inch (50mm)0.9 inch (25mm)

2# Functions

If you can go 20-years back in time, you won’t find many gyms with Olympic barbells, most of the gyms were having only regular bars. 

Both the barbells were sufficient enough to perform basic lifting work but over time Olympic barbell was proven a little more efficient and reliable resource. 

With the standard weight and dimensions, Olympic barbells got more preference over the old school standard 1″ barbells. 

Olympic barbells are built with the finest quality heavy-duty steel that could withstand heavy load and spinning sleeves were also proved effective in injury prevention. 

3# Capacity

Olympic bars were manufactured to withstand heavy load, High tensile strength steel is used to manufacture these bars. 

Olympic bars are created with a tensile strength of more than 190k PSI, on the other hand, most standard barbells are built with a maximum weight capacity of 300-400 lbs. 

While the standard barbells have a weight capacity of about 200-400lbs only, most of the Olympic barbell has a capacity of more than 1100lbs.  

4# Knurling

Only serious lifters know the essence of quality knurling. Knurling is the texture provided on the shaft for better gripping. Three factors define the quality of knurling-

  • Marks
  • Aggressiveness
  • Placement


While the placement of knurling on standard barbell may differ by manufacturers. 

Knurling placement in Olympic barbell has to follow standard rules, Marking is used in Olympic barbells as a means of measuring grip width. 


Knurling in standard barbell is fairly smooth and does not prove effective for heavy lifts. Another drawback is, cheap standard barbells loses its knurling with regular use.

Knurling quality in the Olympic barbells varies from moderate to aggressive, depending on the requirements. Oly bars knurling is very high quality which is made to last for a long time (maybe forever).  


There is no uniform standard followed before the manufacturing of standard bars.

Knurling in Olympic bars also varies according to their purpose, for example: 

  • Olympic barbell for Squats: These bars feature the knurling in the middle section to provide a better grip while squatting. 
  • Barbell for Olympic Lifting Movements: These movements include power cleans, front squats, etc, practice Olympic barbells might not contain knurling in the middle of the barbell. Knurling in the middle can severely irritate the lifter’s throat area. 

5# Sleeves

While most people do not even care about the sleeves, they play an important role in weight stabilization. 

Standard barbells are made of solid steel with a chromed finish, they do not contain separate spinning sleeves. These days, some manufacturers are creating standard barbells with rotating sleeves and call it an Olympic bar, beware with the scammers. 

Olympic barbells feature 2” spinning sleeves. Spin is incorporated with the integration of either bearings or bushings. 

Spinning sleeves are required when practicing Olympic-style movements such as the clean and jerk, spinning supports the lift by acting as a shock absorbent and helps in injury prevention. 

If you already have a 1-inch hole weight plate, then you should be buying a standard barbell only. 

6# Price

Standard barbells can be ten times cheaper than Olympic barbells. 

While you can get a standard barbell at low as $20, an Olympic barbell will definitly cost you tons of money, you are paying a high price for high tensile strength steel, build quality, spinning sleeves, whip, and compatible with 2” weight plates. 

7# Whip

Did you notice that slight bend in the barbell when powerlifters do heavy squats or deadlifts? That is a whip. 

A whip is an important function of a barbell that is purposely included. Technically speaking, a whip is a bar’s “ability to store elastic energy.” pro lifters use the kinetic energy of whip to lift heavier weight. 

Standard barbells are not made with “whip” in mind, of course, they do bend, but they are not intentionally crafted that way. Bend in the standard barbell might be the sign of its maximum potential. 

An Olympic barbell is created with the enhanced whip to support lifters. But all the bars do not contain the same whip quality, here is how they differ: 

  • Olympic deadlift barbell: They have the maximum whip to them. 
  • Olympic squat barbell: They are built with a moderate whip to get an improved grip. 
  • Olympic barbell for benchpress: Contains almost no whip. Lifter certainly doesn’t want their bar to bend while they benchpress, it could be fatal for the wrist. 

8# Weight plates

Different weights plates are created for two different types of barbells. You certainly cant deadlift or squat with a standard barbell and Olympic weight plate (2-inches hole). 

If you already have weight plates at home, then it’s better to invest in a barbell that fits your weights. 

Amazon Best Sellers

[amazon bestseller=”Olympic barbell”]

Can you use Olympic weight plates on standard 1″ barbell?

You should not be using Olympic weight plates with the standard barbell, else you would be putting yourself under risk.

Loading 2 inches weight plate on a standard barbell will create the weight imbalance and destabilization.

There is a cheap solution, you can buy the adaptive sleeves from amazon that you can slide over the sleeve of your standard barbell to fit the Olympic plates.

[amazon box=”B00GNOQE0M”]

Using adaptive sleeves is still a temporary solution.

What’s the best choice?

Do you still need help to make the final decision? Let me summarize it for you.

Buying FactorsBest choice
Already have 1” weight plates?Standard barbell
Narrow budget? Standard barbell
Seasonal lifter?Standard barbell
Experienced lifter?Olympic barbell
Need a barbell for power rack?Olympic barbell
Like high quality stuff? Olympic barbell

Thanks for reading. Questions welcomed in the comments as always. 

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