Powerlifting bar vs Olympic bar vs Multipurpose bar – 5 differences

powerlifting bar vs olympic bar


Most of the people are not even aware of the fact that there is a difference between a powerlifting bar and an Olympic barbell.

Does BCAA Go Bad After Expiration? ...
Does BCAA Go Bad After Expiration? 4 Tips To Prevent It

If you are reading this article that means even you are confused about the differences between powerlifting bar vs Olympic bar both the barbells, but I am glad to notice that you are at least aware that the difference even exists.

Both the standard Olympic and powerlifting bars look and weigh the same, but there are some minor differences that play an important role in the overall performance. Powerlifting bar vs Olympic bar differs in the quality of knurling, Knurling marks, whip, spinning sleeves, and shaft diameter.  

Ahead in this article, we are going to cover all the differences between Olympic barbells and Powerlifting barbell (power bars) but before that, you need to have a basic understanding of both sports.

Olympic lifting vs powerlifting

Understanding the sport is important to understand the importance of minor differences that makes both the barbells different from one another.

Olympic lifting: Olympic weightlifting concentrates on performing two ballistic lifts snatch and the clean and jerk. The snatch is a wide-grip, one-move lift. The clean and jerk is a close-grip, two-move lift.

Powerlifting: On the other hand, powerlifting is a sheer demonstration of total strength. Powerlifting is less technical in nature and focuses more on moving one position to another. Powerlifting consists of completing three major movements known as the squat, bench press, and deadlift.

Olympic bar vs Powerlifting bar vs Multipurpose bar.

Most of the gym noobs are barely aware of the barbell they are using but there is a considerable difference.

In an effort to provide you the best understanding about the difference, I am about to compare the different barbells from Rogue fitness.

Barbell weight and dimension

The reason why many people are confused about the Olympic bar, power bar, and multi-purpose practice barbells is because of their similar weight and dimensions.

All three type of barbells weighs 20 kg (44lbs) and they all have a standard length of 7.2 ft. Some powerlifting barbells are also designed to have longer sleeves to facilitate heavier loads.

But these barbells differ from other factors.


Knurling is one of the most visible features that can help you figure out the type of barbell you are using.


Quality of the knurling differs widely according to the manufacturer and the purpose of bars.

While the Olympic barbells have got standard knurling, powerlifting barbells are manufactured with aggressive knurling to achieve a monstrous grip.

Center knurl: 

Both the IWF (International Weightlifting Federation) and the IPF (International Powerlifting Federation) specify that a men’s 20 kg barbell should have a center knurl.

Women’s Olympic barbells have no center knurling, it is also 5 kg lighter than Men’s Olympic barbell.

On the other hand, you will see great differences in the knurling markers of multipurpose barbells, some multipurpose bars do have center knurling and some don’t.

Center knurling mark can irritate the skin while doing “clean and jerk”, that’s the reason some multipurpose practice barbell does not have center knurling to protect lifter’s neck from irritation after repetitive training sessions.

Barbell without center knurling is not a good option for heavy squat, since lifter won’t be able to grip it properly.

Knurling distance and marking: 

Following standard knurling, distance plays a major role in the consistency of lift. Professional barbells have standard knurling distance and marking patterns to help lifter grip the barbell form the same position, every time.

According to the official international weightlifting federation rules and regulation pdf 48th page, this is a dimension of certified Olympic barbell.

Men's 20 kg Olympic bar specifications and dimensions (via IWF)

For powerlifting, IPF recognized the powerlifting bar Guideline Page- 6. Below are the standard knurling distances.

20 kg powerlifting bar specifications and dimensions (via IPF)

Knurling distance differs in the Olympic and power bars because of the difference in gripping styles.

On the other hand, multipurpose barbells come with dual knurl marks that provide flexibility to follow different gripping.

These hybrid /multipurpose bars are the best choice for CrossFitters and non-professional lifters.

oym and powerlifting marking


While most of the people are not aware of the utility of those spinning sleeves.

Utilization of the spinning sleeves is best understood by the Olympic lifters while doing “snatch and clean and jerk”, these are two ballistic movements that put immense pressure on the wrist and body’s center of mass.

The rotation of sleeves diminishes the amount of torque created by the weight plates which results in reduced stress on your wrists and elbow.

Two types of rotating sleeves can be found in the barbell. 

  • Bushing
  • Needle Bearing

Olympic barbell: Olympic lifts requires the highest quality of sleeve rotation to protect the lifter from injury. These barbells are made with the finest quality Needle Bearing that provides the barbell with a smooth, consistent, quieter spin.

Power barbell: Powerlifting contains a vertical push and pulls movements that do not require a high spinning mechanism. Power bars are always bushing bars, bushes provide the required spinning mechanism for power lifts. Additionally, bushing also reduces the overall cost of the power bar.

Multipurpose barbells: These are not the specialization barbells, these are good quality barbell designed to train and practice different movements. These barbells are generally equipped with bushings. The quality of bushing depends on the manufacturer.


A whip can also be understood as the elasticity of barbell, the slight bend that you notice while lifting heavyweight is the whip. Just like Sleeves and knurling, these barbells have differences in the whip.

Olympic barbell: Because of the nature of classic Olympic lifts, these bars have the best quality whip with the highest tensile strength.

Although there is no specification of the minimum tensile strength of barbell but these are generally the highest quality barbells.

Power barbell: Powerlifting bars are built with a minimum whip to support heavy lifts. Although, power bars for deadlift are specially treated to provide improved whip for heavy deadlifts.

Multipurpose bar: These bars come with a moderate whip since they are made to practice all kinds of lifts.


The diameter of the shaft plays an important role in gripping. By IPF (International Powerlifting Federation) diameter of the shaft need to be 29MM and by IWF (International Weightlifting Federation) diameter of the Olympic Barbell Shaft should be 28MM.

Since multipurpose barbells are manufactured to be used for both the sports, these barbells are generally made with 28.5MM of shaft diameter.

Lets recap the differences

Attribute Olympic Bar Power Bar Practice Bar
Center knurl Yes Yes Varies
Knurl quality Moderate Aggressive Moderate
Sleeves Bearing Bushing Bushing
Whip Great whip No whip Moderate
Diameter  28MM 29MM 28.5MM

Do you need to care about the differences?

Although there is no need to get into details if you are not pursuing to be a professional lifter. But knowing these details will cause no harm.

This knowledge about the barbell will come handy while making a purchase of barbell for home gym.

Powerlifting and Olympic Barbell FAQ

What is the difference between a deadlift bar and a normal bar?

A deadlift bar comes with an improved whip; whip allows the bar to bend while lifting the weight off the ground. Whip helps in providing better bar speed off the floor. 
Deadlift barbells are also designed with more aggressive knurling to help the lifter with superior grip.

Can you Deadlift with Olympic bar?

Yes, Of course. There is no issue in deadlifting with the Olympic barbell. But if you are preparing for the powerlifting meet then its better to practice with a professional powerlifting barbell.

Are deadlift bars heavier?

No, deadlift barbells weigh 20 kgs. Some deadlift bars are designed with comparatively thin diameter (27MM) and longer overall length (90.50″ is just within most powerlifting federation standards).
Thinner diameter helps in improving the grip quality and increased barbell length accommodates improved whip.

Thanks for reading. Questions are welcomed in the comments as always. This site contains affiliate links as well as general health and fitness information. Please read my Medical Disclaimer and Writing Disclaimer for more information.    

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Scroll to Top