Olympic Barbell vs Standard Barbell Compared – How Should You Choose?

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If you are not sure what to choose deciding between an Olympic barbell vs standard barbell here is the info you need!

I define the difference between each style and go over the pros and cons of each and then wrap it up with an informative FAQ section.

Let’s get to it!

What is the difference between Standard and Olympic Barbells?

Let’s compare, thickness, weight & size of standard vs Olympic barbell.

What is an Olympic Barbell?

Rogue Ohio Bar

Diameter of an Olympic Barbell

Oly bars are thicker and longer than standard bars. The ends, where the weight plates go is 50mm thick or about 2 inches.

Length of an Olympic Barbell

The center or shaft area is longer than a standard bar and the TOTAL length of an Olympic bar is 7 feet.

Weight of an Olympic Barbell

The total weight of an Olympic bar is about 44 lbs.

Other Things to Consider

There are exceptions to this, such as women’s Olympic bars and technique bars, but that is not the focus of this article. This article focuses on the common Olympic barbell.

If you want to see the best Olympic barbell sets, I have reviewed them before.

Most often you will see Olympic bars in public gyms, especially those designed for any type of lifting.

Bottom Line

Olympic bars:

  • Weigh 44 lbs
  • Are 7 feet long
  • Are two-inch in diameter at the ends

What is a Standard or “Regular” Barbell?

man work out using barbell and weight bench in garage gym

Diameter of a Standard Barbell

A standard barbell is 1 inch in diameter all the way through, including where the weights go. Ideally, the standard barbell should be solid metal, not hollow.

Some cheap sets come with flimsy hollow bars. Avoid those!

Length of a Standard Barbell

The most common length of a standard barbell is 5 feet, of which, the center shaft, the area between the weights, is about 3 feet.

Keep in mind, the length of this shaft means you may not be able to rack this barbell in a standard power rack.

Weight of Standard Barbell

While there is no standard weight for a standard barbell, they can range anywhere from 15 to 20 lbs, but it can vary.

Bottom Line

Standard barbell is:

  • 5 feet long
  • 1-inch diameter along the entire length
  • May weigh between 15 to 20 lbs

If you are looking for a standard barbell, we have reviewed the best standard barbell sets, along with a few Olympic barbell sets as mentioned before.

What Plates Fit Standard Barbells vs Olympic Weight Plates

rogue gym bumper plates

Olympic Weight Plates

It is really easy to tell the difference between Olympic weight plates and standard weight plates. Just check the hole size or diameter.

Olympic weight plates are always 2 inches in diameter. Standard weight plates are always 1 inch in diameter.

Standard Weight Plates

Standard weight plates are always 1 inch in diameter.

Beware!

Even if a plate says “Standard” like this one but has a two-inch hole, it is not a standard plate, but an Olympic plate, regardless of what the plates say.

Standard Barbell Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Standard barbells are Space saving because they are just 5 ft long.
  • Standard barbells are usually way less expensive because they use a lot less metal.
  • Standard bars have more flex which technically makes deadlifts easier because the weight peels from the floor progressively.
  • Standard bars weigh less, which is good for beginners or those who lift less. I hear many women say they simply cannot lift an Olympic barbell.

Cons

  • Standard bars can’t hold much weight. They hold 200 to 300 lbs max, and even that is pushing it. If you want to lift serious weights, seriously consider an Olympic barbell.
  • You may not be able to rack a 5′ bar in a standard size power rack or squat rack because it is too short.
  • Sleeves do not rotate. This is a bigger deal on heavy lifts.

Olympic Barbell Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Sleeves rotate, helping you stay steady and balanced during heavy lifts. Super important!
  • Olympic barbells are rack-able and fit regular size power racks and squat racks.
  • Olympic bars can hold waaaaay more weight than standard bars. Weight limits vary but its anywhere from 500 pounds on up.

Cons

  • Olympic barbells are more expensive than standard barbells.
  • If you can’t lift 44 lbs, or 44 lbs is too heavy for your particular exercise, the Olympic barbell won’t work.
  • If you work out in tight quarters, an Oly bar may be too long. It is 7 feet, and you need to include space to change out weights and move.

What Size Barbell Should I Get?

Crossfitter holding barbell with plates

Weighty Considerations

I think the biggest consideration is how much you plan to lift.

If you plan to keep it under 250, a standard barbell will work.

Anything over that and you I recommend you invest in an Olympic barbell. But that’s just my opinion.

Space Issues

I will also say space is the second most important consideration.

If your space just won’t work with a 7-foot bar, there are higher quality standard bars out there. I also recommend looking at Rogue shorty Olympic style bar that is just 69 inches long.

FAQs

empty garage gym - barbell on floor

How Long is an Olympic Barbell?

An Olympic barbell is 7 feet long.

Do All Weight Plates Fit All Bars?

No.

Olympic weight plates have a 2-inch hole.

Standard weight plates have a 1-inch hole.

How Thick is an Olympic Barbell?

The diameter of the center shaft varies from 28mm to 31 mm. The outer sleeves, where the weight goes, is 50mm thick.

Do Olympic Bars Spin?

Yes, the sleeves, where the weight goes, spins, on most Olympic barbells, with the exception of powerlifting bars, which spin much less.

Why?

Weight plates create torque on the bar as you lift. The spinning action reduces this torque allowing better grip, as well as saving your wrists and elbows.

Are Olympic Weights Better Than Standard?

Standard bars and plates are fine if you are on a budget, have limited space, and do not plan to lift more than 300 lbs. That’s provided it is a high-quality standard bar.

If you plan to lift more than that, I highly recommend getting an Olympic bar.

Why are Olympic Bars and Plates Sometimes Called “Standard”?

For whatever reason, some weight plates that are made for Olympic barbells say “Standard’.

Regardless of what the plate says, these weight plates have a 2-inch hole and are therefore Olympic size weight plates.

Also…

Some people call the Olympic bars “standard”. I have seen it happen, all over the web.

Why? I don’t know. Maybe because Oly bars have a standard weight and length.

Maybe because they are trying to differentiate between an Olympic bar vs a powerlifting bar?

Bottom Line

Remember, an Olympic barbell is 7 feet long, weighs 44 lbs, and has 2-inch diameter sleeves.

A standard barbell is shorter, weighs less and is 1 inch in diameter.

garage gym floor and barbell

What is a Powerlifting Barbell or Powerlifting Bar vs Olympic Bar?

Powerlifting bars do not spin as much as Olympic bars, but they are also 44 lbs, 7 feet long and have two-inch diameter sleeves and are often called Olympic bars.

Just to be clear, power bars use bushings, which spin a little, but Oly bars use quality needle bearings which have far more spin.

Power bars are also a little less expensive than Oly bars.

That Wraps it Up!

If you plan to use your barbell for squats or hip thrusters, whether you choose an Olympic barbell vs standard barbell, you may need a good barbell pad.

I did a review on the best barbell pads too, so be sure to check them out and make those squats and hip thrusters more comfortable.

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