Over the past 20 years, many of my beginner weight training clients ask me about the Olympic barbell weight. Here’s what I always tell them…
A men’s Olympic barbell weighs 44lbs (20kg) and is 7.2 ft (2.2 meters) long with 1.96 inches (50mm) diameter sleeves. Whereas a women’s Olympic barbell weighs 33lbs (15kg) is 6’6 (2.01 meters) long with 1.96 inch (50mm) diameter sleeves.
You can find out a lot more about barbells in our Barbell buying guide here. We compared over 100 Olympic barbells here and have put in over 40 hours of research into this guide.
However, there are other specialty barbells that have different dimensions, shapes, and sizes. I’ll explain this in the rest of this article.
Competition Olympic Bar Standardization
The original version of the Olympic bar came in 1928 when Berg designed the rotating sleeve bar. This design has been copied and has made its way into gyms around the world ever since.
The women’s Olympic bar was introduced in 1996 and the color markings were introduced in 2000.
The men’s bar shaft diameter is 28mm (1.1”) for competition legal bars, but for general training, the bars can be 28 to 32mm (1.1-1.25″). The length of the sleeves (loadable section of the bar) are typically 16.3 inches (41.5cm).
The women’s bar shaft diameter is 25mm (1″) and it weighs 33lbs (15kg). The sleeves are usually 12.6 inches (32cm) long.
You can see the difference with a couple of the barbells I have in my gym below (men’s is blue; women’s is yellow)…
These are standardized sizes, set in stone by the IWF (International Weightlifting Federation) and the rules and regulations around barbells can be found in precise detail here.
Although the term ‘Olympic Barbell’ is an umbrella term to describe all barbells following the original Berg design (7’2 with 2” rotating sleeves), not all Olympic bars are competition legal. Men’s bars must follow the knurling guidelines and be within legal weight tolerances.
Women’s bars don’t have the center knurl, but they do have to abide by strict weight tolerance guidelines.
If you see the image below, it’s a side-by-side comparison of the men’s and women’s Olympic barbells. Both of these bars are competition legal.
Note the differences…
- The men’s bar is longer
- There’s no centre knurling on the women’s bar – there is on the men’s bar
- The sleeves are longer on the men’s bar
- The shaft on the men’s bar is slightly thicker (28mm vs 25mm)
Do Olympic barbells come in different weights?
The short answer is that yes, they do. You can get shorter barbells (5’, 6’) that are lighter than the more common 7’, 20kg bars and 6’6, 15kg women’s bars.
The longer answer is that although you can get these bars, they’re not competition legal. They’re very useful and popular in training circles – I have several 6’ bars in my own gym. The weight of these depends on the diameter of the shaft, so my 6’ bars are 30mm shaft and weigh 16kg each, but there will be a bit of movement in this number each way.
You can buy 5′-6′ “standard” barbells, but they’re not particularly useful for serious strength training because they’re too narrow to sit on a rack. They’re sufficient for exercises such as curls, skull crushers, basic pressing etc, but that’s all really. You can find out the full difference between standard barbells vs Olympic barbells here.
There are lots of different types of specialist Olympic bars though, as we’ll discuss in the next section.
Specialist olympic barbell weights
On occasion, you’ll see a barbell that has ‘Olympic’ in the title, but it’s actually a specialty bar. The link with the Olympic barbell is the 2” rotating sleeves, but beyond that, they’re not the same.
They’ll usually be a different length or shape.
The Bow Barbell
An example of a specialist bar with the ‘Olympic’ title is the ‘bow bar’. It’s over 90” long usually and weighs up to 25kg. It’s most commonly used for squatting and is particularly popular in Powerlifting circles. You can check out our best powerlifting barbells here to learn more about these.
It’s not a commonly seen bar in commercial gyms.
The Cambered Barbell
Another specialist bar that will be referred to as an Olympic barbell is the ‘cambered’ bar. These are bars with an inverted central section that allows for an increase in the range of movement when pressing or rowing. Most cambered bars will weigh in at around 18kg.
The Hex Bar
One of the more common specialist bars you’ll see around is the Hex bar – sometimes known as the ‘trap’ bar. It’s used mostly for deadlifts, but some coaches will incorporate it as a pressing alternative. Most Hex/Trap bars will be between 20 and 25kg.
This is a mainstay of lots of gyms – popularized by the bodybuilding movement of the ’70s onwards. An EZ (or curl bar as it’s sometimes known) is much shorter than a straight barbell and comes in around 10-12.5kg (22-27.5LB) depending on the length of the bar, sleeves, and diameter.
Tricep bars are very common in gyms around the world. They’re much shorter than most barbells, have a box-section design, and allow a neutral grip of the bar.
Like the EZ bar, they usually weigh 10-12.5kg (22-27.5LB) depending on the length of the bar, sleeves, and diameter.
Olympic Bar Weight: Final Thoughts
In this post I’ve (hopefully) cleared up any potential confusion about the weights of Olympic barbells.
There’s a lot of difference depending on the length, shape, style etc. But when it comes to the Olympic weightlifting barbell, there’s no ambiguity… it has to adhere to very precise regulations. Men’s Olympic bars must weigh 20kg and women’s must be 15kg.
For more information on Olympic bars, check out our post on ‘The Best Olympic Barbells for Weightlifting & Powerlifting’. We’ve compared over 100 barbells and spent dozens of hours researching different brands.
It’ll help you find the perfect Olympic barbell for you and your needs.