Don't make mistakes when choosing an Olympic shaft - A thorough explanation of 8 comparison points

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The fitness industry is expected to see even more demand in the future as people become more health conscious. Recently, with the evolution of technology, products that seek greater efficiency, such as training equipment equipped with AI and smart devices, are being developed one after another.

Meanwhile, the Olympic shaft continues to reign as the king of training equipment in gyms around the world.

Recently, the number of training equipment manufacturers and retailers has increased, and many people may be confused about choosing an Olympic shaft. This time, we will thoroughly explain eight comparison points to avoid making mistakes when choosing an Olympic shaft.

What is an Olympic shaft?

sleeve

Olympic shaft is the name of the Olympic barbell unique to Japan. The shaft originally refers to the thin rod part that grips the barbell, and its official name is Olympic Barbell . *This article uses the Olympic shaft for convenience.

Olympic shafts originally refer to barbells used in weightlifting and powerlifting competitions, but all barbells found in general commercial gyms are also called Olympic shafts.

Actually, there is no clear definition of this Olympic shaft, but barbells with the following specifications are generally called Olympic shafts.

  • Weight: 20kg (15kg for women)
  • Total length: 220cm (200cm for women)
  • Sleeve diameter: 50mm
  • Sleeve rotation mechanism: Yes

The part of the barbell where the plates are attached is called the sleeve , and the Olympic shaft has a sleeve diameter of 50mm and has a rotation mechanism.

Sleeve rotation mechanism

On the other hand, there is also a barbell with a sleeve diameter of 28 mm and no rotation mechanism, and this is called a standard barbell . In Japan, it is also called the standard shaft .

standard barbell

The good thing about standard shafts is that they are cheaper than Olympic shafts. Although it is inferior to the Olympic shaft in terms of usability, if you are a beginner in training, do not handle heavy weights, and would like to keep costs down, I think you may want to consider the standard barbell.

Please note that only 28mm diameter plates can be attached to standard shafts. Whether it's plates or power racks, many training devices are basically developed with the premise of using Olympic shafts.

Therefore, if you are thinking of doing serious training at home, it is better to choose the Olympic shaft even if it costs a little more. Also, Olympic shafts are a must in commercial gyms.

 

Comparison points for Olympic shafts

① Weight and total length

barbell length

As introduced in the previous section, the weight of Olympic shafts is standardized at 20kg or 15kg (for women), so there is no problem when selecting one. Among them are 10kg bars for beginners called junior bars. There are also 5kg barbells called technique bars , but these are classified as specialty bars and will not be discussed in this article.

Regarding the length, the so-called Olympic shaft is 220cm, and the women's 15kg bar is 200cm, but there are also products such as Rogue's C-70S that have shorter Olympic shaft sleeves.

These are also usually classified as specialty bars, but their uses include It's no different from the Olympic shaft. In some cases, short sleeves can make training more comfortable, especially when used in a small space such as a home gym. Of course, if the sleeve is short, the number of plates that can be attached will be reduced, so consider this based on the actual use.

 

② Shaft diameter and bend

Shaft diameter

Next, let's talk about the diameter of the shaft part of the Olympic shaft. Olympic shafts for 20kg bars typically have diameters of 29mm, 28.5mm, and 28mm.

29mm is the same diameter as the powerlifting competition barbell specified by IPF (International Powerlifting Federation). 29mm has less bend, so the end of the Olympic shaft does not swing easily during squats and bench presses, and no unnecessary load is applied. We recommend choosing a barbell with a 29mm shaft not only for powerlifting competitors but also for trainees who perform BIG3 with heavy weights.

28mm is IWF (International Weightlifting Federation) The diameter is the same as the barbell for weightlifting competitions specified by . For weight lifting, the flex is greater compared to 29mm.

The advantage of having more flex is that when performing cleans and snatches, the shaft flexes, lifting the grip part slightly off the floor and making it easier to pull up. We recommend the 28mm shaft not only for weightlifters but also for those who train in weightlifting events such as cleans and snatches.

A large bend is also effective for deadlifts, but barbells with 29mm shafts are used in official powerlifting competitions, so it is difficult to get used to a 28mm shaft. This can also be a disadvantage for powerlifters.

The 28.5mm shaft is in between the above, and is a multipurpose barbell designed to comfortably perform both powerlifting and weightlifting events. In places such as private gyms and school facilities, the purposes vary depending on the user, so having a multipurpose barbell like this is very convenient. Of course, depending on how you look at it, you can get either one or the other, so for serious competitors, we recommend a competition-spec barbell.

15kg Olympic shafts generally have a shaft diameter of 25mm, which has strong flexibility and is easy to grip for women and people with small hands.

 

③Tensile strength

Tensile strength is one of the parameters that indicates the strength of a material, and refers to the maximum tensile stress that a material can withstand before breaking when a tensile load is applied. For example, as shown in the video above, when a machine is used to apply a load to a barbell and bend it, if the elastic limit is exceeded, the barbell will not return to its original shape. )To do.

This tensile strength is expressed in pounds per square inch (PSI), and many commercial Olympic shafts from major free weight manufacturers are set at a tensile strength = 190K PSI.

Manufacturers and bloggers offer various opinions regarding tensile strength, but the truth is that many articles are not based on scientific knowledge and are not very helpful.

Tensile strength is a material property value used to evaluate the strength of an object, and it is true that the higher the value, the stronger it is against breakage, but in human strength training, we do not deal with the weight of a barbell just before it breaks. .

Rather, what is important when using a barbell is that even if you perform a squat or drop with heavy plates attached, the barbell will return to its straight position without deforming. I'm involved.

In other words, it is not smart to decide whether a barbell is good or bad by looking only at its tensile strength value.

What I can say for now is that as long as the user is a human, there is no safety issue with any barbell manufactured by a commercial manufacturer that has a rating of 190K PSI or higher, regardless of whether it is a home gym or a commercial gym.

High tensile strength = excellent material, but to determine whether it is a good barbell, you need to compare other indicators according to your application. Please be aware that some manufacturers are now using this tensile strength value as a marketing tool.

 

④Knurling

This is the part of the shaft that has a rough edge and has a non-slip function. There are three main types of knurling : mountain type, volcano type, and hill type .

 

mountain type

The mountain type is characterized by its highly uneven surface and is difficult to slip, and is mainly used in barbells for powerlifting. Although it has the disadvantage of easily damaging the palm, it has the highest grip strength, so it is recommended for those who handle heavy weights.

 

Volcano type

As the name suggests, the volcano-shaped knurling is shaped like a volcano, and its tip is concave. Although it has a moderate grip, it doesn't sting your hands as much as the mountain type, making it a knurling that will appeal to everyone. This type is recommended if you have a wide range of users, such as a general commercial gym. Volcano barbells are also widely used in weightlifting and crossfit.

 

Hill type

As you can see in the image, the hill type is characterized by shallow unevenness and is almost flat, and is inferior to the above two in terms of grip strength. Therefore, if you are using it for general strength training such as BIG3, there is no advantage to choosing this type of knurling.

On the other hand, it is very gentle on the skin, so it is recommended for high rep exercises with light weights, such as weightlifting technique training.

Regarding this knurling, there is a type of Olympic shaft that has knurling not only on the grip part but also on the center of the shaft. This is called the center knurl .

center knurling

This center knurl is useful for squat training and catching in cleans, so if you need it for your actual use, choose this type. In particular, we recommend that competitors match the specifications of the barbell that will actually be used in the competition.

 

⑤Shaft mark position

The Olympic shaft has a mark that indicates the grip width.

81cm line

For powerlifting barbells, the 81cm line conforms to IPF (International Powerlifting Federation) specifications, and for weightlifting barbells, the 91cm line conforms to IWF (International Weightlifting Federation) specifications.

On the other hand, for general users who are not competitors, the mainstream is one that has two marks at 81cm and 91cm, like the barbell at the bottom of the image, so that you can do both types of training.

 

⑥Shaft surface treatment

Olympic shafts are manufactured using a wide variety of materials and surface treatments, which greatly affect rust prevention, corrosion resistance, and grip. Commercial barbells mainly sold in Japan are broadly classified into the following six categories.

  1. Chrome-plated
  2. Chromate (galvanized)
  3. Nickel plating
  4. Black dyeing treatment ( black dye plating )
  5. Cerakote
  6. No surface treatment

I will briefly introduce each of them.

 

1. Chrome plating

hard chrome plated barbell

The most popular type of barbell for commercial use is the chrome plated barbell. There are two types of chrome plating: decorative chrome plating and hard chrome plating (also known as hard chrome plating).

Most commercial Olympic shafts made by famous manufacturers use hard chrome plating, but some products also use decorative chrome plating.

Compared to chromate, which will be discussed later, it is a little more expensive because it requires more effort, but it has high rust and corrosion resistance and has a moderate grip, making it the standard surface treatment for barbells. The color is silver only.

Main barbells that use hard chrome plating:

REP Fitness Colorado Bar

REP Fitness Alpine Weight Lifting Bar

american barbell grizzly power bar

 

2. Chromate (galvanized)

Chromate

Chromate is a treatment method in which the object is soaked in a chromate treatment solution to form a chromate film on the surface. It is often called galvanizing because it is often used to finish galvanizing, but it is almost always done in conjunction with chromate treatment.

There are many types of chromate, and gloss chromate (UNIQLO), black chromate, colored chromate, etc. are also used in barbell surface treatments. Although it is inexpensive, it has high rust resistance, and comes in not only silver but also black and gold.

Main barbells that use chromate:

REP Fitness Delta Basic Bar (Gloss Chromate)

Rogue Fitness The Ohio Bar (black chromate)

Bridge BUILT Clydesdale Power Bar (colored chromate)

 

3. Nickel plating

Nickel plating

Nickel plating is a plating with excellent corrosion resistance and high conductivity, so it is often used in electronic parts. It has a beautiful gold-like, slightly yellowish luster and is resistant to discoloration.

There are two types of nickel plating : electrolytic nickel plating and electroless nickel plating , both of which are used for barbell surface treatment. Although it is a little expensive, it is a high-quality plating that will satisfy your desire to own it.

Main barbells that use nickel plating:

Uesaka competition bar

Kabuki Strength The 250K Power Bar

Gungnir The Allrounder 20

 

4. Black dyeing treatment ( black dye plating)

Black dyeing treatment

Black dyeing is a process in which the object is immersed in an alkaline aqueous solution to cause a chemical reaction, producing a black oxide film (Fe3O4) on the surface of the metal. When you think of black dyeing, you have the image of dyeing it black with paint, but this is not the case.It is a process that intentionally rusts the surface to prevent the rust from progressing any further.

Black dyeing produces a thin film, so it does not have very high corrosion resistance or rust prevention, but it also has the advantage of less dimensional changes due to plating and can be processed at low cost.

Main barbells that use black dyeing treatment:

Rogue Fitness The Ohio Bar

Ivanko OBX-20KG

 

5. Cerakote

Cerakote

Unlike the plating (metal) introduced earlier, Cerakote is a coating material whose main component is ceramic. American Barbell Co. was the first to use Cerakote for barbell surface treatment, and many manufacturers now sell Cerakote barbells.

It has very high corrosion resistance and rust resistance, and is characterized by its bright colors. On the other hand, there are reports that the surface treatment of some manufacturers is not so good that it peels off easily when rubbed on a J-cup or safety, so if you are concerned, it is best to check with the retailer before purchasing.

Main barbells that use Cerakote:

REP Fitness Colorado Bar

American Barbell California Bar

Rogue Fitness The Ohio Bar

 

6. No surface treatment

No surface treatment

The last item we will introduce is a barbell that has no surface treatment. Stainless steel barbells are particularly popular, and although they are more expensive than the types introduced above, they are resistant to rust and have a strong grip because they are not surface-treated. It is easy to maintain, so it is useful in commercial gyms that are used by a large number of people.

There are also untreated steel barbells called raw steel and bare steel. Although it is very susceptible to rust, it has the same grip as stainless steel, and all barbells used in the International Powerlifting Federation's world championships use raw steel shafts.

Main barbells without surface treatment:

REP Fitness Double Black Diamond Power Bar (Stainless Steel)

Rogue Fitness Ohio Power Bar (Stainless Steel)

Eleiko IPF Powerlifting Competition Bar (raw steel)

 

⑦Sleeve style and surface treatment

There are various types of sleeves, so choose the one that suits your purpose. Regarding sleeve styles, there are two main types: those with ribbing and those without ribbing (smooth sleeves).

Rib processing

Rib processing is the jagged processing in the sleeve as shown in the image above, which makes it difficult for the plate to slip on the sleeve. More and more barbells for weightlifting and crossfit use have this ribbed finish.

 

No ribbing

On the other hand, sleeves without ribbing are stress-free when replacing plates, so general trainees should choose this type.

As a side note, high-end models from American Barbell and REP Fitness are called smooth sleeves, but as you can see in the image below, they have very fine ribbing, which improves the sliding of the plates and makes a pleasant sound when you put them on and take them off.

 

Fine ribbing

 

Regarding the surface treatment of the sleeve, many barbells use hard chrome as shown in the image above. Because it is resistant to contact with metal and has good sliding properties, it is ideal for surface treatment of the sleeve part where plates are attached and detached.

Recently, there are sleeves that use stainless steel for the sleeve part, and although they are expensive, they are more resistant to rust than hard chrome, easy to maintain, and very comfortable.

There are other products on the market that try to differentiate themselves in terms of design, such as gold sleeves and black sleeves, but like the Cerakote introduced earlier, be careful of plating and painting that can easily peel off. In particular, the sleeve part experiences a lot of friction when attaching and detaching the plate, so unless you are particular about the design, it would be a good idea to choose a hard chrome or stainless steel sleeve.

 

⑧Sleeve rotation mechanism

Lastly, I would like to introduce the sleeve rotation mechanism.

As I mentioned at the beginning, the sleeve of the Olympic shaft has a built-in rotating mechanism called a bearing. Bearings are parts that help objects rotate by reducing friction, and are used in all kinds of mechanical products such as automobiles, aircraft, and home appliances.

Needle Bearing

In a barbell, the bearing protects the shaft part as an "axis", reduces friction with the sleeve, and plays the role of smooth rotation.

In sports that require fast, dynamic movements such as weightlifting, a barbell with smoother sleeve rotation is required.

Competitors in particular perform movements such as snatches, cleans, and jerks while wearing heavy plates, but if the sleeve does not rotate properly (strong friction), the shaft will rotate in the hands. Doing so may cause damage to your hands due to friction with the knurling.

Therefore, for weightlifting barbells, a smooth-rotating sleeve that uses needle bearings like the one shown in the image above is ideal.

On the other hand, in sports like powerlifting, the movement is linear and slow, so a smooth-rotating sleeve is not necessary. Particularly when the weight is high, unnecessary rotation of the plate can cause instability, so a sleeve with a moderate amount of resistance to rotation is preferred.

This is where a part called a bushing comes into play. A bushing is a type of bearing and has a simpler design as shown in the image below.

bushing

Bushings can be procured at a lower cost than bearings, so they are used in most barbells other than competition weightlifting bars (not limited to powerlifting competitions).

Bushings are made of various materials, and bronze bushings, composite bushings, and brass bushings are mainly used for Olympic shafts.

Manufacturers design barbells according to the intended use, so I don't think it is necessary for the user to take into account the details of the bushing material when selecting the material, but just knowing the existence of bearings and bushings can lead to mistaken usage. I think this will also prevent you from buying an Olympic shaft that doesn't suit you.

For your reference, I made a video showing the difference in sleeve rotation. The one on the far left is a multipurpose barbell with a composite bushing, the one on the right is a powerlifting barbell with a bronze bushing, and the one in the middle is a weightlifting barbell with needle bearings.

 

Recommended Olympic shafts

Based on the comparison points above, we will introduce recommended Olympic shafts. We deal with an American free weight equipment manufacturer called REP Fitness, and we are proud that our barbells are currently the most cost-effective products in the mid-range price range.

I think it varies depending on the purpose and budget, but please use this information to help you choose an Olympic shaft.

 

General trainees, athletes, body makeup contest competitors

First, general trainees, athletes, and body makeup contest competitors use it at home, such as a home gym or garage gym.

For those who want to keep costs down, we recommend the Delta Basic Bar.

Delta Basic Bar

This one weighs 20kg, has a 29mm shaft, and is a powerlifting spec, but it also has dual IPF and IWF markings, and its biggest appeal is the price of 29,900 yen including tax and shipping.

The tensile strength is 135K PSI, but the load capacity is set at 320kg, so most people should have no trouble adjusting the weight.

Since the surface treatment is bright chromate, it does not have the same rust prevention properties as hard chrome or stainless steel, but if it is only used by individuals, it can be used for a long time with regular maintenance.

If you have a certain budget and would like a higher quality barbell, we recommend the Black Diamond Power Bar, Double Black Diamond Power Bar, or Colorado Bar.

black diamond power bar

double black diamond power bar

Colorado bar 20kg

The Black Diamond Power Bar and the Double Black Diamond Power Bar are both powerlifting barbells with a 29mm shaft, so if you want to do exercises centered on the BIG3, I think it would be a good idea to choose between these two.

The difference between the two is the shape of the knurling on the shaft; the Black Diamond Power Bar has a volcano shape, and the Double Black Diamond Power Bar has a mountain shape. If you are looking for particularly strong grip, we recommend the Double Black Diamond Power Bar, but if you don't like knurls that sting your hands, we recommend the Black Diamond Power Bar.

On the other hand, the Colorado Bar is recommended for athletes and CrossFitters who also perform weightlifting events such as cleans. The Colorado Bar is a versatile bar with a 28.5mm shaft, making it a versatile barbell that can be used in any environment, including CrossFit, powerlifting, and weightlifting.

Colorado Bar also has a 15kg bar for women, so if you are a woman, please consider this as well.

Colorado bar 15kg

 

powerlifting athlete

For competitive powerlifters, we recommend Eleiko or Uesaka competition barbells if your budget allows. Nothing beats the barbell used in actual competition.

However, barbells that cost around 150,000 yen each may be on a tight budget for some people, so for those people we recommend REP Fitness' Black Diamond Power Bar and Double Black Diamond Power Bar.

black diamond power bar

double black diamond power bar

These stainless steel barbells start at around 60,000 yen, so I think it would be a good idea to use REP barbells for home training and do your full-scale competition training at a gym that has Eleiko or Uesaka barbells.

 

weightlifting athlete

For competitive weightlifters, I think the bigger challenge is finding a home or property where you can drop before using the barbell, but just like powerlifters, you can buy a competitive barbell as long as your budget allows . is recommended.

On the other hand, when it comes to barbells for training, we recommend the Colorado Bar and the Alpine Weightlifting Bar.

The Alpine weightlifting bar has a 28mm shaft, 91cm line, bearings and competition weightlifting specifications, and is also available in a 15kg bar for women. The Alpine has more flexibility than the Colorado bar, so it is recommended for serious weightlifting training.

Alpine weight lifting bar 20kg

Alpine weight lifting bar 15kg

 

For those in charge of commercial gyms, school facilities, sports teams, and hotels.

I think it would be a good idea for managers of commercial gyms, school facilities, sports teams, and hotels to consider the above and make a selection that suits the concept of the gym and the trends of the users.

For example, if you have a large gym with various types of users, it would be a good idea to have a multi-purpose Colorado bar as the main one, and at least a black diamond power bar for powerlifters. I think the same image can be applied to school facilities and hotels.

There are cases where sports teams have many weightlifting events, so in that case, I think it would be a good idea to have a Colorado bar as the main one, and at least an Alpine weightlifting bar.

Needless to say, gyms specializing in powerlifting and weightlifting can maintain the quality of their gym while reducing costs by keeping competition barbells as their main focus and having Colorado bars, black diamond power bars, and Alpine weightlifting bars for beginners. I think I can figure it out.

 

At the end

We have explained 8 comparison points to avoid failure when choosing an Olympic shaft.

If you have any questions about anything not explained in the article, please feel free to contact us via chat or contact form. We will suggest the most suitable barbell, including your budget.

Until the end Thank you for reading.

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