The choice of a versatile & necessary gym accessory like a barbell for your gym is a difficult one to make. The achievement of the training goals of the gym members depends on your decision.
Commercial-grade barbells are an investment. Hundreds & thousands of people use them daily over the course of years.
It is rare for new gym owners to know everything about buying long-lasting barbells. Even experienced buyers can make mistakes.
The goal of this article is to provide you with all the relevant information about commercial barbells.
It will help you make an informed choice. At the end of it, you will know more about:
- The various types of commercial-grade barbells
- The differences between Olympic, deadlifting, & powerlifting barbells
- The construction materials for different barbell types
Yanre Fitness has more than ten years of experience in the Chinese fitness equipment industry. It puts us in a unique position to guide potential & regular clients like gym owners & fitness equipment buyers.
This article is a summary of all our knowledge about the ultimate barbell buying tips for you.
We have put together all the latest information by consulting more than ten factories & countless workers who have firsthand knowledge of barbells.
It makes this article the most thorough buyer’s guide for commercial barbells available on the internet!
(Note: Commercial barbells have many names, like weightlifting bars, Olympic bars, etc. For the sake of consistency, we will call them barbells throughout this article.)
Table of Contents
Barbell Manufacturing Industry Hub
The barbell manufacturing hub in China is in Hebei, Nantong, Qingdao, & Tianjin. In the Hebei area, barbells are available for sale in the Zhejiang Yiwu gym equipment wholesale market.
Though, the manufacturing quality in this region leaves a lot to be desired.
The staple materials for the barbell construction are not heat-treated properly. The quality of the nickel plating is not good either. The result is mediocre & low-cost barbells with a coarse texture.
According to the yearly sales stats, the sale of premium barbells is between 200,000 to 300,000 all over the world.
Around 80,000 of these are from the manufacturing hubs in China. The factories making premium quality barbells are mostly in Qingdao, Tianjin, & Nantong regions.
Companies in this region have the same suppliers for the staple materials for barbell construction. Some, like Zhang Kong & DHS sport, make competition-grade barbells, as well.
Classification Of Barbells
User-based Barbell Types
There are three types of user-based barbell types. These include:
- Women’s Barbells
- Men’s Barbells
- Junior Barbells
Women’s Barbells: (APPROXIMATE SPECIFICATIONS)
- Total length: 20.1 Meters
- Total diameter: 25 Millimeters
- Total Weight: 15 kilograms
- Central Knurling: Present
Men’s Barbells: (APPROXIMATE SPECIFICATIONS)
- Total length: 2.2 Meters
- Total diameter: 28 Millimeters
- Total Weight: 20 Kilograms
- Central Knurling: Present
Junior Barbells: (APPROXIMATE SPECIFICATIONS)
Keep in mind that barbells from different manufacturers may vary in approximate length. Though, the sleeve-to-sleeve distance is the same to continue the right grip practice.
- Total length: 1.7 Meters
- Total diameter: 25 Millimeters
- Total weight: 10 Kilograms
- Central knurling: Not present
Function-based Barbell Types
Barbells vary on the basis of function, as well. Like:
- Olympic or Weightlifting Barbells
- Powerlifting Barbells
- Deadlifting Barbells
- Squat Barbells
- Multipurpose Barbells
Olympic or Weightlifting Barbells
The purpose for creating these barbells was Olympic events. Almost all commercial gyms use these commonly as plate loaded barbells.
Two things should be kept in mind for weightlifting barbells:
- A good amount of whip
- A rotating barbell sleeve
The whip is the bounce level for the barbell once the user stops moving & the barbell itself is still in motion.
A rotating sleeve prevents undue pressure or stress on the wrist joint, thus, preventing injuries.
Both men’s barbells & women’s barbells have particular dimensions & knurl patterns as previously mentioned.
A powerlifting bar is 2.2 meters long & has a central knurl pattern. The standard diameter is 29 millimeters.
It is denser & sturdier than Olympic barbells, which means that it is very resistant to bending. It, in turn, prevents any whip.
The knurl pattern on these barbells is more pronounced, as well. It ensures that there is an increased grip feel.
The specifications for powerlifting barbells are as follows:
- Total length: 2.2 Meters
- Total diameter: 29 Millimeters
- Total weight: 20 Kilograms
- Central knurling: Present
This type of barbell has a more pronounced knurl pattern on the outside. It ensures an enhanced grip feeling.
Deadlifting barbells are longer & somewhat thin compared to standard barbells. The shaft of the deadlifting barbells is on the softer side. It means that there is a higher weight or load capacity.
More weight plates are loadable on a deadlifting barbell due to its longer length. Both whip & rotation have no direct bearing on the quality of a deadlifting barbell.
The specifications for a deadlifting bar are as follows:
- Total length: 2.3 Meters
- Total diameter: 27 Millimeters
- Total weight: 20 Kilograms
- Central knurling: Not present
These barbells are specific to doing squats. The central knurl pattern ensures that the bar stays firmly on the Traps without any slipping or sliding.
Compared to other barbells, a squat bar can tolerate a higher weight capacity. The long length of the sleeve is loadable with more weight plates, as well.
Squat barbells are similar to powerlifting barbells in that they do not have any whip & rotation.
The specifications for squat barbells are as follows:
- Total length: 2.4 Meters
- Total diameter: 32 Millimeters
- Total weight: 25 Kilograms
- Central Knurling: Present
Multipurpose barbells have the advantages of both weightlifting & powerlifting barbells. The knurl pattern supports more than one function.
To make these barbells safer rotation, & whip are kept at a minimum. There is no central knurling either.
The adaptability of these barbells ensures that they are much less expensive comparatively.
The specifications of multipurpose barbells are as follows:
- Total length: 2.2 Meters
- Total diameter: 28 to 29 Millimeters
- Total weight: 20 Kilogram
- Central Knurling: Mostly not present
Parts of a Barbell
There are two main parts to a barbell:
- Barbell Sleeve
- Barbell Shaft
The part of the barbell on the outer end is the sleeve. Its purpose is to load weight plates. It has two key factors:
The length of the sleeve decides the weight capacity of the barbell. The structure of the sleeve is responsible for its rotation.
The bushing of a barbell has the shaft on one side & the sleeve on the other side.
Bushings ensure flawless & frictionless rotation after the sleeve is loaded with weight plates.
There are three kinds of bushings:
- Typical Bushing
- Oilite Bushing
- Composite Bushing
Most barbells have this type of bushings. The low friction from typical bushings helps in making the barbells long-lasting.
Bushings are much more cost-effective as compared to bearings.
A typical bushing has a cylinder-like tube, right in the middle of the shaft & the sleeve. It decreases the level of friction. These use bronze or brass as material & lubricate themselves, as well.
A few premium quality barbells use Oilite bushings. These contain oil. This kind of bushing is from the United States & uses porous bronze for construction.
The pores ensure the greasing of the sleeve as it rotates.
Compared to typical bushings, Oilite bushings are more hardwearing, low-cost, & perform better, as well.
These have sturdy plastic construction. Composite bushings have better durability than bronze bushings.
The rotation speed is more constant compared to Oilite bushings.
Bearings make the rotation of the barbell sleeve steady, flawless, & with a low noise level. They deliver a trustworthy performance with a high weight load.
Competitive weightlifters prefer to use barbells with bearings due to this reason.
Three kinds of barbell bearings are available in the market. Such as:
- Ball Bearings
- Thrust Bearings
- Needle Bearings
Bearings are not visible from the outside. They sit between the shaft & the sleeve of the barbell. The purpose of bearings is to decrease the friction level of the barbell during use & make the rotation of the barbell smooth & low friction.
Based on the average price, needle bearings cost more than the other two types. Though, ball bearings are louder during use, comparatively.
On average, barbells have anywhere from 8 to 10 bearings. The number of bearings usually equates to a smoother rotation of the shaft.
However, Yanre Fitness barbells can produce the same smoothness with fewer bearings. It is done by using quality & commercial-grade bearings together with a complimenting lubricant.
This combination ensures a more flawless rotation compared to a large number of bearings. Even two premium-quality bearings will produce a superior rotation to 10 low-level bearings.
The width & the load capacity differs between different types of bearings. It stands to reason that barbell bearings without a load rotate much easier than loaded ones.
Though, the speed of the rotation, more or less, remains the same regardless.
Bearings of higher load capacity last longer, as well.
A barbell sleeve with sturdy bearings is long-lasting & rotates faster, unlike ones with weak bearings. The rotation is slow without any load, though it becomes flawless & smooth at its maximum load capacity.
It is because there is barely any distance between the barbell sleeve & the bearing needles.
The ability of the sleeve to rotate is the main feature of Olympic barbells. It is one of those things that you should look at in person.
If that is not possible, then at least take a look at the video clip of the rotation. Confirm that the shaft rotates flawlessly without any resistance & comes to a halt slowly.
A sudden stop is not a good indication.
Design of the Barbell Sleeve
The design of the sleeve is the method of attaching it to the barbell. There are three ways of doing it.
- Snap Ring Method
- End Cap Method
- Hex Bolt Method
The first two are the ideal sleeve designs. You can choose either one. Hex bolt design is not advisable as it’s unsafe.
There is a chance that the screws may loosen with time & use, making the sleeve prone to falling off during a rotation.
Mediocre barbells come with a hex bolt sleeve design most of the time.
The things to know about the barbell shaft are its construction, knurling, & finish.
Steel is the most common material for the construction of barbells. It comes in various forms.
The stability & longevity of the barbell depends on the kind of steel. Premium-quality barbells have a stainless-steel construction.
The forms of steel for the construction of commercial-grade barbells include:
- A3 steel
- 45 steel
- Alloy steel
- High-end spring steel
- Low-end spring steel
High-end spring steel is the material for the construction of Olympic or weightlifting barbells.
- A 20 Kilogram men’s barbell must have central knurling
Though, a 15 Kilogram women’s barbell is exempt from this rule by IWF.
The shaft of a standard weightlifting barbell is 131-centimeters long. Most of the barbell shaft has knurling.
Other than the 15-centimeter areas at both ends & the 5 mm rings/marks that are smooth.
The depth of knurling is a key factor to consider. Usually, it ranges from 0.35 to 0.50 millimeters.
In a way, knurling is like sandpaper. It comes in a variety of thicknesses & grades.
Premium-quality barbells try to pull off a balance between positive (too much) & negative (too little) knurling. Too little knurl depth makes it difficult to have a secure grip on the barbell.
A very pronounced knurl pattern is prone to scratching or even cutting the skin of the palm.
Commercial gyms tend to stock up on neutral knurl depths, as most customers are not into powerlifting.
A better practice is to provide some barbells with a pronounced knurl pattern for any professional weightlifters or powerlifters in the gym.
The new trend for commercial barbells is to have a knurl pattern at the borders. The design looks great & gives the barbells a professional finish.
Most barbell manufactures advertise it as a mark of quality when it is anything but that.
Cutting into the steel to make these borders compromises its structure, thus decreasing the lifespan of the barbell.
The higher the tensile strength of the steel, the higher is the risk of damage.
Kinds of Knurling
There are three kinds of knurl patterns available:
- Sharp Diamond Projections
- Flat Diamond
- Concave Diamond
Sharp diamond projections: These are small & protruding. They jam into the skin to provide a secure grip.
The rough texture of this knurl pattern can cause skin abrasions as the barbell rotates in the palm.
It also makes it likelier for the barbell to be closer to the user while deadlifting, increasing the risk of contact with the shins.
Flat Diamond Knurl: The flat diamond shape is much less pronounced than the sharp diamond projections. It is much less harsh on the skin of the palms & shins.
Though, the grip is less secure due to less friction.
Concave Diamond Knurl: This kind of knurl pattern is the most preferred of all types.
The concave diamond shape allows the palms to wedge in deeper thus, increasing both the contact surface & the friction. It promotes a comfortable grip.
This pattern is also not as sharp & prevents abrasions of the skin during use, as well.
A finish is a coat on top of the shaft & sleeve. It protects the barbell from environmental damage.
Commercial barbells have the option of ten different types of finish. These include:
Bare steel barbells are prone to rust & oxidation. Although the new ones look & feel very professional, they lose their luster quickly.
With proper maintenance & care, all of this damage is avoidable.
Wipe the sweat & moisture from the bar after every use. Coating it with oil & storing it in a dry, safe place will prevent rusting or corrosion.
A well-maintained bare steel barbell gets a bronze/gray glossy finish over time. It provides a firm & steady grip.
A black oxidation finish promises the feel of bare steel with extra protection from rust & corrosion. Its effect against oxidation leaves much to be desired, though.
For complete protection from oxidation, there is still a need for supportive maintenance like wiping with a dry cloth, oiling, proper storage.
Black Manganate Phosphating
As the name suggests, this finish gives a black color to the barbell. The oxidation protection, in this case, is a bit better than the black oxidation finish.
Unlike a traditional finish, black manganate phosphating is a chemical reaction that turns the steel black in color.
There is no danger of it peeling off.
The finish is not scratch-resistant, though & it requires further maintenance.
There are many advantages to a black zinc finish. It has a polished look to it & makes the barbell almost waterproof, preventing oxidation.
It also provides more resistance to steel construction.
It is not entirely free of cons, though.
Black zinc finish tends to wear out quickly. The black color can turn green with time. There is also the danger of it becoming smooth & slippery with prolonged use.
To avoid all this, a black zinc finish requires proper care & maintenance.
A hard chrome finish has two forms:
- Polished hard chrome
- Satin hard chrome
It is a premium-quality, hardwearing, & costly finish that is the industry standard for competition-grade barbells.
A hard chrome finish has a slippery feel to it. The knurling on commercial barbells makes up for it, though.
Hard chrome is a type of industrial paint. It reinforces the barbells & adds to the tensile strength. With a hard chrome finish, a barbell may have a lifespan of over twenty years.
This type of finish is not scratch-resistant. Small scratches can occur when loading the barbell. The good news is that it is such a thick finish that these imperfections are barely noticeable.
Also, it is better to avoid a hard chrome finish in case of an aggressive knurl pattern because its thickness may alter the texture of the knurl.
It is a faux chrome finish on mediocre barbells. It can break or peel off easily. Decorative chrome is not rust-proof either.
It will break if the barbell bends under a heavy load.
This type of finish is similar to the one on car bumpers.
Nickel plating is not a durable finish & peels off easily. One advantage is that it gives the barbell an appearance of class & quality.
Therefore, it is mostly seen on mediocre & low-quality barbells.
Bright zinc is an affordable replacement for hard chrome. It can either have a shiny look to it or a matte one.
It provides an appropriate level of protection from rust, corrosion, & oxidation in high moisture environments.
It is a sacrificial finish that will oxidize itself over time without any damage to the underlying steel. With use, it loses its shine, turns gray, & eventually bronze.
Each barbell with a bright zinc coating has a different color depending on the duration of use.
A cerakote is an expensive finish. It is a type of ceramic coating for metals, plastic, wood, etc. It is very long-lasting, hardwearing, & protective against oxidation.
E-coat stands for electronic coating. The automobile companies first made use of this finish due to its environmentally friendly properties.
It is free of harmful air pollutants (HAPS) & volatile organic compounds (VOHS).
The benefits of an e-coat include:
- Firm adhesion to the underlying steel
- High resistance to oxidation
- Aesthetic appearance (superior to a black zinc finish)
- Ages better than most other types of finishes (except cerakote)
All the barbells at Yanre Fitness have a hard chrome finish, making them competition level. The finish will last for 12-months or more.
Ask the manufacturer in detail about the finish before placing your wholesale barbell order.
Physical Properties of Barbells
How well a particular barbell performs depends on its steel construction. Three variables decide the quality of steel:
- Yield Strength or Maximum Load Capacity
- Tensile Strength
Yield Strength or Maximum Load Capacity
It is the maximum strength or load that will make the barbell yield or bend under pressure. The simplest way to test for it is to keep adding weight to both ends of the bar until it bends.
It is a rough method to test the approximate load capacity of a barbell. In other words, yield capacity decides the maximum load a barbell can tolerate in theory.
There are other variables at work that decide the exact maximum load capacity of a barbell.
One of which is the sleeve length. The longer the sleeve length, the more weight plates a barbell can accommodate.
Weight plates vary in shape & size too. Powerlifting weight plates are thinner & more of them can go on a barbell sleeve.
Weightlifting plates are thicker & require more space.
It is not advisable to use all of the load capacity of a barbell. For safe commercial use of a barbell only avail a quarter of the maximum load capacity.
The breaking point of a barbell is known as its tensile strength. Unlike yield strength, tensile strength is calculated in real-time. Hence, it is a more exact measure of the barbell’s breaking point.
The unit for tensile strength is PSI. It stands for pounds/Square inch of pressure.
Most international barbells use this unit of measurement. Different users can choose barbells suitable to their needs based on tensile strength:
|BARBELL TENSILE STRENGTH||USER’S LEVEL OF EXPERTISE|
|New users / Regular gym use|
Premium, durable barbells
150,000 to 180,000 PSI > 180,000 PSI
The barbells at Yanre Fitness have a PSI in the range of 170,000 to 200,000 or above.
The whip is the measure of a barbell’s ability to bend. It protects the body from injury when the barbell is in use.
More whip is not a good thing. It is a misleading claim spread by manufacturers of low-quality barbells to sell their products.
Some elasticity is necessary for weightlifting barbells, but that is not to say that the more elastic a barbell is, the better it will perform.
An Olympic event includes three actions: Clean, jerk, & snatch.
The whip of the barbell allows the lifter to use the forward motion to transition to the jerk & snatch movement.
Powerlifters need more stability & rigidity from their barbells. So, it results in a minimum amount of whip.
Four things affect the whip of a barbell:
- Weight load
Weight load: The higher the weight load, the more whip it will produce in the barbell.
Construction: Some materials are prone to causing more whip in the barbell. Molybdenum alloy is one such material. The higher the level of molybdenum, the higher will be the whip of the barbell.
Barbells of steel (without heat treatment) will produce more whip, as well.
Carbon steel, on the other hand, produces the least amount of whip.
Diameter: The more the diameter of the barbell, the less whip it will produce. Two barbells with the same construction but diameters thicknesses have different amounts of the whip.
Processing: Treatments like cold rolling, etc., will affect the level of the whip in a barbell.
To estimate the whip when buying barbells, look at its diameter, construction, and read online reviews & comments.
Checklist for Barbell Manufacturing
- Compare the dimensions & construction materials with the actual barbell.
- Confirm the quality of the finish & that it is aesthetically pleasing.
- Check for the sleeve fixation method. Make sure that it is either a snap ring or end cap. The Hex bolt method is not very secure.
- Check the rotation of the sleeve. Rotate it by hand. It should be coordinated, flawless, & smooth. The higher the number of turns, the better the manufacturing.
- The tolerance between the standard & actual weight should be small. The weight tolerance for each part of the barbell is as follows:
Choosing weightlifting barbells for your gym is not straightforward. To make the process easier & more streamlined, we have put together this article for you.
It contains all the relevant information about barbell manufacturing & processing.
Hopefully, it will help you make the correct choice for your commercial gym or fitness business.
Visit Yanrestrength.com to have a closer look at our versatile range of barbells. You may just find what you are looking for.
Contact us & ask for a quote now!