Mid-Width Vs. Full Bench Press Bars
The barbell is a cornerstone of many strength training and bodybuilding movements, and it can be utilized in various ways to target different muscle groups that dumbbells can not.
The main upper body movements for the barbell are the different bench press variations that can be performed, with each achieving a certain range of motion to target specific parts of the pec.
These barbell bench press variations include:
- Barbell flat bench press
- Barbell incline bench press
- Close grip bench press
- Wide grip bench press
In addition to the bench press variations, other upper body exercises that use the barbell include shoulder overhead presses, bicep curls, and narrow-grip bench presses to target the triceps. Perhaps the most popular lower body muscle activity with the barbell is the deadlift.
Before jumping into these movements, it is important to know the basics about the barbell, including the fact that there are two different types of bars that are found in weightlifting: mid-width barbells and full-length barbells. The full-length barbells are also called Olympic bars because they are used in Olympic powerlifting and body strength competitions.
The two biggest differences have to do with the amount of weight that the different types of bars can withhold:
- Olympic bars in commercial gyms can usually bear as much as 500 pounds (competition-grade bars may bear up to 1,000 pounds) and are longer in length when compared to mid-width bars, allowing for different grip widths and shoulder widths for different movements
- The typical mid-width weight training bar's capacity is usually 200 pounds
The Olympic Barbell
As previously noted, the Olympic barbell used in weightlifting is longer and heavier than mid-width barbells or those made for home use. The specifications are somewhat different for men and women, though most Olympic barbells found in gyms are most likely to be made to men's specifications.
According to the IFA, the men's barbell is 2,200 millimeters or just over 7 feet long and weighs 20 kilograms, or about 45 pounds. The center of the bar is 1,310 mm long (about 55 inches) and the end sleeves at each end where the weight plates fit are about 415 millimeters or about 16 inches and a bit thicker in diameter than the center of the bar, which is about an inch in diameter.
The women's version is slightly lighter and smaller, weighing in at about 15 kilograms or 33 pounds, and is 2,010 millimeters, or 79 inches in length. The center of the bar is 1,310 millimeters or 51 inches in length and the sleeves are 320 millimeters or 12.5 inches. The women's bar is a tad smaller than an inch in diameter.
Most gyms usually provide standard Olympic bars in bench press and squat racks.
Barbells are a cornerstone of most gym workouts.
Because mid-width weight lifting bars are designed mainly for home gyms, their specifications aren't standardized the way Olympic bars are. They're usually 6 feet long but may be as short as 5 feet, and their weight can vary from one manufacturer to the next.
Their considerably lighter weight probably won't contribute much to the load you press, but their significantly lower price won't bear down on your wallet so much either. For a basic fitness-driven workout, quality mid-width barbells may be easier to manage for the beginner and less-ambitious lifter. Group classes including RIP and BodyPump use these mid-width -- sometimes called "standard bars”.
Martin Booe writes about health, wellness and the blues. His byline has appeared in the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times and Bon Appetit. He lives in Los Angeles.