This question crops up a lot in our stores and via Live Chat on our website… so just what is the difference between Olympic and standard weights? And why do you need to know? Well, whether you’re looking to buy some weights for the first time, or want to add to your existing collection, you want to buy what’s right for you, and want to avoid making any purchasing blunders. So, read on for everything you need to know…
As their name perhaps suggests, standard weights are ideal for many people, typically anyone who isn’t looking for massive gains as part of their body building goals. Olympic weights, on the other hand, offer a higher weight capacity and are therefore ideal for those who have progressed beyond the capabilities of standard weights.
THE PHYSICAL DIFFERENCES
If you place a standard and an Olympic bar side by side, you’ll be able to tell the difference as Olympic bars have thicker ends, where you put the weight plates.
Standard weight plates and bars: Bars are 1” in diameter on the ends and the middle shaft. They are made to take standard weight plates, which have a 1”/25mm diameter hole. This means they fit snugly and will not wobble about. A standard bar will typically have a limited weight capacity.
Olympic weight plates and bars: Bars are just under 2” in diameter (1” 31/32 to be exact, or 55mm) on the ends. They are made to take Olympic weight plates, which have holes just under 2”/55mm in diameter.
You don’t want to buy standard weights and an Olympic bar, or vice versa as the weight plates won’t fit the bar. And that’s just plain annoying. It’s worth knowing that, although you can buy adaptor sleeves to transform standard into Olympic or vice versa, this is for static machines such as leg developers. They cannot be used on bars.
THE PERFORMANCE DIFFERENCES
Advantages of standard bars and weights
- Standard bars are lightweight in comparison to Olympic. This is great if you’re starting out, or if you don’t plan to train too heavy. (However, you can buy lighter weight Olympic bars too).
- Standard bars tend to be cheaper, and understandably given their lower maximum weight capacity.
Advantages of Olympic bars and weights
- Bars can withstand a whopping maximum weight load of 750kg. Although they may bend under a heavy load, they will return to straight.
- Olympic weight plates are available in heavier sizes, ranging from 1.25kg, right up to 50kg.
- Many Olympic weights are precision-tested. Basically, this means the accuracy of weight is very close; the accuracy of standard plates, especially cheaper ones, can fluctuate. However, this can be avoided, as long as you choose good quality products from trusted brands.
- Olympic bars are far more stable than standard bars when loading weights. This is due to their added thickness. This makes plate loading far safer and convenient.
- Olympic bars usually have rotating ends. This allows for a smoother lift so the bar can spin inside the weight. This helps reduce strain and injury. It also reduces torque on the bar in certain lifts where the bar needs to rotate quickly.
If you’re unsure what to buy, here are our recommendations:
The 5-star rated Body Power Solid Spinlock 7ft Standard Bar is our number one choice. A 150kg weight capacity, more flexibility due to its extended length and incredible durability. Team with the Body Power Rubber Encased Tri Grip weight plates, which offer commercial-grade toughness, easier handling and protective rubber to save the floors and your ears!
More affordable alternative: The Body Power Solid Spinlock 6ft Standard Bar is slightly less expensive but just as solid. 6ft in length, it takes up less space and still delivers the quality you need. The Body Power cast Iron Standard weight plates are commercial grade and best-sellers!
If you’re looking for a combination of bars and weights, we’d recommend checking out our Standard Weight Sets. We recommend the Body Power 72kg 7ft Tri-Grip Spinlock Set or the Body Power 72kg 7ft Spinlock Set. Both are exceptional, the only difference being the design of the plates.
The Body Power Prestige Olympic Bar is as robust as it gets. One of our most popular bars, it offers a maximum weight capacity of 700kg and superior build quality. The Body Power Solid Rubber Olympic Discs are the ideal complement.
More affordable alternative: Try the Body Power 7ft Olympic Bar. Featuring commercial build, it’s a solid 5* reviewed product by our customers but has a lower weight capacity of 320kg. The Body Power Tri-grip Cast Iron Plates do not have the rubber encasing but the tri-grip design makes for easier handling.
Remember, you can mix and match the above, but don’t forget that standard bars will only take standard plates and Olympic will only take Olympic weights.
Similarly, you can once again opt for an Olympic Weight Set if you’re hoping to stock up on a selection of weights plus a bar. We recommend the Body Power 160kg Deluxe Rubber/Chrome Olympic Set or the Body Power 145kg Rubber Encased Tri-Grip Olympic Set. Or, for under £200, you could opt for our hugely popular Body Power 100kg Tri-Grip Olympic Weight Set.
CHOOSE WHAT’S RIGHT FOR YOU
Anyone just starting out in weightlifting should start with standard weights and bars. And for many, standard strength equipment will be enough; you won’t ever need to upgrade to Olympic. Even if your aim is to get like Arnie in his Terminator days, it is important to build your strength over time. Using heavy weights could result in injury. Just like a newbie runner would never be encouraged to try a 10k run without training, the same goes for weightlifting. If you want to lift for a long time and continually build power, you will likely need to upgrade to Olympic. This is definitely the case if you have competition goals. Remember, you can always stop by one of our 11 UK showrooms for a chat with one of our friendly sales advisors.