Standard Barbell vs Olympic Barbell for Home Gym: What’s the Better Option?


Two kinds of barbells are used in home gyms for lifting weights. Standard barbells are the most common, but there are also Olympic barbells. It is important to know what makes these two types of barbells distinct from each other and it’s important to know which one is the better option for your home gym.

What Type of Barbell Is Right for Your Home Gym?

Well, the answer to that is, it depends. The definitive answer doesn’t really exist because it depends on a number of factors. It depends on whether or not you want to be the next Arnold Schwarzenegger, or you just want to add a little muscle training to your workouts.

If you are trying to beef out to the max, then you want and need the Olympic barbells. If you just want to strengthen and tone, the standard barbells are what you’re after. Of course, you could start off with the standard barbells and change your mind and switch to Olympic barbells after you see how lifting weights can change your body for good. Start off with the differences between these two types of barbells, and then make your choice from there.

Comparing and Contrasting Olympic and Standard Barbells

Standard Barbells

Standard barbells vary all over the place. Some have different patterns of knurling, the center part of each barbell that allows you to rest it on your shoulders. Some are different thicknesses that cause the barbell by itself to weight all different weights.

Some have grips, and some have locking pins while others have weight clamps. Because standard barbells are not regulated, manufacturers can make them any thickness in diameter, although most are around an inch in diameter. Trying to select the right set of standard barbells takes a lot of trial and error.

Standard barbells are:

  • shorter than Olympic barbells; most are about 6 feet in length
  • much, much lighter than Olympic barbells, weighing in at 15 to 25 pounds each
  • can only hold 100-200 pounds of weights or weight plates, depending on the style of barbell you purchase
  • non-spinning weights that have weight clamps or bar pins to keep the weights in place– an ideal situation if you are lifting on the backs of your shoulders

For any beginning weightlifter to any intermediate weightlifter that does not intend to accrue Olympic level muscle mass, the standard barbells are the right choice for a home gym. They are also the right choice because they are shorter, lighter, and easier to store under a bed or in a closet.

Olympic Barbells

Olympic barbells are set to the standards required by the International Weightlifting Federation, which controls and sets regulations for Olympic weightlifters in competition. Every barbell for men is exactly the same length, thickness, weight, and composition. The same holds true for the women’s barbells, except that the women’s barbells are shorter in length and lighter in weight.

Women’s Olympic barbells are:

  • 33 pounds in weight
  • 6.6 feet long to accommodate the shorter “wingspan” women have
  • have a 2-inch sleeve diameter

Men’s Olympic barbells are:

  • 45 pounds in weight
  • 7.2 feet long
  • have a 2-inch sleeve diameter just like the women’s barbells

Additionally, both men’s and women’s Olympic barbells can hold up to 1,100 pounds of weights on the ends. The weights are allowed to spin in order to reduce the pressure on the joints and wrists of the lifter.

If you really want to get into weightlifting, and you haven’t lifted weights before at all, it may be a good idea just to start with the women’s barbell of 33 pounds with no weights on either end. Consistently lifting 33 pounds for a few weeks will help you build “base muscle” that you can turn into major muscle once you start adding weights or switch to the men’s Olympic barbell.

If you have lifted weights before and you want to take things to a whole new level, then start with the men’s Olympic barbell and gradually add five to ten pound weights on the ends. When it becomes too easy to lift the barbell and weights you have on there, add more weight in five to ten pound increments. Lifting too much weight too soon or too fast can cause muscles to tear and ligament and tendon damage that takes a long time to heal.

So, the Best Barbell for a Home Gym Is…?

Overall, you’re looking at standard barbells. They are easier to move, easier to pick up, easier to store somewhere in the house out of the way, and less likely to cause major injury if you accidentally drop one on your foot or trip over a barbell. The trick is getting a standard barbell with a diameter that is universal, meaning that you can use weights or weight plates on the same barbell because the weight plates or weights have the same diameter hole in the middle. These objects will easily slide over a standard barbell that has a universal barbell sleeve and diameter.

Remember that you can always start with standard barbells and work your way up. If you get to the point where you are lifting 200 pounds on your standard barbell and it’s just too easy to do reps, you can always buy an Olympic barbell and a few weights. Just keep in mind that it will be more difficult to store the Olympic barbell and weights in your home, even if you opt for the women’s Olympic barbell, which is slightly heavier and slightly longer than a standard barbell.

The best way to make a sound decision is from where you are at with weightlifting right now. Then go into a home gym equipment store and ask to try out the different barbells and weights to see what suits your current weightlifting and home gym needs best.

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