Judine St. Gerard, CPT, explains how this works. “Take, for example, the squat; you can start with bodyweight, but once you've mastered that and the body adapts, you'll want to [keep challenging yourself] to continue to see results and progress,” she says. “You could just increase the reps, but over time (once you get to 50+) it becomes pretty inefficient, depending on your goal and time constraints.”
In other words, you could squat forever using just your bodyweight and still not achieve the results you’d get in a far shorter amount of time simply (ha!) by hoisting a barbell in the air.
Now that you know why you'd want to use barbells, you might be wondering how heavy is a barbell right about now—not to mention which type (because yes, there are different ones) is would be an ideal addition to your home gym.
Below is everything you need to know about the various lifting bars you can buy—plus, a lil' explainer on weight plates so you can decide which fits into your regimen best.
An Olympic barbell weighs 20kg, or about 45 pounds, and is typically 7’2” long. This is the barbell you'd most likely work with at a gym as it's a fairly all-purpose, intermediate-to-advanced piece of equipment that can be used for a wide variety of exercises including squats, bench presses, and deadlifts—plus, CrossFit moves like the power clean or snatch.
This one is also known as a 15kg barbell and typically weighs, you guessed it, 15kg, or about 33 pounds, and is about 6’5” long. In addition to being lighter and shorter than a standard bell, the diameter of the bar is also smaller, making it easier to hold. Women’s barbells can be useful for beginners who need to work up their grip strength and polish their form. They’re also great for engaging in exercises such as curls or bent over rows.
These bars weigh about 15 pounds, and St. Gerard says they’re typically utilized for learning complicated Olympic movements like the barbell clean, snatch, or overhead squat.
This category of barbells, which includes the safety squat barbell, trap barbell, and Swiss/multi-grip barbell, is designed to help to prevent injury and therefore can be handy when your workout lacks oversight from a professional or you’re recovering from muscle problems, says St. Gerard.
They're also ideal for more advanced lifters since they're heavier to begin with than the other barbells above in most cases. For example, a safety squat barbell typically weighs 60 to 70 pounds, and has bars that curve at the end to position the weights closer to the ground for easier balance. These bars also have a padded section that sits on the shoulders to reduce stress to that area as well as the elbows and wrists. This design also pushes more work into your quads while reducing the load on your lower back.
The trap or hex barbell can also reduce stress to your back and shoulders. It’s shaped like a diamond, which allows the lifter to stand in the middle of the weight, ensuring better (and therefore safer) form. Trap/hex bars vary in weight, and can be anywhere from 25 to 70 pounds. They can be used for deadlifts, rows, squats, and more.
The Swiss or multi-grip barbell also features a unique shape. It’s designed with a ladder at its center, which offers a number of different grip variations. This can make lifting safer on the shoulders. It weighs between 35 and 55 pounds and is most often used for bench presses and other overhead exercises.
EZ barbells and Tricep Barbells
Other specialty bars are used to isolate specific muscle groups. EZ barbells, for example, are designed with a W shape in the middle of the bar and are primarily used to work the biceps. They weigh about 20 to 40 pounds and are shorter than standard bells.
A tricep barbell, meanwhile, is designed with a rectangle in the middle with two grips that allow for a more narrow hold on the bell. As you may have guessed, they specifically work the triceps and usually weigh anywhere between 20 and 40 pounds.
What To Look For In Weight Plates
Now that you (hopefully) have a better idea of what type of bell could work best for you, it’s time to exert yourself into decision fatigue by considering weight plate types, too.
Just kidding; actually, plates are relatively uncomplicated. St. Gerard says they can be found in a wide variety of sizes offered at 5 to 10 pound increments. In other words, they’re available at 10 lbs, 15 lbs, and so on up to 55 pounds, usually.
Plates do come in a variety of materials, however. You might be used to seeing iron or steel round plates that vary in diameter in accordance with their weight. Similar plates may be made from plastic, too. These are the 100-level of weight plates, the kind of thing you might find at your parents’ house, and they’re totally fine for most purposes. Typically, says St. Gerard, chain gyms tend to opt instead for rubber-coated weights, which are quieter and more durable than their non-coated counterparts but are otherwise similar.
In CrossFit gyms and other serious weightlifting venues, however, you might instead find standard Olympic plates. These are also known as bumper plates and are uniform in diameter but vary in terms of thickness. “Often you'll find them [measured] in kilograms, especially in the weightlifting/powerlifting setting or out of the country,” she explains. The benefit to standard Olympic plates is that they protect bars dropped from great heights with a lot of force from breaking, which is why they’re utilized by the hardcore lifters.