What Length Barbell Do I Need?
Not everyone is 6'4″ tall with long arms that easily use nearly any barbell length. Many of us are all sorts of heights with different arm lengths, and choosing the best barbell size matters.
There are standard and Olympic barbells, both of which offer varying lengths to work with. Mostly, it's about personal preference, though most veteran weightlifters will strongly recommend a 7′ Olympic barbell.
So, tall, short, and everywhere in between, getting the barbell size right matters. Fortunately, it's pretty easy to do.
Manufacturers like EZ Bars, Rep Fitness, and Rogue Fitness produce various barbell sizes, some of which may be right up your alley.
That doesn't mean for you skip through the door and purchase a 7′ barbell because it's recommended. However, if a 7′ barbell is difficult to handle, you have better options.
So what length barbell do I need after all?
Which Barbell Length is the Best Overall?
As mentioned above, most veteran weightlifters and bodybuilders will recommend an Olympic 7′ barbell. Now, 7′ is a bit of a misnomer because both 51″ and 52″ barbells are considered 7′ barbells.
This does not include the length of the sleeves. So keep that in mind while deciding which size is best for you.
The reason it's so popular is, despite its size and length, it's the most versatile barbell of the bunch. It's great for bench pressing, squats, powerlifting, curls, bent-over rows, and more.
When it comes to longer barbells, it's more about grip and versatility than the length of the barbell.
The reasoning behind a 7′ Olympic barbell is that it doesn't matter how tall you are.
You can still get a pretty good spread on your hand placement, and the exercises you get out of a long, Olympic barbell aren't affected by arm length and height.
What is the Best Barbell Length for Women?
Most women heartily recommend the Rep Fitness Excalibur Barbell or the Rogue Fitness Bella Bar (both designed for women).
They come in either 15kg or 20kg weights, have excellent spin, and have deep knurling for better grip. The total length (including the sleeves) of the 15kg bar is 79,” and the 20kg bar is 86.6″.
A standard Olympic barbell they have quite a few features, including hybrid bearing and bushing sleeves, along with dual knurl markings.
So it helps with getting your grip perfectly aligned.
The knurling is also designed for longevity and plenty of use.
The Excalibur barbell, according to Rep, is enough to establish exceptional grip but not so much that it feels like you ran your palms under a rotary sander.
See my article about why barbells spin to learn what bearing and bushing sleeves do to improve your workout performance and safety.
Are Long or Short Barbells Better?
It matters insofar as consistency matters. It also matters based on exercise. For instance, a 7′ barbell probably isn't the barbell of choice for skull crushers.
Likewise, a 5′ barbell is probably not the best choice for bench pressing.
Also, consistency matters.
Lift in the kind of gym where the barbells are from different manufacturers; some are inches shorter or longer than others. You'll find yourself lifting with one barbell one day and an entirely different one the next.
Those slight differences matter when you're slinging around weight heavy enough to limit you to 3 sets of 8. In addition, specific exercises require a wider grip than others.
And smaller barbells are better for taxing your muscles simply because the weight is more centralized, allowing balance and form to take precedence over weight.
Plus, with shorter bars, you have to get a closer grip, which makes them harder to lift than longer bars. So that's another thing that makes a big difference with specific exercises.
What are the Standard Barbell Lengths?
Standard barbells come in three, sometimes flour, lengths. For the most part, they are 5′, 6′, and 7′ in size. Occasionally, you will see one that is 6'6″ thrown in between the 6′ and 7′ lengths.
Barbell Length Chart
|Bench Press||86”/218.44cm||44 lbs||2”|
|Overhead Press||86”/218.44cm||44 lbs||2”|
|Deadlifts||86”/218.44cm||44 to 100 lbs||2”|
|Powerlifts||86”/218.44cm||44 to 100 lbs||2”|
|Crossfit||84” (Common) Also from 48” to 72”||11 lbs to 60lbs||2”|
|Standard||60”/152.4cm to 84”/213.36||33 lbs to 40 lbs||1”|
How to Choose the Best Barbell Length for You?
When working out from home, perhaps in your garage, you have more leeway in choosing the barbells that fit your style and comfort the most.
However, working out at a gym means you get what you can get your hands on.
Most people want to use what's best for them, so you should consider a few things before tossing cash or credit cards across the counter.
- Your height and stature
- Types of exercise
- Level of dedication
- Weight loss or bulking
- Comfort level
Your height and stature matter. If you are 5′ 2″, a full-size Olympic bar may be too much for you to balance for certain exercises. It should be relegated to the squat and powerlifting racks—perhaps the bench for bench pressing.
However, if you like to jump over to hammer curls, looking to make your biceps peak, tricep bars work great since they have two vertical hand grips.
Olympic Barbells are going to cover most of your basic exercises for large muscle groups, but if you have a kiddo who is interested in weightlifting, you should invest in a standard barbell to get them started.
If you're losing weight, your weightlifting will focus on lots of reps and sets. That calls for lighter-weight bars as well.
Plus, your comfort level matters. Not comfort in terms of lifting—pain is part of the process. What we mean is comfort level in terms of form and efficiency.
Best Barbell Lengths for Squats, Deadlifts, and Bench Press
The standard, full-size Olympic bar is best for all three of these.
Large muscle groups with a standard, wide-open routine take advantage of a sizeable Olympic bar. While you don't need the 86.6″, 44 lb version, it's not like the other variations differ much.
Mostly, these long bars will be 86″ in length, with 2″ sleeves, and will weigh upwards of 44 lbs.
As we mentioned in the beginning, the Olympic bar is one of the most versatile, especially for large muscle groups.
Why Are There Different Barbell Lengths?
They have different lengths, so you have better options for specific exercises. While you can certainly do it, curling with an Olympic bar isn't as reasonable as curling with a 48″ bar.
The tricep bar we mentioned above is far more convenient when doing skull crushers than an Olympic or standard barbell.
Younger generations just embarking on their own weightlifting adventure should start with standard 1″ bars with 1″ sleeves.
At least until they get the hang of things and aren't dumping weights off the sleeves.
Some powerlifting or squat bars use Olympic weights, just like an Olympic bar, but they can be much thicker and heavier, with plenty of widths to set on the squat rack.
The extra weight provides a higher center of gravity, an important measure when standing out in the open.
And any lean, one way or another, might carry you backward or straight into the gym mirror.
What Barbell Length Do I Need for a Power Rack, Squat, or Bench Rack?
A standard, Olympic barbell can be used for all three. However, heavier variations are available for the squat and power racks as well. Sometimes reaching up to 100 lbs. on the bar alone.
These are known as “Specialty” bars, and they often match the length of an Olympic bar and weigh much more.
However, Specialty bars can vary in length as well, especially when they need to be long enough to match the notches on the squat rack.
For bench pressing, there is no need to go higher than an Olympic bar.
All Things Considered
Whether you are filling out the needs of your own home gym or you just want to know what works best for you at the gym up the road, barbell length is a matter worthy of your attention.
Especially if you really get into a variety of less common exercises.
Once you get the hang of the different bars (weights, sizes, shapes, and lengths), you'll have a pretty good idea of what works for you and what doesn't.
Barbell Length FAQ
WHAT BARBELL LENGTHS ARE USED IN COMMERCIAL GYMS?
All of the above. At least that's true if it's a good and reputable gym. Most gyms stick with Olympic barbells, which means you will see the small curl bars all the way up to squat bars with 2″ sleeves.
CAN I USE A SHORT BARBELL IF I HAVE A SMALL SPACE?
Yes, you can. While you will miss more traditional strength training exercises, you can cover all your weightlifting needs with short bars.
My home gym is on the smaller side of 100 sqft. So space is at a premium. So I started off with shorter bars. But have since changed out to standard Olympic 7 ft. bars.
So do what you can with your short bars until the day you upgrade to a new space.
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