An Olympic bar is a type of barbell that athletes use in Olympic weightlifting competitions. It is similar to most other styles of barbell but has a few distinguishing characteristics. The most recognizable of these is that the sleeves of the barbell rotate, allowing the weights to spin on their own axis. Olympic bars also have fixed specifications that determine the bars' length, weight and even the specific size and location of its textured grips.
An Olympic bar is very similar to other types of barbell in its basic design and function. It consists of a long metal bar that athletes can grip to perform different weightlifting exercises. At each end, the bar has a pair of sleeves that allow the athlete to load weight onto the bar.
The most recognizable aspect of an Olympic bar that sets it apart from other types of barbells is the sleeves. These sleeves can rotate even when the main part of the bar is stationary, which also allows the weights at each end to rotate on their own axis. This rotation reduces the torque of the weight on the athlete when he or she performs heavy lifts involving a lot of motion. The weight is able to rotate, so the momentum of that rotation does not exert itself on the arms of the lifter and thus enables the athlete to perform the lift more safely.
In addition to these sleeves, an Olympic bar also distinguishes itself by conforming to a detailed set of specifications. The men's Olympic bar is 7.22 feet (2.2 m) in length and has a weight of 44.1 pounds (20 kg). At the outer ends, the diameter of the bar is 1.9685 inches (50 mm), and the diameter of the grip portion of the bar is 1.1024 inches (28 mm). Their grips are spaced 35.83 inches (910 mm) apart.
Olympic bars get their name from their use in Olympic weightlifting events. However, they also are the standard type of bar that athletes use during the Pan-American Games, the Commonwealth Games and the World Championships. These bars are necessary for the two types of Olympic weightlifting competition: the clean and jerk and the snatch.
These events and exercises have determined the specifics of the Olympic bar's design, but these bars also are useful for a variety of other exercises. Athletes can use the Olympic bar to perform any number of heavy lifting exercises, including most types of cleans and snatches, squats and deadlifts, and even to perform press exercises such as the bench press and military press. Athletes can use them to perform arm curls as well, although this usage is less common.