Every gym has many options of barbell lengths. Different barbell lengths are there to serve the different needs of the lifters.
So, among the several options available, what length of the barbell do you need? Generally, for all powerlifting moves performed at a power rack the 7ft long barbell is used.
Depending on the exercises you are performing and the kind of balance you need for that exercise, you might need to switch between 7ft, 6ft, and 5ft long barbells
In this gym equipment guide, we will discuss in detail how long is a barbell, commonly available barbell length and what length of barbell you need for your exercise routines.
What Will I Learn?
Common barbell lengths
The most common barbell length is 7ft. You will find a 7ft barbell at every gym. Being the standard length specified by the IWF for all weightlifting competitions, it has become a common practice among gyms to have the 7ft bar on the rack.
The exact length of the 7ft bar varies a little, but mostly it is around 86 inches. the shaft in between the collars is about 52 inches and both the loadable sleeves are 16 inches each.
Many gyms have shorter barbells too. 6ft long barbells can be used by shorter athletes. There are 5ft barbells too intended to perform close grip exercises with better balance.
Bench press rack barbells
For performing the bench press, the barbell shaft length should be fulfilling two conditions. First, it should be longer than the width of your hand grip when placed shoulder-width apart, second, it should be longer than the outer width of the rack.
If you are using the power rack for bench press, then you most probably have the rack width around 48 inches. This length, plus some safety net on both sides leads to the need of minimum 50 inches of shaft length.
For such shaft length, you have to go for the 7ft long barbell that has about 52 inches of length between the collars.
If you use the split stands or narrower barbell stands to perform bench press, then you can also use the 6ft long barbell. The only issue with this would be, you’ll get only 12 inches of loadable sleeves on both sides.
Power rack or squat rack barbells
Almost all commercially available power racks are 44 inches or wider. It would be too congested to stand in the cage and work out if the rack is narrower than this. This makes it compulsory to use a barbell having 48 inches or longer shaft length for safer racking and unracking.
Most of the gyms use power racks or half racks for performing squats. Even in the places where there are specialty squat racks, those racks are not less than 44 inches in width as you have to stand between the safety catchers while exercising.
Thus, you need 7ft long barbell for performing exercises using a power rack or squat rack.
Independent squat stands barbells
The independent squat stands can be kept at any width. Thus, they won’t have any effect on the decision about the length of the barbell.
While working out using an independent squat stand the things that would determine the length of the barbell you should use are; width of the grip you are comfortable with, the number of weight plates you want to load on the barbell, and what exercises you are performing.
With independent squat stands you can either use the most widely used 7ft barbell or you can use the 6ft or 5ft long versions if you are looking for extra balance and will be working out with moderate or lower intensity.
How long is a women’s Olympic barbell?
The IWF has set some guidelines for the weight and barbell sizes to be used for weightlifting competition lifts. The competition lifts like clean and jerk, the snatch is to be performed using the barbells meeting the specified criteria.
The barbell guidelines are different for men and women. While the men’s barbells are 7ft long the women’s Olympic barbell length is about 6.5ft long.
For women’s Olympic barbell the shaft length is similar to men’s barbell, but the loading sleeves are shorter. The women’s Olympic bar length for a bar from Rogue fitness is 79.14 inches and it has an approximate shaft length of 53 inches.
Other than women’s Olympic barbells there are other barbells that are shorter than the standard 7ft long barbells. The most popular shorter versions are 5ft bars and 6ft long barbells.
These short barbells are mostly used for accessory work. The main lifts like squats, bench press, overhead press, etc., need to be done with a rack. Some of the 6ft long barbells are rackable but those have shorter loadable sleeves. That makes it almost unusable for main high-intensity exercises.
The standard barbells are a rarity these days. Almost all the gyms have Olympic barbells in their setup. Only a few manufacturers offer the standard barbells.
The standard barbells are made to accommodate the standard 1-inch hole weight plates. These barbells are lighter in weight than the Olympic barbell.
The commercially available standard barbell lengths are in between 4ft to 7ft. These barbells can be used if you already have 1-inch weight plates at your home gym. The standard barbells are useful for performing low to moderate-intensity exercises.
What size barbell should a woman use?
Women can use any of the barbells for performing training exercises. For accessory work and close grip exercises, you can use 5ft or 6ft long barbells.
If you are preparing for the official competition, you need to get used to the size and weight of the barbell to be used in the competition.
In order to do that, you should be training with the 6.5ft long Olympic barbell that has about 52 inches long shaft, 25mm (1 inch) shaft diameter and weighs 33 pounds (15 Kgs).
Is a longer barbell better?
Yes, the longer barbells mean they have longer shaft length and are easier to rack and unrack. You can load a greater number of plates if the sleeves are longer.
The longer barbells allow you to get a wider grip without having issues racking the bar. The lifters with wider shoulders, bigger arms, and taller stature can lift using the longer bars with ease.
However, with a longer bar, it would more difficult to balance the weight. Especially in close grip exercises, it would be difficult to use the longer bars. So, the longer bars are better for the powerlifting moves, but for close grip exercises and accessory work, it is better to use shorter versions.
Is it harder to bench with a shorter bar?
Does barbell length matter? It definitely does, the shorter the length, it is more difficult to perform certain exercises.
It is harder to perform bench press effectively with a shorter bar. If the bar has a shaft length shorter than the rack you would be using for bench press then it would not only be harder but would be impossible to perform it.
The shorter bars have a short shaft length, and that makes it difficult to rack and unrack the barbell. Also, you won’t be able to load as many weight plates as you could on the longer bars.
Should I get a 6ft or 7ft barbell?
The length of the barbell that you should get depends on your height, rack size, and the exercises you are planning to do.
- If you are average or above average in height, have a standard power cage or half cage at your home gym, and planning to perform powerlifting moves along with other exercises, then you should get the 7ft long barbell.
- If you are an intermediate-level athlete having average or lesser than average height who wishes to work with moderate weights, then you can get a 6ft long barbell.
Can you deadlift with a short bar?
It is feasible to do deadlifts with a short bar.
If you are shorter than five and a half feet then yes you can and you should do deadlifts with shorter bars for better balance.
But if you are preparing for the competition you should stick to the 7ft long Olympic bar for performing deadlifts.
Can you squat with a 5ft barbell?
If you are really small in stature and squatting at very low intensity by lifting the barbell from the ground only then you can squat with a 5ft barbell.
In all other cases, it is not recommended to use the 5ft long barbell for performing squats.
Can you deadlift with a 5ft bar?
If you are deadlifting for strengthening your back, or as an accessory while focussing on any other lift then you can use any bar for deadlifting, yes, even the 5ft bar.
Deadlifting with a shorter bar like a 5ft long bar allows you to perform the move in a better precise form as you get a better balance with shorter bars.
Can you bench press with a 5 ft bar?
If you are going to use the independent stands you can use the 5ft bar for bench pressing with lower intensity. However, you can not use a wider grip for benching if you are using the 5ft bar.
Also, you would be able to load a very little number of plates on the 5ft bar.
What length barbell is best?
Every barbell length serves a different purpose better than the other. The 7ft long barbell serves better for high-intensity powerlifting moves, while the shorter barbells serve you better if you want to perform close grip exercises.
If you want to get a single barbell that you can use to perform all exercises then you better go for a 7ft long barbell. Otherwise, it is best to have more than one barbell at your home gym.
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