women's vs men's barbells

Women’s barbell vs men’s barbell? 5 Major Differences


Barbells are the most basic piece of training equipment at every gym, still, many lifters do not seem to have a clear understanding of these. Gone those days when there was a limited variety of barbells available. These days, you can find more than 20 types of specialty barbells designed for unique purposes.  

Women’s barbell vs men’s barbell is a recent confusion that has been concerning many lifters. This is a major question coming from female lifters and someone who is looking to start a home garage gym. 

What’s the major difference between Women’s barbell vs Men’s barbell? The major difference is the shaft diameter, women’s barbells are few millimeters thinner than men’s bar because of the naturally smaller palm-size of women. Reducing the thickness of the barbell helps the female lifters to grip the barbell a lot better. Women’s bar weighs 33lbs with a length of 201 cm and men’s bar weighs 44lbs with a length of 220 cm. 

Earlier, women’s barbell was available at only professional training facilities but with the increase in lifter’s inclination towards CrossFit, many gym owners started offering women’s barbell. Let’s go ahead and Jump directly to the differences.

Not all the Olympic barbells are the same, while you can find a cheap Olympic barbell on amazon, most of them are not certified Olympic bars and they usually do not comply with the standards of IWF (International weightlifting federation). This article is about the difference Certified Women’s Olympic barbells vs Certified Men’s Olympic barbells. 

Women’s barbell vs men’s barbell

Both the men’s and women’s Olympic barbells have been recognized by IWF, and both the barbells are designed to fulfill the designated purposes. 

1- Purpose:

The original purpose of the creation of both barbells was to include them in the Olympic weightlifting competition

If you look back to the history of weightlifting, men have been weightlifting in Olympics since the very beginning, but the official entry of women weightlifters in the Olympic competition was introduced in the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia.

Women’s barbell has been used by female weightlifters and men’s barbell is used by the men. There was no women’s barbell until 2000 because of the exclusion of female athletes to participate in Olympic weight lifting. 

2- Weight

Weight is the first thing that you might notice about the women’s barbell and men’s barbell. Men’s barbell weighs 44lbs (20 kg) and Women barbell weigh 33lbs (15 kg). 

3- Shaft diameter

Shaft diameter plays a most important role in differentiating men’s barl from a women’s bar. Women’s bar has a shaft diameter of 25mm and men’s bar are made with a shaft diameter of 28mm. It is 10% less in diameter.

Majority of women has comparatively small hands which restricts them to properly grip the shaft, especially when they are lifting with a “hook grip”. 

The difference in shaft diameter makes a big difference in lifting experience. 

4- Knurling marks

IWF (International Weightlifting Federation) guidelines clearly specify the marking pattern of both barbells. 

Certified Men’s Olympic barbells come with center knurling and women’s Olympic bars do not contain a center knurling. 

Practice Olympic bars are more common in gyms, these bars do not contain center knurling, reason? Practicing Olympic lifts (especially clean and jerks) can severely hurt the neck of lifter because of center knurling. 

Frankly speaking, there is no need for center knurling in the basic Olympic lifts, but it has been a part of the Olympic games legacy when they used to include “One hand lift” in the Olympic weight lifting competition. The only practical importance of center knurling comes into play while heavy squats to grip the barbell on back. 

5- Bar length 

Women’s bar is not only lighter but also shorter in length. According to IWF, men’s barbell has to be 220 cm long and the women’s bar is 201 cm long. 

The difference in bar length is because of the difference in the shoulders width of both genders. 

 BarbellWeightLengthSleeve DiameterGrip Diameter
Men’s Olympic Barbell44lbs (20kg)7.2 ft (2.2m)2 inch (50mm)1.1 inch (28mm)
Women’s Olympic Barbell33lbs (15kg)6.6 ft (2.1m) 2 inch (50mm)0.9 inch (25mm)

Should female lifters choose women’s bar only? 

Not necessary, you are not entitled to use only women’s Olympic bars while the training sessions, you can practice with any bar if you are comfortable with it. 

If you are into professional Olympic lifting or CrossFit games then women’s bar will certainly help in improving performance. Here is what the IWF guidelines Specifies about the men’s and women’s barbells.

men's barbell IWF specifications
men’s barbell IWF specifications
women's barbell IWF specifications
women’s barbell IWF specifications

Thanks for reading. Questions are welcomed in the comments as always. 

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