Grooves on Olympic Barbell Sleeves
In recent years some manufacturers have added small grooves onto the sleeves of olympic bars, as shown in the pic to the left. People have also referred to them as ridges or ribbed sleeves. All the same thing. There have been questions from time to time on what that’s all about.
To complicate things, Eleiko came out with their Power Lock bar in 2016, quickly followed by Rogue releasing their Russian Bar, both of which have huge grooves, a totally different animal than the little grooves we’ve seen for years. I’m going to call them Russian grooves here for the sake of simplicity.
The Russians developed them decades ago, in the dark Soviet years (hey, something good came out of the Soviet Union!).
Why The Different Styles?
Because there weren’t enough complexities in the design of olympic bars already, right?
Each of these sleeve styles does have arguable advantages.
Smooth sleeves are the classic design. Easy, relatively quiet plate loading. Not much to say about it!
With grooved sleeves, the tiny grooves keep plates in place better if you choose not to secure them with collars. Frankly, a lot of folks lift that way…
TANGENT – Lifting Without Collars
Since I mentioned it…
Experienced lifters have found that in certain situations there’s little or no need to secure the plates. The rationale is they don’t move much, and if you know there will be no problem at all in getting the weight up smoothly then it’s much like lifting with plates loaded unsecured on a weight machine, which tends to be seen as much more acceptable. But you need to be aware of when it is and isn’t perfectly safe to do this with freeweight barbell lifting.
Doing heavy sets with unsecured plates when you have other people also lifting around you is a bad idea. Do what you like in private, but if you hurt someone else, you, sir, are a bad person.
By yourself, it’s a method that some people use as a safety precaution when bench pressing. If they fail a heavy rep and are at risk of crushing themselves, tilting the bar to the side causes the plates to dump off one end, and with that end unloaded the bar flips the other way and the plates slide off that end. It’s a wacky way to do things, but it does work I guess, at the risk of damaging your plates. It’s far better to lift in a power rack with safety bars or safety straps.
When you do use collars on grooved sleeves, the grooves can significantly help keep some types of collars from slipping, notably any collars that can tend to catch on the grooves (such as the cheapo spring clips) or anything with a rubber padding that the grooves sink into.
The problem with grooved sleeves is the “zzzzzzzzzzziiiiiipp!” sound plates make when you load them. Plates with steel inserts such as any bumper plates and the Troy VTX rubber plates won’t make noise.
The third style is the old Russian design. It looks cool cuz it’s different. Eleiko decided it didn’t just look cool but has a notable functional advantage – that of securing your plates way better than any other design when you’re dropping the bar for multiple reps.
Here’s how the Russian style sleeves work. You need their special collars (which Eleiko and Rogue include with the bar). Load your plates. Slide the collar on, locking them down into the last groove you can get to, which by design will be some distance from the plates. Then spin the inner part of the collar to move it snug against the plates. This is guaranteed to keep the collar from slipping when you drop cleans, because the pressure of one portion of the collar against the plates is backed up by the other portion of the collar being secured into that huge groove in the bar sleeve. It aint getting knocked loose. The collar would have to break first.
Brands that Use Each Style Sleeve
I’m trying to include many top brands that I can get definitive info on here. If I made a mistake or omission, let me know and I’ll update the list!
Note that this has changed over time. I saw at least one old Rogue bar with grooved sleeves.
High-end weightlifting bars: