The most noticeable difference between standard and olympic bars is the olympic bars are twice as thick on the ends where the plates slide on. There are many other differences – See the Olympic vs Standard Weights article.
Standard weights are most commonly used for small weight lifting setups in homes, usually consisting of just a bench, barbell, weight plates, and maybe a curl bar or adjustable dumbbell handles. The bars and weight plates are more cheaply made and are marketed entirely to the consumer market looking for a cheap weight set. You can find them in local sporting goods stores and big-box department stores.
Standard weights are good starter sets for people wanting to just start lifting weights in the cheapest way possible. Many people eventually move up to olympic style weights once they realize all the benefits.
Standard weights also have a low starting weight, making them a decent choice for kids when long-term commitment to eventually lifting heavier weights is questionable.
We generally recommend olympic weights, but there are a few reasons below that you might want standard weights.
Any olympic-width rack, whether it’s a power rack or the rack attached to a bench, is about 48″ wide, so it will require a bar that has about 52″ (or more) of space between the inside collars. That way you can load plates on the bar without the rack interfering.
Any 7ft standard bar will fit. A lot of standard bars are 5ft or 6ft long, meaning they will not fit on such a rack. You’ll need a narrower rack. We sell some squat stands that can be set to any width, but really you’re going to trip over the feet if you set them too narrow. These short standard bars are meant to used with a bench press unit that has a narrow rack or used without any rack at all (such as doing curls, overhead presses, etc.).
Any straight bars here are perfect for beginners, women, and anyone not really into hardcore weight lifting. They’re good bench press bars, but pay attention to the width of the rack on your bench. You want the rack to be narrower than the length between the inside collars of the bar. For all straight bars that length is noted in the product description.
Threaded and Non-Threaded
Some standard bars come with threaded sleeves to accommodate spin-lock collars to secure the plates, rather than the traditional collars that slide on and lock in place by compression. Spin lock collars on long bars are not fun, because they take a moment to spin all the way on and off. On dumbbell handles, they make more sense, because they aren’t going to fall off all of a sudden from slipping just a little bit. That’s nice when you have them over your face and want to feel safe.
Note that all standard bars use the same standard plates, whether they are sliding onto a threaded bar or not.
Threaded bars include spin-lock collars, while bars with smooth sleeves do not include collars, so you’ll need to buy them separately.
Group classes using light barbells, such as BodyPump and RIP all use standard weights. See our cardio barbells for the special 4.5ft standard bar they use that is only 5 lbs, as well as rubber coated plates.
Even people who have olympic weights sometimes get standard dumbbell handles and weights, because the shorter standard dumbbell handles are more maneuverable than olympic dumbbell handles. Particularly people often find that olympic dumbbell handles hit each other too easily on the top of the rep of a bench press or military press, so the standard handles allow a freer range of motion.
A common use of standard plates is for pro-style dumbbells. These types of dumbbells are often found in commercial gyms and consist of a steel handle with standard plates bolted onto the end, and usually an end cap to smooth out the look and feel of the ends.
Although they sound like the standard dumbbell handles listed above, they are quite different, because they come in a range of handle lengths to precisely fit the number of weight plates you will be bolting on, and the bolts are tightened permanently or semi-permanently. They are not meant to be disassembled very often. The ones Troy manufactures are made to never come apart because they are bolted on so tightly, but you can also build your own dumbbells using the handles, end caps and plates we can supply. It won’t save you any money to build your own unless you already have a lot of plates to use.