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What is a “lady bar” and when to use one?

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Photo: Chris Gray then (Getty Images)

Je mythical “women’s bar”: This is a real type of dumbbell, but unless you compete in a specific strength sport, you probably have some misconceptions about what exactly it is and why it exists. Is it a shrunken, pink bullshit bar? Where is it a necessary piece of equipment for all women? No it’s Neither. Here is the real story.

Normal bars are not “men’s” bars

The barbell you’ll most commonly find at most gyms weighs 20 kilograms (44 pounds, or sometimes 45) and is about seven feet long. It has a handle about an inch thick – the exact size varies from model to model – and the weights are loaded into a two inch thick sleeve at each end of the bar. This is commonly referred to as an “Olympic” barbell, whether or not it matches the rules of Olympic-style weightlifting.

In powerlifting competitions and in most weight rooms for recreational lifting or adjoining sports workouts, everyone uses this type and size of barbell, no matter the gender. When I had a powerlifting meetthere were three different bars – the USPA uses an extra thick “squat bar” and an extra soft “deadlift bar” – but they were intended for different elevators, not for people of different gender.

So where do people use a women’s bar? in a particular sport.

A women’s bar is reserved for Olympic weightlifting

Do you remember weightlifting, the sport of snatch and clean and jerk? (Here is a reminder.) In this sport, there are male and female divisions, and everyone uses a different bar. The only other place I’ve seen men’s and women’s bars used regularly is at a Crossfit gym, which makes sense, like Crossfit incorporates Olympic lifts.

The men’s bar is in the same family as the general purpose bar we described above. It weighs 20 kilograms, is 2,200 millimeters long (about 7’3″), and the middle part measures 28 millimeters, or just over an inch.

The women’s bar, introduced in the late 1990s, is slightly smaller. It weighs 15 kilograms instead of 20, its length is 2,010 millimeters (6’7″) and its central part is only 25 millimeters in diameter –almost exactly one inch. The distance between the clamps is the same as a men’s barbell, so it can fit a standard size squat rack.

Why is there a women’s bar?

There are two reasons the woman’s bar exists: the diameter of the piece you are holding, and the behavior of the bar under load.

Please don’tNote that the lightest weight (15kg instead of 20kg) is not the reason it exists. The are lightweight workout bars that beginners and kids can use if they have trouble lifting a full-size bar, but they’re usually five or 10 pounds, and once you can lift a full-size bar, you switch. On the other hand, 300+ pound clean and jerky woman competing going to do it again with a 15kg women’s barbell.

First of all, the thinner the bar, the easier it is to get your hands on it. And because weightlifting uses a hook grip, with the thumb under the fingers, it’s important to be able to wrap your hands properly. Three millimeters doesn’t make much difference, and most people can grip both just fine, but if you have small hands, you’ll appreciate being able to use the thinner bar. More female than male competitors would be at a disadvantage if the same 28mm bar was used for everyone.

Second is the way the bar bends when loaded, known as the “whisk.” When you load enough weight onto the bar, it bends. Sometimes you don’t want that (remember those extra-stiff USPA squat bars?), but in weightlifting you do. Pushers can use the way the bar bends to help them bounce off the bottom of a clean or get the bar moving to start a jerk. If women used the men’s bar, few women would have the same whipping experience as men. So the women’s bar is more fiery.

Women’s bars are rare outside of Olympic weightlifting gyms

Now that you understand what a ladies bar is islet’s talk about what he is not.

If your gym has a bar that is shorter and lighter than a full-size bar, but it’s the same thickness and isn’t particularly flexible, it’s not a women’s bar. It’s more likely a straight curl bar (often 25 lbs, but they vary) or a short 35 lb bar like this one.

If your gym has a super light bar, it’s not a women’s bar. It is more likely a technical bar. If you check the end cap and it says something like “50 lbs” that may be his capacity, as in, this is a 15-pound (or whatever) bar that you can load up to 50 pounds total. These bars are great for kids or for adults who want something light for warming up.

If your gym has a bar the same size as a regular bar but looks a bit thinner to you, it’s not a ladies bar. It’s probably a deadlift barwhich measure 27mm at the center and are actually longer than an ordinary bar. Or the regular bars at your gym may come in varying thicknesses; there could be a 28mm and a 29mm, for example.

Your gym could be able have a women’s bar in addition to some of these other bars, especially if weightlifters or Crossfitters train there sometimes.

When to use a women’s bar?

If you train in Olympic weightlifting and plan to compete in the women’s division, you should use a women’s barbell. Although you will have no problem using a men’s barbell, it is good to get used to the type of barbell you will be using in competition and to get used to the differences. plate math that the other women in your gym will use. For example, to load 60 kilograms, you would need 20 kg blue plates on a men’s bar, or blue more small reds (2.5 kg each) on a ladies’ bar. (Competition collars are extra, but that’s a whole other math lesson.)

If you want a short bar because you don’t have much space in your home gym, try one of those short bars I mentioned; Rogue’s is only 69 inches long, compared to 79 for a women’s bar and 87 for a men’s Olympic bar or standard power bar. Just be aware that these smaller bars won’t fit on a standard size rack.

That’s really the only reason. If you want a thin, whipped bar for deadlifts, use a deadlift bar. If your hands are small and you find it difficult to hold a standard barbell, buy a set of straps and work on training your grip; the problem isn’t the bar, it’s you.

I say this as someone who “couldn’t” grab a men’s barbell, but had no problem grabbing a women’s barbell when I first started training in a weight room. Surprise: when I returned to the men’s bar, it turned out that I could grab it just fine. It was easier to to learn on the thinner bar, but my hands were perfectly capable of doing both once I knew how. So feel free to try a women’s barbell, but don’t assume that men’s bars are inappropriate for recreational weightlifting.

Richard Dement

The author Richard Dement