When choosing a barbell, or if you are just using one in your local gym, you’ve likely never paid much attention to the barbell when lifting. That is until you use a different barbell and notice a difference. The reason being that you can get fixed sleeves or spinning sleeves for a barbell.
Are Olympic bars supposed to spin? Olympic barbells are supposed to spin in order to reduce torque during explosive movements and make it safer for the wrist, forearm, and elbow. For Olympic weightlifting exercises like a snatch or clean and jerk, a spinning barbell sleeve is essential to minimize injury and improve comfort.
If you’ve been using the bar for a long time, you’d likely never pay attention to it but when moving from one barbell to another, you soon notice the difference! When investing in a barbell, you want to ensure you’re getting the best one for your individual needs and when selecting an Olympic barbell (often costing more than a standard bar), you might have noticed that the description mentions spinning sleeves.
In this article, we’ll cover whether Olympic bars are supposed to spin and whether or not it’s actually needed.
Are Barbells Supposed to Spin?
Yes, they very much are. Or rather, a lot of them are. It may seem a little odd at first, but the fact of the matter is, many barbells, but especially Olympic ones, are designed to have spinning sleeves. There are many reasons for this, all of which we’ll cover.
The sleeves are the part of the bar the weights go on, and they are intended to spin for safety purposes. It has a lot to do with physics, though we’ll be giving a simplified explanation here today. For now, just know that nothing is wrong with a spinning bar: it’s supposed to do that.
This is not to say that every barbell spins, as some don’t have that functionality. Don’t worry, we’ll be covering that as well. But if you take one thing away from this, it should be that a spinning barbell is very common, not to mention very helpful to the lifter.
Why Do Some Barbells Spin?
Barbells have spinning sleeves to not only make lifts easier to do, but also make them much safer. This is especially true of Olympic lifts, like Snatch and Clean and Jerk. We’re going to assume you know about these lifts and how they work.
Point is, when you’re moving a weighted barbell around, especially with major movement transitions like the Clean the Jerk, the spinning sleeves allow the weights to rotate. This allows some of the inertial force of the plates to be dispersed, meaning less force on your body and less risk of injury.
Basically, the spinning gets rid of some of the force that would be placed on your wrists and elbows, so you don’t suffer the full impact of the lift on those vulnerable joints. Even for lifts that aren’t as stressful on the wrist and elbows, spinning sleeves helps reduce the strain and keep the lifter safe.
On top of that, since the sleeves allow the weights to rotate, this prevents the whole bar from rotating in one’s hands, which is something you don’t want to happen when a particular grip is required of you. While barbell knurling is designed to help with grip, this won’t help on movements where force is generated through different angles (rather than up and down like with a deadlift).
Do All Barbells Spin?
There are many types of barbells out there, and not all of them have spinning sleeves. Usually, it’s the cheap, relatively low-quality ones that don’t have this feature. Generally speaking, most barbells have spinning sleeves, though the quality of those sleeves can vary greatly.
The reason most barbells have spinning sleeves is for the exact thing we talked about earlier: it’s much safer for the user, and it makes lifts easier to do without injury. That said, do you necessarily need a barbell with spinning sleeves? Well, it depends on what you plan to do with the bar.
Olympic lifts like the Snatch and Clean and Jerk involve pushing and pulling of a heavyweight in a single motion, which puts a whole lot of stress on the wrists. It is not safe to do these lifts with a bar that has no spinning sleeves. You shouldn’t even do them with a bar that has low-quality spinning sleeves.
Needless to say, if you are looking to do Olympic lifts, you should get an Olympic bar. They’re expensive, but they are designed for such lifts in pretty much every capacity. In short, you want a high-quality bar with high-quality spinning sleeves for these lifts.
Powerlifting does not place as much strain on the wrists, despite requiring tremendous strength from the user. Whether or not you need a bar with high-quality spinning sleeves really depends on how much you are lifting.
If it’s just some moderate lifting, spinning sleeves may not be necessary. But if you’re going really hard, trying upwards of 450 lbs., it would probably be safer to have spinning sleeves. Frankly, there’s no disadvantage to actually having spinning sleeves, so it never hurts regardless of what you’re doing.
Regular Fitness Lifting
Generally speaking, you don’t need to worry about spinning sleeves or a lack thereof if you’re just doing regular lifts at home or the gym. Bench presses and similar exercises don’t really require them unless you are lifting extreme weight.
As before, this does not mean you have to use a barbell without spinning sleeves in those situations. There’s effectively no situation in which it is better to not have spinning sleeves. Only situations where spinning sleeves may not be absolutely vital.
How to Make a Barbell Spin Better
Let’s say you have a barbell with spinning sleeves, but it doesn’t spin quite as well as you want it to. Perhaps that bar just doesn’t have that good of spin in the first place, or maybe it did, but over time the spin has gotten worse and the sleeves have gotten “stickier.”
Since spin is such an important part of a safe workout with barbells, this is something you would probably be inclined to fix, or at least improve. Thankfully, it’s not that hard to do this. Most of the time, some lubrication is all you really need.
It’s usually better to avoid oil-based lubricants like WD-40 since oils tend to attract dust in the long run. They can, however, be used if you have no alternative. White lithium grease and water-resistant silicone lubricant are often better options, though there are many alternatives.
All you need to do is get the lubricant between the sleeve and the actual bar, making sure you rotate the sleeve so the lubricant coats the entirety of the inside of it. This doesn’t require you to take the whole sleeve off the bar, though you can do that if you think it necessary.
So long as you lubricate your spinning sleeves every once in a while, they should spin quite well. Of course, it’s important to remember that some bars just have better spin than others, due to their construction. No amount of lubrication is going to change that. Still, it doesn’t hurt.
Depending on the type of training plan you follow or the types of lifts you utilize in your routine, you’ll either be fine with a standard fixed barbell or will require an Olympic bar that spins.
As a general rule, Olympic bars are supposed to spin but more importantly, if you are going to perform and Olympic style lifts like a snatch or clean and jerk then it’s essential that the barbell sleeves spin. Spinning sleeves reduce torque from the plates, reduce strain on the wrist and elbow joint and ultimately allow you to perform these lifts in a safer manner.