A barbell looks very simple at first glance. It’s a long piece of metal, capable of holding heavy loads, seems like a simple piece of equipment, right?
In reality, though, barbells can be quite complex and need to be manufactured in a specific way to support safe and efficient weight lifting. There are a few components to a barbell that you may have seen before like spinning barbell sleeves or barbell knurling but something you might not be aware of is the term “barbell whip”.
What is barbell whip? Barbell whip is the capability for a bar to flex under a weighted load without snapping or bending permanently. Barbell whip occurs when a lifter stops moving but the momentum of the weight plates continues. Barbell whip is needed for heavier lifts like deadlifts and squats or Olympic lifts.
In this article, we’ll cover what a barbell whip is, who would most benefit from a bar with more “whip”, and whether or not you even need it.
What Is Barbell Whip?
Before we get too far into all of the pros and possible cons of barbell whip, let’s define the actual term.
A barbell is a long metal bar that lifters use to stack varying weights on. Weighted plates are mounted on each end, evenly, and it is then utilized in exercises such as bench presses, squats, overhead presses, and also deadlifts.
Barbell whip is a weight lifting term used to describe the available flex in the actual barbell. The more flex a barbell has, the more the weight on the ends will shift when the user is lifting the loaded bar. Thus, barbell whip is a term used to describe the flexing of the metal pole that occurs during the lifting process.
The amount of whip in a barbell will vary but your average gym-goer will likely not even notice or care much about it. Serious or heavy lifters may notice and can use a barbell’s whip to assist them when lifting.
What Kind of Barbell Should I Use?
First, you need to understand that several different types of barbells exist. Some standard bars you’ve likely seen are:
- Deadlift Bar
- Squat Bar
- Bench Press Bar
- Buffalo Bar
- Standard Bar
- Olympic Bar
- Football Bar
- EZ Bar
- Trap Bar
Activity levels, desire for future gains, and budget will influence what type of barbell you should use at home. In addition to whip, when considering what kind of bar to purchase, you should also consider the grip (barbell knurling) and thickness of the barbell.
What Is Yield and Tensile Strength in Relation to a Barbell?
Pounds per square inch, or PSI, is measured as the amount of pressure that can be placed on a barbell before it begins to bend. This is considered the bar’s yield strength. The higher the number the harder it is to flex the bar with a heavy load. The lower it is, the easier it is to cause the bar to flex.
You should not step on or kick at a barbell to determine how flexible it is. Not only will this give you an inaccurate result based on how much weight you put on it, but you could injure yourself.
Tensile strength, on the other hand, is the amount of pressure that can be applied before the bar is bent to an unusable point. Finding the point between yield and tensile will give you an idea of the amount of whip in a barbell.
If you’re powerlifting, a lot of whip can be helpful. If you’re doing bench presses then a great deal of whip is likely not wanted. Imagine yourself on your back, preparing to do a bench press. Picture the bar above you in your hands with weights on each end.
Do you want the bar to be wiggling a little bit or as solid as possible? For a bench press, the answer is that no whip is best. However, keep in mind that’s just one exercise.
Do All Barbells Have Whip?
Every barbell has a varying amount of whip and this is something you can verify before purchasing one for home use – though it’s not as easy as it should be. Most barbells will have some form of a label on them that advises if the bar is stiff.
A stiff bar would indicate less whip than a flexible bar. But the truth is, that as of now, the whip isn’t actually something that’s measured and put on the box for users to use as a method of selecting. Instead, you need to understand the difference between Its yield strength and its tensile strength as we discussed earlier.
Barbell Whip vs No Whip: Which Is Better for Lifting?
The answer as to whether or not you want a whip in your barbell ultimately depends on your goals and workout routine.
A barbell with a high whip count is used to create momentum within the lift. The momentum is created through the barbell, not through the lifter. This can be especially helpful during very heavy lifts like with powerlifting (squats & deadlifts).
A power bar is one of the more frequently used barbells. They are typically seen in local gyms and are roughly 7 feet long. It’s important to understand the load a bar can handle not only for proper lifting but also to avoid permanently damaging your equipment. Power bars typically do not have a great deal of whip.
They are more stiff and rigid than other available bars.
Olympic Power Barbells
Olympic lifting, which is obviously technical, involves two traditional types of lifts: a snatch and a clean and jerk. Unsurprisingly, a barbell used for Olympic lifting is referred to as an Olympic barbell. Olympic barbells typically are of better quality and allow more weight to be loaded at a time.
Olympic bars have a high amount of whip. However, unless you’re entering the Olympics or intend to do a lot of extremely heavy lifting, a high whip just may not be necessary. Ultimately, barbell whip is needed for very heavy lifting on specific exercises but unless you are lifting 300lbs or more, you’re unlikely to see or need to benefit from barbell whip.
Do I Need to Worry About Barbell Whip?
Trainers, casual lifters, and heavy-weight lifters may all disagree as to the need for and the use of barbell whip. As with a lot of training advice that’s available, what’s important is to apply the information to your specific situation. Consider the following:
- How much weight training have you undergone?
- Is your training for personal enjoyment or professional sports?
- Do you understand proper body mechanics for lifting?
- Do you work out with a spotter or trainer?
The most important thing to take away from this article is that you need to do what’s right for you.
What works for one lifter may not work for another and that will depend on your training style, goals, and even training experience. Whether or not you even notice the whip in your barbell doesn’t make you any more or less serious about your chosen training style. It should only influence a bar you buy if you train in a very specific way.
Those that do bodybuilding training do not need to worry about barbell whip, it could even hinder these lifters but for a powerlifter, a barbell whip is almost essential!
Good form, consistency, and getting the proper training are what will make or break your workouts. If you find that you reach a point where barbell whip is becoming important, it’s recommended that you speak with a personal trainer or other professional athletes.
This will help assure you don’t injure yourself with improper lifting techniques as barbell whip is very different from a bent barbell even though the two can look very similar.
Barbell whip is a term you might not come across too frequently. In fact, some of you reading this will have only just heard this term and wondered what it is. Barbell whip is essentially when a barbell can flex under load workout bending permanently.
This is useful for heavy compound movements or Olympic lifts but it is not essential for everyone. If you are building a home gym or training in a commercial gym, a barbell with whip is unlikely to be needed unless you are very strong or training technical lifts.
Therefore, barbell whip is important but more so for a select group of trainees.