When using a high-quality Olympic weightlifting bar, chances are that you’ve probably never given it much thought as to how much the bar can actually hold. Is likely that the strongest person in your gym is not lifting enough to even bend the bar and even in the Olympics where the bars seem to bend and whip, they are never being pushed near to their weight limit.
Not everyone has access to a good quality barbell though and therefore if you are using a cheap barbell you might be wondering how much weight can a barbell hold?
A standard 7-foot Olympic barbell can hold a minimum of 500lbs on average for the budget options. A high-quality Olympic barbell can hold between 1,000lbs – 1,500lbs before the bar will start to bend or snap and most manufacturers will use a conservative figure when calculating weight limits.
Barbells, regardless of how cheap they are or how they have been manufactured, are still made of steel and they are not very easy to bend or break. Weight limits can vary but most people will not be pushing a barbell to breaking point!
In this article, I’ll cover how much weight different barbells can hold and whether or not they are likely to bend, break, or snap if overloaded.
How Much Weight Can a Barbell Hold
When you’re figuring out which barbell to add to your home gym, it’s worth taking the time to do your research. As is the case with all fitness equipment, the price can vary significantly, but the most expensive barbell isn’t always going to be the best choice.
If you want to be able to progress on the same piece of equipment you need to invest in a barbell that will not only hold up to your current strength but keep doing so as you’re lifting heavier and heavier weights.
It is also crucial to remember that while barbells are designed specifically to hold a lot of weight, barbells will bend and potentially break completely if loaded past their weight limit. Keep this in mind when choosing which bar you’re going to invest in – saving a few dollars on a cheaper bar could lead to a very expensive replacement, not to mention the risk of a serious injury.
As a quick example, the video below shows a barbell being tested to the extreme and it’s able to handle more weight than anyone reading this can lift. If you’ve come across this video, it’s worth keeping in mind that this is a specific example and not all bars will have the same weight capacity.
For your jack-of-all-trades barbell that will see you through your lifting regime, the choice is most likely going to boil down to a standard 1” weightlifting barbell or a 2” Olympic barbell, and while these bars might look the same at first glance they have very different capabilities.
How Much Weight Can a Standard 1” Barbell Hold
A standard barbell is what can be found in most home gyms, especially at a beginner level. Although each standard barbell comes rated with a different weight limit depending on the product, they generally hold between 100-200lbs (around 45-90kg). You can probably get away with loading a little more weight than the limit of your particular bar, however, anything over 250lb is going to be pushing it.
Standard barbells typically have a diameter of 1” (25mm) on the middle and the ends of the bar, making them thinner and therefore markedly weaker than Olympic barbells. They are also a much lighter bar, usually around 20lbs, so it’s clear to see why they are the usual choice for beginners.
The thinner shaft on a standard barbell means they lack elasticity when loaded with weight – if you overload too much weight onto these bars they will start to permanently bend. Make sure to never store weights on your bar while it is left on a rack or bench, or you might see this bend with your own eyes and have to replace it sooner than you expected.
How Much Weight Can a Standard 2” Barbell Hold
Olympic barbells are generally the better bar in every way, although they will definitely hit your wallet harder if it’s time for you to upgrade from a standard barbell. Although the center of the bar can range from 28mm to 32mm, the ends of the bar will always fit Olympic weight plates with a hole 2” in diameter, meaning an upgrade requires buying a whole new set of weight plates, as well as the bar itself.
Olympic barbells can hold much more weight than the standard barbell by quite a bit, but as an absolute minimum, most bars can hold a load of 500lbs. If you’re lifting any more than that at home you probably know all this anyway! The bar itself is thicker and weighs 45lbs (20kg), and although the quality of each bar will differ from product to product, they are generally very well put together compared to standard bars.
The weight of the bar isn’t the only reason Olympic barbells can hold a heavier weight. For one thing, the ends of the bar rotate freely so there is less downward strain on the bar. This rotation is down to the bushings or bearings in the bar – although bearings provide greater rotation this shouldn’t really be an issue in your home workouts unless you’re incorporating strict Olympic lifts into your program.
With the rotating ends of the bar and the thinner center bar, Olympic barbells are able to bend with a heavy weight on them and return to their original shape afterward. This whip in the bar is one of the most functional qualities in an Olympic bar and makes a huge difference in your lifting no matter what weight you’re pulling.
I mentioned it earlier but it’s very difficult to say exactly how much a barbell can hold because they will vary depending on manufacturing quality. A Rogue or Eleiko barbell will have weight capacities of 800lbs – 1,500lbs depending on the model whereas a cheaper barbell will be 500lbs – 800lbs.
Can a Barbell Break
A barbell can break when overloaded but this is a very rare occurrence and could also be due to a manufacturing fault. As barbells are made from steel, the most likely occurrence when a barbell is overloaded with weight is that it will bend.
A bent barbell is common in commercial gyms where cheaper barbells are used or powerlifting gyms where the weight being lifted on a daily basis is enough to put even the best barbells through their paces. Therefore, it’s rare to see a barbell break but bending is definitely a possible scenario when the bar is overloaded.
At What Weight Does A Barbell Bend
For a standard barbell, it’s very likely that you will start to see some bend when the bar is loaded between 225lbs – 315lbs. At this weight, the bar will bend a few inches during explosive compound lifts. It’s important to note that powerlifting bars will have some whip to allow the lifters to safely lift heavier loads so barbell whip should not be confused with a barbell bend.
while good quality bars have a weight capacity of up to 1500lbs, once the bar is loaded with 405lbs or more than you are likely to see some bending (more common in powerlifting gyms). Anything between 405lbs – 700lbs+ will see a noticeable and permanent bend.
Standard vs Olympic – Which Barbell Is Right for Me
With all the information at hand, it really comes down to not just your own strength, but also personal preference. Standard barbells provide a much cheaper set up for weightlifting at home, but come with their downsides:
- They can’t hold as much weight as Olympic bars, although again, whether or not this is an issue depends on the individual
- At under half the weight of an Olympic bar, they are much less stable on a rack, so loading weight onto them alone can be risky business
- Become very expensive to replace when you do exceed the weight limit, as you have to replace the bar as well as the plates
At the end of the day, if you can afford to make the investment, an Olympic barbell and plates will always be the best choice. If you look after it properly it will last you a lifetime, you’ll be hard-pressed to get too strong for it, and, even better, it will make your home gym feel like the real deal.
Choosing a barbell for a home gym will typically involve taking into consideration a number of factors with a key one being how much weight can the barbell hold. A standard 1” barbell is good for most beginners (I started with one) but the weight capacity will not serve you well as you get stronger and need to use the heavier 45lb plates.
Therefore, it’s best to opt for an Olympic barbell right from the start in my opinion. The weight capacity on these can range from 500lbs for a cheap barbell on Amazon to 1,500lbs+ for a top-end weightlifting barbell.
While there is no industry standard for weight capacity, each manufacturer will provide a guideline and specific weight capacity for each bar so this should always be one of the first things you check.