Have you ever been in the gym, started to load one side of the barbell (or deload a side) only for the bar to tip off the rack and send all the plates crashing to the floor?
Not only is it unsafe when this happens but it’s also incredibly embarrassing! Especially when it happens in a public gym.
You therefore may be wondering how much weight will make a barbell tip and how can you prevent it from happening.
In this article, we’ll cover this question so that you know how to correctly load a barbell without it ever tipping over.
Why Do Barbells Not Tip Over
Barbells do not tip over when there is a little more weight on one side of the bar than the other because the amount of weight that people are using on bars does not provide enough force to tip it.
If there were no other forces acting upon the barbell it would obviously tip, but this situation does not exist in a vacuum.
Rather than existing in a hypothetical situation, the barbell exists in reality in which it is acted upon by gravity, and rests on a rack post that holds the bar on both sides about a quarter of the way up the length of the bar. It is this rack post that prevents barbells from tipping over.
These rack posts serve as the fulcrum of the barbell, they are the points where the barbell rests and where it will pivot or tip if there is too much weight on one side.
Barbells are not tip-proof, so people need to be sure to load their weights evenly, one side after the other, but they are protected from tipping over while you get the weight to match the other side.
Additionally, when weights are put onto the barbell, they are not put on the very end of the bar. When putting the weights on a bar, you do not barely put it on and then walk away. You push the weights towards the barbell bearings which will centralize the weight and center of gravity making it more resistant to tipping.
If instead you added the weight to the very end of the bar and let go, there’s a good chance the barbell will tip if the weight is in excess of 45lbs.
How Much Weight Can You Put on One Side of a Barbell
Barbells are variable so there is no one specific answer as to how much weight can be put on the side of a barbell. Each barbell is different in different ways such as:
- Barbell length
- Barbell thickness
- Barbell weight
- Barbell weight capacity
It is these factors that can make the difference between a barbell that supports 100 lbs and barbells that can support 1,500 lbs. That’s the difference between a middle school gym barbell and an Olympic powerlifting barbell.
Because these barbells are so variable, there is no set answer as to how much weight you can put on one side. If you are loading both sides evenly, then for the standard barbell that is about 5 to 6 feet long and weighing between 15 and 25 lbs you can find everywhere, you can load about 100 lbs on each side.
This is not the case when you load one side of the bar by itself because as you add more weight, you get more distance from the rack post and this accompanied with the uneven weight can end up with the bar tipping.
This capacity changes with the barbell dimensions, but overall the distance that three weights make from the rack post is either the tipping point or just beyond it.
With barbells, it is less about the weight but rather the farther from the rack post you get. This is the line you should not attempt to cross, and you should instead stick to making the weight even while you rack it.
This can be a tedious task but I’d never load more than 2 x 45lb weight plates onto one side of the bar without making the other side even.
How Much Weight Will Make a Barbell Tip Over
The answer to this question is not so simple. There are a lot of variables at play when putting weights on a barbell that can greatly influence exactly how much weight it can hold and to what degree. Some of these factors are:
- The barbell length
- The barbell weight
- Where the rack post is positioned on the bar (where the fulcrum is)
- The width of the weights on the barbell
With all these variables, actually solving how much weight you can put onto one side of the barbell becomes more or less a physics problem. Thankfully, there is some sort of regularity in regards to these different variables so there is a pretty common answer that works for almost every barbell type and rack positioning.
In most situations, a barbell will tip with three 45 lb weights loaded onto one side if there is no counterweight on the other side. At this point, with just how much distance from the fulcrum is made from the weight’s length, and how heavy they are being pushed further and further away, the bar will tip.
In other situations where the weights are not 45 lbs, the bar will still probably tip when you use three weights, and if not then adding one more weight will certainly get you there. These weights weigh less overall than the 45 lb ones, but the distance from the fulcrum point is still the same, and adding any more weight puts it past the tipping point.
How Much Weight Will Make a Barbell Bend
Like with every question, there are a variety of different bars with different dimensions, meant to hold different weights. Common to all of them though, is that each bar has its limitations, and eventually when enough weight is put on a bar it may bend.
Different bars are made to handle different weights, and there are even more things to consider when discussing the barbell bend:
- Is it a weightlifting bar or a powerlifting bar?
- Is it a cheaper bar or is it more expensive?
- How old is it?
- How is the athlete’s form?
Each athlete handles the bars differently, and on top of the different weights and status of the bars, bends are somewhat hard to calculate.
More often than not, the main determining factor of the bar bends is the weight. A standard Olympic barbell weighs 45 lbs and can handle heavy weights up to 1,500 lbs or 1000 lbs for the standard ones. Even with these bars that can withstand weight like this though, gravity takes a toll.
When lifting around 200 or 250 lbs, you can see the bar bend a little as the weightlifter moves it and drops it, bending maybe at most 1.5 inches. As more weight is added, this bend becomes more noticeable. About every additional 100 lbs that are added to the barbell sees an additional inch of bend, but the barbells do reach a point where it does not bend further.
Barbells can bend very easily, but you will need to have more than a couple thousand pounds before the bar will bend and break.
If you want to look into this further, we have a full article covering how much weight will make a barbell bend.
It’s always an embarrassing (and unsafe) situation when you remove plates from a barbell only for it to then tip. Both the weights and the barbell can cause damage to yourself and others so knowing how to correctly add or remove weights from a barbell should be essential gym etiquette and practice.
Therefore, it’s good to know how much weight will make a barbell tip. To make a barbell tip, loading 3 x 45lb plates onto one side of the bar will make it tip. If using thicker bumper plates then 2 x 45lb plates will be enough to make the barbell tip.
The solution to this is to ALWAYS load and deload the barbell evenly. If you add a plate to one side of the bar then add the equivalent to the other side as well. Not only will this help to prevent the barbell from ever tipping but will also protect against a potentially serious accident!