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As I understand it, 7' is the standard bar length for gyms and competitive lifting, but 5 and 6 foot versions are also available for home gym use (focusing on standard olympic 2" bar).

What benefits and limitations does a longer/shorter bar present for an amateur in their home gym setup?

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  • All the same sleeve and shaft diameter? Aug 1, 2022 at 12:04
  • @ThomasMarkov clarified for olympic bar, so same weights
    – Mr. Boy
    Aug 1, 2022 at 12:45

1 Answer 1

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At the start of the UK lockdown in 2020, I was lucky enough to have ordered some a 5' Olympic bar and some weight plates before they sold out everywhere. Couple of years on, and having acquired a power rack, I'm looking at upgrading to a 7' one, so hopefully some of this will help.

Weight

Doesn't always follow, but my 5' bar is 15kg, whereas most standard 7' bars are 20kg. You can get technique 7' bars that can weigh 10kg - 15kg, but I'm not certain if you can get a 5' bar weighing 20kg

Storage

Main reason I initially went for 5' bar was I could store it a lot easier than a 7' one.

Load

I can't find the spec for my 5' bar, but I'm pretty sure it has a 180kg maximum load. 7' bars can be rated for much higher load (though not all are, check before buying).

Exercises

The only exercise I found that I can't do on a 5' bar (see note on length below) is anything requiring a snatch grip (deadlifts or any of the snatch assistance exercises). I stand 6' 5" tall, with the same wingspan, so the bar simply isn't long enough for me to use a proper snatch grip. If you're shorter, you may not have the same issue.

Length

Obviously, 5' is shorter than 7'. On my 5' bar, the length you grip (the shaft) is substantially shorter than a 7' bar, besides giving me issues with snatch grip exercises, this means it doesn't fit in a standard power rack normally. I can make it fit if I put the sleeves on the rack pins and pad the plates with collars, but it's not exactly secure, and I wouldn't want to load it much.

If you have adjustable squat stands, then you can probably adjust for this, but not with a traditional power rack.

Variety and availability

Quite simply, 7' Olympic bars are more common, and so are generally more available for purchase, meaning you might be able to find them second hand, or cheaper than a 5' one (yes, I know it sounds wrong, but at least currently, that is the case). You can also get a much wider variety of 7' bars because they're more common.

A quick look at a standard fitness store, you can get a single 5' bar, or for the 7' ones, you can get technique bars, smaller diameter bars, powerlifting bars (the knurling is different on power lifting and Olympic lifting bars), ones with higher load capacity, etc, etc.

Conclusion

It all comes down to what you want it for. I've spent a couple of years training with a 5' bar, because it suited my needs. Now, my needs have changed, so I'm in the market for a 7' bar.

(Additional information https://homegymresource.com/the-complete-guide-to-barbells-everything-you-want-to-know/)

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  • Isn't the section where you put the plates smaller on a 5' bar, too? If you have those really thick bumper plates I guess that could seriously limit how much you can load onto it.
    – gustafc
    Aug 2, 2022 at 17:27
  • @gustafc on mine, no, it's standard Olympic plate size sleeves. Obviously you can get other ones, but the question was specifically about bars taking Olympic size plates
    – Dark Hippo
    Aug 3, 2022 at 8:21
  • I was thinking about the length rather than the diameter - I googled and found mirafit.co.uk/… where the weight section is 26.5cm for the 5' barbell, compared to the 39.5cm on the 7' version. So you have 13cm less length to load plates on. Rogue's IWF 25kg plates are 66mm thick, so you can fit 4 red plates on each side of the 5' bar, but 5 reds on the 7' bar. Worth considering even if it isn't necessarily a problem.
    – gustafc
    Aug 3, 2022 at 10:08
  • @gustafc right, sorry, misunderstood. I haven't measured mine, but I know I can fit 4 20kg plates on each side and still get the collars on. Obviously plate width does vary as well though
    – Dark Hippo
    Aug 3, 2022 at 12:54

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