I'm lucky enough to have been gifted a half squat rack and 160kg of "standard" weights. I'm happy with this and not looking to upgrade in the near future but I was wondering what the advantages are of having Olympic plates?

Are these more durable? Why do novice/beginner lifters typically buy/gravitate towards them instead of the significantly cheaper standard plates? Is there an advantage to Olympic plates that I'm missing?

  • 2
    Another thing to consider is the curvature of the plates, as many will be octagonal whereas others are perfectly circular. Circular is much better as it makes it much easier to position the weighted bar on the ground. It's not much, but a super pet peeve of mine when doing deadlifts with octagonal plates.
    – Moses
    Aug 31, 2012 at 3:11

6 Answers 6


While your abilities are still below lifting 160kg on any given weight, and you are performing the major powerlifting movements (squats, deadlifts, bench press, overhead press) then there isn't a major advantage one over the other.

However, there are reasons why you would opt for Olympic plates:

  • Standard bars are roughly 1" diameter, but there is enough variance that there is no guarantee that plates from one manufacturer will fit on a bar from another manufacturer.
  • Olympic plates have tolerances that must be met: the hole must be 50mm, the largest disk is 450mm on the outside dimension. This ensures you can mix and match your plates and know you can use it on your Olympic bar.
  • Olympic bars also have tolerances that must be met: 20kg bar, sleeves must fit plates with 50mm holes.
  • The sleeves on Olympic bars spin allowing you to do cleans and snatches with minimal stress on your elbows.
  • Olympic bars can use either less expensive metal plates, or bumper plates which are designed to be dropped without being damaged or damaging the bar. Bumpers are useful for Olympic lifts like cleans and snatches, but don't do a whole lot for powerlifting lifts.
  • Standard bars cannot handle much more than 160kg before they permanently bend.
  • Olympic bars can be made to handle weights in excess of 500kg.

There are more subtle differences between Olympic style bars that are outside the scope of your question which deal with its suitability for one barbell sport over another.

When you are starting out, it makes sense to use the cheapest weights you can get your hands on. However, if your focus is on strength, there will come a time when you outgrow what the standard set will be able to do for you. At that time you will be forced to upgrade.

  • 3
    My back hurt just thinking about lifting 500kg. :-( Ow.
    – corsiKa
    Aug 30, 2012 at 23:00
  • The current world record for deadlift is 1155 lbs / 525 kg, currently held by Strongman Zydrunas Savickas. It was using a special bar that could accept Hummer tires. However, there are Olympic bars that can handle more using traditional plates. Jun 10, 2014 at 11:36
  • One small detail, which was implied but not explicitly stated, is that Olympic discs provide a set clearance below the bar, should it fall on you. This also gives you consistency measuring the strength of your lifts from the floor.
    – POD
    May 12, 2020 at 21:44

Here's a link that describes the differences: http://www.newgrip.com/gain.html

Basically standard bars are typically shorter (but you can get a 7' one) and can hold less overall weight prior to bending. I've lifted 400lbs standard, but have a slightly bent bar because of it and like lifts. Unless you're going heavy standard is a good beginner/intermediate set to have.


Olympic bars are sturdier, heavier, are a well-known and well-followed standard, and allow you to do the fast lifts (cleans, jerks, snatches) much easier. It's easier and safer to load them with lots of weight.

Standard bars are good, particularly to start with. If you can load it heavy, keep doing that. Don't mess with a good thing.

If you run out of space on the bar, or the bar starts to bend, or it doesn't fit your squat rack or power cage, it's time to get an Olympic bar.



Mostly history, but also, depending on what you do, you may need space for bearings/bushings.


Once upon a time, weightlifting was new and the quality of steel you could get wasn't that great, especially when you needed hundreds of pounds of it. The Victorian weightlifters didn't buy those cartoon, fixed weight, globe-end bars because they hated the idea of being able to adjust weight, they did it because if they didn't, then things would break.

Eventually junk level steel progressed to the point where you could make plates and sleeves that would hold up, so long as the interface between them was around 2" in diameter. But up through the 1950s the bar in the barbell would occasionally break. The solution was to wait until good enough steel became cheap enough to make the bar (and only the bar) out of that. Eleiko was the first to do this in the late 50s, and those bars were expensive. Despite most of the steel being cheaper stuff (also, tooling for better steel costs more, takes more time, skill,...).

These days good steel is cheap and common enough that for puny humans that only lift up to around 1000 lbs, the "standard" model would be fine for many movements (ok, 28 mm vs 1 inch is actually kind of important for some human beings. But not many.). But at this point we have something like 100 years of standardization on the 2" model. It's the one that's defined. It's the one that's made by quality manufacturers,... Companies could make a 28mm bar and plates that were well made, calibrated, etc, but they're not going to, because the "standard" bars and plates have a reputation for being low quality, breaking, etc. And at this point, the reputation is self fulfilling.


Note that I said "for many movements". If you're doing powerlifting, you don't care about how well the sleeves spin on the bar. But if you're doing olympic lifts, you care. So you need bearings or bushings between the bar and the sleeve. These don't have to make the sleeve 2", but that's what we're used to, so why not?


After a couple years of lifting, you could potential exceed the limits of a standard bar. If you generically just lifting the same amounts with no training program to progressive overload (except not even sure why you would be doing this really) It's not like everyone will be powerlifting or strength training, but in the end of the day, whatever time under tension will make you somewhat stronger. It's the same reason you buy a 500-1000 lb rack, even if you're not lifting that much yet: you might. And what's the point of buying a 300 lb limit one, when you would probably exceed that some day? Sure most of us may never get to that "next maximum level" but a lot of us will be able to do 400-500 lb dead lifts 300-400 lb squats, etc. after a while. So there isn't much reason to purchase a standard set.

That being said, right now due to Covid stuff, even the standard stuff is selling for ridiculous amounts. But before that, it was usually far cheaper, or even free. So I suppose if things were free, you could use that.

I have the opposite thought most of the time: why do they even make standard stuff? I do actually have some (200 lbs) for a Bodyline cable system that I got for free. I guess the plus is that I don't have to move my Olympic plates over constantly to put it on the machine. (I do have some adapters if I needed to.) But for the most part, other than maybe back rows, where I sometimes put all the weight on it, 100-150 lbs is quite enough for most everything else.

  • You seem to be addressing the benefits of an olympic bar, but the asker was talking about olympic plates.
    – Alec
    May 13, 2020 at 20:42

The 20kg Olympic bar is thicker and hence ensures better grip. Olympic weights have no torque. if you are looking for a black OR white answer it would be to get an Olympic set period!

  • Hi and welcome to fitness.stackexchange! While I agree with your points, you might notice that Berin's answer already mentioned them. As such, your answer doesn't really add any new insights.
    – user8119
    Aug 2, 2014 at 11:29

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