What Classifies a Weight as an Olympic Weight?

What Classifies a Weight as an Olympic Weight?

When shopping around for weights, you might notice that some are labelled as ‘Olympic’ weights and bumper plates. But what does this mean? What’s the difference between regular weights and Olympic weights? More importantly, should you buy Olympic weights? 

Important Differences

Firstly, when sitting side by side, one of the first things you’ll notice is the size of the hole in the Olympic bumper plates. Since they’re designed to take heavier weights, Olympic bars are generally thicker. Therefore, the weights and bumper plates have a wider hole to accommodate them. 

While standard bars have a diameter of one inch, Olympic bars measure up to two inches. With this in mind, understand that there is a large selection of olympic bumper plates available for purchase. Olympic bumper plates and weights often have a hole twice the size of regular weights. 

When purchasing equipment for your gym (or your home gym), therefore, you don’t want to get the two confused. If you buy an Olympic bar and regular weights, you’ll get all the way home, enjoy the excitement of unpacking, and then realise that the weights don’t fit onto the bar. It’s much better to equip Olympic weights with an Olympic bar for the best (and safest!) experience. 

In terms of performance, standard bars and weights are generally designed for casual weightlifters. Consequently, the bars are lighter and come with more limitations. The bars are lighter, cheaper, and smaller. As a result, the most you can put onto the bar is lower compared to the thicker and more robust Olympic bars. 

Benefits of Olympic Weights and Bars

Now that you understand the differences, you’re probably wondering which you should choose. Since you already know about regular weights, let’s discuss the benefits of Olympic bars and weights. Why would you consider going in this direction rather than the more affordable regular weights? 

Bar Strength

As mentioned previously, the thicker Olympic bar makes it stronger. If you’re already pushing the boundaries of traditional weights, you’ll need Olympic weights to continue progressing. These bars are stronger and can handle more weights. Put too much weight on a regular bar and it will quickly bend. Rather than something from a cartoon (you’re unlikely to get a bonk on the head and all the weights fall onto your toes), the bend will occur steadily. Over time, heavier lifts are more difficult, and you need to compensate for the bend thus causing injuries. 


Though you can’t use regular weights on Olympic bars, you can use Olympic weights on regular bars with the right adapters. As long as you don’t overload the bar, this provides flexibility in your workouts and may prevent you from having to constantly switch weights between exercises. 

Rubber Circumference

Additionally, Olympic weights tend to have strong rubber around the outside of the weight. Rather than being made entirely of iron, there’s rubber around the outside and you can drop the weight without it causing quite so much damage to your flooring. Furthermore, experts believe that this rubber allows for more precise weight measurement. With this, you know exactly what you’re lifting and there are fewer inaccuracies. 

Other Benefits

Elsewhere, Olympic bars often have revolving ends to reduce torque when curling or snatching. When a bar doesn’t allow for spinning, it can warp the ends and reduce their life considerably. Also, Olympic bars are best if you’re planning to compete. It’s better to train with the sort of bars that you’ll use in competition. This way, you’re more confident and know what to expect. 

What classifies a weight as an Olympic weight? Although there are several differences, the biggest is the size of the bar (and therefore the holes!). 

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