Don’t have enough space in your home gym for a full sized barbell? What are your options that are still usable for everything you want to do but also take up less space?
A women’s Olympic barbell is 79.13” long which is 7.5” shorter than a men’s Olympic barbell (86.75”). This is the best option for a fully functional short barbell. Some 6’ barbells can work but on many of these bars the shaft is too short to fit on equipment like a power rack or bench press.
Find out what the different options are and what they are good for.
What is a short barbell?
Saying something is short means you’re comparing it to a certain standard. What is that standard for barbells? It’s the standard men’s Olympic barbell. A full sized barbell is often the same or very close to the barbells used for the men’s weightlifting disciplines at the Olympic games and other official weightlifting competitions.
The length of a full sized (men’s Olympic) barbell is 86.75”/ 2200 mm. You’ll also see them advertised as 7’2 long which is slightly different than 2200 mm but close enough to not make any material difference.
So technically any barbell shorter than 86.75” can be called a short barbell. However, there are a lot of different lengths available. Let’s go over a few common options;
- 79”: This is the standard women’s Olympic barbell. If you need a shorter barbell, this is the best option since it’ll fit on all common gym equipment. You save about 7.5” of length over a full sized barbell. This will let you use a barbell in a space 8.5’ wide.
- 72”/6’: The shortest bar you can fit on a power rack and only a few models will fit. How well depends on the specific bar and equipment it rests on. Will work well on narrower squat racks or bench press benches. It’s more than a foot shorter than a full sized barbell and will let you use a barbell in a space 8’ wide.
- 60”/5’: These barbells are not suitable to put on power racks or squat racks. These bars are best suited for exercises that use a narrow stance/grip and where the bar is lifted from the floor. It’s good to have one of these length bars next to a full sized one to use on exercises like barbell curls and rows.
Why are these bars shorter
How do they make these bars shorter without ruining the functionality? There are two important parts to the length; Shaft length and sleeve length. The combination of those two makes up the total length of the barbell. So to make a shorter barbell you can make either or both of those parts shorter.
All 79” barbells have the same shaft length as full sized barbells. That means the sleeves are a bit shorter. Women’s barbells have 320 mm long sleeves compared to 415 mm on the men’s bar. That means that the functionality is completely the same but the amount of weight you can load on the sleeves.
72” sleeves can go two ways: Either the sleeves are cut really short or the sleeves and the shaft is cut short. Usually both the shaft and sleeves are shorter. Because there are no standards for this type of bar, it can be done any way the manufacturer sees fit. That means that in many cases, the shaft is just a little too short to fit on a full sized power cage.
60” long barbells have a shaft that’s significantly cut short and sleeves that are shorter than the ones on full sized bars as well. These barbells aren’t meant to fit on any equipment but are just used for exercises that are lifted from the floor and are done with a relatively narrow grip. This type of bar works well for curls, tricep extensions and rows.
Pros and cons of short barbells
So what are the pros and cons of barbells that are shorter than the full sized 86.75” ones? Here are the most important considerations.
Pros of short barbells
- Need less space: By far the biggest reason people want to use short barbells in a home gym is because they take up less space.To be able to use a barbell properly, you want at least 1’ but preferably 2’ of space between the end of the bar and the wall. A shorter bar means you can use a barbell in narrower rooms.
- Easier to handle. Long barbells can be a bit of a pain to maneuver around Sometimes you want to use a bench or rack without the barbell. The shorter the bar is, the easier it is to move around you gym.
- Lighter: Full sized barbells weigh 20 kg/44lbs. when empty. For some people that might be too much. A shorter bar is usually also lighter because there is less material in it.
- Cheaper: Short barbells can be a bit cheaper because they are made with less material and don’t have to follow the official certification guidelines. However, that can come at the cost of quality.
Cons of short barbells
- Don’t always fit on equipment: For the bar to rest on your rack, the shaft has to be long enough. The sleeves don’t fit on the hooks that hold the barbell. If the shaft is cut too short for your equipment, you won’t be able to place the bar on the hooks.
- Lower quality: Shorter bars are often of lower quality than full sized bars although this isn’t absolute. 79” bars will be of comparable quality but 72” and 60” bars are usually lower quality although those bars will also be used to lift less weight.
- Lower load limit: Because the sleeves are shorter, you can put fewer plates on them. A 79” barbell can be loaded with about 500 lbs. while bars shorter than that can often only handle 300 lbs.
- Can be too short for some exercises: On exercises where you want to use a wide stance or wide grip, the 60” barbells can be too short to get the stance or grip you want.
How to figure out if a barbell is too short?
Are you wondering if the barbell you want to buy fits on your gym equipment or the other way around? Here’s how you can figure out if a certain barbell fits on a certain piece of equipment.
You’ll have to know a few dimensions to figure out what you want to know.
- Shaft length: How much shaft is there between the collars? That’s the part that has to fit on the barbell hooks. You can figure this out if you know the total length and sleeve length. Take the sleeve length and add 30 mm for the collar. Now multiply this number by 2 and subtract this from the total length and you should have the shaft length.
- Width between the hooks: Most power cages have the barbell hooks 49” apart. That means you need 50” of space between the collars (shaft length) at the very least. 51” is better. Some pieces of equipment are narrower. Bench press benches can often handle 72” barbells and there are quite narrow power racks as well. However, for a standard 49” rack you’ll find that most 72” and 60” bars don’t fit. There are just a few 72” bars that will work on a power cage.
You want about 2’ more shaft length than the space between the collars Women’s Olympic barbells (79”) have the same shaft length as full sized ones so both those types will fit on any type of gym equipment