Are all barbells and all weight plates compatible? You might wonder if you can just get any barbell and weight set and it’ll work together. That’s the question that will be questioned in this post.
The inner diameter hole of weight plates and the diameter of the sleeve on the barbell isn’t always the same. The most common sleeve and weight plate inner hole diameters are 1” (25mm) and 2” (50mm). The bar and plates need matching diameter holes to fit. 2″ plates fit on a 1″ bar but not securely.
Let’s go into the details a little bit deeper below.
What makes plates fit barbells?
What are the factors that decide if a certain weight plate fits a certain barbell? There are two;
- Weight plate hole size
- Barbell sleeve diameter
How does a weight plate even go on a barbell? You probably know but a quick recap; you slide the outside of the barbell through the hole in the middle of the weight plate. Or the other way around might be easier. Either way, it’s pretty simple so why wouldn’t it fit?
That’s where the two sizes named above come in.
Weight plate hole sizes are commonly 1” or 2”. Or more accurately 25mm and 50mm. Barbell sleeves also come in the two same diameters. Obviously the barbells are slightly smaller than the holes in the weight plates otherwise they still wouldn’t fit.
So to make your weight plates fit your barbell, you have to simply match those sizes. If your barbell has 2” sleeves, get weight plates with the same diameter hole and do the same for 1” barbells. It’s an easy thing to check before you buy either one since all listings will mention these sizes. If a listing doesn’t say anything about it, avoid the product. Likely they just forgot to mention it but it could also be a different uncommon size that’s difficult to match up with anything.
You might think that you could fit weight plates with a 2” hole on a barbell with a 1” sleeve. And sure, it’ll fit but it has significant downsides. If you do this, the barbell only fills a small portion of the plate hole. That means;
- The plates can move around very easily on the bar. Since they can’t move further inwards, they could move outwards and possibly fall of in the worst circumstances. It is possible to use a collar and clips to prevent this from happening.
- The plates can pivot on the bar. If the hole is too big the plates can also tip from side to side without sliding. This isn’t a problem on all lifts but can be on some where the plates touch the ground. The deadlift for example. Imagine that the first part of your deadlift would change the position of all the plates. That’s not very comfortable or conducive to lifting well.
- If you still want to use 2” plates on a 1” bar, you can try this adapter (Amazon link). You simple slide it over the original sleeve and you’re set.
In the end, if you’ve got a bar with 1” sleeves and plates with 2” holes in your garage and don’t want to buy anything new, you can make it work although it isn’t optimal. People that are in the position to buy one or both of the parts new (or new second hand), should do so since it’ll just work better and if you need it anyways, the price difference is negligent.
High quality barbells and weight plates
While the vast majority of 1” plates will fit 1” barbells and the same for 2”, there is one caveat.
Very high quality barbells and weight plates have much smaller tolerances than the cheaper versions. What I mean with high quality are the brands that are often seen at official competitions. Some examples are; IVANKO, Eleiko, York and a few other ones. Especially the versions that are certified to be used at those competitions have very tight tolerances.
What does that mean? Those barbells have a sleeve diameter of 49.5 to 50 millimeters. The hole sizes are between 50.2 and 50.8 millimeters. You can see that the differences are very small and the bars and plates are really designed to go together. If you’ve got high quality plates and barbells, there is no problem. Everything should go together fine.
Where problems arise is when you mix cheaper products (with higher tolerances) with the higher quality product. While they SHOULD be the same size, lower quality barbells can have higher tolerances which makes them not actually fit.
For example, a lower quality barbell might have a sleeve diameter of 49 to 50.5 millimeters. Since the weight plates have a hole that measures 50.2 to 50.8 millimeters, there is a very big chance it won’t fit. Of course it can also go the other way where you have a bit more space.
If you’ve got both a bar and plates with bigger tolerances it’s not a big problem. Most often the manufacturers will make the plate hole a bit bigger so even with the bigger tolerances, the two won’t interfere.
1” or 2”, what’s better weights?
If you don’t have a barbell or weights yet, which one should you choose? 1” or 2”?
1” barbells are commonly known as ‘regular’ barbells while 2” barbells are called “Olympic”. The diameter says something about the outside ends (sleeves) of the barbell and the plate hole. It does have a few implications for the rest of the bar as well however.
- Bars with 1” sleeves are usually cheaper
- 2” allows for spinning sleeves. Since the smallest bar diameter is 25mm, you need a bigger diameter than that to allow the sleeves to spin. Spinning sleeves are better for many lifts but absolutely necessary for Olympic lifts.
- 2” sleeves allow the rest of the bar to be thicker. A thicker bar is stronger and stiffer. For some people with big hands a thicker bar provides better grip as well.
The biggest difference is the spinning sleeves and it’s the reason why many people prefer 2”. Spinning sleeves mean you don’t have to rotate the weights to rotate the bar. On every lift you’ll rotate the bar at least a little bit. Rotating sleeves mean that you have a safer grip since the weight plates won’t try to rotate the bar in your hands. This also reduces the torque on your wrists, elbows and shoulders possibly preventing injuries.
1” barbells and plates are perfectly fine to use in your home gym as long as you don’t do any Olympic lifts. While for other lifts like a deadlift or squat a rotating sleeve would be a bit better but also slightly more expensive.
If you want rotating sleeves and/or a thicker bar, a 2” set will serve you better. While it can cost a bit more than the 1” versions, you often get better quality and more choice as well. Rubberized or bumper plates for example, are way more common in the 2” variety.
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Can I use Olympic plates on a regular bar? Yes, it is possible to use weight plates with a 2” hole on 1” barbell sleeves. It might not be as secure and stable as properly fitting plates however. It’s best to use collars or clips since the plates could slide off easier. Alternatively you can use an adapter that will turn your 1” sleeve into a 2” sleeve.
What is the difference between standard and Olympic weight plates? The biggest difference between regular plates and Olympic plates is the center hole diameter. Regular plates have a 1” diameter hole while Olympic plates have 2” holes. Olympic style plates are also available in more styles like bumper plates.