Most barbells weigh either 15 or 20 kilograms. When should you pick the 15 kg one over a 20 kg bar? Here are the most important differences and for whom they’re better.
Besides being lighter, 15 Kilogram barbells are better suited for people with smaller hands since they have 25 mm diameter shafts instead of the standard 28 mm. They are also a bit shorter which makes them easier to use in small spaces.
Read more on the exact differences and if you should use one below.
Why Use A 15 Kg Women’s Olympic Barbell?
So why would you want to buy a 15 kg. Olympic barbell? Does it matter?
There are four reasons why you would want the 15 kilogram/33 lbs. barbell:
- Hand size: Women’s (15 kg) barbells have a thinner shaft. So the part you grab with your hands is actually thinner. This makes it easier to grip for people with smaller hands. Women have smaller hands on average which is why the barbells are a little thinner. The smaller diameter makes it easier to wrap your fingers around it and get a good grip. Especially if you lift heavy this makes a difference. The flip side of that is that the thinner bar cuts into your hands more.
- Strength: The women’s barbell is 25% lighter (20 vs 15 kg). For beginners that want to do exercises with an empty bar, this can be a significant difference. You can always load up more weight plates to make a bar heavier, making a barbell lighter is impossible.
- Gym size: 15 kg. Barbells are a little shorter than 20 kg. bars. It’s a difference of about 7”. In some spaces there is just not enough space to space and maneuver a longer barbell, a 15 kg bar can mean the difference between using a barbell and not.
- Price: In some cases the 15 kg version of a barbell is a bit cheaper than the 20 kg one. In my opinion that price difference is not enough to warrant the choice of one over another. Think about the other factors mentioned above to make the right decision for you.
While some people might not like it, the different types are called men’s and women’s barbells for a reason. Most men are better off with the 20 kg version and most women with the 15 kg version. However, just get the one you think works best for you.
How Are 15 Kg Olympic Barbells Different?
Women’s and men’s olympic barbells are a little bit different. The International Weightlifting Committee (IWF) sets different standards for the equipment used for the women’s and men’s competitions. While most barbells people buy for their home gym are not officially certified Olympic barbells, most manufacturers model their barbells closely after the official standards.
The standards set for barbells by the IWF are pretty strict and all the dimensions and weights have to be very close to the set standard. The non-certified (cheaper) barbells most people buy are modeled closely after those certified ones but there can be small differences. However, for all practical purposes those differences are small enough that it doesn’t matter.
So what are the actual differences? Keep in mind a random barbell can differ slightly.
|Men's Olympic Barbell||Women's Olympic Barbell|
|Weight||20 kg/ 44lbs.||15 kg/ 33lbs.|
|Total Length||2200 mm/ 86.6"||2010 mm/ 79.14"|
|Shaft length||1310 mm||1310 mm|
|Sleeve Length||16.25"/ 415 mm||12.5"/ 320 mm|
|Shaft Diameter||28 mm||25 mm|
|Knurling||Center Knurling||No Center Knurling|
|Load Capacity (Bumper Plates)||540 lbs./ 245 kg||360 lbs./ 163 kg|
So women’s Olympic barbells are about 5 kilos lighter and a few millimeters thinner than the men’s barbell. They’re also slightly shorter because the sleeves at the end are shorter.
Not sure what the sleeves and shaft of a barbell are? Click here to find all the parts of a barbell.
Should You Get a 15 Kg Barbell?
So should you buy one? That depends on two things;
- Do you already have a barbell?
- How big are your hands?
In case you already have a barbell that doesn’t necessarily has to be replaced, I would only go for a 15 kg barbell if the 25 mm shaft thickness suits your hands better. Another reason could be if you have trouble with an empty 20 kg. barbell but still want to use barbells to train.
If your hands are better suited to the standard 28 mm shaft diameter, just get the standard 20 Kg barbell. Even if it’s a little heavy in the beginning, you’ll quickly get used to it and put on more weight anyways.