Barbell collars or clamps are an often overlooked part of the home gym. There are some situations where you really need them though. So what are the best ones? I’ve done some research and found out.
The 6 best barbell collars;
- Lock Jaw Pro 2
- ProSourceFit Spring Clip
- Proloc 1
- Rogue Aluminum
- Dark Iron Barbell Clamp
- Gorilla Strength Chain collars
Here are the six best collars for home gyms. If you want to know more about the differences between the types of clamps and why you should use them, scroll down to find that information.
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6 Best barbell collars
Here are your five best choices for barbell collars. These are collars for 2” barbells. These are not necessarily in order. Different people have different requirements. Pick the one that’s best for you.
Lock Jaw Pro 2
The original quick release collars. Often faked, never improved.
Yes, there are cheaper versions available that look similar. Let’s call them ‘replicas’ to be nice. Most of those work well when they’re new but they don’t last as long as the real thing. At some point they start losing grip and can start sliding.
The original Lock Jaw quick release collars cost a bit more but are very durable. They won’t damage your barbell but still clamp onto the bar tightly, securing your plates.
The Pro 2 has improved in strength over the previous model and claims to hold 50% more weight. They also feature a magnet so you can easily stick them to the power rack or other metal to get them out of the way.
ProSourceFit 2” Spring Clip
It’s the classic barbell collar. Almost every gym in the world will have these clips laying around. They’re cheap, don’t break and last forever. Sure, they’re not the most comfortable to use but people have been using them for many decades with success.
There are many brands who provide these clips but they’re all pretty similar. Some have plastic handles like the ProSourceFit ones. That makes them a bit more comfortable to use.
What’s the problem with most barbell clamps? They are always laying around on the floor and in the way.
Proloc solves that problem. There are magnets inside the housing which means you can just stick them to the power rack. You can put them on any metal surface you want so they’re always out of the way but within arm’s reach at the same time.
It’s not a quick release clamp but still pretty easy to get on and off the barbell and is very secure. There is a thumb screw on top of the clamp that tightens it. These clamps don’t move if you tighten them correctly. The benefit is that you can choose how tight to clamp them on. The thumb screw is still a bit easier to use than spring clips but not as easy as a quick release lever.
If you want something really nice, these Rogue collars might be what you’re looking for.
Unlike most other clamps, they’re made from aluminum. The biggest part of the collar is CNC cut from a single piece of aluminum which makes it very strong but also very pretty. It’s available in different color finishes and has a quick release mechanism. The quick release lever is made from nylon. Inside the collar is a rubber lining so you don’t damage your barbell or collars.
Dark Iron Clamp
Another quick release clamp. A much cheaper version this time. The release lever is a bit different than other collars. It swivels from side to side instead of up and down. That means the mechanism works a little different but in practice you can use them just as quick as the other clamps.
They’re made from high impact polyester so will last for a long time. You get the ease of use of a quick release clamps for only a little bit more money than spring clips.
The only downside is that some people report they ‘walk’ (move around) a bit more than they’d like. However, that is under really heavy use like dropping the barbell from shoulder height and/or use with really high weights. For general fitness use, these clamps are going to be perfectly fine but, if you expect more, pick one of the others.
Gorilla Strength Chain Collars
Maybe you want your collars to do something more than just keep the weight plates on. Some training methods involve hanging heavy chains from the bar. Just like weight plates, you don’t want one chain to slide off and cause an imbalance.
The Gorilla strength collars have extra loops you can attach your chains to. This way the chains are secured to the barbell and can’t slide off. Besides that, these collars are completely made from steel. They’re made in Kentucky, U.S.A., are made for 2” barbells and can support up to 500 lbs.
Types of barbell collars
Not all barbell collars are the same. Let’s quickly go over the differences between the different types.
There are two types of screw collar.
The first one is basically a big nut you screw onto the barbell. And there is the key point: The barbell needs to have threads on the sleeves. Some barbells have this thread and are specifically designed to work with this type of collar. Most of these barbells are in the low price range.
So, if you’ve got a barbell with smooth sleeves, this type of collar won’t work. Also, if you buy a barbell (or adjustable dumbbells) with threaded sleeves, these collars are almost always included anyways.
The second type is meant to be used for smooth sleeves. The screw is mounted perpendicular to the barbell sleeve when mounted. The screw pushes against the barbell and so tightening it.
The most common type of collar is the spring clip. It’s a simple, thick, metal wire that’s turned into a spring with handles. You squeeze the handles to open up the hole in the center of the spring. This allows you to slide them onto the sleeves. Then when you let go of the handles, the spring tightens up around the sleeve so it won’t move.
These might seem like they’re simple and easy to use. In my experience they are a bit of a pain to get on and off the bar. While the springs aren’t too hard to squeeze before a workout. However, after a few lifts that test your grip strength, they suddenly seem quite tough. They are simple so they’re not going to break and they are easy to use except you need quite a bit of grip strength especially after a heavy lift.
They are the cheapest option, so if you can live with the downsides, it’s a good way to get some barbell collars for little money.
The most popular collar for home gyms is the quick release version. There is a single small latch than you can flip to lock or unlock the collar.
There are quite a few benefits to this type of collar;
- Very easy to use.
- Don’t need a lot of grip strength to unlock them
- Available in many colors
The ease of use is going to make you use this type of collar more often which means you get some extra safety.
Competition collars don’t necessarily use another way of tightening around the bar. It does mean they are certified to be used in official competitions. The IWF (International Weightlifting Federation), sets standards for all the equipment used in an official competition.
The IWF sets the following standards for collars;
- 2.5 kg per side with a max tolerance of +10 grams
- Made from chromed steel
- 5 cm diameter hole
So you can see there is no prescribed way of locking and unlocking the collars. The most important requirement is the weight. Most other collars tend to be quite a bit lighter.
How to use barbell collars
There are two parts embedded in this question;
- How can you put collars on and take them off?
- When to use barbell collars?
The first question is easily answered. The second question is a bit more interesting.
Just put the plates you need on your barbell. When all the plates you need are on, slide on, the collar and lock it. It’s that simple.
When to use barbell collars is a bit more interesting.
Why to use barbell collars
Why would you use barbell collars in the first place? Can’t you just lift weights without them? Yes, you can. And most of the time, it’ll be perfectly fine. However, you probably will run into a situation where it isn’t ok.
Let’s clear up some confusion first. There are two things on a barbell that can be referred to as a collar. Take a look at the picture below.
The first collar is part of the sleeve of the barbell. It’s an edge on the inside of the sleeves that provides a stop for the weight plates so they don’t slide onto the shaft and bang into your hands. This is not the collar we’re talking about.
The collars in this post are on the outside of the sleeves. Their function is very similar though. After putting the weight plates on the bar, you put on the collars which prevent the weight plates from sliding off.
Why would you want to use barbell collars? Barbell collars are a safety measure. It prevents weight plates from falling off the barbell. Especially if you’re lifting heavy, it’s possible you will fail a repetition at some point. Usually when you fail, you don’t fail ‘symmetrically’. Usually one muscle on one side will fail and cause a chain reaction that makes you go down. That means one side of the barbell starts pointing to the floor.
When that happens without a collar, the plates will start sliding off. When that happens there are two dangers;
- The load suddenly becomes very uneven. Since you’re already failing a lift, your body is not in a position to compensate for that. This can cause injury since your body will be subjected to an uneven weight, suddenly.
- When plates slide off, one side is suddenly very heavy and the other side very light. If the bar is still on your body, the light side will suddenly whip up. That end of the bar can build a significant speed in very little time and when it hits something, it can do some real damage. The heavy side will fall down and do some damage on the other side.
So when things go wrong without collars, they can go very wrong very quickly.
Another reason to use barbell clamps is bar bend. The bar will bend a little under very heavy loads. That means both ends point down which means the plates can slide off. So if you’re lifting heavy, barbell collars are an absolute necessity.
Does having collars on the bar complicate changing the weight on the barbell? Yes, it requires an extra step. However, there are different types of collars that add different levels of complication.
Also, barbell collars aren’t necessary on every exercise. In some cases you might even want to avoid them.
Barbell collar buying factors
What are some things to look for when buying barbell collars?
- Easy of use: The easier it is to use the collar, the more likely it is you’ll actually use them. That means you will be safer in the end. Also, a collar that’s easier to use will just cause less frustration.
- Reliability: The quality and reliability are important but difficult to assess from the outside. The last thing you want is the collar to fail when you need it the most. Picking collars from a well-known brand isn’t a guarantee of good quality but it does increase your chances quite a bit.
- Weight: Collars come in different weights. For home use, the weight isn’t very important. But, in official competitions, the collars will have a specific weight. The IWF (International Weightlifting Federation) specifies that each collar has to weigh 2.5 kg. So if you’re training for an official competition, it could be good to use the official weighted ones. Or you can just add 2.5 kg plates to the bar to even things out.