What’s The Difference Between 33 lbs. And 44 lbs. Barbells?

Picking the right barbell is important. Many barbells weigh either 33 or 44/45 pounds and you’re not sure what the differences are and which one is better. The differences go deeper than just an 11 pound difference so it’s important to figure out what they are and what’s best. Luckily, this article will tell you exactly those things.

Women’s Olympic barbells weigh 33 pounds while men’s Olympic bars weigh 44 pounds. Besides weight, there are differences in; length, shaft diameter, load capacity, and knurling. 33-pound barbells are best for people who have smaller hands and need a lighter bar to start off with.

Let’s dive into the exact differences between the barbells, some exceptions to the rule and what’s the best barbell for you.

What Are 33 lbs And 44 lbs. Barbells?

Most barbells you’ll find in competitions, commercial gyms, or home gyms will weigh either 33 lbs or 44 lbs. This is because those are the two types of barbells the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) has sanctioned for official use; The men’s (44 lbs) and women’s (33 lbs barbells).

While 99.9% of barbells will never be used in an official competition, most barbells are still built to follow those standards. This is why the majority of bars you can find anywhere weigh either 33 or 44 pounds. Some bars are rounded up to 45 pounds.

Just looking to buy a great barbell for a great price? Click here to find which one I recommend.

Other Barbells

While most straight barbells follow the Olympic standards, not all of them do. There are plenty of barbells out there that don’t exactly follow the weights and dimensions set by the IWF. These other barbells can be 33 or 45 lbs but they can also have different weights.

Most barbells you see in commercial or home gyms will still be either 33 or 44 lbs. but there are no guarantees.

Comparison Of Women’s (33 lbs) and Men’s (44 lbs.) Bars

Besides the weight difference, there are some other differences between the two types of barbells.

Men's Olympic BarbellWomen's Olympic Barbell
Weight20 kg/ 44lbs.15 kg/ 33lbs.
Total Length2200 mm/ 86.6"2010 mm/ 79.14"
Shaft length1310 mm1310 mm
Sleeve Length16.25"/ 415 mm12.5"/ 320 mm
Shaft Diameter28 mm25 mm
KnurlingCenter KnurlingNo Center Knurling

Let’s dive into the differences a little deeper.

Shaft Diameter

The biggest difference between the Olympic barbells is the shaft diameter. Men’s Olympic barbells have a 28 mm diameter shaft while women’s bars have a 25 mm diameter shaft. 

The main reason for this difference is the difference in hand size between men and women. Men generally have bigger hands and therefore are more comfortable with a slightly bigger diameter bar.


The official total length of a women’s Olympic barbell is 2010 mm. The total length of a men’s Olympic barbell is 2200 mm. The shaft length is the same but the sleeve length is shorter on women’s barbells.

The standards are set in millimeters by the IWF which is why the length in inches looks a bit messy. Often the lengths in inches are just rounded to 86.6” for men’s barbells and 79.14” for women’s bars.

All parts of a barbell with names
Below you’ll find some words not everyone is familiar with, related to parts of a barbell. Click here to find a post that explains exactly what all the parts of a barbell are.

Sleeve Length and Load Capacity

On both types, the shaft length is the same length but the sleeves differ.

  • The loadable sleeve length for men’s Olympic barbells is 16.25”
  • The loadable sleeve length for women’s Olympic barbells is 12.5”

Since the sleeves are different lengths, this impacts how many plates fit on them. Some weight plates are thicker than others so it’s hard to give an exact number.

Bumper plates are thicker than most other plates. 45 lbs. bumper plates are on average 2.5” thick. Barbell clips are about 2” Wide.

So that means you can fit the following on the different bars;

Men’s bar load capacity;

  • Men’s bar loadable sleeve: 16.25”
  • 16.25” – 2”(collar) = 14.25”
  • 14.25”/2.5” = 5.7 plates. That means 10 plates on both sides.
  • 10*45 lbs =. 450 lbs.

Women’s bar load capacity;

  • Women’s bar loadable sleeve: 12.5”
  • 12.5” – 2”(collar) = 10.5”
  • 10.5”/2.5” = 4.2 plates. That means 8 plates on both sides.
  • 8*45 = 360 lbs.

With steel plates you can roughly double those numbers since those are thinner.


Women’s barbells don’t have knurling in the middle of the bar while men’s bars do. The middle knurling is supposedly a left-over from early weightlifting competitions where one-handed lifts were a thing and women didn’t compete.

The specification from the IWF has never changed for men’s bars so it’s still there. Some people say it helps keep the bar on the back during squats but you have to go very heavy for that to really make a difference.

Picking the right barbell can be a bit confusing. Here is a guide that walks you through all the important factors in picking a barbell.

Knurling is the cross-hatch pattern in the metal that provides more grip.

Who Are The Different Barbells For?

Women and Beginners

  • Intended Users: Women’s Olympic barbells are designed specifically for female athletes or individuals who prefer a barbell with a narrower diameter and lighter weight.
  • Purpose: Women’s barbells are well-suited for women of all fitness levels, especially those new to weightlifting, who are focusing on developing proper technique, and those who prefer lighter loads. If you want to do isolation exercises with a barbell, 33 pounds is a much better place to start.
  • Advantages: The design of women’s barbells helps prevent discomfort and abrasions for those with smaller hands, making them a great choice for beginners and individuals with smaller hands.

Men and Advanced Lifters

  • Intended Users: Men’s Olympic barbells are tailored to male athletes or individuals who prefer a standard-sized barbell with a higher weight capacity.
  • Features: These barbells often feature more aggressive knurling for a secure grip, and they have a wider diameter to accommodate larger hands.
  • Purpose: Men’s barbells are suitable for men of varying fitness levels, particularly those who have experience with weightlifting and aim to lift heavier weights.

Which Barbell Should You Choose For a Garage Gym?

Image of a woman getting ready to lift a barbell in a garage gym.

If you should choose a 33 or 45 pound barbell is completely up to your personal situation and preference. There are a few things that are really important to think about before making a decision:

  • Starting Weight: Can you do all the exercises you want with a 45 lbs bar? If an empty 45 pound bar is already heavy for you, a 33 pound bar is better.
  • Hand Size/Thickness: Got small hands? a 25 mm shaft (33 lbs) will be more comfortable to get a good grip on. For big hands, a 28 mm shaft is better. 6′ barbells are often 28-29 mm while also being 33 lbs.
  • Length: In a home gym, space is sometimes limited. 33 pound, shorter, bars are easier to handle.
  • Load Limits: Shorter bars have shorter sleeves which can be loaded with fewer plates. If you lift heavy, consider how heavy you have to load the bar.

In most cases, the men and woman labels are pretty accurate but not 100%. If a certain bar fits better for your needs, get that one. Don’t let the labels of “men’s” and “women’s” get in the way of buying the right barbell.

Going to a gym that has both and trying them is the best way to go. That way you can experience the differences with your own hands. The thickness of the shaft is the most important thing to pay attention to. Which one is more comfortable and easier to grip? That’s the right bar for you.

Also, don’t forget there are shorter, 6 foot, barbells out there that are still 28 mm thick. That might be the middle ground you need. You can find the best ones here.

Are All Barbells 33 or 45 Kilogram?

No, not all barbells are either 33 or 45 pounds. While 33 lbs and 44/45 lbs are common standard weights for Olympic barbells, there is a wide variety of barbells designed for specific purposes that come in different weights and configurations. Since manufacturers don’t have to build to exactly those weights there are plenty of bars that have a different weight. Here are some common ones.

  • Short Bars: As mentioned above, 6′ long bars often weigh 33 lbs. but not always. There are also other lengths. 4′ and 5′ are not uncommon. Those are often much lighter.
  • Specialty Barbells: There are various specialty barbells designed for specific exercises or training purposes. These often have different weights. For example, a safety squat bar usually weighs 55 lbs, an EZ curl bar can weigh anywhere from 15-33 lbs. Trap bars are all over the place from 33-77 lbs.
  • Technique Barbells: Some barbells are designed specifically for beginners or for lighter training. These can have different weights to suit the needs of individuals who are just starting out or focusing on technique development. Usually, these weigh anywhere from 10 to 33 lbs.
  • Strongman Barbells: Strongman training involves unique exercises and challenges, and the equipment used, including barbells, can vary significantly in terms of weight and design.

How Do You Know If a Bar is 33 or 45 pounds?

If you’re not sure how heavy the bar you’ve been using is, you can do a few things:

  • Check the Label or Specifications: Many barbells will have labels or markings on them that indicate their weight. Usually, you can find this on the end cap.
  • Measure the Diameter: Generally, 33 lbs bars have a slightly smaller diameter than 45 lbs bars. This only really works for bars longer than 6′ though.
  • Use a Scale: Weighing the barbell is the only 100% accurate way to determine its weight. Most gyms will have a scale but you might raise a few eyebrows dragging the barbell across the gym. In a home gym, this is fine of course.
  • Compare to a 45 lbs. plate: Grab the bar in one hand and a plate in the other. If they feel the same, it’s probably a 45 pound bar. If the bar feels lighter, it’s probably 33 pound. This is not very accurate but will often do the trick.


Hey, I'm Matt. Welcome to HomeGymResource.com. After working out in many different gyms for almost 20 years and helping people build their own home gyms, i've learned a few things i'd like to share with you.

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