Are There Different Barbells For Women? Yes, Here’s Why

Need a lighter barbell than the regular one? There is an option out there you might have never even heard of. Women’s barbells are a bit shorter, thinner, and lighter which makes them suitable for people that are not strong enough for a full-size bar or those with smaller hands. You can find the 3 best options in this post.

15-kilogram barbells are also known as women’s Olympic barbells. They are shorter, lighter, and thinner than standard men’s Olympic barbells. The 15 kilogram barbells are better for people who need a lighter barbell and/or have small hands. They also work well in small gyms because they are shorter. 

In the rest of this article, we’ll go into the exact differences between women’s and other barbells. If you want to find out if this barbell is for you and to find some good options, keep reading.

Are There Barbells For Women?

While you might have never heard of this before, there are different barbells for men and women. This distinction comes from the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) which has two different sets of specifications for barbells used in men’s and women’s competitions.

The women’s barbell is 5 kg lighter, 19 cm shorter, and has a 3mm thinner shaft diameter than the men’s bar. This makes the women’s bar great for people with smaller hands, beginners and for training technique.

In most gyms, the standard barbell is the ‘men’s’ barbell which is probably the barbell you’re most familiar with.

However, some gyms will use a women’s bar or sometimes both. Most gyms just have a single size though which is why you probably never noticed there were different bars.

How Are Men’s And Women’s Barbells Different?

There are a few key differences between the official men’s and women’s barbells. Check out the chart below for the exact numbers.

CharacteristicMen’s IWF BarbellWomen’s IWF BarbellDifferences
Barbell Weight (kg)20 kg (44 lbs)15 kg (33 lbs)Women’s bar is 5 kg/11 lbs. lighter
Bar Length (cm)220 cm (7.2 feet)201 cm (6.6 feet)Women’s bar is 19 cm shorter
Shaft Diameter (mm)28 mm25 mmThe women’s bar has a 3 mm narrower shaft (grip)
Shaft Length1310 mm1310 mmSame
Sleeve Diameter (mm)50 mm (Olympic-sized)50 mm (Olympic-sized)Same
Loadable Sleeve Length (cm)~41.5 cm (16.3 inches)~30 cm (11.8 inches)Sleeve length is 11.5 cm shorter on the women’s bar
Center KnurlingYesNoWomen’s bar doesn’t have center knurling
FinishChromed SteelChromed SteelSame
Intended useMen’s IWF CompetitionsWomen’s IWF competitionsUsed for their respective official competitions.
  • The women’s barbell is 5 kg/11 pounds lighter than the men’s bar. This helps beginners and other people with less strength get started with barbell movements where 20 kg might be too much.
  • The women’s barbell is 19 cm shorter but the shaft length is the same. That means the sleeves are quite a bit shorter which allows for lower loads. Since women lift less weight in general than men, the extra load capacity is unnecessary.
  • The big difference for most people is the 3 mm difference in shaft diameter. It might seem like a small difference but this can mean the difference between comfortably and securely gripping a bar and it slipping out of your hands. Especially if the shaft is thicker than ideal, it’s hard.
  • A shaft that is too thin for your hands often starts ‘cutting’ into your hands on heavy loads which can also negatively impact grip and comfort.

Does The Lack of Center Knurling On The Women’s Bar Matter?

The final difference between the men’s and women’s barbell is the lack of center knurling on the latter.

In most cases, this doesn’t matter that much. It helps keep the bar in place on heavy squats and helps you center your body in the middle of the bar.

In most cases, you really don’t miss it all that much. I squat low bar so the bar sits more on the rear delts than on the back. If you squat high bar it might be different.

Are Women’s Barbells Only For Women?

No, women’s barbells are not exclusively for women. While they are designed with certain specifications that might be more comfortable for most women, they can be used by individuals of any gender based on their preferences and needs, mainly hand size and strength.

The only place where this doesn’t apply is official IWF competitions where you have to use the bar for the genders competitions you entered. You can’t pick and choose. For training, you can use any bar you like.

The term “women’s barbell” often refers to a barbell with specifications that are generally better suited for individuals who have smaller hands and potentially less upper body strength.

However, these barbells can be used by anyone who finds them more comfortable for their lifting style, hand size, etc. regardless of gender.

Anyone who is more comfortable using the women’s bar or unable to properly use the men’s bar can train with a woman’s barbell.

TIP: There are a lot of barbells that don’t exactly follow the IWF specs. You’ll be able to find a shorter bar with a thicker shaft and vice versa. So you can find a bar that fits your needs exactly. No need to stick to the official bars except in competition.

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.

Where is A Women’s Barbell Used?

  • Gyms: Some gyms will use barbells with 25 mm shaft instead of 28 mm. This is because both men and women can use a bar with 25 mm shaft and most men are fine with them. The other way around is more difficult. I’ve noticed gyms in Asia have thinner bars more often since in general people are a bit smaller than in other places.
  • Official IWF Competitions: As mentioned, IWF events are the place where women’s bars have to be used for the women’s competitions.
  • Training: For general training purposes, women’s barbells are great if you have smaller hands.

Where Are Women’s Barbells Not Used?

  • Gyms: Many gyms will just have barbells that are modeled after the official men’s Olympic barbell since that’s the standard.
  • CrossFit Competitions: While CrossFit gyms sometimes have women’s barbells, in competitions only the men’s bar is used.
  • Powerlifting Competitions: Powerlifting competitions use the same bar for both genders which is close to the Olympic men’s bar. As a result most powerlifting gyms only have 20 kg bars.

So if you’re training for one of those sports, you can train with the women’s bar but it’s a good idea to also train with the thicker bar since you’ll have to use it in competition.

Do You Need a Women’s Olympic Bar?

Choosing between a men’s Olympic bar and a women’s Olympic bar depends on several factors, including your body size, strength level, fitness goals, and personal preferences. Here are some considerations to help you decide:

  • Hand Size: Women’s Olympic barbells are generally designed with a slightly smaller diameter and shorter length to accommodate smaller hands and body frames. If you have smaller hands or find a regular Olympic bar uncomfortable or difficult to grip, a women’s bar may be a better fit for you.
  • Strength Level: If you are new to weightlifting or have not built significant upper body strength yet, starting with a women’s bar might be more manageable, it’s 25% lighter after all. As your strength increases, you can transition to a regular Olympic bar if desired.
  • Competition prep: If you’re training for a specific competition, it’s best to train with the same bar that’ll be used in that event. For general fitness and training, use any bar you want.
  • Comfort and Preference: Personal comfort and preference play a significant role in your decision. Some women may prefer the grip and feel of a women’s Olympic bar, while others may feel just as comfortable using a regular Olympic bar.
  • Budget: Women’s Olympic barbells can sometimes be priced higher than regular Olympic bars due to their specialized design. Consider your budget and whether you are willing to invest more in a women’s bar for potential benefits like improved grip and comfort.
  • Availability: The availability of women’s Olympic barbells is a bit limited compared to regular Olympic bars. Consider whether you can easily access a women’s bar and if it aligns with your preferences.

If possible, try both types of barbell before buying one. Run through a workout where grip is important (deadlifts, rows, clean and jerk, etc.) and you’ll figure out pretty quickly if one is better than the other.

Recommended Women’s Olympic Barbells

It can be difficult to choose a barbell. But in the end, they are pretty simple pieces of equipment. You just want something that works and lasts a long time without too many issues. 

If you’re looking for a good 20 kg barbell, click here.

1. Synergee 15 Kg Regional Barbell

The best choice in this category is from Synergee. It’s affordable but sports some pretty impressive specs. 

  • 25 mm shaft diameter
  • 15 kg weight
  • 79.1” total length
  • Rated for 1500 lbs. of load. 
  • 190k PSI tensile strength
  • Needle bearings for smoothly rotating sleeves
  • Hard chrome coating for great corrosion resistance
  • Durable construction
  • 1.2 mm deep knurling

There are way fewer choices for 15 kg barbells than 20 kg barbells. But that doesn’t really matter if the choices you have are good to begin with. And Synergee is a brand that produces high quality workout equipment for very reasonable prices. The barbell above has great specs and doesn’t cost the world. 

Should you use a 15 kg bar? Click here to learn more.

The 1500 lbs. rating means it is more than strong enough for pretty much anything a human can lift. The chrome coating is a nice touch that is uncommon at this price point. Chrome is a great and durable anti-corrosion coating. 

2. Synergee Games Cerakote

Synergee has a really strong lineup that’s hard to beat for the prices they ask. This bar is largely the same as the first one with one significant difference: The Cerakote coating. This is a super hard wearing ceramic coating.

You pay a little extra for this coating but you get more corrosion resistance, cool colors and a barbell that will keep looking nice for a very long time. They are available in black/black, black/red and black/pink.

Besides the coating, all the other specifications are the same as the first option.

3. Titan Fitness Technique Bar

Just want something cheap that works and weighs 15 kg? This Titan barbell does just that. It doesn’t cost much compared to the first two options but it’s not as good either.

It is a shorter bar (72″) and meant to be used for training your lifting technique but not lifting super heavy. If the reason you want a 15 kg barbell is that you can’t lift that much weight, this is a good barbell. However, if you want to be able to lift heavy but want the smaller 25 mm shaft diameter number 1 or 2 is better for you. That’s because this barbell is shorter and lighter but still has a 28mm shaft diameter.

The short sleeve length means you can’t load many plates on this bar and the 21,145 PSI tensile strength means it’s not very resistant to bending. If your lifts are under +-250 lbs. you’ll be perfectly fine though.


What is the standard weight of a women’s Olympic barbell?

The standard weight of a women’s Olympic barbell is 15 kilograms (approximately 33 pounds). It is designed to be lighter than the men’s Olympic barbell, which typically weighs 20 kilograms (approximately 44 pounds). The lighter weight makes it more suitable for women’s strength and body size, allowing for better control and maneuverability during various exercises.

Can women use a regular Olympic barbell?

Yes, women can use a regular Olympic barbell. While the women’s Olympic barbell is specifically designed to accommodate smaller hands and body frames, there is no restriction preventing women from using the standard men’s Olympic barbell. However, some women might find the 20-kilogram weight to be challenging initially, especially if they are new to weightlifting. It’s crucial to focus on proper form and technique to avoid unnecessary strain or injury.

What are the benefits of using a women’s Olympic barbell?

Proper Ergonomics: The women’s Olympic barbell is crafted with slightly smaller dimensions to better fit a woman’s grip. This design promotes improved hand positioning and reduces the risk of wrist and shoulder discomfort during exercises.
Gradual Progression: The lighter weight of the women’s Olympic barbell allows for a more gradual progression in strength training, especially for beginners or those recovering from injuries. It enables them to focus on mastering the movements before advancing to heavier loads.
Enhanced Technique Development: Using a women’s Olympic barbell can help women hone their technique and form in weightlifting movements. This can be particularly advantageous for those learning Olympic lifts like the snatch and clean and jerk.
Increased Confidence: Having a barbell specifically tailored to their needs can boost confidence in female lifters. It provides them with a tool that is optimized for their physical attributes, which can positively impact their training experience.
Versatility: The women’s Olympic barbell can be utilized for various strength training exercises, including squats, deadlifts, bench presses, overhead presses, and more. Its versatility makes it an essential tool for a wide range of workouts.


Hey, I'm Matt. Welcome to 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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