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Intro: About IWF Olympic Weightlifting Bars
IWF certified weightlifting bars are the best of the best! This article to help you get the right one for your needs and preferences.
The only IWF (International Weightlifting Federation) certified bars for IWF competitions, including the pinnacle of competition, the Olympic Games, are made by 5 companies: Eleiko, DHS, Uesaka, Werksan, and Zhangkong/ZKC. DHS and Zhangkong only serve the Chinese market. Eleiko, Werksan and Uesaka are readily available in the US, sold at the manufacturers’ US-facing online stores or resold by another major US company like Rogue.
Training vs Competition Bar
An IWF “training” bar and IWF competition bar are nearly identical. Any bar that is IWF certified is perfectly valid for use in IWF competitions, even if the manufacturer calls it a training bar.
There are differences between all the competition and training bars, and those differences vary by manufacturer. We’ll get into each of those. But generally you can figure a training bar is calibrated to slightly more generous tolerances, while still being more accurate than the large variety of non-calibrated bars out there.
Chart of IWF Men’s and Women’s Bars Available in the US
This goes for both men’s and women’s bars. No need to consult separate charts. Women’s bars are made shorter, lighter and thinner, but they are otherwise constructed the same as the men’s version for all of these models.
|Very Sensitive||Chrome||Lifetime||Men’s $1,049 Strengthwear.us|
Women’s $1,049 Strengthwear.us
|Aggressive||Very Sensitive||Chrome||12 Year||Men’s $869 Strengthwear.us|
Women’s $869 Strengthwear.us
|Soft-Medium||Less Sensitive||Chrome||Lifetime||Men’s $988 Uesaka|
Women’s $999 Uesaka
|Medium||Very Sensitive||Chrome||10 Year|| |
Men’s and Women’s
|Soft-Medium||Very Sensitive||Chrome||10 Year||Men’s & Women’s|
The 2018 IWF World Championships in Turkmenistan featured Eleiko barbells.
Eleiko has been an international manufacturer of barbells since 1957, being the first company to make bars that could last an entire competition without bending. Before that, they actually manufactured electrical appliances. Go figure.
Their HQ is in Sweden. They do training courses for olympic lifting and strength training, not only in Sweden, but also the Netherlands, Switzerland, and the US. Eleiko has supplied equipment for 5 of the Olympic Games so far.
Of all the IWF barbell manufacturers, Eleiko is the only one I’ve dealt directly with. Alex Murray, head of Customer & Sales Support for their US office, has been great at answering my questions.
The sleeve spin is also known to be ultra sensitive, with 8 needle bearings per sleeve. That’s a lot.
Eleiko is pretty active in product development and keeps coming out with a new generation of bars. This has resulted in inconsistencies between the feel of the knurling between old and new bars. For example, people have reported things like a particular new training bar’s knurling feeling more aggressive than an old competition bar, which is backwards to what it would normally be.
Eleiko’s Training Bar vs Competition Bar
You would be paying an extra $180 for their Competition bar. The other brands don’t have such a big jump.
Eleiko is known for their very aggressive knurling. If you want deep knurling, their Competition bar is the most extreme IWF barbell you can get. Their Training bar is only a small step down from that, still pretty aggressive as compared to other brands here.
The training bar has a shorter warranty, saving Eleiko from the cost of having to service bars over 12 years old. That said, there are a lot of old Eleiko bars still in service that have long passed the warranty period and might have never needed servicing at all.
Uesaka is a Japanese based company established in 1929 that also serves the US market directly with its US division, Uesaka Distribution USA at uesakabarbell.com. You can also get their olympic lifting bars from Rogue Fitness.
They have been the official supplier for 6 Olympic Games. They have bars that have been in use at the Olympic Training Center in the US with apparently no failures or issues. Uesaka olympic lifting bars were also used at the 2010 Commonwealth Games.
Uesaka’s bar knurling is noticeably softer than Eleiko, but it’s also tacky. It makes for a good snatch grip, preventing your hands from sliding in along the shaft when you have a wide grip.
With fewer bearings in the sleeves, the spin of an Uesaka bar is not as extreme as an Eleiko. Personal preference. Some lifters don’t want as high spin as possible. The more spin it has, the more out of control you can get and the harder it can be to pull as it wants to rotate even more in your hands. It’s a balance, and Uesaka has settled on a different point than Eleiko.
Uesaka bars have remained pretty consistent over the years, unlike Eleiko, who keeps tweaking things every few years.
Uesaka’s knurling is softer than Eleiko’s by a significant amount.
Uesaka’s Training Bar vs Competition Bar
Unlike the others, Uesaka’s training bar is not IWF certified, and therefore we have not featured it in the chart. I’m writing about it here anyway for some measure of consistency.
Their competition bar is hard chrome, very shiny, while the training bar is nickel plated.
The training bar has NO center knurling, to save your skin while you practice catching those cleans during training.
The aggressiveness of the knurling is the same between them, which is fairly moderate. Nobody complains about any Uesaka bar’s knurling being too sharp except the Chinese, who use DHS and Zhangkong bars known for their super soft knurling of the type you could slide your fingers down all day without pain.
The training bar sleeves are an even 50mm vs the competition bar that is actually 50.04mm for a more snug fit for bumpers. That’s 1/25th of a millimeter. No way you can tell the difference.
Update 2021: Werksan USA went out of business in 2021. Werksan appears to still be in business in Turkey, but their online shopping cart does not work and it might be hard to get anything from them to the US.
They have supplied several football teams such as the Green Bay Packers, as well as the US Weightlifting Team. Perhaps in the future you’ll see their bars at the Olympic Games like the others.
As far as the knurling, as per hookgrip’s test, Werksan’s knurling has a very similar feel to Rogue’s standard knurling that they have on most of their bars such as the Rogue Bar 2.0 and Ohio Power Bar. If you’ve used Rogue bars with the standard Rogue knurling, you’ll be right at home with a Werksan.
Early on, Werksan offered a measly 30 day warranty, as reported on some online forums. That has changed, and they have upped it to a 10 year warranty on their training and comp bars. This is still a little confusing, because on their product pages they say “Lifetime Warranty” with an asterisk by it… with no reference to what the asterisk refers to. Assume it’s 10 years.
Werksan’s Training Bar vs Competition Bar
Like Eleiko, and unllike Uesaka, Werksan’s training bar is IWF certified just like their competition bar.The training bar has a black end cap, while the comp bar has a blue (men’s) or yellow (women’s).
The knurling of the training bar is just slightly softer than the competition bar. They could both be called “medium” in aggressiveness, still a little more aggressive than Uesaka.
Other than that, they have the same construction.
My Recommendations: The Best IWF Certified Olympic Weightlifting Barbells
So what to get?
The weightlifting media company hookgrip tested a bunch of weightlifting bars (long 54 minute video here) including the some Eleiko, Werksan, and some good but non-IWF bars like York and Rogue, and the whip of all of them was virtually identical. So don’t go off reports of lifters swearing that one bar has more whip.
Odds are that nobody who will ever read this article should be using a competition bar. It’s for elite-level lifters. You won’t get anything more out of it for training.
Training bars are so good that really it comes down to what knurling you want.
Werksan Training Bar
Most people should get a Werksan Training Bar. For high-rep training like Crossfit, you will save your palms (or your clients’ palms) with a Werksan Training Bar for $880 from Rogue with Werksan’s nice moderate knurling.
Have you done some lifting with one of the IWF bars? Share your thoughts for other readers in the comments below!