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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|
Too pricey? See our articles on the best budget 20kg WL bars and budget 15kg WL bars that are not IWF certified.
Below we will dig further into details on each of the olympic lifting bars.
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 50.0mm 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.
Uesaka bars you can get direct from Uesaka.
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!
dear david can you please help me to find out iwf certification validity period of zkc.
I haven’t found much info online beyond this list of barbell brands they certify. You might contact them if you’re concerned about it expiring.
Eleikos’ “Power Lock”, I.e. “Russian” bar is currently on sale for $200 off their regular price. Werksans’ entire site, although down today, is 50% off. Good luck.
Thanks for the heads up, Llyod, I’ll share the news!
There seems to be some confusion here with IWF training bars and their calibration and subsequent certification.
Competition bars and plates must conform to the stricter calibrations of the IWF rules. If they do then they can be certified (look for an IWF stamp on the bar).
IWF training bars are also calibrated, but to slightly more generous tolerances. Many seem to think that they are not calibrated. Only true wrt competition tolerances. I am not sure if the IWF manufacturers certify training bars.
Outside of IWF Events there is no rule requiring certified barbells in lesser events You use whatever you have.
Thank you for the clarification, Dresdin! I will add a note about the tolerances to the article.
The spin in the bar is one of the most important factors. I’m used to training on Eleiko bars now so its really hard to train on a cheap one that doesn’t rotate as well. I had a good bar for training in my shed, the nurling hand spacing marks where different but the spin was great
Thanks for the feedback! How do you like the knurling on the Eleiko? Not too harsh for you?
erratum. precision of last tolerances IWF requierment:
And a complete spec sheet would also include manufacturing tolerances. Straight from the Rulebook:
“The diameter of the largest discs: 450 mm with a tolerance of ± 1 mm.
Tolerance for Competition Bars and Discs: on the nominal weight of each component weighing more than 5 kg itc must be from +0.1% to -0.05%. On parts weighing 5 kg or less, the tolerance must be from +10 gramms to -0 gramms per part. Tolerance for Training Discs: on the nominal weight of each component it must be from +0.8% to -0.8% (Refer to Table on Tolerances in Annex No.3.)”
Annex 3 lists the tolerance for the men’s barbell to be a minimum of 19.9900kg to a max of 20.0200kg.
if Barbell is certified ..you can use it for All IWF competitions of all levels… a training bar certified is calibrated…its in facts a competition bar !!! you can use it in A platform od Oly games . but never organisation do that… its just for give an evidence between training and compet bar both are strictly same item…only knurling is more agressive and finish is better for the first …in defi itive by Eleiko with nxg concept itd the end of training bar weighted 19,6 kg or height of 219cm… you can be sure than trainng or compet your bar weighted between 19,95 and 20,200 with 220 lenght..its iwf requierment (in facts all Eleiko compet weight 20,050)…. all calibrated cert bar can serv for break an official records …competition is just a commercial name for name elite of Eleiko game.
Good to know, thanks! That helps me understand Eleiko’s reasons (or marketing) for the different pricing and naming of those IWF bars.
i m an Afficionados of mechanics and metal an all matters (polymer ..paints… wood) etc etc.is one of my passion. (i have quickly see advantage to use a great Barbell for grets loads … !!! its like to use in shooting club on of my Weatherby’s or Sauer ‘s…its very nice !!! like a good v-eight in a car or swiss watch. I prefer allways goods and AUTHENTIC ITEMS…. we have an obligation to be interressed by all this usual items . these items stays pillars of our passions !!!know car..Know guns…know steel !!!!! its sad to stay withouth science of matters. ..we can all understant theses beautiful things
Eleïko isnt an expensive brand …its a false idea . at first time ok… its very expensive but if you zoom scale of prices by fives certified brands Eleiko DHS…Werksan ..ZangKong….Uesaka you see immediatly FOR ELEIKO the enormous difference (25%) of price between Competition bar and Training bar… by opposition of four others brands or competition version its just overpriced less of 10/12 percent vs training reference. why ?? easy Eleiko decide to report price of certification only on …certified bar. other brand increase price of all list….Eleiko deliberating prefere sell few olympic certified bar (with Serial Number in more for tracability 100%…not just à sticker…) ….Uesaka is like allways in opposition !!! japanese training is very poor finish awful ..nickel on copper plated…all person în good mental condition added 10% for obtain hard chromed shined cert version !!!! Eleiko no ! competition barbel elitist item lol… result on sell total mass is very important…Eleiko sell one competition for height training (i dont know if cossfit count like training…).. Verksan or DHS sell in globality one competitiôn barbell for 2 or 3 training and Uesaka sell more competition bar than training (bad finish is a cause… i know seller refused to import it and keep only compet reference in her catalog)….i havnt data for ZangKong
Eleiko’s array of bars confuses me a little. They told me their machine bit is used on the competition bars first, then on down the line to the cheaper bars in order, so that the cheapest one (XF bar) has the lightest knurl. Is that the same way Uesaka and the others do it?
Also, if a bar is IWF rated, is it not always for competitions? Eleiko has their IWF competition bar and IWF training bar, so both are IWF certified… Would the IWF training bar be valid in competitions?
The IWF Certified training bars are not used on the main platform and warm-up room in the big IWF events but they can be used in the Training Hall. At the Olympic and Youth Games there must be competition bars in all three places. So, there are two levels of certification and calibration, “Competition” and “Training”, which are used in their respective places. Non-IWF certified bars may use these same designations in their marketing but in fact they are not certified for IWF meets and may or may not be calibrated to a certain tolerance. They are meant for at-home or gym training and also for non-IWF competition, as defined by the rules.
exact ! and thank you . i have give all my life for my sport (i m on training 25hour per week now at 42 years! happily i have something a gratification.and trust me ,test different great bar is one of this gratification… dont forget 2 things..in power all can progress and obtain very great numbers in Deadlift…young man or old55 man can push level very hight and can necessity a great bar !!! ( its essential for big bodyweight category) and in W.L a great bar is allways better if your weight bar exceed your bodyweight…(its allways case except for very olds veterans ).
1) dorry for my bad english 2) for relativised my clear-cut opinion pro ” expensives” bars i had a lot of problem with “dogshit” bars (lol i forget brand name by courtesy…but sleeves was fixed by a poor bolt….) im now an old man (42 lol) but i lift weight since 1988 (13 years old) and my best total (20/30years) was 900 kgs in big 3 (virtual because my best compet lifts never success in one day 342 ,5 DL 237,5 Bench 320 Sq in KILOGRAMM at BODYWEIGHT 140/167 KGS).. and in W.L snatch 135 c,j 195 (but i love jerk on rack with greats loads…my limit is because clean…jerk isnt a problem for me) imagine this performances with an awful bar in french gym…and you became quickly an afficionados of Eleiko…
Amazing numbers, congrats! I would imagine you really feel the difference with a good bar like Eleiko when going that heavy. Most of us never reach anywhere near that, and so many bars feel pretty much the same.
Eleiko Competition W.L is LONELY on the Market with this knurling ! i love it .but i knows too a great number of “dislikers” (hand’skin destroyers of Eleiko grip…..but not for me). i love clean and jerk ten time over snatch…. for a Great Clean and Jerk Eleiko is THE MUST …(GREAT SPIN..AGGRESSIVE KNURLING ….for clean…great Whippiness for jerk (unic bounce…)… for a Technician of snatch Uesaka is the King Choice..fîne knurling is suffisant for do it (large grip create skin hands tension and good adhesiv effect)..bar isn whippy and spin.. is perfect withouth excess…for snatch reception is the must. …. asiatics lifters was great snatchers and japanese bar is cleary a quality for increase chances for them. for info..DHS and ZangKong Barbells cumulate advantage of two greats..
Knurling of an Uesaka but whypiness of an Eleiko….and spin just in the just middle of 2
Thanks for sharing you experience with all those competition bars! They’re so expensive that most people never get to use them. It’s nice to hear from someone like you who has been through them all and can share how they compare in feel. I will have to see about adding the DHS and ZangKong bars to this list, or perhaps split this off into an article focused only on the IWF competition bars.
in a home gym its a great personal honour to own a certified W.L bar. (my choice is Eleiko). its a life invest and i love my bar !!! knurling is genious because a few shalk is necessary (shalk stay long time in grooving)….i need just one stick of shalk per year !!!a great economy in long time….and that effect avoid excess of magnesia dust in gymroom !!!
I imagine that bar will last forever! So you don’t run into any rust issues by leaving the chalk in the knurling? It’s probably fine for a while, but my understanding is that over time the moisture that the chalk keeps in will lead to some rust forming, perhaps underneath the chrome where you can’t see it.
its necessary to clean his bar after every trainig for remove shalk saturated in salted moisure of perspiration. but its nice in beggining train session to use juste shalk one time for all train time !!! (except for clean jerk/snatch maxi…. its just for ritual..lol)
Ok, I see what you mean now. That makes more sense!
dont clean a bar of sweated shalk is a great error….moisture can create hidden rust
Very good information. I’m working out with a tentative muscle building goal. Not bodybuilding or any power lifting just toning and strength training. I’ve been shopping around and mostly just see weight test ratings. Rogue is the only bar I’ve seen with tensile strength rating.
I imagine I won’t go higher than working out with about 250# on bench and squats.
Should any retailer be able to quote the tensile strength of their bars?
Any bar I purchase will definitely last me a lifetime so I’m looking to spend between $100 and $200.
Is it possible to get a 190k to 200k bar for that price?
All of our bars show the tensile strength (PSI). Other stores might not always have that info or understand that customers would like to know it. Any bar for around $100 will have such a low tensile strength that they might not know because it’s not a selling point at all. But anything more expensive nowadays should have it.
You should be able to find something in your price range. This article about bars under $200 is geared towards olympic lifting bars, but they’re good for your purposes too.