In the world of Olympic lifting we've got plenty of options when shopping for a bar. The key things to look out for are:
Bar material. As the bar is being dropped it really needs to be made from spring steel. This is a high tensile steel which is actually an alloy, not plain old mild steel. It has hardening alloys in the steel to increased its load capacity. It also allows the bar to flex without being permanently bent upon impact. Spring steel bars can handle high impact thanks to this increased flex. This does mean the bar will 'whip' a little - its the material springing back to its original shape.
Coating. Now we all know oxide bars are very popular, but what we don't always know is whether the bar we're buying is a genuine oxide bar, or just a bar that's been painted black! If your bar has a brownish almost see through finish, then its oxide. If your bar has a jet black opaque finish then its paint! You've been duped. This oxide finish is a chemical oxidization of the bar surface. This means the knurling isn't being filled in with paint of chrome plating, so your knurl is going to be much rougher - very important if you're planning on lifting heavy weights off the floor! This makes oxide bars a popular choice for deadlifting and also for Olympic lifting. The next finish now being seen more often is Hard chrome. This is not the same as your basic bright chrome - its a different type of coating all together. Hard chrome has a satin finish that looks a bit like brushed stainless steel. If your bar has a matt chrome finish then its probably hard chrome. If your bar has a bright finish then its probably bright chrome, which will begin to chip off after a few months of use. Now we're not trying to beat up on bright chrome - it has its place as a coating for general weight training bars that are more keenly priced. Its just not a coating we would use for a $300 premium spring steel bar as it won't stay looking good for long.
Bearings. Bearing bars have been available for a while now, so they're a pretty common addition to most Olympic lifting bars. Bearings help to keep the ends sleeves rotating freely in lifts like the snatch, clean and jerk, where the bar is being rotated through 180 degrees during the lift. Not all bearings are the same though - if your bar has hardened needle roller bearings then it is designed for impact. If not they may break up and fall apart! Needle roller bearings have small steel rollers inside them. these rollers distribute the impact loads more evenly, prolonging the life of the bearing and preventing wear on the bearing and housing. Many bars on the market have a single needle roller bearing at each end of the sleeve. It is however possible to fit 4 or even 8 bearings in to each end sleeve. This allows each bearing to share the impact load, further prolonging the life of the bar. Our new range of bars are now available with 4 and 8 bearing end sleeves.
Sleeve fixing system. We've found the circlip system to be the simplest, most effective system for fixing the bar end sleeves in to place. the benefits are numerous, but in summary the bar is serviceable and the circlips never slip out of place or come loose, even after repeated impacts.
We hope you find this buying guide useful when sourcing an Olympic lifting bar. We're always available to answer your questions and advise on what type of bar we'd recommend for your training.