Sometimes what seems to be so mystifying on the surface is actually rather simple. When it comes to the barbells used for the bench press exercise, this is exactly the case.
If you’re a man asking “how much does a bench press bar weigh?” in the vast majority of cases, the answer you’re looking for is 45 pounds/20 kilograms.
If you’re a woman asking “how much do bench bars weigh?” in the vast majority of cases, the answer you’re looking for is 35 pounds/15 kilograms.
Interested to know why this happens to be the case as well as the situations where a heavier or lighter “speciality bar” might be used to perform the bench press? We’ve got you covered!
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How Much Does a Bench Press Bar Weigh, How Long is it, How Thick is it?
If you’ve set foot in any type of commercial gym establishment over the last ~25 years or so, you’ve likely come across a multitude of Olympic-sized barbells in the (constantly shrinking) free weight area.
(NOTE: Your uncle’s closet gym with his home weight set from the 1970’s does not count! The types of short, coated barbells pictured below are not what we’re talking about when discussing bench press bars…nostalgia be darned!)
In most cases, the vast majority of these barbells are suitable for performing the bench press (along with a plethora of other barbell movements). This standard, men’s Olympic-sized barbell almost always weighs 45 pounds (or 20 kilograms) while their female counterpart clocks in at 35 pounds (or 15 kilograms). These bars are 2200mm (86.5 inches) and 2010mm (79 inches) long, respectively.
The length of these barbells, in addition to the standard diameter range of 29mm-32mm, allows for the bar to be gripped and grasped at an anatomically advantageous angle. Other than a few special variations of these barbells that we’ll discuss shortly, you can feel comfortable loading up any of these bars when you want to “do bench”.
…and those tiny, plastic-coated barbell plates (from your uncle’s closet)…just….don’t…
Are there Special Barbells for Bench Pressing?
For an exercise as popular as the bench press, you would think that there would be a multitude of speciality barbells dedicated to the exercise. Olympic weightlifting barbells are known for their incredible spin (mainly due to the inclusion of bearings), wider knurl rings, and incredible “whip”. Dedicated deadlift bars are generally longer and thinner than other Olympic-sized barbells.
Meanwhile, “bench press bars” are kinda just…bars.
Now, truth be told, for those who are a bit more serious with their benching, the more specialized “power (or powerlifting) bar” is a more appropriate selection. However, power bars are most conducive to squatting (due to their distinctive center knurl) and do little to aid in the execution of the bench press.
To be fair, power bar knurling generally is slightly rougher and more pronounced than knurling on other, similarly-sized bars, making them easier to grasp. However, this factor doesn’t come into play when benching as much as it does during the execution of a deadlift or other pulling exercises.
What are the Bench Press Specialty Barbells?
Sticking strictly in the realm of barbells that a lifter would reasonably use to bench with (no, I am not including curl/EZ bars on this short list), there actually aren’t that many for a barbell collector to nerd out on.
There is a decent chance that you’ve seen something like Rogue’s MG-23 and MG-24 Multi-Grip Bars updated takes on the “football barbell”.
Football barbells have a large “grille” in the middle, sporting a number of different grip handles for the lifter to choose from. Each grip width allows for different muscle groups (mainly the inner and out pecs and triceps) to be emphasized while also reducing stress on the wrists and shoulders.
These bars are usually in the same wheelhouse as traditional barbells when it comes to weight (the MG-23 is listed at 39 pounds while the MG-24 is listed at 44 pounds).
Less common in the benching world is the camber barbell.
You may have observed someone squatting with one of these, but the bench press version, such as the one produced by Rogue isn’t quite as common.
The main benefits of benching with a cambered barbell are, like the football bar discussed above, stress reduction on the shoulders and wrists and the ability to produce a larger range of motion. Both of these benefits are the result of the large “arch” in the middle of the barbell that allows the hands (along with the bar) to descend deeper towards the chest.
Unlike the Rogue MG-24, the CB-1 Rogue Cambered Bar is much heavier than other Olympic barbells, clocking in at 85 pounds
So how much does a bench press bar weigh designed for speciality benching? Anywhere between 35 and 85 pounds.
Why use a Speciality Barbell for Bench Pressing?
Think about how an adjustable bench can be manipulated into a variety of different angles.
Think about how any run-of-the-mill globo gym has about 15 bench press stations, 5 incline bench stations, and 3 decline bench stations (and, like, 2 squat racks…jus’ sayin;….).
All of these (except for the lack of squat racks) are intended to allow lifters to prioritize different muscle groups while performing similar exercises (ex. incline vs. decline bench press).
The standard, flat bench press hits a lot of muscles in the chest, arms, and across the upper body. However, the incline barbell press is better at more directly targeting the upper pec muscles. The same can be said for specialty barbells incorporated to better work specific muscles.
By more closely targeting the less-worked muscles, lifters can increase their overall bench press capabilities, strengthening weaker areas that aren’t “pulling their weight” when things get really heavy. For those who are in it more for, ahem, aesthetic reasons, specialty bars can help to develop fuller, larger pecs (pectoralis muscles) and an overall larger upper body.
Frequently Asked Questions
The terms “Football Barbell”, “Grille”, and “Cambered Bar” still got you confused? Fear not! These last four questions and answers will clear everything up!
While it can certainly be pretty fun to get carried away with specialty barbell work, standard, Olympic-sized barbells should be used in the vast majority of training exercises. This will result in the most “bang for your buck” and using them will ensure that you are hitting the most muscles in a single exercise.
Do not hesitate to work specialty barbells into your bench press training, but remember that these are referred to as specialty barbells for a reason!
If you're into CrossFit, using a more general "CrossFit Barbell" for metcons and bench pressing will work out just fine.
You would have to look long and hard to find a specialty barbell at a powerlifting competition. For the most part, barbells meeting the specifications for the governing body (i.e. the organization putting on the competition) will be used during the meet. These bars will either be power bars or other Olympic-sized barbells. Getting accustomed to bench pressing with these barbells is paramount to preparing for competitive lifting.
The kinds of bars you would normally use to bench are probably the most innocuous and “vanilla” barbells you can find in the gym. As such, they don’t possess any glaring characteristics that make performing other lifts unusually difficult.
Due to the lack of bearings and the limited spin that most barbells not specifically designed for Olympic weightlifting possess, a lifter might find performing these lifts to be more difficult with a standard, Olympic-sized barbell. Also, please don’t try to snatch with a camber or football bar!
It’s Monday (somewhere…) Go Bench!
I know it’s entirely possible that you clicked on this article expecting to see some wide range of weights from a plethora of specialty bench press barbells.
Unfortunately (fortunately?), for an exercise that is sooooo popular, bench press-designated barbells are few and far between (even the Rogue MG-23 and MG-24 can be used for a number of non-bench press exercises).
So, to answer your questions (“how much does a bench press bar weigh?”/”how much do bench bar weigh?”) bench press bars weigh between 35 pounds/20 kilograms (women’s bars on the light end) and 55 pounds/25 kilograms (men’s bars on the heavy end).
Now I suggest you stop reading and start benching.
…or, if you’d rather ignore my (perfectly reasonable) advice, check out our analysis of the mythical 225-pound bench press. We do a deep dive into the exact number of people who can bench “2 plates”…maybe you’re one of them!