For those who frequently travel, it can be difficult to stay on track with your training and fitness goals, and for many reasons. However, many run into one primary reason when traveling is the availability and differences in equipment, especially in hotel gyms.
Many hotel gyms are limited in what they offer, but their equipment may also use different weight conversions (lbs vs kg), thus making it even more confusing to follow your original training plan. With that said, by educating yourself on the differences between certain pieces of equipment and understanding how you can incorporate them into your modified training plan, you can continue to train hard no matter where you are in the world!
This article aims to differentiate one of the most popular pieces of equipment that you will find in a gym; the barbell. Contrary to popular belief, there are several different types of barbells, each with its own purpose, use case, and even weight. So, If you want to be sure that you are using a given barbell correctly, continue reading!
While some of the barbells discussed in this article might not be commonly found in a hotel gym, per se, it is worth learning about them just in case!
The Technicalities of a Barbell
First, you need to understand the different barbell pieces: The shaft makes most of the length of a barbell and is the part you grab with your hands. Attached on both ends are the sleeves used to load the weight plates. Then, between the shaft and the sleeves are the collars. This thicker part prevents the weight plates from sliding onto the shaft. And then there is the knurling. The knurling is not a separate part but is essential to keep a grip on the bar.
There are two parts which deserve special attention, the sleeves and the knurling. So let us dive into both topics.
Sleeves are the pieces at both ends of the barbell you put the weights on. The sleeves impact which weights you can use and how many plates you can load up. There are two sizes of diameter: 1 inch (25 mm) for standard barbells or 2 inches (50 mm) for Olympic barbells.
The heavier the weight, the better your grip has to be to keep the bar in your hands. Knurlings help the lifter grip the barbell better. The trade-off is that more aggressive knurling is tougher on your skin.
We are not aware of official names, but the different types get often referred to as:
- Hill (passive/medium knurl): Smooth knurling, with the least amount of grip;
- Volcano (aggressive knurl): Deep knurling, with dented sharp points, does not hurt the hands and provides a good grip.
- Mountain (aggressive knurl): – Deep knurling offers the most grip. More contact points with the hand, which can be painful for some!
Of course, there are many other details, but those provide you with the foundational knowledge to prepare for a good workout when visiting a hotel gym. Having this said, let us have a look into this.
Types of Barbells in Hotel Gyms
There are several types of barbells, each with its own purpose, use case, and even weight. However, many of them are quite unique and rare to find in a standard hotel gym. Heck, some of them might even be difficult to find at your standard corporate gym…
That is why, in this article, we will only be diving into the details of those that you will most likely find in hotel gyms, in particular. We will then share, in summary, other types of barbells that are highly unlikely to find in hotel gyms.
The most common types of Barbells in Hotel Gyms:
- Standard Barbell
- Hex Bar
- EZ Curl Bar
- Olympic Barbell
- Smith Machine
As you can decipher from the name, the standard barbell is the most common type of barbell. Typically made from steel, the standard barbell is about 5-6 feet (160 - 220 cm) in length, 11-22 pounds (5 - 12 Kg) in weight, and has a capable weight load of about 500 lbs depending on the subtype of the standard barbell in question. The standard barbell is ideal for exercises like the shoulder press, bench press, barbell curl, and barbell row, among other standard bodybuilding-like movements.
Because the standard barbell is most likely the only barbell available in hotel gyms, it is worth basing much of your training program around it. However, it is worth noticing that a barbell has varying sizes; amateur and female barbells are both shorter in length, lighter in weight, and smaller in thickness. The same goes for the next type of barbell, the Olympic barbell.
A premium bar in its own right, the Olympic barbell is commonly confused with the standard barbell, for they look much the same. In other words, at first glance, there are no apparent differences:
Typically made from steel, the Olympic barbell is 7'2 feet (220 cm) in length, 45 pounds (20.4 Kg) in weight, and has a load capacity of 1'000+ pounds. Because of the sheer size of the Olympic barbell compared to the standard barbell, it is much more stable during complex movements.
While the Olympic barbell can be used in the same capacity as a standard barbell, the same can not be said about the standard barbell. You can technically get away with it; however, performing snatches or clean & jerks with standard barbells is not recommended, especially at heavier weights.
Similarly, while it is encouraged for safety reasons to drop the Olympic barbell once you have completed the lift, the same can not be said for standard barbells. The standard barbells are typically loaded with iron plates, while Olympic barbells are loaded with color-coordinated rubber plates (bumper plates). Talking about those - something good to know is the Olympic Weighlifting Plates Color Scheme:
The colors used for the weights from left to right: Red (55 lbs, 14.5 Kg), Blue (45 lbs, 20.4 Kg), Yellow (35 lbs, 15.9 Kg), Green (25 lbs, 11.3 Kg), White/Grey (10 lbs, 4.5 Kg).
Otherwise known as the trap bar, the hex bar is most commonly used for squats, deadlifts, and shrugs. It is most popularly known for its obscure makeup, making its name in safety.
In other words, while deadlifts with a standard barbell can place you in an improper position if you are not careful, the hex bar all but naturally places you in the correct position from the start.
It also typically allows you to lift more than you typically could using a standard or Olympic barbell. The most common hex bar weighs 45 pounds (20.4 Kg), much like an Olympic barbell.
For beginners or those who value safety over everything, the hex bar will become your new favorite barbell. The good news? It is becoming quite a popular piece of equipment, now found in many hotel gyms globally.
EZ Curl Bar
For those who are not familiar with the name, the EZ bar is the one that you might otherwise refer to as the "squiggly bar"… In any case, the EZ bar is not typically thought of as a "barbell." This is because it is sizeably smaller than its counterparts.
The EZ curl bar comes in variable sizes and thicknesses; however, they are all much the same, weighing 20-25 lbs (11.3 Kg). The primary benefit of the EZ bar is its ergonomic design, making it both comfortable and safe, even for the most novice of lifters.
The EZ bar is most commonly used for movements requiring less weight, such as bicep curls and tricep skull crushers.
BONUS: Smith Machine
Finally, while the smith machine is not necessarily categorized as a barbell, per se, it is the best alternative for those gyms that are not equipped with barbells themselves. The Smith Machine also happens to be quite the common addition to hotel gyms for its versatility and safety. For those unfamiliar with the Smith Machine, simply put, it is a machine in which a barbell-like mechanism is attached to a cage, providing users with a safe, fixed barbell path during the exercise of their choosing.
While you can not perform complex Olympic lifts with a Smith Machine, it does allow a safe environment for exercises like the bench press, shoulder press, and barbell squat, for example.
There are of course, more variations of a barbell. Other types of barbells include the deadlift bar, safety squat bar, Swiss bar, cambered bar, log barbell, and tsunami barbell. However, these bars are quite uncommon, even in the largest corporate gyms. If you are traveling from hotel to hotel, you are unlikely to come across any of the above.
And remember, however, that whatever barbell you choose, always treat it with respect, and if you take away nothing else, always be sure to put your weights away when you are finished!