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What is a Straight Bar?

By Matthew F.
Updated May 17, 2024
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A straight bar is among the most essential pieces of equipment in any gym or home fitness center, and is a centerpiece to many heavy strengthening exercises. The bar is used for a variety of exercises, including the straight bar press and the straight bar curl. These exercises can be performed in conjunction with most muscles in the body, and straight bars are an almost indispensable tool with any weight bench or set of dumb bells.

The straight bar is most often a metal bar and is commonly 45 pounds (20 kg). It measures between four feet (1.2 m) and seven feet (2.1 m) in length. Often known simply as a barbell, the term straight bar differentiates the bar from the curl bar, which features a curl-handled design. Used as a common measure of strength in many different venues, the straight bar bench press is used with four 45-pound plates for the National Football League rookie combines, and is also the premier event in international power lifting competitions.

In its most well-known use, the bar is used for bench pressing. While lying down on a bench, a press is done by holding the bar with the hands, shoulder length apart, using the chest muscles to press the weight into the air. Not only used for bench pressing, the straight bar is also a popular tool for curling, triceps press, dead lifting, squatting, curling and a variety of other lifts.

The straight bar is used on free-standing weight machines, with smith machines and with various other self-spotting machines. Weight is added by placing plates on each end of the bar and holding the weights in place with secure plates. With the weights fastened to each end, the lifter will not have to work about plates sliding off if balance is lost and the bar tips to one side. It is suggested to be accompanies by a spotter when lifting heavy weights, as it is possible to drop the weight and cause serious injury to your head or neck while beach pressing.

In addition to bench pressing, straight bar curls are a common exercise and power lift using the bar. The curl is done by standing up right and holding the bar about shoulder length again with your hands held down at your lips. The bar is then lifted using only the biceps to perform a curl. Many straight bars are equipped with rugged spots for more secure grips and feature coiled ends to allow weights to slide on more securely.

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