In one of the WODs this week, we discovered one of our barbells wasn’t working properly.  At first glance, it looked fine, but upon further inspection, we found one of the sleeves was damaged and no longer spins freely.  If you remember reading my Anatomy of a Barbell article a few months back, you know what a sleeve is and why it is important for it to be able to spin, but in case you forgot, here’s a little refresher.

On each end of a barbell is a piece called a sleeve.  They are what the weights slide onto.  Inside the sleeves are bearings that allow the sleeve to rotate easily, even when loaded with weights.  Damage to these bearings causes the sleeve to not rotate, and a bar that won’t spin freely can mess up your lifts.  Here’s how.

The Olympic lifts of the snatch and the clean and jerk are very dynamic movements.  In the snatch, we go from an upward pull, rapidly drop under it, and catch it before standing up.  In the clean, we again pull upward and catch it in the rack position.   As we transition from the pull to the catch in each of these movements, we need to be able to maintain a grip on the bar.  In order to do this properly and safely, the bar has to spin.

Long ago, barbells didn’t spin, and lifters had to use awkward reverse curls to get the bar into position.  This caused failed lifts and wrist injuries.  A heavily loaded bar in the air is not a good time to find out the sleeves aren’t spinning properly.

bearing cutaway.jpg

Our bar was likely damaged by someone dropping it without bumper plates on it.  

But wait, you might ask, “Aren’t the barbells designed to be dropped?”  With properly secured bumper plates on them, yes, the bars can be dropped without damage.   We should all know to never drop an empty bar.  The impact of the empty bar on the ground can destroy the bearings inside the sleeves.  That awful clanging sound should be a deterrent in and of itself.

Another way bars get busted up is when people improperly unload them.  This video explains the rights and wrongs of unloading a bar.

And while we’re on the subject of equipment damage, please don’t drop barbells with just a set of tens on them.  A good rule of thumb is to not drop plates that weigh less than the bar they are loaded on.  45 pounds can easily snap a 10-pound plate.

The repeated dropping of empty bars or careless unloading of bars takes its toll on our equipment.  Repairs are time consuming and costly.  We can all do our part to prolong the life of our barbells.  Be a good role model and use and unload our bars properly.  If you see a new member mistreating our bars, kindly tell them the right way to do it.  As always, if you are unsure, ask a coach. With a little bit of care, we can make the barbells last many years.