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Mechanical Properties of Steel in a Barbell


I'm a student and doing an A level presentation on the use of steel in powerlifting vs. Olympic lifting bars.
I need to find information and sources on the type of steel used in bars of each type, their mechanical properties and consequently, why each type is suitable for their use in powerlifting or Olympic lifting bars.

I've found some decent stuff, but some articles which are pure gold I need to buy, such as this one:

I've also emailed Eleiko, Ivanko and York, but I've got no response so far from the first two, and York told me that it was confidential company information, which is understandable. But surely there must be some general differences in the steel between the two types of bar?

Wondering if anyone with material physics experience or indeed anyone with any potentially useful knowledge could help me out?

Thanks in advance.


Could try a wholesaler, or someone on the sales side of things. Going right to the manufacturer will probably just net you the responses you've already got.


The mechanical properties can be easily calculated.
Moment of Inertia, modulus of elasticity, shear modulus of elasticity, allowable bearing stress, etc

I imagine that olympic bars have a higher modulus of elasticity, lower critical point (concerning buckling) and less stiffness.

Gimme some numbers like length, different diameters, maximum allowable weight and I can give you alot of information.
I'm an engineering student and have been studying this shit for the past few months.


You're a saviour.
Length would be a standard men's bar at 2200mm, diameter for an olympic bar would be 28mm whereas a powerlifting bar 29mm.

I'm thinking comparing the deformation and critical point by showing those numbers at weights like 100kg, 200kg, 300kg and 400kg (the higher numbers to show the deformation difference between powerlifting and Olympic bars). Also then finding the critical points of each barbell. I would also then need info about the different steels used in general, such as carbon content etc. (Sorry about the kilos but I'm in England.)

Many thanks in advance for your help. If I think of anything else, could I PM you?



It's been a while since I've worked with steel. I wonder if in your research you can find the type of steel - 316L, 304 etc - properties for these should be easy to find from standards. Sorry it's probably not a great help, but I wish you luck for your research.

Eleiko is in Sweden? you may need to call them, find someone who speaks English and email that person directly.


You would need to know the exact chemical properties of the steel. I could see them being made from something like chrome-moly or a 4140 but even then there are differences in the processes (annealed, pickled and oiled etc...) and chemical makeup. A little bit of carbon added and the processes used, make a huge difference in these steels.

Pretty sure they are made from carbon steel as most are chrome plated, so not 316, 304 etc..., which are stainless steels.


Have you thought about grip width?

A bar will bend differently depending on with wich grip you grab it :

Squat > 1 central pressure point.
Deadlift > 2 shoulder width gripping points
Bench Press > 2 (average) 1,5 shoulder width pressure points

Snatch > 2 (average) 2 shoulder width pulling/pressing points
Clean and Jerk > 2 (average) 1-1,5 shoulder width pulling/pressing points

Do these actually play a role in what you're calculating?
Legendaryblaze wrote : "The mechanical properties can be easily calculated. Moment of Inertia, modulus of elasticity, shear modulus of elasticity, allowable bearing stress, etc. I imagine that olympic bars have a higher modulus of elasticity, lower critical point (concerning buckling) and less stiffness."

These factors will be modified from the bar caracteristics, but also from the grip, the technical specifications of each lift.
- A Clean and Jerk will make your bar bend more because your grip is narrow(er) and you use more weight. Your limbs will operate in a "straight" line hence more load.
- The Snatch will make your bar bend less at it allows use for less weight, as you upper limbs "rotate" to bring the bar up. The wider grip reduces the rotation radius (total distance to achieve the lift), then allowing more load.

So, my thought are :
1) If you only calculate mechanical properties of each tested bar, are you calculating from a UNIQUE central point? Or testing with actual human ergonomic settings?
2) Are you mesuring with equal speed? Taking in account acceleration/deceleration, as with O-lifts you don't need to decelerate your bar (bring it to the ground)?
3) Are you calculating/comparing performance in each lift with the same weight, but with different bars?
4) If so, will you take in account that elasticity and Inertia could modify the lift's achievement? When you stabilise, you "shake" making it more difficult to lift the load...

Hope this helps. If not, please apologise someone really interested in the subject, but with no actual idea in what the goals are (I'm a nurse...).


Ivanko's site has some info on bars, and why theirs (and other quality bars) cost what they cost; covering materials, fabrication process etc. I think "how to bend/break a bar"


I would guess it's a low carbon steel with plating on it. Stainless steel, like 316L or 340 is more expensive and even though it's stainless, it's not salt (aka sweat) resistant.


It really depends on the grade of stainless relative to Sodium Chloride (sweat)resistance, with 316 being more resistant than 304. The L simply means it has .03% maximum Carbon as opposed to standard stainless maximum .08%, making it better for welding but generally not as tough. I believe all of the 300 series SS are available with the L designation.


Sure. When do you need this for though? I have finals in a week and a half, so I might not be able to dedicate too much time to this. Also the questions the others asked are valid and you should answer them.
Thorpughet raised some excellent questions.


Lulz. All Swedes who aren't retired yet speak English. They probably just don't have the time to answer his questions satisfactorily.

Check your PMs OP.


Legendaryblaze: I'm not under too much time pressure, but I would like them probably within 4 weeks or so if that's possible.

Thorpughet: You raised some good questions which I hadn't thought of. I plan on measuring the values from a single support point in the middle of the bar, so grip width is not an issue. I realise that this makes for a potentially flawed experiment, but I'm not conducting an experiment and rather I simply need to compare the relative flexibility of each type of bar.
This should also answer your second thought, in that I'm not taking into account the acceleration of the bar during the lift, but instead the stationary stiffness of each bar.
Your third thought; I hadn't thought of that and I find that quite intriguing; what if I were to perform a C&J with a powerlifting bar? A bench press with an Olympic bar? I think that this could provide an extra dimension into my presentation.
And your fourth thought: I'm not completely sure of what you're asking, but could that come under the previous point, of the relative difficulty performing the lift? Although it may be difficult to obtain a numerical value for 'difficulty' as such.

-Vlad-: Thank you very much, they were very useful and insightful articles.

Thanks in advance.


Bars are made from the cheapest shit they can get away with. I'd say they're mainly 1018, 1020 and maybe 1045 mild steel. The higher alloys like 4140, 4142, 4340 (heat treatable) would be for the higher end bars, if someone wanted to shell out the $$ for it. If I was making bars for myself, I'd use 4140 steel. Watch out going higher in the chrome molly alloys, they are more prone to fatigue-breakage than mild steels.

For strictly hollow bars, they're probably all mild steel, especially if they have to machine them for the stops or put grip knurls on them. I would look at some of the manufacturer's of weight sets and see if they advertise what their stuff is made from. If it wasn't published, email them and ask, they'll probably tell you.

Any steel property can be found in any dynamics, physics or engineering materials handbook. If you have access to Machinery's Handbook, it'll be in there as well.


Do your stress analysis with the weight being simply supported in 2 places. Use an average wide grip measurement and you'll be realistic in approach. Or run 2 sets of data, close and wide grip. Go with pure statics and leave any bar oscillation out of it.



Yeah, I was referring to quality bars. The cheap ones are probably made from a mild steel like you said.

There is a wide range of Chrome-moly ranging from very cheap to very expensive. Steel bike frames are made almost exclusively from it, from your $100 Huffy up to $1500+ KHS. Few things see cold working more than a mountain bike frame, except maybe an oly bar.

As far as finding the dynamics, he will have to understand what they mean as well. Matweb is another excellent resource.



I was thinking that chrome-moly tubing may work out for a hollow bar and be a lot less expensive than a solid bar. I'm familiar with matweb from work, a truly great reference for material selection. I have other fav sites from Uddeholm, Carpenter and still have a few textbooks I crack open now and then.



I have found some info which suggests Oly bars are made of SAE 6150 chrome-vanadium alloy, and to make a 'deader' power bar they add manganese. Decent info or a load of bollocks?


haha, i did a lab like this in college.

if i had the information in front of me i'd toss it over to you. but i basically used a scaled down version of our texas power bars and tried a few different metals to determine ideal properites of powerlifting bars.

most companies will give you some information on the type of metal they use, but they won't give you the %'s of metals and they also won't give you the process they use.

matweb.com is a good site. you might also find something on engineeringtoolbox.

good luck with the project man.


OBXS-20KG29MM - 218,000 P.S.I. rated / I.P.F. Approved / length 7 ft. 2 in. / weight 20kg (44.08 Lb.)
1 per case / recommended collars (not included) CO-2.5KG / all stainless steel
mag tested / ultrasonic tested / straightness specified / with center knurling

The above is off the Ivanko Site

Basically, their premier bar is a stainless steel with a yield of 218 ksi.... What your paying for with these bars is better bearings (these are nice stainless steel roller bearings), and the I.P.F approved. Also, they are conducting 2 non-destructive testing

Mag - Magnetic particle - finds large cracks
Ultrasonic - ultrasonic inspection where you pass a sound wave through the metal to look for small internal defects.

Both of these cost a good bit of money, but gaurntee you bar is a lot less likely to break and is free of defects caused by the castings of the bar.

If you want to know what alloy is used in this bar, look in the ASM Metals Handbooks (volume 1 - ferrous alloys) under the stainless section and find one with a yield strength around 218 Ksi. A quick scan found nothing with 219 KSI tensile strength.... but I am sure its somewhere.....