Your barbell is a key piece of any home gym setup. Whatever you put in while you’re building it, you’re gonna need a good barbell or even two if you want to see some serious progress. But not all barbells are alike.
A stiffer bar is great for something like deadlifting, while for working on your barbell snatch you’ll want something with a little more flexibility. If you’re going to be doing both regularly, you might want to have two different barbells. Not to mention the knurling pattern, bearing vs bushing, etc. But that’s a post for another time.
A good barbell is not a cheap investment, and it needs to be maintained well. Properly taken care of, your barbell should last you years — and only need replacing when you’re lifting so much you bend them in half. A gym would typically run through a barbell every couple years. At home, though, a good barbell properly taken care of could last your lifetime.
So here are 5 tips for taking care of your barbell:
1. Proper Storage
If you really want to be serious about barbell maintenance, then that means watching how you store your bar too. I know it sounds tired, but it can’t be stressed enough: you have to re-rack your weights.
Well, since it’s your own gym you don’t actually have to re-rack them, but they can’t stay on the bar. Your barbell isn’t designed to withstand those heavy weights for a long amount of time. Even a little bit can warp it over time, severely limiting its lifespan.
The bar itself can be stored horizontally or vertically, though you shouldn’t leave them leaning against a wall. If you are storing them vertically, make sure to regularly rotate which sleeve is facing down. This will prevent oil from building up and possibly leaking out of one side.
2. Wipe it down, Daily
There’s nothing quite as nice as that “like-new” shine you get on a clean and polished barbell. You can keep yours in good shape by making sure to wipe it down every time you use it. A simple once-over with antibacterial wipes at the end of your workout can make a big difference in how clean your barbell stays.
3. A Stiff Brush, Weekly
Antibacterial wipes won’t do much when it comes to chalk, or worse, dead skin, in the knurling of the bar. This can be really tough to clean out, especially if it starts to build up over time. A good, stiff nylon brush can help get that stuff out of there.
How much you use it changes depending on how much you use the bar. For regular use, at least once a week is recommended. The more you clean it, the easier it is to clean.
4. WD40, Monthly
Contrary to popular belief, stainless steel isn’t the best steel out there. When you have to regularly load a bar up with big weights, it needs to be made of sterner stuff.
Unfortunately, sterner stuff rusts. Even with an oxide coating, rust over time is something you have to worry about. A quick coat of oil or WD-40 is a good way to protect your bars against this.
For your personal bar, once or twice a month should be sufficient. Soak a rag and wipe your bar down before you put it away overnight. Wipe it down again before you use it next and you’re good to go.
Note: You can also use 3-in-1 oil (see tip no. 5)
5. Oil the Bearings, Monthly
Older barbells have little holes in the sleeves so you can squeeze some oil onto the bushings and bearings inside. Don’t use WD40. WD40 or others like it will dry out your bearings and attract dust and dirt. Oil will make sure your sleeves and bearings keep turning just the way they’re supposed to.
Knowing the difference between bearings and bushings can make a big difference in the kind of barbell you’re going to buy. Typically, barbells with bearings in the collar spin more smoothly, which can make a difference for olympic-style lifts. Bushings — which are essentially brass or copper sleeves that reduce friction in the barbell collar, tend to be cheaper, and thus not spin as freely. However they’re typically fine when you’re building a home gym or simply trying to get in a few more reps before you head to work.
Barbell maintenance is a lot like personal hygiene. It’s not always fun, but a little daily maintenance can make everything more fun for everyone later on. The right care performed regularly can keep your barbell in tip-top shape for years to come.