barbell storage

The best ways to store your barbells

In Maintain Your Gym by Tim Steward

Last updated on March 9th, 2021 at 01:47 pm

Too much gear and not enough space. It’s the age-old dilemma faced by most home gym owners. For some gear, it doesn’t matter how you store it. For your barbell, that’s not the case. Improper bar storage can damage your prized barbell, so it’s important to follow a few basic guidelines.

Proper barbell storage guidelines:

barbell storage
My bar storage

What’s the best way to store your barbells? Up off the ground, unloaded, and horizontal is best. Vertical storage is a possibility with some caveats, but not ideal. Propped up in a corner or laying on the ground isn’t a good idea at all.

Horizontal storage is best

If you only have one bar (and let’s be honest, most home gym owners only need one bar), store your bar unloaded on the J-hooks of your rack and call it a day. You don’t need any special storage solutions at all.

If you have more than one bar, or you don’t have the room to leave your bar stored in your rack, you’ll need another solution. The most ideal of these is horizontal storage.

Why horizontal is best

Inside the sleeves of your barbell are bushings, bearings, or both. Those anti-friction devices are there to allow your bar sleeves to spin freely. They are also designed to support heavy loads in the form of weight plates loaded on the bar while the bar is horizontal. They can take a ton (probably literally!) of abuse in this way.

barbell bushing
The bushing is that bit between the bar and the sleeve

These same little devices are not, however, designed to support much load with the bar in a vertical position. This is not what they are engineered for. 

Bushings are more durable than bearings, but neither one is designed to bear a lot of load vertically. Bearings can even break apart and fail completely if too much force is applied in this direction. This can easily happen if a bar is dropped carelessly into a vertical bar storage solution.

There is also the matter of lubrication. When stored horizontally, the lubrication around your bushings and inside your bearings will stay put. If the bar is turned vertically, this may not be the case.

In all honesty, the lubrication issue isn’t one that should keep you from storing your bar vertically. Most bearings are sealed to keep debris out and lubrication in. This is regardless of the angle of storage. For bushings, there is so little lubrication in the first place, it most likely won’t all come off.

Worst case, you might have to relubricate your sleeves after a long period of storage. The real issue is the force applied to the sleeves when stored vertically. That should be avoided if possible.

If you want to never have to think about either of these concerns, store your bar horizontally.

See below for guidelines on what to do if you must store your bar vertically (a situation many of you will undoubtedly face). Also, be sure to note the things not to do regardless of your bar’s storage orientation.

But again, if you can, storing your bar horizontally will be the best option for the care and preservation of your barbell.

Horizontal storage options

There are several good horizontal storage solutions. Some are quite expensive like the gun rack style storage sold by Rogue fitness. When purchased complete with plastic UHMW inserts (and I’m not sure why anyone would buy this product without them!), you are looking at almost $100 just to hold your bar(s) on the wall. Of course, considering Rogue’s reputation for overpricing their gear, this isn’t surprising.

You can buy an equally good product, complete with UHMW inserts, from Rep Fitness for around $60 (check it out here)! It only holds 3 bars to Rogue’s 6, but 95% of home gym owners won’t need those extra 3 slots.

For me, I chose an even less expensive option. I went to my local Home Depot and bought plastic coated “Tornado Hooks”. These come complete with mounting hardware (something the above-mentioned options make you purchase separately) and are much nicer to your wallet.

tornado hooks
These hooks work great for me!

You can buy 4 packs of these here on Amazon for a fraction of the price of a gun rack style rack. A 4 pack will allow you to mount 2 bars horizontally on your wall. And as you can see, they look great too!

One other nice feature of this style of hook is that it can be used to mount all kinds of bars and other accessories that a gun rack style rack can’t. You get to choose the spacing and location of each hook, a very nice and versatile option!

In the end, whether it’s on a gun rack, individual hooks, or another solution you may come up with, storing your bar horizontally is the best option.

Vertical storage

I hear a lot of you out there right now protesting that you simply don’t have room for horizontal storage. In the tight spaces you’ve carved your home gyms from, you barely have room to store your bar(s) at all.

For this reason, most major manufacturers have made vertical storage options. There are several flavors, but in the end, there is only one I would consider.

This option is basically a set of tubes (usually 9) that sit on the ground. You insert the end of your bars into the tubes and they are held upright at a 90-degree angle to the floor.

The best of these, in my opinion, is the Rep Fitness 9 bar holder. It has two features not found on other similar options that are critical.

Rep Fitness 9 Bar Holder
The Rep Fitness 9 bar vertical holder is the only one I know of lined to protect your bars.

First, the tubes are long enough to safely support your bar without risk of bending it. On many less expensive options, the tubes are so short that if you aren’t careful, you risk damaging the sleeve of your bar.

Second, the tubes are sleeved with UHMW plastic inserts. This avoids metal on metal contact and will keep your bar sleeves free from scratches. Even the popular option from Rogue doesn’t offer this feature.

While I personally have opted for horizontal bar storage, if I was to go vertical, the 9 bar holder from Rep is the only option I would consider in that style. You can see a full description and pricing here.

Regardless of which brand you go with, I would add one modification. Take some high-density foam and drop or stuff it in each tube. One of the risks of vertical storage comes from the force created when dropping your bar into the tube.

First of all, don’t do this. Place the bar in this type of storage gently.

It’s still a good idea to put some foam in there just in case. That will help to absorb any shock. The bearings or bushings in your bar will not stand up to a lot of force applied in this direction and it’s these parts that are most likely to fail due to vertical storage.

If you can’t go horizontal, vertical is a viable option if some care is taken.

Regardless of which you choose, though, there are several things we should never do when storing our bars.

What not to do

Never store your bar with weight on it. Your bar will easily handle the temporary force applied to it (assuming you bought a decent bar) over the course of a workout. Even the best bars will bend if stored with weight on them for a long period of time.

Bar with plate
Never leave your bar stored with weight on it

It won’t happen right away, but it will happen at some point. It’s best not to take a chance.

Virtually every barbell manufacturer out there strongly recommends unloading your bar when not in use.

Don’t leave your bar propped up in a corner or against a wall. If you are going to store your bar vertically (not ideal, but still considered okay in most cases), then use a device that keeps the bar 90 degrees vertical to the ground.

This storage angle will minimize the force applied to the bearings or bushings in the bar sleeve. Leaning the bar against something puts the sleeves at an angle. This angle, combined with the weight of the bar, can damage your bushings or bearings over time.

Don’t leave your bar on the ground. This leaves your bar close to any dirt or dust that may be present in the room. It also leaves your bar in the most humid air of the room, the air at floor level. 

Dirt and dust in the bar sleeves will cause problems. Humidity can cause premature bar corrosion. Both of these are problems easily avoided by getting your bar up off the ground.

Don’t store your bar on anything that provides metal on metal contact. Make sure that any horizontal or vertical storage solution you choose has protective materials in place to avoid any metal on metal contact.

Metal on metal contact is the fastest way to scratch your bar finish. The bar finish is what protects your bar from corrosion. Scratching that finish isn’t good for keeping your bar looking nice over its lifetime. It’s terrible for preventing your bar from corroding.

Conclusion

We spend a decent amount of money on our bars (at least we should, see why here). They are what connect us to the weight we are moving. They should be one of our favorite pieces of gear and they should last us a lifetime.

We can help to ensure this by properly caring for (see my complete guide to barbell care and maintenance here – article coming soon) and properly storing our bars. These simple considerations will help to ensure your favorite piece of home gym gear lasts as long as you want it to and stays in an incredible condition that entire time!

Related questions:

Are there any free storage options?

Yes! If you don’t want to spend any money on this aspect of your gym, you have two options. The first is to store your bar in your rack on the j-hooks. Just make sure it is unloaded.

The second is to place 2-3 weight plates on the ground, stacked and centered on each other. Then place the end of the barbell (gently) into the hole in the middle of the plates. This impromptu vertical storage solution works great and doesn’t cost a thing!

Will the lubrication come out of my bearings or bushings if I store my bar vertically?

Probably not. If you store your bar that way without use for months or years at a time, you might have a problem. If not, you are most likely going to be okay here.

How about long term storage?

If you are going to store your bars for a long period of time, it should always be horizontally. Make sure they are clean and free from dirt and debris as well. As an added layer of protection, wipe a thin layer of Bar Shield or 3 in 1 oil across your entire bar to keep corrosion at bay.

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