Before I built my garage gym, I genuinely thought there were only two types of barbell: A standard Olympic bar and an EZ curl bar. Those are the only two types of barbells I ever saw or used at the commercial gyms I used.
So imagine my surprise when I started shopping for barbells! Technique bars, cambered bars, Swiss bars, multi-grip bars, trap bars, and so many more. I was confused at best!
The “technique barbell” was one that I couldn’t figure out at first. How would this smaller, lighter bar help me with my technique? Would it improve my presses, deadlifts, squats, or rows? Did I need one for my new garage gym?
What is a Technique Barbell?
A technique barbell aids people new to Olympic or CrossFit-style lifting in developing proper form. It is smaller (72″ vs. 84″) and lighter (15 lbs vs. 45 lbs) than a traditional barbell. The most common lifts it’s used for are the snatch and the clean and jerk, which can be dangerous if done wrong.
The diameter of a technique bar is usually 28mm. This mirrors the diameter of full-sized bars used in CrossFit and Olympic lifting.
Knurling on a technique bar is typically passive due to the explosive nature of the lifts being performed with it. They also don’t usually have a center knurl, which is used almost exclusively for squatting (something you don’t need a technique bar to learn).
Many technique bars are also rackable for ease of loading. This is a nice feature, but not necessary since the lifts this type of bar is used for all start from the ground.
Who Should Use a Technique Bar?
For most people training at home, a technique bar is completely unnecessary. Since we are not performing Olympic or CrossFit movements, we simply don’t need it.
If you are going to be Olympic lifting (snatch and clean and jerk) or doing CrossFit (overhead squats, specifically), you’ll want one… Maybe.
Because of the popularity of CrossFit, a lot of people like the idea of explosive, Olympic-style lifting. If this is you, please get a coach and join a gym specializing in this type of training!
This type of lifting can cause severe injury and even death if done improperly. I am not exaggerating. Losing control of a heavily loaded bar over your head isn’t a situation you want to find yourself in. Especially at home with no spotter!
A competent Olympic lifting coach will start you with a broomstick or PVC pipe. Competitive lifters may spend months or even years with just these implements. Perfect form is required for this type of lifting, and this work needs to be done to ensure that form.
The next step after PVC is a technique bar loaded with minimal weight. Again, you’ll spend months at this stage if your coach is any good at all.
And guess what? If you have a good coach, they’ll already have a technique bar for you to use. You don’t need to buy one unless you plan to practice at home.
My Favorite Use of a Technique Bar
There’s one more way to use a technique bar that applies to a heck of a lot more people than the smaller group of people training in Olympic lifting… Kids.
I’ve found that having kid-friendly gear available in your gym is one of the best ways to capitalize on any interest they might show.
You won’t usually have much luck forcing your kids to train with weights. But if you lead by example, there will be a day when they come into the gym and ask you to try.
Having a technique bar on hand for your kids is a great way to get them into the habit of training early and doing it safely. A technique bar’s smaller profile and lighter weight are ideal for young lifters!
How Big is a Technique Bar?
Like many specialty bars, there is no standard for technique bars. If you look, you’ll see a variance in size and weight across brands and models. That said, there are some pretty consistent measurements from bar to bar.
The weight of a technique bar will be listed as either 15 lbs or 5 kg (there are a few 10 kg bars out there as well). It’s more common to see them made at 5 kg since competitive Olympic lifting uses kg plates exclusively. Learning to work in kg is essential if you plan to lift competitively.
Since 5 kg equates to only 11 lbs, this might make a difference for you. This is particularly true if you buy a technique bar for your kids. That 4 lb difference might not mean much to adults, but it’s huge for a 10-year-old!
The length of a technique bar range from 72″ to 79″. The sleeves vary from 9″ to 12.5″, and are usually mounted on bushings. The higher spin rate of bearings is entirely unnecessary on this type of bar.
Most technique bars are rackable, but you’ll want to double-check before buying if this is important to you.
How Much Weight Can You Load on a Technique Barbell?
A technique barbell can hold between 45 and 200 lbs, depending on the model. More capacity isn’t needed because the purpose of a technique bar is to teach form, not lift a lot of weight. Since most technique bars are made from lightweight aluminum, they can’t hold much weight without being damaged.
It’s important to understand that working on technique requires very little weight. For that reason, these bars are not made from high-tensile strength steel. That’s also why they have shorter than standard sleeves.
A standard barbell is preferred if you need more than 75 total lbs. to train with.
I’d also recommend buying some technique plates along with your bar. These lighter-weight discs have the same dimensions as the bumpers you’ll use once you add weight.
Technique plates are made of hard plastic, are very lightweight, and can be dropped without damage. These plates allow you to practice your form with gear as close to what you’ll eventually be using as possible.
If you’ve purchased your bumper plates from Fringe Sport (my ONLY recommended brand of bumper plate!), then you can also use their 10 lb plates instead of buying specialty technique plates. Fringe Sport 10 lb bumpers are the only ones that can be dropped without damaging them.
Who Makes the Best Technique Barbells?
American barbell makes the best engineered, designed, and manufactured bars you can buy, regardless of size or type. Their technique bars are no exception.
If you aren’t looking to spend $300 or more on a technique bar, the Rep Fitness technique bar at $159.99 is ideal.
As for plates, Fringe Sport’s 10 lb technique plates are well-made, durable, and inexpensive. While the 10 lb bumpers from Fringe Sport can be dropped, but I wouldn’t do it hundreds of times (they will eventually taco out of shape).
If you typically go for a premium solution, then look no further than the HighTech plates that American Barbell sells.
What are technique barbells made of?
Technique bars are typically constructed of high-strength aluminum. This material gives enough strength to use the bar without damaging it but not enough strength to hold much weight.
How much does a technique bar cost?
Prices on technique bars range from just over $100 to around $300. Weight capacity, length, and construction quality all impact the price.
Do you need special plates to use with a technique barbell?
Yes. You’ll need either technique plates or very light (10 lbs or less) bumpers that are durable enough to be dropped if needed.