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Old 08-26-2007, 04:05 PM   #1
Scott Mahn
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Aluminum Oly Bars for beginners

I've been reading old threads researching bars and bumpers and I don't see these get a lot of press around here.

I'm a newbie to strength training and Olympic lifting. Pretty much just teaching myself preliminary stuff for the last three weeks: back squats, front squats, overhead squats, deadlifts, power cleans to overhead press, etc. Pretty low weights, just trying to practice form, coordination and balance, etc.

For the squats I use a traditional 20K bar in a power rack, but for all else I've been using an aluminum bar with 10K bumpers. It probably totals about 60 lbs, and then I add iron weights as needed. Not sure I truly know what "whip" is, but I think this setup has it! At low weights I gotta imagine it's a better feel than a 44 lb bar with plywood bumpers, or 10 lb rubber bumpers that flex under the weight of the bar alone. And for those who like to practice with an empty bar the 44 lb bar might be too much, but the aluminum feels almost weightless.

Here's an example of what I'm talking about:

I have no idea of the brand I'm using but I'm wondering if others have good or bad thoughts to share on such bars. I also wonder where they max out in terms of weight capacity, and I wonder how long it might take me to exceed that capacity, if ever. I know from my own experience it's a great *starter* bar, but I wonder how long it will serve me before I need something stronger. And once one does outgrow the light bars do they become worthless or do you still find them useful for particular exercises? (Might be a while before I'm doing one-hand barbell snatches, but you never know... ;-)
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Old 08-26-2007, 05:17 PM   #2
Trevor Thompson
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Re: Aluminum Oly Bars for beginners

DANGER is all i can say if you will be doing any of the following movements:
Frankly, anything that starts and ends on the ground

I speak from experience here. I used a medium priced bar from a sporting goods store and broke the thick 2" collar on the outside of the bar. Got it fixed (by getting a ew bar entirely) and broke it again, i was deadlifting. You can use these bars for squats, miltary presses, bench presses, curls...etc. But please don't endanger yourself or others by using them to learn O-lifts, or Deadlifting.

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Old 08-26-2007, 07:19 PM   #3
Scott Mahn
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Re: Aluminum Oly Bars for beginners

Trevor, advice taken. I have a piece 'o crap bar from a $120 300LB set, so I know of what you speak. But the bar I'm talking about is better than that, and is in daily use at a gym, though, admittedly, people are kindly towards it.

IOW, the reason it's light isn't because it's cheap. For instance, Pendlay makes a 5kg bar that I'm sure is better built than many a heavier and costlier bar.

That said, they do have weight limits. I guess the question is, is it better to work with a light bar until one approaches it's limit, or is it better to work with a heavier bar even if it entails using it with too thin rubber or plywood bumpers, which also are prone to breakage.

Obviously, from an economic standpoint it's better to buy one bar for life, but I'd be willing to invest $120 in a bar that I might only need to use for two or so years *IF* that bar would better suit me over those two years.

A bar that can last an experience lifter a lifetime may not ncessarily be the best bar for a beginner.

And I still have the el crapo bar for heavier and less dynamic movements, like back squats.
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Old 08-27-2007, 06:26 AM   #4
Tom Fetter
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Re: Aluminum Oly Bars for beginners

I've heard folks say that the Pendlay Junior is the way to go, in your situation. Light enough to be used as a technique bar, strong enough to carry more weight than I, at least, am likely to ever put over my head. I see that they've a "junior" version of their Economy grade bar too, which seems like an even better deal for a CrossFit purpose.

I can see myself buying 2 Pendlay bars in the not too distant future. Their men's Economy grade bar (or the Crossfit bar), and their economy grade junior bar. While the junior bar would be bought primarily with my kids in mind, I fully expect that for different purposes, I'd readily use them both.

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Old 08-27-2007, 06:35 AM   #5
William Henniger
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Re: Aluminum Oly Bars for beginners

I highly recommend the CrossFit bar that Glenn Pendlay manufactures. This bar is made for the daily beatings that CrossFit can dish out. Great whip, knurling and sleeve assembly. For $159/bar, tough to beat. Not to mention Glenn is a great guy with deep roots in the Olympic lifting world.

Here are a couple links to the bar:
WFW(Work and family safe link)

We carry Glenn's bars he has a better deal on his site for that bar:
RF - CrossFit Columbus
(Work and Family Safe)

You will find all kinds of threads talking about this bar, I haven't seen any complaints other than some rust issues on the sleeves. He changed the sleeve type to remedy this issue.

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Old 08-28-2007, 08:23 AM   #6
Glenn Pendlay
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Re: Aluminum Oly Bars for beginners

I would like to add some things about the aluminum bar vs. a steel Junior bar.

The aluminum bar that I sell has as its main "selling point" the fact that it is the same shaft diameter and same dimensions between the collars as a standard womens bar. This is so one learning technique on this bar can easily switch when they are ready to a junior or womens bar without any adjustments, and minimal adjustments if moving up to a mens bar. It is not made to be the type of bar that an adult would stick with for an extended period of time.

I am betting that there are other Aluminum bars out there that are in fact stronger than mine, because they have extra thick shafts and are shorter than standard length. Obviously a thicker and shorter piece of anything, aluminum or steel, will be stronger.

I designed my aluminum bar as a "technique bar", and assumed that the techniques being learned on this bar would be then applied to a heavier bar... for this reason I believed that it was of utmost importance to make the feel and dimensions of the bar as close to standard as possible, so the technique learned could as easily as possible be applied. Making it of maximal strength was not as important, because of my assumption that one would move on to another bar long before the limits of this bar were tested.

If you are wanting an aluminum bar that is as strong as can be made, one to do lifting with significant weight, mine would NOT be the best choice. If you are buying one to learn or teach technique on, and plan to switch to another bar when you are able, then I think mine is a good choice.

I originally did the 5kg aluminum bar specifically for my son William, hence the name "William bar". He was about 3 1/2 years old, and was beginning to break the wooden bars that I had up until that time made for him with increasing frequency. He was not strong enough to use a 10kg Junior bar. I wanted to get him something that was exactly the same in the dimensions as a junior or womens bar, so that when he got older and stronger he could made the transition to these bars as painlessly as possible. So we did an aluminum bar, just one, and it was "William's bar". Some other people saw it and wanted one or two, so we ran off 20 of them and started selling them. William did a 7kg snatch and a 12kg clean and jerk on this bar in his first official OL competition (Kansas state championship) when he was 4 years old. He is 5 now, and will compete again at the Kansas state championship again in a couple of weeks where he will probably do around a 10 or 11kg snatch, and around a 16 or 17kg clean and jerk. He still lifts on the first example of this bar ever made. It is still "William's bar" and he really doesnt like other kids lifting on it. He also helps package and put the shipping label on all of these bars that we sell, and gets a dollar or two for his billfold on each one. He is real proud to be "selling his bars" and we do a high-five every time we get an order for one.

My Pendlay Junior bar, which weighs just 10kilos, is, in my opinion, a very nice bar. Like the aluminum 5kg bar the dimensions between the collars are just like a womens bar, and differ only in the shaft diameter from a mens bar. It is more expensive than most Junior bars, but it is made to the same quality as the mens and womens Pendlay bars, and will, if you have thin metal weights to load it with and the strength to do it, handle a 400lb clean and jerk. For some people, this bar could be not just a stepping stone, but the main bar they use.

The Economy Junior bar is of the same dimensions but a lower quality bar and less expensive. I like selling the best bars I can, but realize not everyone needs or wants to pay for this. For most people wanting a Junior 10kg bar, the Economy would be sufficient.

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Old 08-28-2007, 09:16 AM   #7
Arden Cogar Jr.
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Re: Aluminum Oly Bars for beginners

this is a very good read. Even though she doesn't appreciate it, I bought one of the shorter aluminum training bars for my wife along with some 5lb bumpers.

This bar listed it's top weight at 200lbs. It's for my wife and daughters, not me, so we should be good.

All the best,
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Old 08-28-2007, 10:23 AM   #8
Scott Mahn
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Re: Aluminum Oly Bars for beginners

Thanks for our contribution, Glenn.

I think too few people have ever tired the aluminum bars. They pain themselves with 45 lb bars perhaps before they are ready for one, and then have to make homemade plates to work with it. I have access to an aluminum and steel bar at the gym and for the weights I'm using for overhead work the aluminum with bumpers has a much better feel than steel with iron or wood.

I think I may just stay with aluminum till I'm ready to snatch one of your full-size men's bars with 25lb and up bumpers (95+ lbs). That gives me something to strive for. ;-)
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