The Bars

The long 45-pound bar used in almost all commercial gyms is called an Olympic bar. These hefty rods of steel are usually found either on the various benches and racks or propped up in a corner. By adding plates to the bar and securing them with collars, you can control the amount of weight you lift for any given exercise. Some folks may use the bar alone when they bench press, while others load as much as 500 pounds onto it. Assuming you're not working out with someone significantly stronger or weaker than you are (requiring you to remove and replace hundreds of pounds of weight), changing the weight is relatively easy. You just remove the collars, add or subtract weight, and continue on.

For those who aren't ready for a 45-pound bar on a particular exercise, lighter, shorter versions of the Olympic bar are usually available. They are the same diameter and just as compatible with the same set of plates.

Some of the larger and better-equipped gyms will have "fixed" barbells in addition to Olympic bars. These bars are already loaded with plates in 5-pound increments and save you the time and trouble of loading and unloading the bar. These usually come in increments from 20 pounds up through 100 pounds. Beyond that, you're back to the bare Olympic bars.

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