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UNDERSTANDING THE OLYMPIC NEEDLE BEARING BAR AND ITS FUNCTION

Many are confused as to what determines a great performing Needle Bearing Bar also known as a Competition style IWF Olympic Weightlifting Bar. First, it’s important to understand what is the optimum performing bar. The goal is simple, the bar sleeve must spin unrestricted at all loads and have a smooth feel with no play up and down on the bar shaft.  A buyer or a user will spin an unloaded bar sleeve by hand listening for that skateboard wheel sound (bearings touching the bar) as well as watching and counting how long it will remain spinning. In many eyes, this is the test of a great bar. This from a design and mechanical engineering standpoint is irrelevant to the way a bearing bar will perform in the loaded and especially heavily loaded condition. In fact, generally, a bar that is not a precision made bar that is built to wide tolerances vs super precision tolerances will, in fact, spin faster and longer than a precision bearing bar. What a precision Bearing Bar will do however is spin slower unloaded but spin effortless fully loaded because there is virtually no play between the Bar Shaft and the case hardened needles inside the bearings or the bearings and a race system. Additionally, if a bar is built correctly each bearing will be packed with a low friction grease to protect the bar shaft and bearings over time further slowing down ONLY a spin test by hand. Precision bearings are meant to spin in excess of 15,000 RPM (revolutions per minute) and a lifter spins the bar at a half of 1 turn. If the precision bearing system was attached to a drive motor there would be zero sign of a slow-moving system and in fact, it would be much smoother and quieter than a system that you could hear. What American Barbell has done is take this entire process several steps further in addressing problems that have plagued the Olympic Bearing Bar from day one.

 First, we use a super precision Needle Bearing that is substantially larger, stronger, higher load rated and more expensive than a conventional bearing found in all bars today, this bearing rotates around an inner race or sleeve that fits over the bar, in this method there are no needle bearings coming in contact with the bar shaft which is crucial for long life and continuous smooth concentric rotation. Because needle bearings are much harder than ANY bar shaft material used in Olympic lifting this system is far superior over time compared to a bar that has the bearings directly rotating around the bar shaft. When these super hard needles are directly on the bar shaft they immediately begin to deform the bar from constant dropping. Basically, conventional bearing systems create a similar effect as if you took a hammer and repeatedly hit the side of a round bar over and over again. Over time the bar shaft has flat spots under the needle bearing areas that create a very rough and non-concentric rotation. At this point, the bar is damaged beyond repair. From an engineering perspective, no bearing should come in direct contact with a mating surface that is SOFTER than the bearing itself which is virtually impossible in almost all available finishes especially decorative Chrome. In the American Barbell Bearing system, both the bearing and the race are compatible in hardness not only protecting the bar but allowing the use of many different types of materials because the hardness of the bar shaft is irrelevant. In the example mentioned above, if a standard type Needle Bearing Bar with bearings that rotate directly on a bar shaft which is softer than the bearings themselves was spinning at 15,000 RPM’s, the bearings would score the bar like the way glass is cut causing catastrophic failure. Therefore, we far and away prefer the Bearing and Race method. Many companies today still use conventional decorative Chrome on the bar shaft, this type of chrome is typically found on car bumpers or other items and this finish is dangerous because it is not made to flex, obviously, a bar shaft flexes. Once the shell is broken it peels leaving areas sharp as a razor blade. At American Barbell we would never use a finish of this type. We do however use a Hard Chrome Aircraft finish in some applications where a specific hardness is required as this method will NOT peel. As in all American Barbell products we have thoroughly engineered and tested these bars to prove these results. The reason more companies have not gone this way is the much higher cost to produce these bars and the need for super precision machinery to produce a bar at this level. The true test is to heavily load a bar and see that there is not only zero restriction but a super precision solid feel especially when dropping a heavily loaded bar. This technical information can easily be verified by any mechanical engineer or bearing technical expert. The looser the tolerances the faster the spin. The same holds true for bushing bars, a loose bushing will always spin faster but not rotationally smoother as the bar will always find the low spots of the bushings creating knocking. At American Barbell we don’t copy we innovate.