Equipment Matters

Chris deadlifted heavy at the 70’s Big Seminar this past weekend at CrossFit Annandale. He’s about six weeks out from Nationals and is still coming back from an injury to his back. He was disappointed that he didn’t get the double, yet there are some factors that influenced it.

CrossFit Annandale has a pretty cool barbell club, some nice strongman equipment, and lots of accessory tools (fat grips, sleds, etc.). However, they don’t yet have a power bar (at least one will be purchased soon, so get off it). The bar Chris was using in the video and during his warm-ups is just a standard “econo bar” that most CrossFit facilities purchase. They are optimal for the lightly loaded conditioning workouts aside from being economical.

Different kinds of barbells have different levels of tensile and yield strengths. Power bars are going to be more stiff (with a 29mm circumference) and can handle a lot more weight while Oly bars are going to be more whippy (with a 28mm circumference). A good Oly bar will make the difference between a snappy or sloppy jerk. In slower powerlifting movements, having whip on the bar is terrible because it produces a constant vibration on the bar throughout the movement. While a power bar will stay solid and not have much, if any, oscillation, a cheaper bar will vibrate subtly. This makes the movement more difficult; the bar is essentially moving around in the lifter’s hands on a deadlift. To add more weirdness, Chris had to use 100 pound plates to get enough weight on the bar. Most CrossFit facilities don’t have any iron plates at all, but CF Annandale has a good stash, just not enough to have 7 on each side (to make 675 on the bar). 100 pound iron plates theoretically shouldn’t have an effect on a good bar, but they will make a cheap bar even more wobbly because of the uneven distribution of load. That and Chris put them on as the third plate instead of putting them on first (I think this would have an effect, but I don’t have personal experience with it).

The bar oscillation was easy to see when Chris warmed up with anything over 405. It’s analogous to lifting with chains hanging off the end of the bar; Chris has to use more force and energy to stabilize against the extraneous forces. I think that if he had better equipment that he would have had a shot at the second rep at 675. Yet he still got a 96% of 1RM rep in and accumulated the same tonnage as when he did 655×2 in January (his last warm-up of 635 added with 675 makes the same tonnage of 1310) — the tonnage doesn’t paint the whole picture, but my point is that it wasn’t a worthless session.

If you train at or own a CrossFit facility, or any strength training gym, take note of the how much a good bar can help your training. It will allow you to hit heavier loads with greater efficiency in training to result in better meet/competition performances.

26 thoughts on “Equipment Matters

  1. I recently bought a B&R bar from Rogue. As I get stronger, I’ll plan to purchase separate bars exclusively for Powerlifting and Oly lifting.

    It’s been a great addition to my garage gym since I only had used a craig’s list bar- I didn’t know what I was missing until I picked up the B&R.

    It would be cool to know how long I could get away with using the B&R until it starts to affect performance. You stated around 405 it was noticeable for Chris w/ an econo bar…

    Note that a B&R bar is just a York Power bar with different knurling, so you are good to go with that bad boy. I received that information a couple years ago from a York representative. This means that a B&R bar >>>>>>>> any econo bar.


  2. B&R bar becomes annoying to squat with at ~500 pounds, and annoying to deadlift with at 135 pounds due to its 29mm size.

    Hmm, maybe the bar is rated differently than a York Power bar (referencing my response directly above). In any case, it’ll be decent for most people. I always liked Texas Power Bars.


  3. I lifted at a crossfit gym once and I did notice a considerable difference – bar bending more severe than usual. I’m glad I wasn’t delusional…I should’ve taken my shirt off.

    What if you always train with a shitty bar and then get accustomed to less efficient bars so good bars at competitions feel easier? I am mainly talking about the slow lifts since I’d imagine that efficiency for the Oly lifts matters a great deal more for a good vs bad lift.

    I’ve heard this question before and tried to account for it in the post (I typed it out really quick). It still means you’re training with a lighter load than you were if you had a good bar, so your overall progress won’t be as good. The bar should still be a bit better on the competition platform than whatever good training bar you have.


  4. Wait, didn’t Justin just recommend a 29mm for power movements?

    My understanding, which could be wrong, is that the same bar is used throughout a USAPL/IPF meet. A power bar is 29mm. But Nolan might be saying it’s just better to train on a thinner bar in training (i.e. having a bar designed specifically for deadlifts).

    I’m not a good deadlifter so I don’t personally know the effect of a good, whippy deadlift bar, btw.


  5. Technically a bar that flexes more WOULD be beneficial to deadlifts. (ie, texas deadlift bars flex more) Thats where you always hear PL dudes talk about pulling the slack out of the bar. I used one at my first lolSPF meet and my 500 2nd attempt felt like 460 because the bar pretty much flexed what felt 2 inches if you pulled the slack out.

    Now for a USAPL dude that is useless because the USAPL notoriously uses the same kind of bar for all three lifts. So yeah I could see how chris wouldnt be used to that.

    You’re equating a good deadlift bar to a shitty econo bar. They couldn’t be more different.


  6. 29mm is on the larger side, isn’t it?

    I have a Texas Power Bar which is 28.5 and the Pendlay bushing bar which is 28.4 and is on the stiff side as far as Oly bars go.

    The Texas Deadlift bar has more flex than almost all power bars. Basically puts you in a more advantageous position as you pull the slack out before the weight leaves the ground, right? I remember Scott Yard posting about how difficult it was to pull with a stiffer bar in USAPL after he had gotten used to pulling with with the Texas DL bar.

    I notice my TPB starts to arch in the rack at around 365-385 on it, but I dont notice any bounce when I walk it out or coming out of the hole.

    You are also equating a good deadlift bar to a shitty econo bar. I understand what you’re saying, but in this case it doesn’t apply.


  7. i know what you’re saying. I can’t curl with 50lb dumbbells at this one gym because they are chrome and seeing my biceps in the reflection makes my arms oscillate and then my biceps get weak and i miss the lift.

  8. So you’re basically saying the 485 I pulled on my gym’s Eleiko training bar last week translate to a 700 lb’er with a Texas bar? I figured as much.

  9. Eh, its always been kind of open source/opinion. But I think instead of saying “oh the bar flexed to much for him” I would calculated, travelling and not being in your usual home-base setup as the reason for a slightly less than optimal performence.

    I will say YES really flexable bars are not fun for squatting for big dog weights that someone like chris or matt nolan would be handling.

    And I’ll say, again, that an econo bar is still dog shit, no matter what you’re comparing it to. That’s not even considering the variance due to the plates.


  10. I never miss due to a limp bar.

    And I always thought that it wasn’t the equipment, but what you can do with it, that matters. Once again, Justin has shattered my life perspective.

  11. This question goes back to Friday’s Q&A about deadlifts. You say Soldiers, hikers, in season athletes may not want to program deadlifts in. Would you consider firefighters as part of this population? Or do you think it is vital that firemen do deadlifts based on what we have to do on the fireground, vehicle accidents, etc?

    I wouldn’t have fighters deadlift. A friend of mine who trains many fighters does not have them deadlift. If they were in their “off-season”, it’d be different, but it would probably interfere with their skill work (mat time or striking sessions) in the off-season. If you’d like to no more I can have him write an article.


  12. I’ve read all the way back in 70s big history to page 85. A couple of questions:

    1. What are your training/fitness goals currently?

    2. You stated you were experimenting with reduced salt, potassium, and seeing how they affected your blood pressure. Did you ever have any results?

    3. With respect to your post “Lessons From A Workout”, can someone do 3 back-off sets rest-pause style for all the big movements while on a linear progression?

    I know you like context so:

    I am 28, 6’3″ and 245, squat twice a week, bench/press 1.5 times per week via greyskull lp a/b style, and deadlift once. I eat at least 1 gram of protein a day. I have been doing this since March 2nd when I jumped back into lifting after being sedentary for 1.5 years.

    Squat- 305x5x3
    Bench- 215x5x3
    Press- 150x5x3
    Deadlift- 365×5

    I’m just looking to gain some swollertrophy but I’m enjoying my linear strength gains. I’m most concerned about strength.

    Will use this as Q&A.


  13. Hello Justin,
    In Sydney you corrected my squat getting me to take a closer stance, which gave me more power out of the bottom, I felt much stronger. However I had to go back to the wide stance because the closer stance wasn’t feeling good for my knees, they felt all bruised and swollen. I have no doubt that I need to work on mobility. Is this something you have encountered with a trainee before?

    E-mailed you.


  14. Using unfamiliar/suboptimal equipment can be a real hassle. The bar I have at home has very smooth knurling, which makes going for a top end set of deadlifts kinda iffy. There’s something about not having confidence in my grip takes off a good 10% of my potential for that day.

  15. echo we have a bar like that at my gym its actually a nice bar its just been used so much that the knurling is smooth. We put a single layer of grip tape on it in order to use it. Pretty ghetto-rig’d but it gets the job done with very little cash.

    Maybe that can hold you over till you can get a better bar.

  16. Whatup Justin!

    The trolls here are hilarious …

    That said, yes, the type of bar has a metric fuck-ton to do with a missed deadlift (especially 95% or greater) … and … especially where Chris missed it (near transition point off the floor).

    Anyways, it was cool meeting you in DC, I sent some emails your way, will probably try to follow up soon when you’re done moving/etc.


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