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Olympic Lifting Equipment

In today’s article, you’re going to get an overview of Olympic lifting equipment – what makes good gear, what’s needed, what’s unnecessary, and where to start.

olympic lifting equipment

A really nice Olympic lifting setup.

To begin with, here’s the thing – if you want to start Olympic lifting, you don’t need a heck of a lot of equipment.

All you really need is a long wooden dowel or PVC pipe with a diameter of about 1″ – similar to that of a barbell!

You may be thinking, “Don’t I need a barbell and weights?”

If you’re just starting out, the answer is a resounding “NO”!

If you’re serious about learning how to properly perform the Olympic lifts, starting by educating yourself about proper technique is the best place to start.

But most guys do the opposite – they’ll watch a couple of YouTube videos then go and try to lift as much weight as they possibly can.

This is the worst approach because you’ll probably be training bad technique and you may even hurt yourself.

And once you learn bad technique, it can take a lot of time and effort to fix it.

That’s why it’s best to get started on the right path so you don’t have to waste your time and effort unlearning bad form or suffer a needless injury.

So once you’ve learned proper technique, you can start using more equipment.

Now I’m sure you’ve seen the traditional Olympic lifting setup: a barbell, rubber bumper plates and a nice wooden platform.

But you don’t need to go that far, because if you’re starting out, you shouldn’t be attempting to lift anything close to your max or anything you can’t lower to the ground under control.

While it’s fun to be able to drop big weights and bumper plates, if you have to do this when you’re first learning the lifts – you’re using too much weight.

So all you need is a standard barbell and some plates found in any gym.

You can even start with the older bars that only take the plates with the small, standard hole (1″ diameter) – you don’t have to start with the Olympic plates and barbell.

Like I said, at first, your main focus is proper Olympic lifting technique, not moving max weights.

Sorry if I’m repeating myself like a broken record – I just want you to realize how important this is.

But once you start moving bigger weights, Olympic style bars have collars that rotate, which makes lifting safer (more about this later).

Now, let’s say you’ve learned the lifts correctly and you’re ready to start getting more serious, OR you want to build a little Olympic lifting setup at home.

Here’s what I recommend you look for and why…

Good Quality Olympic Lifting Barbell

Olympic lifting barbell

Invest in a good quality Olympic lifting barbell and it will last a lifetime.

There are 2 main benefits a barbell designed specifically for Olympic weightlifting has over the barbells you’ll find in any gym:

  1. More bend and flex, which allows you to use the momentum generated from the bend to  get out of the bottom of the squat position easier
  2. The sleeves (where you put the plates) spin smoother and more freely, to make the phases where you rotate the barbell up easier, helping make the lift a bit easier

If you’re serious about Olympic lifting (and why wouldn’t you be, considering all of the benefits), you’ll want to invest in a quality barbell, which will probably run you $300-$500.

You’ll have it for life and you might even be able to pass it down to your kids!


Although you’ll see the big fancy collars in the videos of elite weightlifters at the Olympics, they aren’t a necessity to train with and I can’t really justify the price, unless you’re into competitive Olympic weightlifting.

So just get a cheap pair of spring collars and you’re good to go.

Olympic lifting bumper platesBumper Plates

Bumper plates are great to have if you’re getting stronger and starting to use bigger weights.

They also come in handy if you’re pushing the envelope a little bit and you miss a lift and it drops to the floor.

You can get the Made in China cheap ones or you can get the expensive brand-names like Eleiko.

The bottom line is that you get what you pay for.

If you’re planning on doing a lot of lifting over your lifetime, opt for the better quality plates.

Olympic Lifting Platform

Nothing beats having a kick-ass platform to lift on.

Not just the fact that you’ve got a safe place to drop weights if need be, but because it marks out territory in your gym that’s reserved for those who have achieved a certain level of proficiency with the world’s most explosive lifts.

It’s like having box seats to your favourite team; or being front row centre for your favourite band.

Best part of it is that you can make your own, pretty easily, and pretty cheaply too.

Here’s a video guiding you through the process:


Weightlifting Shoes

My feeling is that unless you’re a competitive lifter, weightlifting shoes aren’t a necessity.

If you do compete, then it’s best to wear in training to get used to them.

The benefits are that the raised heel help you get in the deep squat position easier and the solid sole makes sure you don’t lose any force through a mushy heel.

I train in Nike Frees, which work fine. Chuck Taylor’s are also popular for Olympic lifting.


If you’ve got sweaty palms, chalk helps dry them up.

But if you train at a gym where you don’t see others using chalk, ask before using it. Otherwise they might get their panties in a knot and throw a fit.

My hands are dry as a bone and rarely get sweaty (makes my wife love holding my hand – yeah right) so I don’t really use chalk.

Even when I rock climb I rarely need it.

So I can’t really comment too much on my experiences with it, but give it a try if you have problems gripping the bar because your palms are wet.

And that ends today’s article on Olympic lifting equipment – hopefully you know what you need and what you don’t and if you’re building a home gym setup make sure to send me a pic!

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