The bench press is a basic two-phase upper body exercise that targets the pectorals, and incorporates the triceps, shoulders and core muscles. Despite the relative simplicity of the exercise, there are a number of variables to consider with the equipment needed to perform the bench press. For example, the bench and bars come in various dimensions, each affecting performance and potential results. The main variations are a full-size Olympic bar and bench, or a mid-width bar and bench.
Weights and Measures
A full-size Olympic barbell is seven feet in length and adds 45 pounds to your bench press total. Mid-width bars are six feet long and come much lighter -- specific weight depends on manufacturer -- and don’t significantly contribute to the weight of the press. The narrower mid-width bar shifts emphasis of the press away from the shoulders toward the triceps, due to the use of a narrower grip. Typically, mid-width bars cannot accommodate anywhere near as much weight as full Olympic bars. An Olympic bar found in a commercial gym can typically hold up to 500 pounds, while the average mid-width bar has a capacity of up to 200 pounds. Competition-grade Olympic bars can hold up to 1,000 pounds.
If you are looking strictly for a bar to use with an existing bench press rack, determine the size of the rack’s cradles and find the corresponding bar. Using a mid-width bar on a full-size rack isn’t possible, as the inside portion of the bar won’t fit. You can use an Olympic bar on a mid-width rack, but you need to be careful when doing so. The narrow supports can cause the bar to tumble off of the cradle if it isn’t balanced evenly, leading to potential injury and damage.