Lets face it whether you spent $150 or $1500 on your Olympic bar it probably represents a significant investment on your part. If you are running a gym, especially a CrossFit or Strength and Conditioning gym, bars are definitely one of the most used and abused pieces of equipment you have. Often though nobody takes the time to properly maintain the bars. Let’s face it, the bar gets used and forgotten about, not to mention that often there are a variety of bar brands that are being used and typically the manufacturers do not send out information regarding the care of the bar. In fact I emailed all of our bar vendors asking them for information on how to maintain and care for their bars and one actually emailed me and said, “Here is our warranty information. Don’t overload the bar, don’t drop the bar.” That was it! Nothing else. I have to tell you I was floored. So, the question remains, “How do we maintain and care for our Olympic bars?”
One thing that should be obvious about bars is that they are steel. Steel rusts when it gets wet. People sweat. Sweat=Wet=Bar Rust. Bar manufacturers try to combat this by putting a coating on the bars. The most common coatings (from least expensive to most expensive) are black oxide, chrome, zinc, and making bars from stainless steel. Even with these coatings you still need to maintain the bar so hear are a few tips on what you can do.
Clean the chalk out of the knurling. If you use chalk and you are the only one using the chalk then please clean the chalk off the bar. If you provide chalk at your gym then you need to clean the chalk off regularly (probably daily). Use a small stiff nylon bristle brush to go over the knurling. Remember that chalk dries sweaty palms. How does it do this? By absorbing moisture. Guess what it does while sitting on the bar. Absorbs moisture! Any humidity in the air any moisture at all and the chalk will absorb and hold it on the steel. So if you want your bars to not rust please clean off the chalk.
Wipe your bars down regularly with a light coat of WD-40 or 3 in 1 oil. Regularly depends on how often the bar is used. If this is in your house then twice a month should be sufficient. If you are in a commercial setting then once a week would be better. If your using them a lot and in a high humidity area then you might need to do it more frequently. WD-40 works well because it is a water displacer and it dries quickly. Spray it on a rag and wipe it down giving a good even coat across the whole bar. If you use 3 in 1 oil again place it on the rag and give a nice thin coating across the entire bar. Let it sit overnight and then wipe it down again. 3 in 1 will work awesome but it will leave your bars feeling a bit more greasy then WD-40.
Most bars today have been made to be fairly maintenance free. You typically do not have to oil the sleeves. Most of the sleeves have oil impregnated bearings or bushings. Some of the higher end bars do have small oil holes in the sleeves. For these bars you would drop in some 3 in 1 oil (DO NOT use WD-40 here) and let it work into the sleeve. Again do this after use and check it before using it again for any excess that may have leaked out to wipe it up.
Bars should not be stored with weight on them. PERIOD. If you leave weight on your bar, especially if it is racked, you are just begging for a bent bar. The are designed to withstand the weight not designed to permanently hold the weight. Strip you bars. I know you are tired after a hard workout but please catch your breath and put the plates away. Not only will this protect your bar, but if you are in a gym it will make the next person who uses the bar much happier if they don’t have to strip it for you.
The bars can be stored on the rack unloaded or in a bar stand. If you can store them horizontally it is better the vertically. We highly recommend that you do not store needle bearing bars in a horizontal bar holder. Dropping the bar into the holder can cause damage to the needle bearings. Most gyms that teach the Olympic lifts (that would use a needle bearing bar) do not care about mirrors so it is very easy to make a wall rack that you can store the bars on. Potomac CrossFit did a great job with theirs. Take a look at the photo.
All in all its pretty simple to maintain an Olympic bar. A couple of minutes and you can protect your investment so that it lasts for years and years. If you have any other suggestions on maintaining your Olympic bar we would love to hear them. Leave us a comment.