With the variety of fitness equipment that’s on the market, it’s only natural that someone would have questions, especially if it’s your first time venturing into the world of fitness. Weight benches are some of the most common and sought-after pieces of equipment to build and define muscle. What you might not realize is not all weight benches are the same.
If you’ve found yourself asking the question “What is an Olympic weight bench?,” then you’re in the right place since we’re breaking down the essential things you need to know to see what separates the Olympic weight bench from the rest. That said, we'll first look at how weightlifting was included in the list of Olympics games.
Weight Lifting and the Olympics
Weightlifting was first seen in the Olympics during the 1896 games. The “One-Hand Lift” was won by Great Britain’s Launceston Elliott and Denmark’s Viggo Jensen won the "Two-Hand Lift." Despite appearing in the 1896 games, weightlifting didn’t return until the 1904 games where the Greek won the gold for the “Two-Hand Lift,” and Oscar Osthoff won the gold for “All Around Dumbbell.
Weightlifting was removed from the Olympics after the 1904 games, but it did return in 1920. The 1932 Olympic games rolled around, and all weightlifting divisions had been worked out. The weightlifting competition featured three divisions: the press, clean and jerk, and snatch.
During the 1972 games, the press division was removed from the weightlifting competition part of the Olympics, and the snatch and clean and jerk remain as the only two standing events. They're the only Olympic sport that involves weights to this day.
The snatch competition consists of the weightlifter gripping the weighted barbell from the floor and lifting it from the floor to over their head in one movement. The Clean and Jerk competition requires the athlete to pull the weighted bar from the floor and to their shoulders. After a pause, the athlete pushes the bar over their head.
What is an Olympic Weight Bench?
While many weight benches are represented as “Olympic” benches by manufacturers, that doesn’t mean that they are built for the sole purpose of the Olympics. These benches do vary in their specifications, but typically, they are broader and longer, so they can give the lifter more leverage when lifting.
Also, Olympic weight benches usually include an Olympic bar, which is longer than what you would normally find on a standard bench. The bench itself doesn’t have pre-set specifications from the International Weight Lifting Federation like the Olympic bar does, but there is a noticeable difference that many professional weightlifters prefer when compared to their more standard variations.
Olympic weight benches also have additional features that allow the athlete to do more than just lift weights. Some Olympic benches even feature squat racks, dumbbells, and rods.
The Olympic Bar
Unlike the bench which comes in varying specifications, the Olympic bar does have specifications that have been pre-set by the International Weight Lifting Federation. These bars are seven feet in length and 1.25 inches in diameter, and they are typically larger towards the end. They usually weigh in at approximately 45 pounds.
Along with the pre-set specifications, the Olympic bar has to be constructed of a material that can withstand a lot of weight. Olympic bars are explicitly designed to hold additional weight, so they bend slightly when they are keeping a lot of weight and bounce back into place once the bar is relieved of the weight it is holding. That is why many manufacturers choose to build their Olympic bars out of stainless steel, so they can hold up to 1100 pounds without the lifter having to worry about the bar bending.
The Olympic Plates
You can’t have a weight bench without the weights that slide onto the bar. Olympic plates should be crafted with solid iron, though there are cheaper versions on the market that are made from concrete with a plastic coating.
Olympic weights should also have a coating of rubber that causes them to bounce slightly and absorb any impact if they fall off and hit the ground. With the way that Olympic bars get designed under the specifications of the International Weight Lifting Federation, Olympic plates are the only type that can fit onto an Olympic bar, and due to the quality of these weights, they tend to be more precise with their weight and tend to be more expensive.
Quality and Costs
Whether you see “Olympic” equipment in the store or at a fitness facility, you can rest easy knowing that the quality is entirely there. Unfortunately, because of the quality, the cost of the equipment is typically higher than some other variations that you can find. They are designed for high volume use and are a big investment for those who are serious about lifting weights and defining their muscles.
What Are the Benefits of Owning an Olympic Weight Bench?
Due to the design of Olympic weight benches, there are a variety of benefits that come with owning one. Serious weightlifters don’t need to worry about their equipment not being able to hold their weight as they continue to push their poundage, and they remain stable regardless of if the weight isn’t balanced.
If you begin your training on an Olympic weight bench, it also puts you ahead of the game if you plan on competing. The majority of all weightlifting competitions use Olympic weight benches during the event, so if you train on one, you’re already accustomed to the design and the amount of weight that it can hold.
What Are the Downfalls of Owning an Olympic Weight Bench?
One of the biggest cons of owning an Olympic weight bench is that it typically doesn’t feature an adjustable seat, so the athlete has to do flat bench presses. Also, because of the quality of the Olympic bench, it is often far more expensive than other models that are sold at fitness and sporting stores. There’s a chance that it might not be a practical solution for those who aren’t looking to eventually compete or those who are looking for a more cost-effective bench.
Is an Olympic Weight a Worthy Investment?
The next time you think and ask, “What is an Olympic weight bench?” you can think back to everything that we outlined here and decide if it’s an investment that you want to make. There is a saying that says “you get what you pay for,” and when it comes to weight lifting, it’s nothing short of the truth since the last thing you want to worry about while lifting weights is the bench collapsing beneath your weight.