BARBELL HISTORY

BARBELL HISTORY

Probably everyone, regardless of age and outlook on life, would like to have a beautiful physique and the most developed strength. The weightlifting bar is the key sports equipment to achieve this goal. From the German language, the word “stange” means a metal rod. Previously, the weightlifting bar had a slightly different look and construction.

Thus, in Ancient Egypt, once upon a time, warriors showed their strength using rods made of metal and stone. These were peculiar prototypes of barbells and exercise machines for strength training.

Thanks to the efforts of the ancient Greeks, the production of such sports equipment as dumbbells was improved. It weighed from one and a half to two kilograms and was made of metal, lead or stone. In addition, the Greeks trained using weights and blocks of stone.

The heaviest dumbbells from ancient times weighing over one hundred and forty-three kilograms can be seen with your own eyes in the Museum of Olympia. A 480-kilogram block made of black volcanic stone has also survived to the present day. It was found in Greece on the island of Santorini, located in the Aegean Sea.

In ancient times, the young Greeks actively trained with dumbbells, increased endurance, carrying heavy stones. At the same time, they noticed a significant growth of the strength and gradually increased the load. Sometimes young men could carry even a live calf on their shoulders. If you look at Hellenic sculptures or paintings from that time, you will find many reflections of various strength exercises.

Many suggest that the ancient Greeks were forced to develop incredible strength to be able to lift the above weights. The ancient Romans also actively practiced lifting weights. At that time, athletes wore very heavy armored clothing, often protected their feet with lead shoes and trained by climbing stairs with weights in their hands.

Demonstration strength training was often held at the Colosseum. One of the strongmen of that time, Fuvius Silvius, managed to develop such great leg strength that he climbed the stairs with a load of 320 kilograms.

Both the Greeks and the Romans in ancient times learned to develop strength, using weights of different materials. The next stage in the development of sports equipment began in the Renaissance.

During the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, English soldiers trained with metal sticks, as did the former inhabitants of Ancient Egypt. In Scotland, meanwhile, hammer throws were rapidly gaining popularity. The shell had the appearance of a metal core that was attached to a stick one meter long. Interestingly, almost all the ball bars that were used by sportsmen later, had bars one meter long.

At the end of the 16th century, when Elizabeth was on the throne of the Queen of England, young men were advised to perform strength exercises instead of entertainment, celebrations and dances.

According to historian John Nordbrook, strength exercises with special sticks to which lead weights were suspended strengthened the muscles of the arms and chest. Such sports equipment can be called the first simplified bar that had a variable weight.

In the period from the XVII to the XIX century, the active development of strength training continued, and soon it brought serious results. In some European countries, as well as in America, there were many artists amazed with their remarkable strength. They showed their unique power abilities during circus performances.

The book “School of gymnastics”, written by Napoleon Lene and published in 1872, states that Persian sportsmen trained with sticks. These exercises helped them build muscle strength and develop their agility. Athletes could weight their sports equipment with lead, so the weight of such sticks ranged from one to nine kilograms.

In addition, the book tells about the exercises that were once performed by the Basques. They showed extraordinary dexterity and strength, throwing a metal strip weighing from four to nine kilograms.

Ball barbells had the same weight. In the hollow balls athletes could fill up with sand and peening beads. As noted by A. Stolz, who was one of the assistants to the anthropological commission in Karlsruhe, in one of his self-tutorials, it is recommended to use an iron bar with a diameter of fifty millimeters and weighing fifty feet (twenty and a half kilograms) for training sportsmen.

Thus, it can be stated that the standard weight of the bar (twenty kilograms) was set over the past century. Over time, only the diameter has decreased – to twenty-eight centimeters.

“The Apollo axis” helped to upgrade the barbell. The axis of the carriage weighed one hundred and sixty-five kilograms and had a bar diameter of fifty millimeters. All the above-mentioned sports equipment had a significant drawback: their weight could not be changed. So it was necessary to improve these bars, dumbbells and weights to make them more comfortable and to make it easier to increase their weight.

According to historian B. Chesnokov, in the sixties of the last century, the Germans created the first version of the demountable barbell. Removable balls at the ends of a bar were replaced by metal disks which had small apertures in the center.

Over time, this bar completely supplanted the old model of sports equipment – a ball barbell. Initially, the demountable barbell was used by weightlifters only during strength trainings. However, in 1896, when the first Olympics took place, sports competitions were held using this new type of barbell.

Somewhat later, the German engineer Berg invented the first collapsible barbell, which had a rotating bar. As a sports equipment, it has been actively used in competitions of various levels since 1929.

Vladislav Kraevsky, the founder of Russian athletics, made a huge contribution to the improvement of weightlifting equipment and the development of such a sport as weightlifting. After traveling around Europe, he created a small gym in his own apartment, where you could see a lot of unique sports equipment.

Kraevsky became the creator of a design of a modern demountable bar. Cast iron discs weighing two to ten feet were put on such a bar and fixed with a nut. In addition, three clear marks were visible on the barbell fingerboard: the extreme ones for gripping with both hands and the middle ones for gripping with one hand.

In those days, the demountable barbell was used by weightlifters only during strength training, but in 1897, with the beginning of the Russian championship, it began to be used in competitions of various levels. Prior to that, athletes competed using a piled up ball barbell.

Today, at any large-scale international competition, you can only see standard bars that have rubber-coated pancakes.

The Olympic bar´s fingerboard weighs twenty kilograms, has a length of two hundred and twenty centimeters and a diameter of twenty-eight millimeters. And its ends, on which metal disks are put, have a diameter of fifty millimeters. The load includes a number of metal discs covered with rubber. They are four hundred and fifty millimeters in diameter.

The weight of large pancakes is twenty-five, twenty, fifteen and ten kilograms (they have different colors – red, blue, yellow and green, respectively). Small discs weigh five, two and a half, one and a half, one, half kilograms. In addition, there are collars weighing two and a half kilograms, which attach these discs to the fingerboard.

The Olympic barbell for women is slightly different from the men’s in terms of parameters. It is slightly shorter (two meters and five centimeters), lighter (fifteen kilograms) and thinner (diameter – twenty-five millimeters). In addition, such a bar does not have a notch in the center of the fingerboard, because strength exercises with one hand are no longer performed.

Keep your Body Warm and Mind Cold!!

Ihor Shymechko

Author: Ihor Shymechko

Coach, PRO Olympic Weightlifter

Ihor Shymechko is a renowned Ukrainian weightlifter. He has represented his country in several Olympic Games, notably in 2008, 2012, and 2016. His impressive career includes winning the European championship in 2009 and earning a silver medal in 2011 in the +105 kg division. Shymechko also earned a Ph.D. from Lviv State University of Physical Culture.


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