There’s a bunch of different olympic barbell collars on the market, but which ones are the best for a home gym?
As the owner of a strength and conditioning facility, I own pretty much every type of collar there is.. Competition collars, spring collars, quick release collars, lever collars and the like. They all have their uses, but there are some that are better than others.
Here’s a snapshot of the collars I own at my gym… quick-release, competition, spring and lever…
In this article I’m going to run you through the different types of olympic barbell collars for your home gym. I’ll make nuanced suggestions based on what type of training you do, with justification for each.
In my opinion there’s no best type of olympic barbell collar, there’s just the right one for the job. We all have our preferences, but I’m going to give an opinion based on thousands of hours of use.
If you’re in a rush though, here’s the best collars for…
This is a review where usability is more important than features. They’re all designed to do one job – keep plates in place on an olympic barbell. They should be capable of doing that at a bare minimum.
In full disclosure, I was going to test the effectiveness of the collars by seeing how much weight they’d support. When it became apparent they could all easily hold 300kg (660LB) without budging, I stopped the test – I was satisfied they all worked!
I’ll take a brief glance at the features of each, but my focus will lie on the usability. What is it like to use each of the collars? What are the positives and negatives on each one? Are they easy to use and secure in place? How do they compare on price and value?
Looking at each of these will determine my recommendations in each category.
If you’re a competitive lifter and are looking for new barbell collars, there’s only one game in town in my opinion – the Rogue KG Competition collars. They’re not cheap (competition collars never are), but these things are so well built your great grandchildren will be using them.
The main body is machined from billet steel and then finished off in hard chrome. It means there’s a bright, clean finish to the collars. As you’d expect from competition collars, they lock in place with a rotating lever handle, which compresses and tightens against the barbell. When this thing is secured in place, those plates are going NOWHERE!
The fixing mechanism means they’re not quick to secure in place or release after a lift, but when maxing out or competing this isn’t a big deal particularly.
The most impressive thing for me about these collars is that they satisfy accuracy and tolerance levels put in place by both the IWF (International Weightlifting Federation) and IPF (International Powerlifting Federation), so they’re certified for use in both. It means you’ll be getting an accurate 2.5kg collar per side (within -0 / +10 grams).
With the collars being sanctioned by both the IWF and IPF, you’re effectively getting two collars in one. If you’re a bit of a hybrid lifter and compete in both sports, you’ve got a collar for both. Whilst most people will freak at the idea of paying almost 200 bucks for a set of collars, these are the best on the market in their price range. Also, they’re equipment, not just something to stop plates sliding off the bar.
These things are LOVED by competitive lifters…
If you’re a CrossFitter you need a collar that’s going to tick a lot of boxes… it has to have a firm grip on the bar. It has to be able to withstand a lot of drops because it’ll be used for high-rep weightlifting. It has to be quick to use, because some workouts are timed. The construction has to be good enough quality to be taken on and off a bar repeatedly. The Rogue HG 2.0 collars tick all of these boxes then some.
The nylon resin construction combines strength and durability with light weight. It’s designed to be easy to put on and take off the bar with a simple quick-release lever. Once the lever is set in place, the bar is tightly gripped and the weights can’t move. When you want to remove the collar, simply flick the lever and the collar slides off quickly and easily.
The collar is lined with rubber padding to give it a better grip on the bar. It is also supported with stainless steel hardware to further enhance the overall quality. At $40 per pair, they represent great value and I don’t think there’s much better in the market than these collars.
They’re not competition legal, but that doesn’t matter in CrossFit – it’s not an IWF or IPF sanctioned event, it’s a separate sport altogether!
I love these collars and think the strength of the grip, the excellent build quality, fantastic price and overall user-friendliness make these my CrossFit choice. You can have them on and off the barbell in seconds and they’ll cope with many years of dropping a loaded bar. I’m struggling to find any cons, so I’ll just have to go with the fact they’re not competition sanctioned, but here I’m being SUPER picky.
The community seems to rate them as highly as I do…
If you’re looking for a cheap and effective solution to keeping your plates in place on your barbell, there’s little reason to look beyond a simple spring collar. They’ve been around since the barbell was invented.
The spring collar is essentially a coiled spring, opened and closed by squeezing and releasing the handles. For the vast majority of users it’s a perfectly suitable option for keeping plates in place – I have dozens of pairs in my gym and they’re used all day, every day without issue. Build quality is usually pretty consistent – there’s occasional issues, but they’re very rare.
If you’re doing general strength training in your home gym, you don’t need anything more fancy and sophisticated than these. Where they may not be ideal for lots of high rep weight lifting movements, for squats, presses, rows, deadlifts, lunges and the like they’re more than up to the task. They’re also a fraction of the price of the other options, so save the money and go with the simple spring collar.
At $10 per pair, these will be one of the cheapest per-use items of equipment you’ll own. They’ll also last you a very long time – I have spring collars that are easily a decade old and show no signs of needing to be retired any time soon! Being such a simple design, there’s very little to go wrong on them.
On the rare occasion they’ll fail you it’ll be because the grip isn’t as tight as it should be. For such a low price though, you’ll forgive it. I can count on one hand the amount of collars that haven’t gripped a bar properly in my 15 years of managing or owning facilities.
Old, but gold…
When you’re buying olympic barbell collars for your home gym, you need to make sure you’re getting the right size.
An olympic barbell has a 2” sleeve diameter, so make sure that the collars you are buying are for an olympic barbell. I’ve heard of plenty of people buying off Amazon or the like, and not checking they’ve picked the right collars. Be sure to check before you click the buy button!
If you’re a competitive lifter, I’d really urge you to go for the calibrated collars. I own them at my gym because I think it’s always useful for a lifter to know how they feel on the bar before they compete with them.
A competition collar weighs 2.5kg, but it’s a dense lump of metal on each end of the bar. If you’re not used to how this feels, it can throw you off your concentration during competition. Lifting with competition collars will get you used to how they feel on the bar and put you at ease with them.
You don’t have to use them for every lift, but it’s best to feel the difference between competition collars and regular collars before you need to.
Keep your collars clean as well. I don’t mean a thorough wash after every use, but on quick-release collars, excess chalk can build up over time and affect the lever mechanism. It’s a rare problem, but it can happen occasionally. A quick dust-off of the chalk makes sure it doesn’t become an issue.
I don’t usually do this, but I want to show you a type of collar to avoid, because they’re garbage and I don’t want you to waste your money…
These pure plastic lever collars aren’t worth the money. They’re cheap, the magnetic components in the middle fall out easily, they’re not particularly good at gripping the bar (likely to start to move with anything over 100kg (220LB) on the bar) and they are more liable to break.
The nylon-resin mix in the CrossFit collars I suggested is a far more durable material than the plastic, so if you’re thinking of buying a plastic lever collar, don’t. They’re just not very good and you’d only be replacing them soon.
I didn’t actually buy these collars for my gym, I was given them by an equipment supplier. They’ve been useful though – they’ve taught me (and now you guys) to never buy them in future!
As I said at the top of the article, there’s no best collar, just the one most suited to purpose. When combining price, versatility, functionality, value etc, these were the three I picked. You can spend a LOT more money than I’ve suggested here, but you aren’t going to get better value.
You could spend over $400 on Eleiko competition collars, but they’re going to be no better than the $185 ones I’ve suggested here. You could spend $70+ for collars for CrossFit, but again, they’re no better than the $40 collars I’ve recommended. As for the generalist, $10 on the spring collars is all you need!
Collars are about value and effectiveness – not vanity. You’re far better deploying the extra money into other home gym equipment.
Those best collars again…