So you've got a nice new barbell or even an older, well used barbell and you'd like to have it last for a long, long time, but you just do not know where to start? We've got some helpful pointers for you here. With proper care and maintenance your barbells can last you a lifetime. Bars in both commercial gyms and at home gyms need to be properly maintained to extend their lives.
First, for some barbell basics – You've got Olympic or standard barbells. Olympic barbells have 2 inch, rotating sleeves while standard bars have 1-inch, non-rotating sleeves. Each bar has some type of knurling, or crisscross pattern for better grip. The bars come in 4 basic finishes black oxide, zinc, chrome, hard chrome, or bare stainless steel. Steel rusts when it gets wet, it's as simple as that. The barbell coatings will help to combat rust but will not completely stop rust from occurring. Rust on a bar is not only unattractive, over time it can decrease its performance.
If there is any existing rust on your bar you'll want to get rid of that first. You should be able to take a stiff nylon brush to the rusted areas. If the nylon brush does not get all of the rust off you can use a brass wire brush. Be careful with the stiffer bristled brushes as they can remove the finish on your bar.
The first step to maintaining your bars is cleaning the knurling regularly. You'll want to use a small, stiff bristle brush to clean out all of the chalk and dead skin. Chalk absorbs excess moisture from your hands. If chalk is left on the bars it will hold the moisture against the steel and eventually cause it to rust.
After you've cleaned the knurling on the bar you'll want to wipe down your bar with WD-40 or 3 in 1 oil. The easiest way is to apply the WD-40 or oil to a rag and wipe it even across the entire bar, giving the bar a nice even coat. You may choose to use a soft bristled brush to get the oil into the knurling. This oil coating will help protect the bar from being exposed to moisture. Leave the oil on the bar overnight to give it a chance to soak in. The next day, wipe the bar with a dry rag to remove the excess oil. Be careful not to get WD-40 inside the collars. The WD-40 will displace the grease leaving your bearings and bushings un-lubricated.
You should not need to do much to maintain the sleeves on a newer bar. If you find that your sleeve is not rotating properly you can try to lubricate them with a drop of 3 in 1 oil in the hole of the end cap, and where the collar meets the bar. Let this oil drip down into the sleeve, and wipe up any excess that may drip out. Again, be sure you are not using WD-40 inside the sleeves as this will strip the grease from the bearings / bushings.
Do not forget your dumbbell handles. Dumbbells are really just a barbell with a short handle, and no rotating parts. You want to protect and care for these in the same manner you would a barbell. Clean the knurling with a stiff nylon brush, and coat the dumbbell handle in oil to help protect it from rust. After letting the oil set overnight, wipe off with a clean, dry rag.
Be sure that you are otherwise taking good care of your bar. Remember to remove the weights from the bar when you are done. Storing weights on hanging bars can cause the bar to bend over time. You do not want to let the barbell slam down on the ground after you've removed weights. Letting the empty barbell slam to the ground may damage your bearings / bushings. Prior to using your bar be sure to check your workout area for any sharp edges that might damage your bar. Finally remember to use collars at all times to prevent plate movement on the bars.
You'll want to clean / oil your bars at least once a month, more often if you live in a more humid climate. Be sure to inspect your bars daily, especially if you are in a commercial location where the bars are used often. If you use chalk you'll want to be sure to clean it off daily. Also be sure to check your bars for rust and properly spinning or loose sleeves frequently. It does not take a great deal of time to properly care for and maintain your barbells and dumbbell handles. A few minutes of your time will help to protect your investment and help your barbells to last a lifetime.