Legal Bars in the USAWA

by Al Myers

Dino Gym member Matt Cookson squatting using the Dino Squat Bar in a recent workout. The Dino Squat Bar is a custom made bar that is longer than most commercial bars. But - is it legal for use in USAWA competition?

I really enjoyed Thom’s Daily News Story last week on his “15 Year Journey”.  In his story he mentioned how he recently acquired a bar that was once owned by the Late Powerlifting GREAT John Ware.  Thom was able to get this bar by a “stroke of luck”, and when he first got this bar it was rusted up so bad the collars wouldn’t even spin.  It was about thrown away and turned into scrape iron!  Thom saved the life of this barbell.  Thom completely refurbished this great find to “working order” and it now a big part of the JWC Training Hall.  We used it for the Anderson Squat in the USAWA Old Time Strongman Championships. It gave us all a good feeling knowing that this was the bar that John Ware used when he was training for his 1000# squats.   This bar has all the good qualities you want in a squat bar – good knurling, very stiff, thick diameter, and EXTRA LONG!  When Thom mentioned the bar being extra long in his story, I was FOR SURE thinking I would be getting an inquiry from some all-round lifter wondering if this was LEGAL for use in the USAWA.  Surprisingly, I didn’t get this email from anyone. 

This brings us to the question, “What is a legal bar in the USAWA?”.  Several lifting organizations have VERY SPECIFIC criteria for the design specifications of the bar being used in the competition (like the USWA).  This was one issue that was TOTALLY REVISED with the updated USAWA Rulebook that took effect in 2009.   I was the one who made these changes and here’s why. This was the rule in the Rulebook PRIOR to the 2009 edition regarding a legal bar in the USAWA:

The barbell must meet the following specifications:

  • 20 kilogram (45 lbs) in weight
  • Length of the bar shall be 2200 millimeters (86.6 inches)
  • Diameter of the bar is 28 millimeters (1.1 inch)
  • Diameter of the sleeve is 50 millimeters (1.96 inch)
  • Distance between the inside collars is 1310 millimeters (51.6 inch)
  • Width of the inside collars including the collar of the sleeve must be 30 millimeters (1.2 inch)
  • There shall be knurling on the bar 245 millimeters (9.6 inch) from the inside collars towards the center.
  • There shall be a center knurling of 120 millimeters (4.7 inch) located in the exact center of the bar.

Those are PRETTY SPECIFIC criteria is determining what a legal bar is.  Also notice that the rules state “barbell must meet”.  This means there is no “wiggle room” on this.  The bar is either legal or not legal according to what is listed above.  I remember reading this in the rulebook the first time many years ago and upon reading it, went to the gym and measured all my bars and found I had NO BARS meeting those specs.  And I have over 30 different type of bars in the Dino Gym!!  That means I couldn’t even conduct a meet within the USAWA if I was going to be “technical about things”.  I have no idea where these very specific specifications came from.  My guess is that they were copied from some other organizations rules – and probably from the 1950’s!  When I asked about this, I was told that this rule wasn’t enforced so “that was that”.   I’m one who like things “spelled out”, and especially when it applies to rules.  I have voiced “my gripes” about things like this in the past, but I feel a rule should be followed if there is one, and if it’s not followed then it should be changed to something that can be adhered to.  That is the reason I made major changes to the rules concerning a legal bar in the USAWA.  The rule for bars now is this (much looser in guidelines):

SECTION VI. ARTICLE 16.  The bar must meet the following specifications.

  • The bar must have a minimum diameter of 28 millimeters or 1.1 inches.
  • The sleeves of the bar must have a minimum diameter of 50 millimeters or 1.96 inches.
  • The minimum distance between the inside collars is 51 inches. 
  • The maximum distance between the inside collars is 58 inches.
  •  The minimum total length of the bar must not be less than 7 feet. An exception to this is when lifts are done where the combined weight of the bar and the plates does not exceed 20 kilograms or 45 pounds, whereas a lighter and shorter bar may be used. Another exception is allowing a lighter and shorter bar to be used for women and junior lifters. 
  • The maximum total length of the bar must not exceed 8 ½ feet.
  • All bars must be marked with a clear indication of the bar’s weight if the bar’s weight is not 45 pounds or 20 kilograms.
  • The bar may contain knurling on any parts of it. 
  • For one hand lifts, the bar must contain knurling in the center of the bar.
  • The bar must be straight.
  • The sleeves of the bar are allowed to revolve.

I feel our new guidelines are much more appropriate than what we had previous.  We allow alot of leniency in the type of bar used in our competitions. Now meet directors can conduct meets without worrying about being in violation of the rules concerning a legal bar. You would be “hard pressed” to find a commercial bar that does not fit the new rule criteria. These new bar rules hit all the main points that should be addressed, i.e. not allowing the use of a bent bar for the one handed deadlift. ( THAT’S NEVER HAPPENED! )   I want to also mention that the IAWA(UK) Rulebook (which we follow for IAWA competitions) still lists our OLD SPECS as defining a legal bar for competition.  I haven’t asked, but I bet the response would be the same one I’ve heard before that this rule isn’t enforced!  Of which my response would be THEN CHANGE THE RULE!!  But THAT is another story for another day.

By the way, the Ware Bar and the Dino Squat Bar are LEGAL BARS  in the USAWA!