Thrust vs Needle Barbell Bearing Maintenance 

We recently had a question from a customer who was looking to upgrade from a thrust bearing barbell to a needle bearing barbell. He had been maintaining his thrust bearing bar by regularly lubricating the inner sleeve with 3-in-1 oil. Hewanted to know if needle bearing bars required the same barbell bearing maintenance.  

In actual fact, none of the barbells we sell require any regular barbell maintenance; whether they have bushings, thrust bearings or needle bearings.  

Barbell Bearings Explained

The sleeves of your barbell are designed to be sealed. Of course it could never be a 100% closed system. But to keep out any dust and dirt like chalk and sweat there are a few barriers between the end of the barbell shaft and the actual bearings. This makes it incredibly difficult to get any kind of lubricant in there without taking the bar apart. 

The bearings themselves are already lubricated at the factory. They use a type of grease specifically designed for bearings. If you’re only using the bar for personal use then this lubricant is going to last a couple of years at the very least. So regular bearing maintenance is simply unnecessary.  

Lubing Barbell Bearings

So you’ve had the bar for a few years. You have noticed it’s not spinning as well as it used to. It is a super simple process to restore it back to its former glory. Just remove the sleeve, wipe down the shaft and the inside of the sleeve with a rag, and lube that bad boy up.  

The best kind of oil to use is a lithium-based bearing grease. Lithium grease is used a lot in bicycle maintenance, and it works well for bearings and other moving parts. 3-in-1 oil will also do the job, it just won’t be as long lasting. We would strongly recommend not using WD-40 on your sleeves though. It will work for a very short period. But it will leave a thick sludge inside the sleeve which will eventually need cleaning out.  

Barbell with bushing

Barbells can be damned expensive these days, so it is understandable that a weight trainer or gym owner will want to preserve their investment for as long as possible. Bearings or bushings probably seem like the most logical thing that will fail on the barbell. If you buy a cheap barbell then this may well be the case. 

Buy A Quality Barbell To Avoid Maintenance

However, if you buy a quality barbell, like ATX or Power Maxx, they use quality components that are suited for the intended usage of the product. The bearings and bushings used are industrial. They are used in all manner of applications.  

In these industrial applications they may see many more rotations, weight loads or impacts than what they experience in use when weight training. A barbell will make hardly any revolutions compared to a wheel or a roller in a production line. These applications may see more revolutions in 10 minutes than a lifetime for a barbell. 

The best way to keep your barbell in tip top shape is to not abuse it. Don’t do dumb things like repeated drops from height with a loaded barbell onto spotters. If you are performing Olympic lifts make sure that you are using appropriate bumper plates and lifting on a platform or surface with flooring designed for Olympic lifts. 

People doing Olympic lifts with cast plates on their concrete garage floor is a thing that happens.  

For gym owners, controlling abuse is easier said than done. Therefore, when selecting barbells, you need to take this into consideration and make sure you get a barbell that can hold up to abuse longer. You will note that I don’t say forever because there will always be some moron out there that will come up with a way to destroy the indestructible by doing something ridiculous. 

The other simple trick to keep your barbell pristine is to regularly clean the shaft and wipe down with some barbell oil. This is even more important if you use weightlifting chalk. The chalk can build up in the knurling and then oxidise. Make sure you use the appropriate gear though, like the ATX Barbell Cleaning Kit. If your brush is too stiff it can remove coating on barbells.  

Barbell Lifespan

How long will your barbell last? Good question. I have seen plenty of ancient barbells, especially in the Olympic weightlifting circles. Granted many are premium brands like Eleiko, but the punishment received in an Olympic weightlifting gym is second to none. 

For the average gym rat, Sam has a 1500lb copper bushed Power Maxx barbell that he says is well over 15 years old. It is a project of his to see how long it will last, and he uses this barbell exclusively. With zero maintenance, this barbell is still going strong. The sleeves still rotate perfectly on the bushings and have minimal play.