eli5 – Watching Olympic weightlifting. Those bars literally bend and bounce with the weights on either side. How don’t those bars ever become brittle and snap (at huge risk to the athlete)?


I understand the bars are metal, which is strong, but metal can eventually get brittle too. Sure the Olympics probably can afford new bars the whole time, but what about old gyms etc.? I’m just amazed how those bars never break and hurt people. Watching that guy do the world record deadline, that bar was like a boomerang shape at points.

In: Engineering

Metals are known for being malleable so metal will bend long before it snaps. During very heavy lifts the metal bar can flex a bit but usually returns to its original state cause there’s some elasticity to it, sort of like a spring. But if you push it too far it’ll flex and not return to its original shape, giving you a bent bar. Snapping in half isn’t likely since metal usually has a good capacity for flexing and bending. The only case where it may snap is if it’s very rusted, because then there is a chemical change to the metal so it loses that elasticity that makes it malleable. Something like wood on the other hand is much more brittle and would likely snap.

Apparently, they’re made of a higher quality of steel, which as a side effect, is more bendy. That is also somewhat better for the athletes, as the lower weights keep their center of gravity lower. Most steel bars for weightlifting and other non-fitness applications are going to be made of a much cheaper and less strong steel, and that the heaviest lifts are at the limit of what those bars can take.

Metal can fatigue and sag, but it will not generally snap until after it has become quite bent over and over (think of how you snap a paper clip by bending it back and forth) so it’s unlikely it would snap before someone would notice some serious distortions first



The bending isn’t because the steel is struggling to cope. It bends and bounces that much by design. Skilled lifters can abuse the springy motion, the *whip.* This is most obvious in the second part of clean and jerk as they bounce the weight off their chest/shoulders.