Free Weights Training Safety: Choose the Right Collars

When I bought my first set of free weights 24 years ago, it was a light bar and the collars – the part which secures the weight in the right place on the bar – were simple screw bolts that just put pressure on the bar. The bar was smooth, and sometimes the collar would slip. I had to put so much pressure on the screw I actually bent it.

A couple of years later I came across another system whereby there was a spring collar that you squeezed. It was an improvement, but it didn’t last long.

The problems basically came down to the bar, which was a simple straight bar with nothing for either the spring or the small grub screw to grip onto. And as both the spring and the threads would weaken over time it caused something somewhat dangerous, which I will come to in a minute.

If you have spotters with you, people watching you lift, then there isn’t too much concern. But most people don’t have spotters all the while, and not all spotters watch carefully enough! And that’s where we get the major problem: it can kill.

The danger explained - from experience

I have had the experience where I have been pushing on a bench body weight, and I have slightly lost it in one arm. My left is weaker than the right, and occasionally lags: quite normal.

However, on this particular occasion, when using the older style collars, the weight shifted ever so slightly. That meant that under physics (called a moment, if you are interested, where the total moment is the distance of the mass multiplied by the mass around a pivot point) through the weight on the left even further off balance. This caused a circular reaction which pitched the weight off to the left, nearly throwing me off the bench in the process. The weights fell of the left of the bar, slipping the collar off with the pressure, which meant the right was no the significant weight. Resulting in the right side going flying.


I was sore, but on that occasion I didn’t injure myself. But it was a close call.

The Solution

It wasn’t long after that that I discovered they were manufacturing bars which had a screw thread, and the collars screwed onto the bar. Even if these slacken by twisting slightly, which does sometimes on raising the bar above the head in an over head press or clean, they won’t come off. It takes about 20 seconds to ‘spin’ a screw style collar off.

I have the same screw and collar system now on both my E-Z bar and dumbbells. So good and safe.

What about multi-gym equipment?

The alternative, and if you have the space perhaps better choice, is to go for multi-gym equipment which could be useful. The difficulty with that system is that it isn’t continually expandable, so make sure you have the right weights and you won’t be limited.

About the author

Andrew Gray enjoys (and somewhat fanatical about) all forms of exercise from weightlifting to road bike cycling.  He recommends weight training to complement cycling, as well as running for a full cross-training effect.

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