“Cheap and easy” is rarely a good thing.
“Cheap and easy” are the only two positive descriptive terms for spring collars. Because they are cheap, they seem to be the favorites of most gym owners. Clearly, it is not because they work well. This is how they work. When they actually fit on a barbell end, you merely have to squeeze them
and they slide right on. The benefits end there.
As you may have guessed, this Atomic Athletic Bomb Proof Bulletin is about barbell and dumbbell collars. It's true, I am a little obsessive compulsive about the collars I use. Like many terms in this industry, it is easy to come up with innuendo, but I will try to keep things serious. Barbell and dumbbell collars have a genuine and serious purpose. They are meant to hold the plates on the end of your bar. Because of the ways barbells are used, relative to the ways dumbbells are used, I feel the issue is typically most serious for dumbbells.
Two Types of Collars
There are two types of collars: screw type collars and compression collars. Screw collars have what is called a set screw that is pressed into the bar end. Compression collars reduce the inside diameter of collar to hold the bar. There are several ways this can be accomplished.
Spring Collars are a perfect example of a compression collar. Generally, I highly recommend a compression collar, except when it is a spring. Spring collars do not have a flat face, so your plates are always going to be floppy and loose. More than that, their springiness reduces over time and they eventually become so loose that they simply don't hold. Of course, that plays right into the other reason I hate them. I also dislike them from a business perspective. When I worked for York Barbell, we got them in loose shipments in giant wooden crates. I found that about thirty percent of them were so loose, right from the factory, that they had to be discarded. Someone had to stand there and try out every one, otherwise the customer would get bad collars. I really don't like spring collars.
I like Spin-Lock Collars. The spin-lock collars most people are familiar with are used on Olympic bar
ends, have wing nuts, weigh about 5 pounds each and are easily identified by the large “star” shaped part. I sell the ones made by York Canada. I had one customer pissed off at me because York USA shows a crappy Chinese version on their web site. The photo in this bulletin is of the ones we sell. Anyway, they are lined with leather and the wing nuts compress the collar onto the bar. The spinning star shaped end is threaded on the inside and used for tightening the plates down. In an ideal world, this is the very best type of collar to use. In fact, it is the only type of collar I will use on Olympic Dumbbell Handles, especially for lifts like Dumbbell Cleans, the One Hand Dumbbell Snatch and most importantly on the One Hand Dumbbell Swing. I don't want plates that are loose, flopping around, or worse yet, sliding off. Any of those scenarios smack of danger, if you pardon the pun.
I also have some awesome Stainless Steel Standard Size Allen Type Spin-Lock Collars. These
are over kill and I love them. Each collar has a double set (that's 4, if you're counting) of allen screws. So, not only do these spin-lock, but you can anchor the spin-lock with a pair of allen screws. These are now my favorite for the One Hand Dumbbell Swing. For that lift, I actually use a proto-type pair of pro-style dumbbell bars, with steel end plates. The way I set it up is with the end plate on the end that is sitting on the ground, then the other end gets the collar. I have an old, as in antique, knurled dumbbell handle like you would get with the old York Barbell Aristocrat Set. This is my spacer for grip. Then the collar tightens everything down, so there is no slop or rotation. You can see the lift at this link:
Regular Allen Collars
Our regular Standard Size Allen Collars are significantly cheaper than the ones above, but they are also compression type collars that hold like crazy. I use these all the time. For standard size bars, they have become my “go to” collars when I am making up a dumbbell, odd-ball barbell, leverage/mace set-up, you name it. They are really narrow with a single allen type counter-sunk screw that actually closes the ring size of the collar. The allen screw is very low profile, so it does not seem to catch on your clothes, like wrenchless screws can.
Little Allen Collar Story
Our Standard Size Allen Collars are made in the USA out of real spring steel. Back in 2007, the price went up on these, so I tried out a knock-off version that was made in India. My analysis was “total crap”. I know, not very scientific, but they had the size off by a couple thousandths... too small. I figured, I would just pry them open, maybe the spring steel had compressed in shipping. Wrong. They just broke. End of the knock-off test. I went back to my trusted American made steel and good old American machine shop and raised the price. There really is no substitute. Lesson learned.
Set Screw Collars
We have many more collar types that fit into the set-screw category: Classic Red Wrenchless Screw Collars, Heavy Duty 3/4 Pound Wrenchless Screw Collars, Chrome Standard Barbell Collars, Olympic Allen Collars and many more.
Once you use the right collars for the right job and then have to go to a buddy's place and use the wrong collars, you will suddenly understand the importance of getting it right. Use the right tool for the right job, or lift, as the case may be. Beware of “Cheap and Easy”.
All the best,
“Today is a good day to lift.”