Allergic to Your Barbell? Why Some Bars Give Lifters Itchy Reactions

Today at BarBend HQ I was speaking with David about front rack positions. We got into the topic of lifters with an allergy to nickel and how it can cause irritation and itching with some lifts. It was at this moment I had a lightbulb go off. I remembered a story from about a year ago when I was working with a few hockey players at my gym.

I was having them front squat when one of the athletes started getting red irritation around their neck where they held the bar. At the time I had no idea what it could be, so I had the athlete take a break from squatting. As a coach, it’s always better to be safe than sorry, especially with things like this that could be caused by a number of issues. About 15-minutes later the irritation started to clear up and I brought my athlete back into the lift. Had I known a nickel allergy was the probable cause I could have saved my athlete’s leg day by switching out the bar…RIP front squat sets!


Those with allergies to nickel may experience irritation with movements like front squats, deadlifts, and anything involving gripping the bar. This irritation can present itself as redness or a rash, and even mild skin inflammation.

If you experience irritation while lifting, check the bar or equipment you’re using. Often times competition bars such as Eleiko are nickel plated, while Pendlay are usually zinc plated. Other equipment can be nickel plated as well, like some cast iron barbells and dumbbells. Cast iron equipment is a mix of metals, so not all contain a nickel plate.


What You Can Do

Besides using different bars and equipment, a lifter can use straps and wear gloves (said with a shudder), or clothing that cover possible exposed areas. If you have an extreme allergy to nickel, avoid using nickel plated equipment altogether.

While this problem only impacts a small percentage of the strength population, it can be a major headache for those it does. If you’ve ever experienced a case of irritation or allergic reaction to equipment – share your story with us, along with methods you’ve learned to get around it.

Jake Boly

Jake Boly

Jake holds a Master's in Sports Science and a Bachelor's in Exercise Science. Currently, Jake serves as the Fitness and Training Editor at BarBend.

He's a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and has spoken at state conferences on the topics of writing in the fitness industry and building a brand.

As of right now, Jake has published over 1,200 articles related to strength athletes and sports. Articles about powerlifting concepts, advanced strength & conditioning methods, and topics that sit atop a strong science foundation are Jake's bread-and-butter.

On top of his personal writing, Jake edits and plans content for 15 writers and strength coaches who come from every strength sport.

Prior to BarBend, Jake worked for two years as a strength and conditioning coach for hockey and lacrosse players, and a personal trainer the three years before that, and most recently he was the content writer at The Vitamin Shoppe's corporate office.

Jake competes in powerlifting in the 181 lb weight class, and considers himself a professional knee rehabber after tearing his quad squatting in 2017. On the side of writing full time, Jake works as a part-time strength coach and works with clients through his personal business Concrete Athletics in New York City.

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