The Best Barbells For CrossFit, Weightlifting, Powerlifting, Deadlifts, and More

Find the best barbell for your training goals, strength sport, and budget.

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Out of all the pieces of equipment you can find in a gym, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more versatile tool than the barbell for building strength. Barbells are great tools for any fitness level and can be used for practically any form of lifting. If you’ve landed on this list, then you’re probably interested in taking your training to the next level by investing in the perfect barbell for your home gym and lifting style. 

Similar to any other big gym equipment purchases, buying a barbell should be handled with care and attention. There are many different types of barbells on the market, which can make it even harder to find the best fit for your lifting needs. Our list of the best barbells aims to demystify some of the confusion that can come along with buying a new barbell so that you can focus on lifting heavy and often.

Best Barbells

Best Barbell Overall

A barbell is a big investment. It’s what allows you to load weight onto your body in numerous ways, which means a reliable barbell needs to be durable and thoughtfully designed. Rogue, a manufacturer who is no stranger in the fitness equipment market, offers up the Ohio Bar, which we think is a great all-around pick.

Rogue Ohio Bar

Many aspects of this bar are par for the course for any quality barbell — the high tensile strength (190,000 pounds per square inch), the 16-inch sleeve length, and the 28.5-millimeter diameter. However, this American-made barbell is forged with steel and available in various finishes (stainless steel, black oxide, black zinc, and cerakote, which can be outfitted with different colors). It has two knurling marks, which many lifters use to measure finger placement, and does not have center knurling (which can catch on the shirt during the bench press

Rogue Ohio Bar
Rogue Ohio Bar
Rogue Ohio Bar

The Rogue Ohio Bar is a classic. It is 28mm in diameter, has a sleeve length of 16.4 inches, and features two knurling marks for optimal hand placement. It also comes with a  lifetime warranty so you only have to buy one. 

Who Should Buy the Rogue Ohio Bar

  • Lifters who want a bar that can facilitate almost all barbell exercises. Many lifters like center knurling for squats (since it grips the bar to the shirt), but you can still squat with this bar. 
  • Anyone who enjoys color. The cerakote finish is available in 13 colors. 
  • Folks who want a bar that lasts a lifetime. The Ohio bar comes with a  lifetime warranty. 

Who Shouldn’t Buy the Rogue Ohio Bar

  • Weightlifters who want a barbell with more spin.
  • Powerlifters who want a squat-specific barbell.
  • Anyone who wants a budget barbell. Though it varies in price (based on coating and color), the Rogue bar isn’t the cheapest option. 

This barbell is reliable and useful across the board. You can press it, squat it, and deadlift it. The best part? It comes with a lifetime warranty, so you only have to buy it once. 

Best Barbell Overall (Runner-Up)

For most lifters, a barbell is something you want to buy once and never need to think about again. This means that unless you’re competing at a very high level in a strength sport, a barbell like the California Bar from American Barbell is going to be one of the best options on the market. Versatile enough to allow you to dabble in all different lifting arenas, this bar is durable and well-engineered.

American Barbell California Bar

This one is tough to beat if you’re looking for the intersection of functionality, quality, versatility, and value. American Barbell’s California Bar is designed for the varied needs of functional fitness athletes and built to great specifications competitive weightlifters and powerlifters will appreciate. It’s made of 190,000 PSI tensile strength steel and has a great level of bar whip — not too much, and also not too stiff. It’s finished with cerakote for durability and a great feel, and the sleeves feature composite bushings for reliable spin. It’s definitely built to last.

American Barbell California Bar
American Barbell California Bar
American Barbell California Bar

A barbell built to weightlifting specifications with a Cerakote finish that's comfortable on the hands and ideal for daily use and a variety of lifts. The California Bar is made with 190,000 PSI tensile strength steel and is extremely versatile. 

Who Should Buy the California Bar

  • Those who want an incredibly versatile bar that can do just about everything.
  • Lifters who want a proven design that helps keep the bar in good condition.
  • Athletes who need a bar for many different types of lifts. 
  • Athletes who enjoy the feeling of cerakote finishes and want a version for regular training.

Who Shouldn’t Buy the California Bar

  • Buyers who are hunting for a bargain barbell. 
  • Trainees who prefer very soft or very hard knurling — this is somewhere in between.
  • Lifters who prefer a stiff bar with less whip. 

With some smart innovations and excellent build quality, we think this barbell is well worth it for a product that will last for years and handle almost any lift you attempt.

Best Barbell for Powerlifting

Powerlifting is a strength sport that revolves around three lifts: the squat, the deadlift, and the bench press, and there are different bars designed for these movements. The Rogue Ohio Power Bar is built to deal with super heavy loading and is stiff as you are likely to encounter. 

Rogue Ohio Power Bar

This bar is based on Rogue’s Ohio bar (our overall top pick on this list), but it’s designed to withstand the rigors of competitive powerlifting. The bar is a centimeter thicker than the standard Ohio Bar at 29mm. It has a PSI of 205,000 (compared to 190,000), and features center knurling, which helps the ar stay put during heavy squat sets. Compared to other barbells on this list, the Ohio Power Bar has little to no flex, which means whatever you load onto the barbell will feel true to the actual weight on the bar. 

Rogue Ohio Power Bar
Rogue Ohio Power Bar
Rogue Ohio Power Bar

The Rogue Ohio Power Bar is a super stiff and built for heavy loading. A great barbell for powerlifting, the Rogue Ohio Power Bar has "no whip" and aggressive knurling for squats and deadlifts.

Who Should Buy the Rogue Ohio Power Bar

  • Lifters who want a barbell that can support a variety of exercises.
  • Anyone who wants a bar that comes with a lifetime warranty.
  • Folks who don’t want center knurling on their barbell

Who Shouldn’t Buy the Rogue Ohio Power Bar

  • Buyers who don’t want to shell out a lot of money (relatively speaking) for a barbell.
  • Powerlifters who want a squat-specific barbell.
  • Olympic weightlifters or other trainees who need more whip from their bar.

This heavy-duty barbell can be loaded with lots of weight, has centered knurling for squatting, and offers up little to no whip or flex while lifting. 

Best Barbell on a Budget

Budget bars are tough. Part of us wants to say that you shouldn’t skimp on something you’re going to be loading with heavy weights, but we recognize that not everybody has an unlimited budget. This is where the Titan Fitness Economy Olympic Bar comes in. 

Titan Fitness Economy Olympic Bar

It is, as you would expect from a bar priced this low, a very basic bar. However, the Titan Fitness economy bar gets the job done. You can safely slide up to 700 pounds on it and start thrashing your session knowing you got a good deal. 

Titan Fitness Economy Olympic Bar
Titan Fitness Economy Olympic Bar
Titan Fitness Economy Olympic Bar

The Titan Fitness Economy bar is built for those on a budget, but it still sports some solid features like a slightly thicker grip and a 700lb weight rating. 

Who Should Buy the Titan Fitness Economy Olympic Bar

  • Buyers for whom price is a major concern.
  • Lifters who want a slightly thicker diameter grip.
  • Trainees who want a solid bar that holds up to 700 pounds.

Who Shouldn’t Buy the Titan Fitness Economy Olympic Bar

  • Consumers who want a longer-lasting finish than chrome.
  • Lifters who prefer a regular diameter grip.
  • Athletes who need a bar with specifications for sport lifting.

Incredibly affordable, the Titan Fitness Economy Olympic Bar is also a surprisingly good quality bar that isn’t going to challenge the high-end bars on this list but also won’t disappoint if you’re looking for the basics.

Best Barbell for Weightlifting

Olympic weightlifting is a sport that is all about timing. Get it right, and the bar’s whip combined with the power from the legs allows for a greater load to be lifted. Rogue has developed a bar that is IWF-approved and serves up everything a weightlifter wants in a barbell. 

Rogue IWF Olympic Weightlifting Bar

This 20-kilogram barbell is crafted from both US and EU steel, is certified by the International Weightlifting Federation, and featured bearings (not bushings) in the sleeve of the bar. The bearings mean that there’s more spin in the barbell sleeve, which is crucial for weightlifting as lifters must transition the barbell from the floor to a clean position (and/or overhead). It can also withstand up to 215,000 PSI and comes with a  lifetime warranty. 

Rogue 28mm IWF Barbell
Rogue 28mm IWF Barbell
Rogue 28mm IWF Barbell

The Rogue 28MM IWF barbell is designed specifically to meet the needs of Olympic weightlifters. Built to spec with the right amount of whip, this barbell is perfect for weightlifters training for the platform. 

Who Should Buy the Rogue IWF Olympic Weightlifting Bar

  • Olympic weightlifters who need a training bar approved by the IWF.
  • Those who want an incredibly strong and resilient bar.
  • Buyers who want a bar with a warranty (12 years here).

Who Shouldn’t Buy the Rogue IWF Olympic Weightlifting Bar

  • Lifters with a tighter budget.
  • Those training for sports other than Olympic weightlifting who need different specifications for their bars.
  • Athletes who want a stiffer bar.

If you’re competing in Olympic weightlifting, this is your bar. Get used to the feel of the bars you’ll compete with and head into your next weightlifting meet full of confidence.

Best Barbell for CrossFit

Bars used in CrossFit are going to be subject to a lot of abuse. Constantly bouncing between all the different lifting styles, regularly dropping loaded bars from overhead and plenty of chalk to mop up the sweat that will be pouring out, you want a bar that is corrosion-resistant, durable, and not overly specialized with a spin that will last many years.

The Rogue Bar 2.0

The features you get for the price of this barbell are almost unparalleled. It uses 190,000 PSI steel, composite bushing, and precision machining. There’s no center knurling, which means athletes are less likely to experience skin irritation on high-rep movements like power cleans and push jerks. It features knurling for both powerlifting and weightlifting, a great design feature that makes switching between things like deadlifts and snatches a (relative) breeze. The self-lubricating bushings mean the barbell continues to spin well even after repeated daily use. It’s a bar that will handle even the longest, toughest, most varied WODs.

The Rogue Bar 2.0
The Rogue Bar 2.0
The Rogue Bar 2.0

Machined and manufactured in Ohio, the Rogue Bar 2.0 features composite bushings, 190,000 PSI Tensile Strength Steel, and no center knurling, which can reduce skin irritation during high-rep exercises. The bar also features knurling marks for both powerlifting and weightlifting. It's built for extended daily use. 

Who Should Buy the Rogue Bar 2.0

  • CrossFitters who want a solid bar that is designed for daily training.
  • Lifters who want a bar with a (conditional) lifetime warranty.
  • Buyers who want different customization options for their bar; the Rogue Bar 2.0 features machine-grooved sleeves that allow for customizable color bands.

Who Shouldn’t Buy the Rogue Bar 2.0

  • Speciality Olympic weightlifters who need a bar with more whip.
  • Powerlifters who want a bar with harsher knurling, a stiffer feel, specifications for their federation.
  • Lifters who want a steel or chrome finish, as the Rogue Bar 2.0 famously features a black zinc finish.

Hard-wearing and adaptable, this bar is a great choice if you’re going to mix up your lifting and don’t want to change your equipment each time.

Best Barbell for Beginners

Very similar to our best barbell overall, the Force USA Ranger barbell is a bar that is versatile and will help beginners start training right away. Very few beginner lifters will want to drop big money on a piece of equipment that they may not actually enjoy using in the long run, and we like Force’s Ranger Barbell because it’s reliable and affordable. 

Force USA Ranger Barbell

Force USA really packed as much as possible into an affordable price. This bar is compliant with both IWF and IPF specifications, is rated up to 1,500 pounds, and has a corrosion-resistant black zinc finish. 

Force USA Ranger Barbell
Force USA Ranger Barbell
Force USA Ranger Barbell

The Ranger barbell from Force USA is built to IPF and IWF positioning, is rated for up to 1,500 pounds, and comes in at a great price point for a quality barbell. 

Who Should Buy the Force USA Ranger Barbell

  • Beginners looking for a versatile bar at a great price point.
  • Lifters who want a bar with IPF and IWF positioning (note this barbell does not have official IPF/IWF certification).
  • Consumers looking for a bar with decent rust protection.

Who Shouldn’t Buy the Force USA Ranger Barbell

  • Athletes looking for a bar with more intense knurling.
  • Trainees who want a bar with more aggressive whip.
  • Anyone who dislikes black zinc finish on a bar.

Strong, durable, and well priced. We couldn’t ask for anything more from a bar that can take you from beginner lifter all the way to the upper echelons of strength sports. 

Best Barbell for Squats

For heavy squats, stability and grip is key, which is why you want a bar that is sturdy and has center knurling. 

Rogue Ohio Power Bar

The Rogue Ohio Power Bar is our pick for those who want a bar dedicated to pushing up those squat numbers. It’s an exceptional choice due to its 205,000 PSI tensile strength, which allows it to handle extremely heavy loads with no issues. There are other bars with great tensile strength, but the lack of whip, aggressive knurling, and a variety of finish options mean that the Ohio Power Bar is an ideal choice for squats and powerlifting in general.

Rogue Ohio Power Bar
Rogue Ohio Power Bar
Rogue Ohio Power Bar

The Rogue Ohio Power Bar is a super stiff and built for heavy loading. A great barbell for powerlifting, the Rogue Ohio Power Bar has "no whip" and aggressive knurling for squats and deadlifts.

Who Should Buy the Rogue Ohio Power Bar

  • Lifters who want a super-strong bar for heavy squats.
  • Trainees who like a bar with very little whip for stability.
  • Athletes who want aggressive knurling for extra grip.

Who Shouldn’t Buy the Rogue Ohio Power Bar

  • Buyers who don’t want to pay a premium for an extra-strong bar.
  • Those who prefer more gentle knurling.
  • Olympic weightlifters or other trainees who need more whip from their bar.

Super stiff for stability, when you hit the bottom of the squat with circa max weight, you’ll be glad you chose the Rogue Ohio Power Bar. 

Best Barbell for Deadlifts

There’s a saying in powerlifting: “The meet doesn’t start until the bar hits the floor.” Deadlifts are notoriously hard. If you really want to push up your numbers, it’s worth considering getting a specialized bar like the Rogue Deadlift Bar. 

Rogue Deadlift Bar

This bar is slightly thinner in diameter (27mm), slightly longer in length (90.50in), and has a much greater whip than a normal bar. All three of these characteristics mean that there will be a much greater bend (whip) in the bar as the lift is pulled off the floor. With 190,000psi tensile strength, the whip is a design feature and not something to worry about. It will allow for greater speed on the bar when deadlifting. 

Rogue Ohio Deadlift Bar
Rogue Ohio Deadlift Bar
Rogue Ohio Deadlift Bar

The Rogue Ohio Deadlift barbell has aggressive knurling and great whip for maximizing leverage in deadlifts. If you're primarily deadlifting and pulling from the floor, this bar can't be beat. 

Who Should Buy the Rogue Deadlift Bar

  • Lifters who want a bar with a good deal of whip for deadlifts.
  • Trainees who enjoy a bar with aggressive knurling.
  • Athletes who want a smaller diameter bar for grip.

Who Shouldn’t Buy the Rogue Deadlift Bar

  • Lifters for whom a stiffer bar would be more appropriate.
  • Buyers that don’t want to spend extra money on a specialized bar.
  • Powerlifters whose federation of choice doesn’t allow bars with the same whip.

For those who have the money, space, and the inclination to train deadlift with such specificity, the Rogue Deadlift Bar is a worthy choice.

Best Barbell for Women

For women, using a 28mm diameter bar when squatting or bench pressing shouldn’t impact their performance. However, any form of pulling can be much tougher. Hence the need for barbells with a smaller 25mm diameter grip, like the Bella Bar. 

The Bella Bar 2.0 (E-Coat)

Aside from being slightly smaller and lighter than a men’s bar, there isn’t any other aspect of this bar dialed back. The Bella Bar still has great tensile strength at 190,000psi, a corrosion-resistant E-coat finish, and a hybrid knurling pattern versatile enough to handle Olympic lifting and Powerlifting.

Bella Bar 2.0
Bella Bar 2.0
Bella Bar 2.0

The Bella Bar 2.0 is perfect for women seeking a versatile and durable barbell for their workouts.With a slightly smaller diameter and an E-Coat finish, people with smaller hands should find this bar easier to grip. 

Who Should Buy The Bella Bar 2.0 (E-Coat)

  • Women who want a bar that comes with a good protective finish that is also environmentally friendly. 
  • Athletes wanting a bar with a decent amount of whip for lifting. 
  • Trainees who want a bar with very high tensile strength for a reasonable price. 

Who Shouldn’t Buy The Bella Bar 2.0 (E-Coat)

  • Women who need a bar with specifications for their sport.
  • Buyers looking for a stiffer bar with less whip.
  • Lifters wanting a bar with a 28mm diameter.

A strong, whippy bar with a smaller diameter than men’s bars, the Bella Bar 2.0 (E-Coat) is a great option for women looking for a versatile option for their lifts.

Best Trap Bar

Purists may object to a trap bar being on a list of the best barbells. However, they are excellent bars in their own right and can be a great tool in many situations that a regular barbell won’t be. They’re accommodating, and they can also be used for more than just deadlifts

Force USA Walkthrough Trap Bar

The adjustable handles, open walkthrough design, and built-in bar jack are reason enough to get this bar. Changing plates with zero fuss is a huge upside and deals with one of the small annoyances that we often come up against in training. Rated for weights up to 660 pounds, it has the brawn to go with the brains too.

Force USA Walkthrough Trap Bar
Force USA Walkthrough Trap Bar
Force USA Walkthrough Trap Bar

You can do a lot more than deadlifts with a trap bar, and this one takes that to a new level with ergonomic, adjustable handles and a built-in bar jack for easy plate loading. It measures 69 inches in length and can support up to 661 pounds.

Who Should Buy the Force USA Walkthrough Trap Bar

  • Trainees who want a bar that’s typically easier to lift than a traditional barbell. 
  • Athletes looking to add a new bar for extra variety in their workouts.
  • Lifters who want a multipurpose bar that can be used for many different exercises.

Who Shouldn’t Buy the Force USA Walkthrough Trap Bar

  • Buyers who want a bar with more aggressive knurling.
  • Powerlifters or Olympic lifters who need a bar specific to their training.
  • Consumers with a tighter budget.

Opening up a whole new range of lifts, the Force USA Walkthrough Trap Bar is ideal if you want to lift without worrying about tearing up your shins during your deadlift session. 

Best Barbell on Amazon

Amazon can be a minefield for purchases, but we were very impressed with the Synergree Games barbell. It sports a set of great features that we’d want to see on similarly priced bars elsewhere, and customer service promises a brand new bar sent to you with no questions asked if you have an issue with your order.

Synergee Games Cerakote Barbell

Above-average tensile strength, a cerakote finish, and 10 needle bearings mean that this bar is great value for money. As if that wasn’t enough, you get a complimentary pair of wrist wraps and lifting straps. It does have typical knurling, which may put powerlifters off, but the price may make up for it. 

Synergee Games Cerakote Barbell
Synergee Games Cerakote Barbell
Synergee Games Cerakote Barbell

The Synergee Games Cerakote barbell has a medium knurling, whip and has an above average tensile strength. Combine that with 10 needle bearings, and we think this barbell has a lot to offer many types of athletes. 

Who Should Buy the Synergee Games Cerakote Barbell

  • Lifters who want a versatile bar for multiple disciplines.
  • Consumers who like a colorful bar.
  • Trainees who want a strong bar with good whip.

Who Shouldn’t Buy the Synergee Games Cerakote Barbell

  • Buyers who don’t like bars with a cerakote finish.
  • Powerlifters who want a bar with more aggressive knurling.
  • Those who need a stiffer bar with less whip.

Eye-catching and accomplished, this bar is not just a pretty face. You can get some serious lifting done, and the option for Amazon Prime shipping is the icing on the cake.

Best Standard Barbell

The difference between Standard and Olympic barbells lies in weight collar diameter. “Standard” size barbells and weights feature one-inch diameter holes, and collars are generally much less common than their Olympic counterparts, which have two-inch collars and plate holes. Rated up to 700 pounds, this Standard barbell from Sporzon! is strong enough for beginners up to pretty advanced lifters. They’re probably not ideal for Olympic weightlifting with no spin on the sleeves, but this could be a welcome addition to home gyms.

Sporzon! Standard Weightlifting Barbell

Different bar diameters and length options from 5 to 7 feet are useful for those who are limited in their workout space, and the chrome finish will be fine for most lifters throughout the life of the bar. Just make sure you give it a clean every few weeks and purchase the correct diameter weight plates to match your bar, and you’ll get some great workouts in.

Sporzon! Standard Weightlifting Barbell
Sporzon! Standard Weightlifting Barbell
Sporzon! Standard Weightlifting Barbell

The Sporzon! Standard Weightlifting barbell is a solid option for buyers who need a barbell with 1 inch and 2 inch options, as well as different lengths. 

Who Should Buy the Sporzon! Standard Weightlifting Barbell

  • Consumers who want different options for the length and diameter of their bar.
  • Lifters who want an affordable Standard sizing bar that is tested up to 700 pounds.
  • Those who have a smaller space to work out but still need a barbell.

Who Shouldn’t Buy the Sporzon! Standard Weightlifting Barbell

  • Buyers who don’t want a chrome-finished barbell.
  • Athletes that need a bar with Olympic plate and collar sizing.
  • Trainees who prefer a bar with more aggressive knurling.

With multiple different options for grip and length, the Sporzon! Standard Weightlifting Bar is affordable and ideal if you aren’t blessed with huge workout space.

How We Assess Barbells

Testing barbells is a tedious task and it takes ample time to get just right. Here are some of the factors we consider when assessing our favorite barbells.

Task At Hand

The first thing we consider when testing a barbell is to establish what they’re designed to do. For niche barbells, we train with them in the fashion they’re intended to be, then compare what we experience with the notes that the company provides for the barbell. For example, if the company says their bearings rotate well for a weightlifting bar, we test that exclusively with diligence.

Durability

Another major component we consider is the barbell’s durability. We first assess how the barbell holds up over time in our gym, then we look at intricate factors that the company lists about the barbell. These are all the specs that no one considers, but make a huge difference!

Price

The final component we consider in our tests is the price of a barbell. We tie the performance specs into the price to find barbells that walk harmonious lines for those on a budget that want the most for their money.

What to Consider Before Buying a Barbell

Whilst it may come as a surprise that there can be such variance between a cylindrical lump of metal that has a standardized length, there are in fact a host of differences that you should be aware of as you look for a barbell. 

Types of Barbells

There are multiple types of barbells on the market, and for the beginning lifter or home gym owner it can be a little daunting when shopping around and seeing all of the options. In respects to major types of barbells, there are basically three that are relevant to recreational lifters and strength athletes, and these are regular (or cross-functional) barbells, weightlifting barbells, and power barbells.

These three barbells will each offer a variety of features to match specific needs. Below, we’ve quickly highlighted some of the main differences in the three most common types of barbells.

Different Types of Barbells

Outside of these three types of barbells, there are also specialty bars that are common in niche strength sports gyms and sports. We’ve listed a few of the major types of bars below, along with their ideal uses.

Women’s Bars

Women’s bars are made with weights of 15kg or 35 lbs and have a diameter of 25mm.

Deadlift Bars 

Best for deadlifts, as they offer a lot of whip, aggressive knurling, and a sometimes smaller diameter.

Squat Bars

Best for squats, as they’re typically made with no whip and have center knurling for gripping the back.

Hex Bars

A bar shaped like a hexagon and a useful niche implement for variation and teaching hip hinging. 

Knurling

The knurling on a barbell is the etched, sandpaper-like texture that covers each side of the barbell and sometimes the middle. Knurling on a barbell is important for three major reasons. First, it promotes grip and can help improve lifting by allowing the barbell to remain still in the hands. If you try lifting holding the smooth portions of the bar vs the knurled parts, you’ll instantly understand how helpful it is.

Barbell Knurling

Second, knurling is a useful tool for finding proper positioning on the bar. Each side of the barbell’s knurling will have a ring, sometimes two, and these can be useful for accurately finding hand and body positioning when trying to be centered on a barbell. 

Finally, knurling patterns can be specific to certain sports. For example, Olympic bars will have a smooth center knurling to avoid scratching the neck during cleans, whereas deadlift bars will have even more pronounced knurling to promote grip.

Bar Diameter (Grip Diameter)

A barbell’s grip diameter can be an easily overlooked construction attribute that can be very important. The diameter of a barbell can be catered to one’s needs based off of preference, gender, and strength sport. The most common grip diameter for men’s barbells tends to be around 28mm-29mm and women’s are 25mm. 

Common Barbell Grip Diameters Useful for Whom/What
Men’s 28-29mm (Deadlift Bars Average 27mm) Recreational lifting, powerlifting, weightlifting, CrossFit
Women’s 25mm
 

Recreational lifting, weightlifting, CrossFit

If you are a casual lifter, then you’ll want to choose the most common diameter and discover what your preferences might be. However, if you are planning on competing in a strength sport, then you should investigate the diameters that are mandated by your sport’s governing body and only purchase bars that match that. The barbell you use in training shouldn’t differ from those that you’ll use in competitive settings. It is important to note that some specialty barbells can vary from the grip diameters listed above, but we’d recommend considering sticking with what’s most commonly used unless you have a good reason not to.

Strength

Tensile strength, yield strength, and test on a barbell can all be great suggestions for a barbell’s long-term durability and can help highlight the likelihood of the barbell prematurely resisting breaking and fracturing. All, or some of these attributes are listed by most barbell manufacturers, and we’d suggest straying from any company that isn’t willing to readily share their barbell’s details, as that could mean that their bar will be prone to quicker breakdown.

Tensile Strength

Out of the three attributes above, tensile strength is possibly the most important and widely used to highlight barbell strength/durability. This attribute entails how much your barbell can be loaded with before it breaks or fractures. Higher tensile strength generally means a better, higher-quality barbell. 

Different types of barbell strength components

Below, we’ve highlighted some general tensile strength guidelines.

150,000 PSI > — Decent for beginners, but it might be worth spending a bit extra to make your investment last.

150,000-180,000 PSI — Good and suitable for most athletes.

180,000+ PSI — High-quality, well-constructed barbell that should last a long amount of time.

Yield Strength

This construction attribute entails how much weight can be loaded on a barbell before it becomes deformed. Have you ever lifted on a barbell that is shaped like a noodle? That is exactly what failed yield strength looks/feels like. A lot of companies don’t list their yield strength, but that’s not the biggest deal. This attribute can often be prevented by simply using good barbell practices (ex: not dropping a barbell on safeties with weight, etc), and high tensile strength often correlates with high yield strength.

Test

This construction attribute entails the documentation of how much weight a company has used to physically test the barbell. Some companies list the test of their barbells, and some don’t. If a company doesn’t list their barbell’s test, then make sure you look at tensile strength as these two can be closely related.

Whip

The whip of a barbell is the final (but very important) construction aspect to factor into your buying decision. Whip entails how much the bar will flex and give without losing its original shape. For the recreational and beginner lifter, this isn’t a huge concern, but it can become more important as athletes get deeper into their lifting careers and start competing.

Some companies will list how much whip their bars have, and most likely, these bars will have a specific purpose like weightlifting, deadlifting, squatting, and so forth. Below, we’ve included some general recommendations for different athletes considering a bar with whip.

Beginner or Recreational Lifters

Standard whip is fine and won’t impact your movement much.

Weightlifters

A bar with whip is useful for training, as this will closely resemble what’s used in competition.

Powerlifters

Check out your federation’s rules. Deadlift-specific bars will have a lot of whip, which is great for pulling, but problematic in other movements. Power bars will be much stiffer and are used in federations like the USAPL.

Warranty

Newly bought barbells will almost certainly come with some form of warranty. If you buy second-hand, this warranty will usually then be voided even if you are still within the warranty period, so this may factor into your decision of what to purchase. 

Standard warranties typically cover manufacturers’ defects and design issues for a year to two years,. However, this can vary. Finally, note that the warranty will also be voided if you are negligent. Leaving your bar out in the rain for example, or on a squat rack loaded up with plates is a sure-fire way to lose coverage.

Raw Materials and Finish

Bars are almost always going to be made from steel, however, as we mentioned earlier the quality of steel can vary and this is what leads to different tensile strengths for different bars. Other important materials to look for are the bearings or bushings and the finish. 

Bars with bushings are generally used for slower lifts, mainly within powerlifting and bronze is going to be the best all-round option. Bearings give much better spin of the sleeves and so are generally used for Olympic lifting. Needle bearings are the gold standard here. 

Generally, for the finishes, stainless steel and cerakote are going to be the most expensive, but also the most resistant to wear and tear. At the opposite end of the spectrum, bare steel, budget chrome and black oxide are going to be cheaper but also less resilient.

If after reading through all this, you still need help deciding which bar works best for you, we have a handy guide that goes into greater detail.

Caring for your Barbell

To keep your barbell in tip-top condition you’ll need to do 3 things semi-regularly:

  • Clean the chalk and any other mess off the bar and the knurling using a brush
  • Wipe down the bar with a gentle cleaner and then give it a light coat of oil. Leave this overnight to sink in.
  • Check the sleeve to see if the bearings are in good condition. Some bearings will need oil, others won’t. You’ll need to check with your manufacturer whether your bar is the former or the latter.

How often you have to do these steps will depend on the metal used to make the bar, the climate you live in, and how often the bar is used. Cheaper bars made out of budget chrome or zinc will need checking regularly, every 2 to 4 weeks. Stainless steel and other more expensive options will need less frequent checks, usually only every month to 3 months. More humid climates will need more care to prevent rust, where a dry climate will mean bars last longer naturally. Finally, a bar that gets heavy usage will need more maintenance than a bar that you have personally in your garage and only use twice a week.

Trap Bars vs Conventional Bars

On the surface, this seems like an easy choice in favor of conventional bars. When you’re deciding between a trap bar and a conventional barbell, the choice really comes down to this: are you training for a sport that uses the barbell? If the answer to this question is yes, then you should buy a conventional bar. If the answer is no, then the choice between a trap bar and a conventional bar becomes one of personal preference. 

Some people prefer trap bar movements because of their simplicity. Others prefer barbell movements because of their tried and tested results. If you look closely at functionality, trap bars can deliver a lot of the same benefits as conventional bars. In an ideal world, we would tell everyone to use both, but we know that’s not realistic. Just know that if you aren’t competing in a barbell-based sport, you can’t make a wrong choice here.

Barbells vs Dumbbells

Another really contentious debate is whether to get a barbell or a set of dumbbells. In many cases, the cost for these two items is similar, so which should you go for if you can only choose one?

If you’re training for powerlifting or weightlifting, then a barbell is an essential tool, as it’s the primary implement for the required movements. But if you’re more into functional fitness or like to work in isometric training into your routine, then dumbbells may be a really good fit for you. While barbells are incredibly versatile, dumbbells might take the cake when it comes to ultimate versatility. That being said, if you’re not looking to buy a whole set of dumbbells, there are many quality adjustable dumbbells on the market to suit a variety of needs. 

Final Word

The barbell is an incredibly versatile tool that can help you get strong, flexible, and explosive. Prices can vary hugely, as can the quality and the features, so make sure you’re clear on what you need before you buy. You can end up spending a fair chunk of cash on something that you won’t use otherwise.

Once you have your bar, take good care of it and make sure you take equally good, if not better care, of your body by lifting with good technique and making sure to follow an effective training plan. If you do these things, you may never need to buy another barbell, and you might end up achieving some great training gains as well.

FAQs

What makes a great barbell?

A quality barbell will come with some form of warranty and a full rundown of performance specs. Some companies leave out key details that provide insight into how long their bar will likely last, so always be mindful of things like tensile strength, whip, shaft material, and so forth.

What does a barbell's tensile strength mean?

Tensile strength for a barbell entails how much your barbell can be loaded with before it breaks or fractures, aka high tensile strength = better barbell.

Does whip matter in a barbell?

Yes! Whip is an important component to consider for athletes and lifters that are training heavy and have specific strength sport focuses.