Best Barbells, Barbell Sets and Buyer’s Guide

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Barbells are a dime a dozen. Finding the best barbell and / or barbell set isn't always easy. That's where we come in.

If you’re serious about strength training, barbell work is must. Barbells – and the common exercises we do with them – are more effective than perhaps any other strength training equipment and methodology, especially in developing functional strength (your ability to carry out strength related activities in everyday life, such as lifting and carrying objects).
Barbells are arguably the most effective strength training equipment available

They’re extremely cost effective too.

For the price of a decent quality multi-gym, or a single year’s subscription to a commercial gym, you can build a barbell setup that’ll help you pack on size and strength as well or better than either of those two alternatives. And with a just little TLC, that setup should last you forever.

However, unless you’re an experienced lifter, it can be hard to know which setup is right for you. And that’s because the right setup for you depends largely on what kind of training you want to do What you want to do with your barbell will determine the right barbell setup for you. Also, there are lots of different barbell options out there, and lots of jargon that gets thrown around. Unless you’re one of those experienced lifters, it can be overwhelming.

But, it’s possible to quickly get a good understanding of the barbell basics, so that you’re able to choose a setup that you’re really happy with. And that’s where we come in.

In this article, we’ll take a detailed look at the best barbells, and barbell sets on the market, and explain which uses they’re most suitable for.

We’ve also included a buyer’s guide that will explain everything you need to know in order to make an informed decision on what’s best for you.

Best Olympic Barbells at a Glance

The Rogue Bar 2.0 is the best valued all-purpose olympic barbell

Best All-Purpose Barbell

The Rogue Bar 2.0

Excellently priced for a very good quality all-purpose Olympic barbell. It’s suitable for everything from deadlifts to high-rep CrossFit workouts. The standard knurl is grippy without being sharp and there’s no center knurl

Read the review

Rogues Olympic WL Bar is the best weightlifting abrbell you can get that is not a professional bar.

Best Weightlifting Barbell

Rogue Olympic WL Bar

Rogue’s WL Bar rivals professional barbells (like Eleikos) in quality at about half the price. Five needle bearings combined with great whip and a variety of finishes (including cerakote) makes this a fantastic weightlifting barbell.

Read the review

The Ohio power bar from Rogue Fitness is easily the best powerlifting barbell there is

Best Powerlifting Barbell

The Ohio Power Bar

Available in a bare steel finish, Rogue’s Ohio Power Bar is unmatched as a powerlifting barbell. It has a tensile strength of 205 KSI, making it stiff as a board, and perfect for hitting PRs in the power lifts.

Read the review


 



Let’s start with Olympic barbells as they’re the cream of the crop. Because they’re significantly better quality than standard bars, they’re also much more expensive. Realistically, if you’re just looking for a simple, cheap tool to add a bit of weight lifting to your exercise routine, then a standard bar will probably be a suitable choice. If, however, you’re serious about barbell training and the quality of your equipment, then an Olympic bar is absolutely the way to go.

Best All-Purpose Olympic Barbells and Sets

All-purpose barbells are exactly as the name implies: Good for all the different types of lifting.

What should you look for in an all-purpose bar?

  1. Good tensile strength:
    Ideally, you’ll want something in the 170 – 195 KSI range. This will be strong enough for most people to try to hit PRs on their power lifts, but not so strong that there’s no whip.
  1. Good whip:
    An all-purpose bar, by definition, needs to be suitable for the Olympic lifts, and if you’re building up to any sort of weight with your Olys, then you’re going need a bar with a bit of give.
  1. Medium to slightly-aggressive knurl:
    Ultimately, this is a matter of preference, but we believe that a medium or slightly-aggressive knurl strikes a good balance in an all-purpose bar. An aggressive knurl is not ideal for Olympic lifts or high-rep work, because it’ll cut your hands and shins to ribbons, and it’s not actually necessary for power lifts unless you’re deading a truck load. You can also take or leave a center knurl unless you’ll be doing a lot of low, heavy squats.
  1. A sleeve with good spin:
    You aren’t going to need needle-bearing spin on an all-purpose bar, but you will need enough to prevent damaging your wrists during Cleans and Snatches. Good quality bushings, such as bronze or composite bushings, are ideal here.

If you want a good-quality bar that will take heavy weight for power lifts, will have a bit of flex for the Olympic lifts, and is just as good for high-rep workouts, then check out the list below.

Best All-Purpose Barbells

#1. The Rogue Bar 2.0

The Rogue bar 2.0 is undoubtedly one of the best barbells currently available

A quick word on Rogue Fitness barbells: Rogue are a US producer of barbells that manufacture all of their bars in their factory in Columbus, Ohio. They are without question one of the premiere fitness companies at the moment, especially for home fitness equipment, and they’re undoubtedly one of the overall best manufacturers of barbells, in and out of the US. We highly recommend their bars (most of our recommendations are Rogue bars).

Their customer service is second to none, and they provide a lifetime warranty on all of their bars, so you know they stand by their products!

Check out Rogue Fitness. All of their products are good, not just their barbells. Seriously, you won’t be disappointed.

Now onto The Rogue Bar 2.0.

Holy monkey! This bar is incredibly good. And cool.

In all seriousness, this is a fantastic all-purpose bar. A sequel to the original Rogue Bar, the 2.0 is truly a high-performing and beautiful-looking piece of craftsmanship. It incorporates Rogue’s new composite bushings into the sleeve for a smooth and durable spin, as well as machined grooves in which to put your favorite colored bands.

The specs on it make it perfect for moving between your Oly lifts and power lifts, and then into high-rep Crossfit exercises if you so choose. Here’s what you’ll be working with:

Rogue Bar 2.0
Weight + Length 20kgs + 7 foot:
The standard for Olympic bars
Shaft diameter 28mm:
That sweet spot that suits all types of lifts
Tensile strength 190 KSI:
Enough for heavy power lifts without being too rigid for Olys
Whip Good
Knurling Standard knurl:
Rogue’s standard knurl is comfortable enough to do both explosive Oly lifts, and high-rep Crossfit training, while still being grippy enough for heavy deadlifts
Knurl marks Dual marks:
For Weightlifting and Powerlifting hand-placement
Finish Black zinc shaft with bright zinc sleeves:
Makes this a badass looking bar
Warranty Lifetime
Manufactured USA

Rogue currently have this bar for $255, which is very reasonable for such a good bar. The Rogue 2.0 is, without question, one of the best bars you’ll get for the money.

 
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#2. The Matt Chan Bar

The Matt Chan bar embodies the spirit of the man himself and is one of the best all-purpose barbells you can get
Matt Chan is one of the most rugged and gutsy athletes Crossfit has seen, so Rogue asked him to custom design a bar that might embody those characteristics. The final product – the Matt Chan Bar – is one of the best and most versatile bars on the market.

Chan designed the bar that bears his name with both Weightlifters and Powerlifters in mind, incorporating aspects from both disciplines. The bar has been updated to version 1.2, and is now only available with Cerakote colorways that include silver rogue logo as well as Chan’s signature samurai logo. This makes it more corrosion resistant, but also more expensive than it previously was.

Here’s what you’ll be working with:

Matt Chan Bar
Weight + Length 20kgs + 7′
Shaft diameter 28.5mm
Tensile strength 190 KSI
Whip Good
Knurling Standard knurl on outer shaft:
Good for the extra grip during power lifts and high-rep CrossFit workouts
Knurl marks Dual marks:
For Weightlifting and Powerlifting hand-placement
Center knurl Passive:
Kinder on your skin than a more aggressive knurl might be, but still able to grip the shirt during heavy front racks and back squats
Finish Custom Cerakote colorways:

  1. Black Cerakote shaft and sleeves
  2. Black Cerakote shaft with Chrome sleeves

Both options make this a fearsome looking bar.

Warranty Lifetime
Manufactured USA

 

 
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#3. Xmark Fitness Voodoo 7′ Olympic Bar


The Xmark Voodoo 7' olympic barbell is half the price of Rogue bars, making it on eof the best value bars on the market
Our only non-Rogue recommendation, the Xmark Voodoo makes it into 3rd place on the basis of great value. This bar generally sits at sub $200, and is a good quality all-rounder. It’s one of the few readily available bars that uses a black manganese phosphate coating, which apparently gives it greater protection against oxidation (although this is yet to be confirmed).

While it doesn’t quite meet the same manufacturing standards as the Rogue bars, it’s still more than functional for Olympic lifting, Powerlifting and Crossfit workouts. It’s also half the friggin’ price of the Rogue bars, so there’s that too. It’s actually a perfect piece of equipment if you’re looking to put together a strength-focussed home gym on a tight budget.

Here are the specs you’ll find on the Xmark Voodoo:

Xmark Voodoo 7′ Bar
Weight + Length 20kgs + 7′
Shaft diameter 28mm shaft diameter:
Right on standard
Tensile strength 185 KSI
Whip Good
Knurling Medium knurl on the shaft:
Grippy enough for heavy lifts, but won’t shred the skin. Also has no center knurl.
Knurl marks Dual marks:
For Weightlifting and Powerlifting hand-placement
Center knurl None
Finish Black manganese shaft with chrome sleeves finish:
Makes for a sleek looking bar
Warranty 90 days against bending
Manufactured International

Unlike the Rogue bars, the Xmark Fitness Voodoo 7′ Olympic Bar is manufactured in China, and only comes with a 90-day in-home warranty. That said, it’s clearly well-made and is a solid buy at such a low price.

 
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Honorable Mention: The Ohio Bar

With it's new Custom Cerakote finish options, the ohio bar has ytaken back it's place as the best barbell money can buy
When we first published this article, this is what we wrote about The Ohio Bar:

The honorable mention goes to Rogue’s flagship, and most popular bar, The Ohio Bar. If you like what you see, you really can’t go wrong in getting one, we just think the others edge it out on the back of greater value and performance.

This is no longer true. Since then Rogue have done some pretty amazing stuff with this bar, which elevates it to arguably the best barbell you can currently get.

Rogue have added a new Cerakote finish to many of their bars (shaft and sleeves), but it started with the Ohio. Cerakote is a ceramic-based finish that was developed in the firearms industry as a means of part protection. It enhances a number of physical performance properties including scratch and wear resistance, corrosion resistance, chemical resistance, impact strength, and hardness. It’s extremely effective even when applied in very thin coatings, and thus it’s a perfect coating for a barbell that you want to look awesome and stay in good condition for a long period.

The Cerakote finish on Rogue's barbells makes them pretty friggin sweet now

They’ve also allowed you to customize your Ohio bar. You can choose:

  1. The color of the Cerakote on the shaft
  2. Black Cerakote or chrome finish on the sleeves
  3. The finish of the bronze bushings (bronze, black, or red)
  4. Custom text or image for the shaft or collars

This only costs $40 extra, and ensures you can have a completely unique barbell that reflects your style and personality, as well as your business if you like.

Rogue's customised ohio bars makes them arguably the best barbells you can get anywhere

Rogue have also developed custom colorways including the Freedom Bar, for those who bleed Red, White and Blue and Fraser and Froning edition athlete bars. They’ve also added a stainless steel edition to the Ohio Bar family, which is perfect if you live and train in very humid environments and need a bar that’s got the best rust resistance possible.

Here are the basic Ohio Bar’s specs:

Rogue Ohio Bar
Weight + Length 20kgs + 7′
Shaft diameter 28.5mm
Tensile strength 190 KSI
The new stainless steel finish option takes it to 200KSI
Whip Good
Knurling Standard knurl on outer shaft:
Good for the extra grip during power lifts and high-rep CrossFit workouts
Knurl marks Dual marks:
For Weightlifting and Powerlifting hand-placement
Center knurl None
Finish
  1. Custom Cerakote
  2. Black oxide on both shaft and sleeves
  3. Black zinc shaft with bright zinc sleeves
  4. Stainless steel
Warranty Lifetime
Manufactured USA

 

 
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Looking for a quick and easy all-purpose barbell set to add to your home gym? Look no further…

Best All-Purpose Barbell Sets

#1 The Deadlift Package


This all-purpose bar and bumper plates takes the top spot based on sheer value. You get the Xmark Voodoo 7′ Olympic Bar plus 280 lbs (127 kgs) of Xmark Olympic bumper plates for less than the Bravo set below, which has fewer bumper plates.

The Xmark equipment simply can’t beat Rogue in terms of quality or the warranties Rogue offer, but Xmark’s stuff is still good and should withstand most of what you can throw at it. This means that if you go with The Deadlift Package, you won’t need to drop any more cash on your barbell setup for a while, unless you seriously abuse it, or decide you want an additional lift-specific bar.

The bumper plates included are:

  • 2 x 10 lbs
  • 4 x 25 lbs
  • 2 x 35 lbs
  • 2 x 45 lbs

The plates are a combination of recycled and synthetic rubber, with stainless steel inserts. Xmark have also made the 10 lb. bumpers thicker and decreased the diameter to address the common problem of warping and breaking when dropped repeatedly.

*This set does not include collars, which you’ll have to buy separately if you don’t already own some. If you like clamp collars, we recommend these ones from Clout Fitness. If you prefer spring collars, then give these ones from xFitness a try.

All-in-all, that’s 325 lbs (147 kgs) of weight (bar + plates). That’s a great all-purpose set for the price.

 
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#2 Bravo Bar & Bumper Set


The Bravo Bar & Bumper Set is your best alternative to The Deadlift Package above. You’ll pay slightly more (about $80) but what you’ll get is of higher quality, and comes with Rogue’s great warranties:

  • The Rogue Ohio Bar
  • Plates:
    • 2 x 10 lbs
    • 2 x 25 lbs
    • 2 x 35 lbs
    • 2 x 45 lbs
  • 2 x spring collars

In total, you’ll get a great 20kg (44.1 lbs) bar, and 230 lbs (104 kgs) of Rogue’s high-quality HG Bumper Plates. The bar has a lifetime warranty, and the plates have a 3 year warranty, so you can buy with peace of mind. If you’re unwilling to trade quality for cost, then go with this set. It’s currently shipping for free!

 
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#3 Socal Econ Bar & Plate Set

This barbell set is probably best suited for those beginning their strength training journey. It has enough weight to start you doing Olys, power lifts, and crossfitting if that’s what you want, however as you develop, you’ll need to get additional plates (the total weight of the set = 205 lbs; 92 kgs). It’s essentially the same as the Bravo set above, just with fewer plates, and for about $190 less.

Here’s what you’ll get :

In total, you’ll get that great 20kg Ohio Bar, and 160 lbs (72.5 kgs) of the HG Bumper Plates, all of which come with Rogue’s standard warranties (lifetime on the bar, 3 years on the plates). If you’ve already got some Olympic plates lying around, or you think the extra plates in the Bravo set will go unused, then the Socal Econ Bar & Bumper Set is a fantastic pivot.

 
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Best Weightlifting Barbells and Sets

Weightlifting bars are designed specifically for the explosive Olympic lifts, and will have their own unique characteristics distinct from all-purpose bars and Powerlifting bars.

They’re also considerably more expensive than the other types of bars on account of the fact that they generally have bearings in the sleeves. Bearings allow the sleeves to spin more freely than bushings, and help prevent both short- and long-term wrist injuries.

Here’s what to look for in a good Weightlifting bar:

  1. Great spin:
    This means good bearings: You’ll want free and smooth rotation from your bar’s sleeves throughout their entire lifespan.
  1. Good whip:
    You’ll need a fair amount of flex, especially for Cleans.
  1. Medium to slightly-aggressive knurl:
    Anything more aggressive will probably end up removing a lot of skin from your hands and neck.

Best Weightlifting Barbells

#1 Rogue Olympic WL Bar

Rogue's Olympic WL bar is now even better, as it comes in cerakote colorways, as well as stainless steel finish
Rogue’s Olympic WL Bar is the best weightlifting bar outside of professional / competition bars, like the Eleikos, and is actually very comparable to those bars. And, while it still costs a pretty penny, it’s close to half the price of an Eleiko training bar.

On balance, the Rogue WL bar is another example of Rogue’s precision manufacturing. The whip, knurl and spin are outstanding. While the knurling is probably too aggressive for high-rep workouts, it’s perfect for hitting PRs in the classic Oly lifts.

This bar now comes with the option of a custom Cerakote shaft and Chrome sleeve finish, as well as a fully stainless steel finish. The Cerakote finish will run you an extra $50, while the stainless steel finish is an extra $100

Here are the specs you’ll be working with:

Rogue Olympic WL Bar
Weight + Length 20kgs + 7′
Shaft diameter 28mm
Sleeves 5 needle bearings per sleeve
Tensile strength 215 KSI
Whip Great
Knurling Standard Olympic knurl
Knurl marks Single Olympic knurl marks
Center knurl Optional (no extra cost)
Finish
  1. Bright zinc shaft & sleeves
  2. Cerakote shaft with Chrome sleeves (+$40)
  3. Stainless steel (+$100)
Warranty Lifetime
Manufactured USA


The stainless steel variation can also be done with a black Cerakote center, but this seems unnecessary to us. Only the bright zinc variation has the option of a center knurl, the Cerakote and stainless steel bars only come without. Having your bright zinc bar machined with or without the center knurl doesn’t affect the price. As far as Weightlifting bars go, the Olympic WL Bar, whichever variation you go with is as good as many, and better than most.

 
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#2 Weightlifting Bar by Fringe Sport

If the Rogue Oly WL bar is too pricey for you, this is a great alternative
The Weightlifting Bar from Fringe Sport deserves a lot of props. It’s an exceptional bearing bar that’s made to IWF standards, and at around $400, it’s also exceptional value.

Here are the specs you’ll be working with:

Weightlifting Bar by Fringe Sport
Weight + Length 20 kgs, 7’2″ bar (also comes in a 15kg, 6’7″ Women’s variation)
Shaft diameter 28mm
Sleeves 4 needle bearings cartridges per sleeve
Tensile strength 216 KSI
Whip Whippy
Knurling Moderately aggressive on shaft
Knurl marks Single IWF Olympic knurl marks
Center knurl Passive
Finish Matte chrome
Warranty Lifetime against manufacturer defects
Manufactured Taiwan

 
If the Rogue Olympic WL Bar is a little too pricey for you, then definitely consider this offering from Fringe Sport. We’re certain you won’t be disappointed. You can also get a 15kg Women’s variation, also made to IWF standards.

 
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Next Level: Eleiko IWF Weightlifting Training Bar NxG


If you want to take your Oly training to the next level, then get yourself one of these hunks of Swedish steel. Eleiko bars are arguably the gold-standard in Weightlifting bars, and it’s Eleiko that’s used in Olympic competition.

The Eleiko NxG Training Bar is the training version of their next-generation, IWF certified competition bar, and is for the most serious lifters, and genuine competitors. For that reason, it’ll cost you an arm and a leg.

Here’s what you’ll get for your arm and your leg:

Eleiko IWF Weightlifting Training Bar NxG
Weight + Length 20 kgs, 220cm bar
Shaft diameter 28mm
Sleeves Sealed, dustproof sleeves, each with 5 sets of precision needle-bearings
Tensile strength 215 KSI
Whip Whippy
Knurling Eleiko’s signature Olympic knurl, which is sharp
Knurl marks Single Olympic knurl marks
Center knurl Yes
Finish Special Chrome
Warranty 10 years
Manufactured Sweden

 
Over 1000 world records have been broken with Eleiko bars; they’re considered the best in the biz. They offer a 10 yr warranty on their barbells and their customer service can be atrocious, but we’ve yet to come across a lifter that’s used or owned an Eleiko bar and wasn’t pleased with it’s performance.

 
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Best Weightlifting Barbell Sets

#1 Fringe Sport Weightlifting Bar and Color Bumper Set

Fringe's weightlifting barbell set is outstanding value

This barbell set from Fringe Sport is a great combination of their Olympic Weightlifting Bar (15kg or 20kg) and their OneFitWonder Color Bumper Plates.

The Olympic Weightlifting bar is a very solid option on its own, but when combined into this set, it makes for an especially good deal. It’s made to IWF standards, and has the following specs:

  • 216,000 PSI steel
  • 20kg men’s and 15kg women’s variations
  • 28mm shaft diameter
  • Moderate depth knurl on the grips that’s solid but not too sharp, plus passive center knurl
  • Single IWF knurl marks
  • Good whip despite it’s high tensile strength
  • Matte chrome finish

This is a very high quality bar that’s custom built to help you hit your personal best Oly lifts. As Fringe Sport proudly proclaim, “One snatch and you’ll be a believer”.
The fringe sport olympic weightlifting bar is custom built to be a great IWF standard bar for a reasonable price

The colored bumper plates are from Fringe’s in-house brand, OneFitWonder. They’re good quality bumpers made from high density virgin rubber. They’re unique in that they’re slightly thinner than most other brands of bumpers, meaning you can fit more onto your barbell.

You can customize this barbell set with either 160 lbs, 190 lbs, 260 lbs, or 370 lbs of OneFitWonder color bumpers. The plate combinations are shown below:

These OneFitWonder color bumpers are some of the best value plates on the market

If you’re unsure which bumper set to go with, we recommend the 260 lbs set to ensure you’re challenged with weight, but still have plenty of room to grow.

Fringe's superstrap collars prevent backing off and loosening during liftsFringe also throw in a couple of 0.5 lb. SuperStrap collars. They aren’t fancy but they are effective – easy to use, and resist ‘backing off’ and loosening. They’re very suitable for bars that get dropped, and that require frequent plate changes.

All-in-all, this Weightlifting barbell set from Fringe Sport is an absolute standout.

 
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#2 Rogue Olympic WL Bar + Rogue Color Echo Bumper Set

The Olympic WL bar from Rogue plus their colored Echo Bumper plates make for an excellent weightlifting barbell set

Unlike the Fringe Sport set above, this barbell + bumper combo from Rogue is not actually a package deal. We’re suggesting you put it together yourself, and thus get a set that’s both affordable and great quality. And how should you do that? By taking Rogue’s top notch Olympic WL Bar and combining it with their low cost, high quality Color Echo Bumper Plates.

The Rogue Olympic WL Bar has precision machined bearings that give it a spin that lasts all dayWe won’t go into too much detail on the Olympic WL Bar, as you’ve probably already read the review above. Suffice to say, it’s a very good Weightlifting barbell that we’re certain will not leave you disappointed.

The Color Echo Bumper plates are colored versions of Rogue’s low-cost Echo Bumper plates. The Echo bumpers are so popular that they’re usually low on stock, or completely sold out. As it is with colored bumpers, they quickly allow you to find the weights you need.

Rogue's color echo bumper plates are great quality and affordable

They’re made to IWF standards of 450mm diameter, and have +/- 1% weight tolerance. As with all Rogue products, these bumpers are extremely well-constructed and durable. They’re available in full sets of 160 lbs, 210 lbs, 230 lbs, 320 lbs, and 350 lbs, or you can order them in individual pairs so you can easily customize to your specific needs.

If you don’t already have some, don’t forget to grab a pair of collars. Rogue’s Spring Collars are cheap and effective, and a perfectly suitable option for this barbell set.

You’ll have to put the order together yourself, but once you get this Rogue Weightlifting barbell set in your hands, and then above your head, you’ll see that it was time well spent.

 
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Best Powerlifting Barbells and Sets

A good Powerlifting barbell will be designed for the slower, heavier ‘Big 3’ lifts: The squat, benchpress and deadlift.

They need to be able to lift a lot of weight, or help you get to the point where you’re lifting a lot of weight. As such, you’ll find that a good Power bar has some unique features.

Here’s what to look for in a Powerlifting bar:

  1. High tensile strength:
    You want a bar with 200+ KSI tensile strength that can withstand constant heavy loading without bending.
  1. No whip:
    You don’t want any surprises when Powerlifting, and so you want a stiff bar. The exception here is that some people like a bit of give in their bar when doing heavy deadlifts because you can get part the way up before the plates leave the floor, meaning you can potentially lift heavier loads.
  1. Slightly-aggressive to aggressive knurl:
    You need something that grips during those heavy loads. Yeah, you’re going to sacrifice a bit of skin on your hands if they’re not already well-conditioned, but that’s Powerlifting baby.
  1. Center knurl:
    You’ll want something to grip your shirt during those heavy front racks and / or back squats. As we’ll discuss, there’s an exception: Deadlifting bars.

You may be wondering about spin (or not, whatever). Because power lifts are slower and less explosive than Oly lifts, rotation of the sleeve is less critical. As long as your Power bar has good quality bushings, you’ll be right to go.

With that said, let’s have a look at the best Powerlifting bars available.

Best Powerlifting Barbells

#1 The Ohio Power Bar

The Ohio Power bar is, quite simply, the best powerlifting bar on the market
As far as Powerlifting bars go, this is not only the best bang for your buck, but the best bar period. The Ohio Power Bar is serious. So much so that if God benched, God would use this bar.

You’ll be able to load this bad boy up to the hilt, and if you fail in a lift and drop it onto something, fear not because it’ll still be straight as an arrow (whatever it lands on had better look out though).

Here are the specs:

Ohio Power Bar
Weight + Length 45 lbs, 7’2″ bar
There’s also a 20kg bar available if that suits you better
Shaft diameter 29mm
Sleeves Bronze bushings:
These are traditional, high-quality bushings and give the sleeves a very smooth spin.
Tensile strength 200 KSI for the stainless steel variation, or 205 KSI for the other variations
Whip None:
This bar is stiff as a board, meaning there’ll be no surprises during those heavy lifts
Knurling Aggressive
Knurl marks Powerlifting knurl marks only
Center knurl Yes
Finish
  1. Bare steel
  2. Black zinc shaft with bright zinc sleeves
  3. Stainless steel
  4. Cerakote shaft with Black Cerakote sleeve
Warranty Lifetime on bending
Manufactured USA

Even the famed Texas Power Bars don’t really compare to the Ohio Power Bar. It really is the best bar out there for heavy benches, squats and deads.

The aggressive knurl is no joke either; it’s not sharp but it is deep, both on the outer and center knurl. The spin is also nice and smooth, on account of very good quality bronze bushings. This is a pure Power bar, so don’t expect it to be comfortable doing Olys. It’s also going to grate you up like a block of cheese if you do a lot of high-rep work. Go with the Ohio Power Bar for your 5/3/1s, but not for Crossfit or higher-rep strength training.

Finally, the finishes are great. The black zinc / bright zinc is a slick combo, but the bare steel is something else. Nothing quite matches the feel of bare steel. Yes, it requires more upkeep, and will still probably get some oxidation, but it’s totally worth it. There’s also a stainless steel variation if you live and train in humid environments, as well as Rogue’s awesome Cerakote finish.

If you do go with the bare steel option and want to keep it looking schmick for as long as possible, the Rogue Barbell Cleaning Kit actually isn’t bad value, but it’s just a nylon brush and some 3-in-1 oil, which you can pick up cheap at your local hardware store.

 
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#2 The B&R Bar 2.0

The Rogue B&R bar is another serious powerlifting bar, and if you want to do your standard powerlifts, it's one of the best barbells available.
Ok, so the B&R Bar 2.0 is technically an all-purpose bar, but everything about this bar just screams ‘Power’. High tensile strength, bare steel finish, 29mm diameter. Everything but the knurl, which is less aggressive than the Ohio Power Bar, but still grippy enough for the Big 3.

Named after The Godfather of Weightlifting, Mike Burgener and famed strength training coach, Mark Rippetoe, The B&R (Burgener & Rippetoe) Bar 2.0 may be the only strength training companion you’ll ever need.

Here’s what this little slice of history packs:

B&R Bar
Weight + Length 20kg, 7 foot bar
Shaft diameter 29mm
Sleeves Bronze bushings
Tensile strength 205KSI
Whip None:
ANd that seriously means NO WHIP
Knurling Aggressive
Knurl marks Dual knurl marks
Center knurl Yes
Finish Bare steel
Warranty Lifetime
Manufactured USA

The B&R Bar 2.0 is more expensive than the Ohio Power Bar, but it fills an important gap left by the OPB: higher-rep strength work. The aggressive knurl on the Ohio Power Bar means that your hands and shins can get pretty torn up of you do a lot of reps. But the B&R Bar’s knurl is perfect for it. Consider it a ‘gentler’ power bar.

Again, the bare steel finish requires upkeep or it will rust quickly.

 
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For the Fanatics: The Rogue Ohio Deadlift Bar

The Ohio Deadlift Bar is a powerlifting bar for the fanatatics. It's the best deadlifting barbell available
This is one for the fanatics. A bar made especially for the King of the power lifts. Everything from the grip to the whip is precision-made for the mighty deadlift, and it’ll have you ripping up PRs in no time.

This is another one of Rogue’s bars that has had the Cerakote finish upgrade, which adds about $40 onto the price, but makes it an even more fearsome bar.

Adding black and black cerakote to the ohio deadlift bar, makes it one of the best barbells overall

Here’s what you’ll be repeatedly picking up and putting down:

Ohio Deadlift Bar
Weight + Length 20kg, 7′ 6.5″ bar:
Yeah, this bad boy is long, which is part of what gives it its whip.
Shaft diameter 27mm shaft diameter:
The comparatively small diameter also adds to the whip.
Sleeves Bronze bushings
Tensile strength 190KSI
Whip great whip
Knurling Aggressive
Knurl marks Powerlifting knurl marks only
Center knurl None
Finish
  1. Bare steel
  2. Black zinc shaft / Bright zinc sleeves
  3. Cerakote
Warranty Lifetime
Manufactured USA

The Ohio Deadlift Bar is superior to other DL bars such as the Texas and the Okie in almost every way. Plus it’s considerably less expensive too. The bare steel ODB will usually set you back just under $300 and the black zinc / bright zinc finish will cost you an extra $30.

If deading is your game, you can’t go wrong with this absolute weapon of a bar.

 
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**Sorry, no good Powerlifting sets to recommend at the moment.

Best Standard Barbells and Sets

As we said earlier, standard barbells will be a perfectly fine choice for those who just want to add some weight lifting to their workouts, and aren’t looking to get into Powerlifting or Olympic Weightlifting.

If you don’t already have weight plates, you’ll need to purchase them separately from the following bars (standard barbells take standard weight plates, which have 1″ holes, as opposed to Olympic weight plates, which have 2″ holes).

Best Standard Barbells

#1. York Barbell Standard Chrome Straight Bar

York make some great barbells. They’re an old weightlifting and fitness company based in York, Pennsylvania, whose head office houses the Weightlifting Hall of Fame and Museum. They make arguably the most solid, highest-quality standard 1″ bars. Their bars cost more than others, but that’s because they’re better.

Features:

  • Chrome-plated solid steel straight bar, made from North American steel
  • Available in 5′, 5.5′ 6′ and 7′ variations to suit all basic uses, and people of all sizes
  • Smooth sleeves allow quick weight changes, and are compatible with spring clip collars and clamp collars
  • Passive knurl for a comfortable grip

Uses:

  • Strength training – You may not win any bodybuilding competitions using your York bar alone, but you can go ahead and put up to 250 lbs on it without worrying about it bending. That’s enough to build some serious muscle.
  • Weighted cardio (e.g., Bodypump, RIP)

Recommended plates:

 
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#2. CAP Barbell Standard 1″ Chrome Bar

The CAP Chrome bars are another solid option. CAP have a relatively good name in the home fitness equipment space, and although not all of their gear is great, their standard barbells will do the job better than most.

Features:

  • Chrome-plated steel bar
  • Available in 5′, 6′ and 7′ variations to suit all comers
  • Smooth sleeves for quick weight changes, also compatible with spring clip collars and clamp collars
  • Also available with threaded sleeves
  • Slightly aggressive knurl assists with grip

Uses:

  • Low / mid-level muscle building – Use this bar to put on some muscle if you have little, but don’t expect to begin bodybuilding with it.
  • Weighted cardio (e.g., Bodypump, RIP)

Cautions:

  • The stated weight capacity is 250 lbs, but anecdotal evidence would suggest it won’t safely hold that much
  • The chrome may chip over time
  • May be some ‘slop’ in your weight plates caused by bar diameter slightly under 1″
  • Standard bars are known for having the occasional defect

Recommended plates:

 
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#3. Sunny Threaded Solid Chrome Barbell Bar

Those looking for a bar that will add a bit of shine to their home gym should consider this solid chrome bar from Sunny. It’s inexpensive and good quality. The only downside is that there is no smooth sleeve variation at the moment, so you’ll be spending some time securing your plates.

Features:

  • Chrome-plated steel bar
  • 16 lbs, 60 inch bar
  • Threaded sleeves, plus spin-lock collars included
  • Slightly aggressive knurl assists with grip

Uses:

  • Low / mid-level muscle building – You don’t want to load this bar up too much, but it should help you add at least a few pounds of lean muscle
  • Weighted cardio (e.g., Bodypump, RIP)

Cautions:

  • As with most threaded bars, the spin-lock collars will need frequent retightening
  • Collars may also take some of the chrome off, and leave the bar vulnerable to oxidation (rust)
  • Standard bars like this one are known for having the occasional defect

Recommended plates:

 
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Here are our top recommendations for standard barbell sets.

Best Standard Barbell Sets

#1. CAP Barbell 100 lb. Standard Barbell Set

This is a good, inexpensive barbell set for beginners looking to build a bit of muscle, and those wanting to get into shape and make sure they’re doing effective full-body workouts.

Features:

  • 1 x 57 inch (5′) chrome-plated steel bar (15 lbs)
  • Black 1″ standard weight plates (85 lbs in total):
    • 4 x 10 lbs
    • 6 x 5 lbs
    • 6 x 2.5 lbs
  • Threaded sleeves, and 2 x spin-lock collars included
  • Slightly aggressive knurl for secure grip

Uses:

  • Low-level muscle building – Use this bar for preliminary strength training only
  • Weighted cardio (e.g., Bodypump, RIP)

Cautions:

  • The 57″ (5′) bar is one of the shortest standard bars available, and may be too short for taller people to use comfortably
  • The included black weight plates are lower quality than the CAP standard grip plates recommended above

 
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#2. Troy Barbell Tlw-40G Lite Workout Set

If you love to do weighted cardio workouts like Bodypump at home, then this is an excellent barbell set for you. You’re paying a bit extra for the higher quality, but the ease of use will make it worth every penny.

Features:

  • 4.5 ft lightweight steel bar (5 lbs)
  • Smooth sleeves for quick plate changes, and 2 x spring collars included
  • Standard 1″ cast iron grip plates with black rubber casing (35 lbs in total):
    • 2 x 10 lbs
    • 2 x 5 lbs
    • 2 x 2.5 lbs

Uses:

  • Weighted cardio (e.g., Bodypump, RIP)
  • Youth strength training

Cautions:

  • The 4.5 ft bar is the shortest standard bar available, and may be too short for taller people
  • The bar is very lightweight and will bend easily if you put extra plates on it

 


Well, that’s it for now folks: The best barbells and barbell sets available at the moment. If you’re unsure of any of the terms used in that section, or aren’t sure how to decide which barbell option is right for you, then check out our Buyer’s Guide below. It’ll give you the ins and outs of barbells, and provide you all the information you’ll need to make a good purchase for your home gym.

Also, if you’re looking for some good resources on how to use your barbell setup to best effect, then check out our review of 6 of the Best Books for Strength and Conditioning at Home. The barbell is a staple of strength and conditioning, and these books will show you how to get the most out of yours.

Amongst those 6 books, we recommend Mark Rippetoe’s book Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training. It’s commonly referred to as the Barbell Bible. It’s the best book available for understanding how to use your barbell correctly, and it provides a program that’ll get you stronger than you’ve ever been. If you’re not 100% on what you’re doing with your barbells, then give it a read.

If reading isn’t your thing, then you can watch Mark Rippetoe explaining how to do various barbell exercises on YouTube:

Don’t forget to check out our Barbell Buyer’s Guide below!

Barbell Buyer’s Guide

So, you want to get up to speed with all this barbell stuff hey? Good for you! If you’re looking to purchase a barbell (and good on you for that, btw), then arming yourself with a bit of knowledge is very important.

This buyer’s guide will explain the ins and outs of barbells, so that by the time you’ve finished you’ll have enough information to make an informed decision on which is the perfect setup for you.

Ok, let’s start with some of the terms you’ll come across when looking to purchase a barbell:

Glossary

Bar:
Let’s start super-simple. The terms ‘bar’ and ‘barbell’ are often used interchangeably (as they are here), and refer to the long piece of steel that you put weights on and lift up and down.

Sleeve:
This is the section at either end of the bar on which you put plates (weight). This is an extremely important part of your barbell.

Shaft:
The shaft is the middle section of the bar, between the two sleeves, where you grip for your lifts.

Knurl:
Knurl is the rough, cross-hatched pattern that’s been pressed into the shaft, which allows you to get a solid grip on the bar. This is also another very important aspect to consider, especially when buying an Olympic bar (more on that soon). Knurl differs in it’s roughness and may be called ‘fine’ when it’s not very rough, ‘medium’ or ‘standard’ when it’s of medium roughness, and ‘aggressive’ when it’s very rough.

Knurl marks:
Knurl marks are small sections toward either end of the shaft where there’s no knurl, which indicate legal / illegal grip width to competitive Powerlifters and Weightlifters.

Plates:
These are the weights themselves. There are lots of different kinds of plates, but we won’t go into much detail on them in this article.

Collars:
Collars are separate components that go on the sleeves and secure your plates to the bar. There are many different types of collar available, and the appropriate collar will generally depend on the type of bar being used, the type of lifting you’re doing, and personal preference.

Whip:
This is really only relevant to Olympic bars, and refers to the flexibility of the bar. A bar can have ‘no whip’, ‘good whip’ or ‘great whip’, depending on its purpose.

Tensile strength:
Tensile strength is the maximum amount of weight your bar can hold before it breaks. It is measured in pounds per square inch (PSI), and more commonly kilopounds per square inch (KSI; thousands of pounds per square inch). For example, a bar with a tensile strength of 190 KSI means that the load it can carry before breaking is 190,000 PSI.

With that out of the way, how about we get down to business?

There are two broad categories of bars and everything you buy will depend on which category you go with:

  1. Standard bars
  2. Olympic bars

Let’s look at each in detail.

Standard bars

Standard bars have a sleeve that is 1″ thick, and the plates that fit onto standard bars will obviously have a 1″ hole cut into them. The shafts of standard bars are usually 27 – 28 mm in diameter. The knurl is rarely machined with any real purpose, and can vary greatly from bar-to-bar, for no apparent reason. Generally, the knurl on standard bars will be ‘fine’.

The sleeves of standard bars will either be smooth, or threaded. Threaded sleeves are mainly made for spin-lock collars, which screw on to the sleeve and secure your plates. Spring clip or clamp collars are usually used on smooth sleeves. The advantage of smooth sleeves is that it’s quicker and easier to change your weights over (because screwing collars onto threaded sleeves takes time). Threaded collars can also come loose, especially on cheaper bars, which gets very annoying.

Despite the name, standard bars are anything but standard. The length of standard bars will vary between 5′, 6′ and 7′, and the weight of the bar will also range between roughly 4.5 lbs – 26.5 lbs, depending on the quality and intended use.

Here’s the deal: Standard bars are not made for serious lifters, and most serious lifters will pay no attention to standard bars. If you want to start lifting heavy then DO NOT even consider getting a standard bar. You will rarely see a manufacturer provide the tensile strength of a standard bar (usually because they haven’t measured it), though experience and anecdotal evidence suggests that they will bend when loaded with as little as 200 lbs (91 kgs). This is completely unsuitable for serious lifting.

When should you get a standard bar? Standard bars are much cheaper than Olympic bars and will do the job just fine if:

  • You’re only planning on doing some light workouts at home in order to build a little muscle and get into shape.
  • You want to do weighted cardio similar to group classes like bodypump or RIP.

If you’re planning to get into Powerlifting, Weightlifting or Crossfit, or you just want to develop a truck load of strength in your home gym, then you’re going to need an Olympic bar.

Olympic bars

Olympic bars are a whole other ballgame. Compared to a standard bar, a good Olympic bar looks positively fearsome.

There are a lot of differences between the two types of bar, but the primary one is that Olympic bars have thicker, 2″ sleeves which rotate around the shaft. The rotation is created by either bearings or bushings (and sometimes both, but more on that in a minute).

Olympic bars only accept ‘Olympic’ plates with a 2″ hole, meaning you can’t use standard plates on them. The shafts themselves are more precisely manufactured, and made from better quality steel. This means that good Olympic bars can often hold weights in excess of 1500 lbs (680 kgs) without breaking, and sometimes in excess of 2000 lbs (907 kgs).

Olympic bars are used in Powerlifting and Weightlifting competitions, including the Olympics, and therefore have standard dimensions for men and women. For men, the diameter of the shaft varies between 28 – 29 mm, and the length of the bar is just a touch over 7′, while women’s bars have a 25mm diameter shaft and are roughly 6’7″. Men’s bars weigh as close to 20 kgs (44. 1 lbs) as possible compared to 15 kgs (33 lbs) for women. Bars with different dimensions are available but these are usually training or specialty bars.

 

Olympic bars are generally separated into the two primary lifting sports: Powerlifting and Weightlifting (sometimes called ‘Olympic lifting’ or ‘Olympic weightlifting’). Each kind of lifting has unique requirements for a bar, which is determined by the types of lifts done in each.

The main power lifts are the squat, bench press and deadlift, while the main Weightlifting lifts are the Snatch and the Clean and Jerk (called the ‘Olympic lifts’, as these are the two lifts done in Olympic competition). Power lifts are done slower than the Olympic lifts, which are very explosive movements. As such, power lifts can generally be done with more weight.

Let’s look a little deeper at some of the important features of Olympic bars, and how they differ depending on whether they’re primarily for Powerlifting or Weightlifting.

The sleeves

The sleeves rotate in order to take the strain off your wrists when you’re lifting very heavy weight. If the sleeves didn’t rotate, then the force of heavy weights trying to rotate with the shaft would put an incredible amount of strain on your wrist. This is especially true of the explosive Olympic lifts.

In Powerlifting, some rotation of the sleeves is necessary, but not a huge amount. That’s because the slower lifts and less rotation of the wrists create less inertia in the plates. When Weightlifting, however, you must have free rotation of the sleeves because the explosive nature of Olympic lifts creates a lot of inertia in the plates.

The rotation of the sleeves is made possible by either bushings or bearings (and occasionally both). Bushings tend to be the cheaper option, and usually don’t allow as smooth a rotation as what bearings do.

Which is right for you? Bearings tend to be better than bushings, but that’s not always the case. A good quality bushing bar will be better than a poor quality bearing bar. A good bushing bar will be fine for pretty much everyone, and every use, except for a competitive Weightlifter who’ll probably want to go with a high-quality bearing bar in order to get used to the kinds of sleeve rotation they’ll come across during competition.

Another thing to look for is how the sleeves are secured to the shaft. As a rule of thumb, higher quality bars will use snap rings to secure the sleeve, whereas lower quality bars will often have a bolt that needs to be tightened periodically. Snap rings don’t require tightening, and are much kinder on the bushings or bearings. If you’re going for quality, then go with snap rings.

The knurl

Knurl is an important feature of the bar. Which type of knurl is right for you is something you really have to figure out through feeling and using a few different barbells.

In general, true Powerlifting bars will have more aggressive knurl to accomodate heavier lifts. Weightlifting bars will generally have a medium (or standard) knurl, though this will vary.

Some bars have a centre knurl and some don’t. The centre knurl’s function is to grip the front or back of the shirt during heavy squats to prevent the bar from slipping down. The reason that there’s always a smooth portion of the shaft is so that the bar doesn’t hack your shins to shreds when dragging it up them during deadlifts.

Which is right for you? An aggressive knurl allows for a better grip, but it will also tear your hands up if they’re not well-conditioned. In that instance, you may have to wear weightlifting gloves if you want to continue training while your hands heal Therefore, unless you’re planning to eventually do very heavy deadlifts, a bar with standard knurl will be fine. If you’re going to be doing heavy squats, then get a bar with center knurl. If you do a lot of shirtless workouts, or are planning to get into Crossfit, which incorporates a lot of high repetition barbell exercises, then it’ll be best to get a bar without center knurl.

The knurl marks

Knurl marks are there primarily for competitive Powerlifters and Weightlifters, and indicate legal / illegal hand placement during lifts. The outer mark is for Weightlifting and the inner for Powerlifting. Many bars will have both, indicating that it is suitable for both types of lifting.

The whip

Generally speaking, Weightlifting requires bars with a lot of whip (flexibility) in order to accomodate the explosive lifts, whereas Powerlifting doesn’t. It’s common to see Weightlifting bars with ‘great whip’ and Powerlifting bars with ‘no whip’.

The tensile strength

Tensile strength is arguably the most important factor when discussing barbells. Anything south of 150 KSI (150,000 PSI) is poor quality, and you’ll likely be replacing it after a short time, especially if you get to the point where you’re lifting heavy.

Tensile strength and whip are intrinsically related; the higher the tensile strength, the lower the whip.

As you’d expect, the highest tensile strengths you’ll see are on Powerlifting bars, on account of the fact that they tend to get loaded up with the most weight. Most good quality bars will be at least 170 KSI, and most good Powerlifting bars will be 205 KSI or more.

What’s right for you? This will depend on what you want to do with your bar. At the very least, don’t get anything under 150 KSI

The finish

Barbells come in many different finishes, including:

  • Chrome
  • Zinc
  • Aluminium
  • Black Oxide
  • Stainless steel
  • Bare steel
  • Cerakote

Which is right for you? Assuming you plan to take care of your barbell(s), the finish will mostly be a matter of personal preference. Oxide, stainless steel, and bare steel tend to have the ‘best feel’, because they aren’t platings, like the Chrome, Zinc and Aluminium finishes. Stainless steel is will generally be the most resistant to rust and scratching because of the ‘self-healing’ properties of the steel alloy.

Depending on the type of power rack or squat stand you have, you may want to go with the finish that has the best scratch resistance, which will be stainless steel, chrome, and cerakote. This is because racking a bar onto a rack that doesn’t have some kind of protection on the J-cups, like UHMW plastic inserts, can increase the wear and tear on the shaft.

In any case, all barbells require some form of basic maintenance to keep them in good condition for as long as possible.

The best barbells have the best finishes that are highly resistant to scratching and corrosion

The price

As you might expect, there’s a huge range in the price of barbells. You can get an Olympic barbell for as little as $100, and as much as $1000. As with most health and fitness equipment, you’ll get what you pay for.

What’s right for me? For most people, a good quality all-purpose barbell is the way to go, and these will cost roughly $200 to $400. That may seem like a lot of money, but all we’re going to say is that the bar is the wrong place to skimp when you’re buying a setup for your home gym. Go cheap on your weight plates, or your collars, if you’re trying to save money. Frankly, if you’re serious about your strength training, then you’ll regret going cheap on your bar. There’s nothing worse than training with a crappy bar.

But, buying a good quality bar will be a sound investment, and it’ll last you forever.

Conclusion

There you have it, the ins and outs of barbells. Hopefully we’ve given you enough information so you can make the best decision. If you think we’ve missed anything, or anything didn’t make sense, then please let us know in the comments.

When it comes down to it, every good home gym has a barbell. If you’re still wondering whether or not to get one, then this should just about sum it up:

Strong people are harder to kill than weak people, and more useful in general
– Mark Rippetoe

A good barbell setup is the most effective way to get strong quickly.


Thanks for reading the article. If you found it useful, why not share it with your friends on social media? Also, leave any comments, thoughts, or questions in the comments section below.

As always, best of luck with your home workouts. Remember: When it comes to our health and fitness, we can make the effort or we can make excuses, but we can’t make both.

THFF (The Home Fit Freak)

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