December 04, 2022 9 min read
This Barbell Buying Guide has been created to help you determine which barbell is the best fit for you and your style of training.
The right weight lifting bar for any lift might not be set in stone, but if you want to appear professional, let us lead the way in selecting the bar that best suits your requirements, whether it be Olympic lifting, powerlifting, strongman, CrossFit, or general gym usage.
No matter what your goals are, you can trust the expertise of this guide to help you find the best barbell for the job. With a variety of options, you'll be able to find the right fit for your fitness routine. Here's what we'll cover in this barbell buying guide:
A barbell is a long metal bar employed for lifting different weights across multiple sports. In simple terms, it is a bar with weight for exercise.
Weight Lifting Bars: Men's, Women's & Youth
Barbells vary in weight to accommodate individual activity demands; a 20kg bar is most popular, mainly due to its versatile nature, making it the go-to choice of many gym-goers.
Weights of Olympic lifting bars vary, with 10kg, 15kg, and 20kg being the most common. While some firms manufacture all three, not all do, making it hard to differentiate between them. Generally, bar length, knurling, thickness and labeled weight can help identify the bar's weight.
The following are the specifications for each bar:
Typically Mens Barbells
Length: 2.2 metres (86.4 inches)
Diameter: 28mm (Olympic) or 29mm (Powerlifting)
Weight: 20kg / 44lbs.
Typically Womens Barbells
Length: 2.01 metres (79.2 inches)
Weight: 15kg / 33lbs
Typically Youth Barbells
Length: 1.7 meters (60-67 inches)
Weight: 10kg / 22lbs
Whip of the Bar
The whip is the flexibility of the bar, a common term for the ends of the bar bouncing at the end of a repetition, or a phase of a lift.
Experienced lifters can use this during certain transitions in their lifts. For example, between the clean and jerk, they can bounce the bar off their chest and propel the bar up by using the momentum of the bend coming upward into the jerk position.
The primary elements influencing the amount of whip are the construction material and diameter of the bar.
The plate thickness utilised affects the user's capacity for whip generation. Bumper plates, which redistribute the load on the bar, result in a distinct bar behavior compared to calibrated weight plates, which require fewer sleeve spaces as they are thinner. This allows users to place more plates on the barbell, keeping the weight closer to the center.
The barbell's spin potential is determined by the type of bearing or bushing used in its sleeves.
Bushings are inserted between the shaft and the sleeve, providing minimal resistance and typically crafted from brass to maximize durability.
Bearings offer a faster, smoother and quieter spin. They are usually made from high-quality small needles or metal balls that roll within the sleeve.
Bushings are often implemented in powerlifting and general-purpose bars, whereas bearings are typically found in more expensive, high-end Olympic weightlifting bars.
Yield and tensile strengths can be used to assess barbell strength.
The yield strength of the barbell is measured statically through the application of a progressive weight load to both ends of the bar.
Elastic deformation, also called whip, may be desirable for various activities, depending on the sport and exercise.
Tensile Strength determines the breaking point of a barbell, measured in pounds per square inch (PSI). 165,000 is a satisfactory PSI rating for weightlifting bars, and anything above 180,000 PSI is a suitable quality. Premium models commonly feature a 190,000 or 215,000 PSI rating. Some of the latest Olympic bars boast a 216,200 PSI tensile strength, surpassing industry benchmarks.
Considering Load Capacity
The load capacity is usually 433mm (IPF/IWF certified), but some barbells may feature lengths exceeding this for certain powerlifting federations.
The width of the plate that you use also determines the load capacity. Competition powerlifting weight plates, for example, are much thinner than cast iron gym plates or Olympic Bumper Plates This is due to the much greater loads handled in the powerlifting disciplines, so you can stack them closer to be able to add more weight to the bar.
Olympic Weight lifting bars necessitate a lower load due to the intricate movements that must be executed, resulting in wider barbells designed to minimize impact when the plates are dropped from up high - protecting the barbell.
The Type of Finish on the Bar and Sleeves
The finish on a barbell serves a number of purposes. It adds to the “feel” of the bar in the hands, aid (or hinder) grip, and can help protect against rusting.
Bare steel bars provide a secure hold and natural feel; however, their susceptibility to rusting necessitates frequent upkeep.
Black oxide bars offer more oxidation protection than bare steel and do not require as much maintenance as bare steel.
Zinc finish provides enhanced rust-resistance compared to steel or black oxide finishes, though it may require more frequent upkeep to maintain its sheen.
Chrome finish is the priciest option, yet also affords superb prevention from rusting.
Barbells with a stainless steel finish often possess comparable, or even greater, tactile qualities than bare steel, along with rust-resistance similar to a chrome finish. These are usually found in premium weightlifting bars.
Knurling is created by cutting two sets of diagonal grooves into the barbell, usually in opposite directions, resulting in small, diamond-shaped indentations that provide a secure grip when the barbell is held.
The aggressiveness of the knurling is dependent on the width and depth of the grooves and is designed to help prevent grip failure during heavy deadlifting.
Weight lifting bars specifically crafted for powerlifting generally have a greater amount of knurling nearer to the middle, facilitating a narrower grip for sumo lifters when compared to conventional deadlift or clean techniques.
A portion of knurling in the centre of the bar (known as central knurling) helps with grip on your back during squats.
Some specialised squat bars have a very wide central knurling to allow for use by larger men.
The knurling on men's Olympic bars is designed to be less intense, allowing for clean catches without the roughness associated with aggressive knurling; however, it is still present to facilitate squats.
Due to the lack of centre knurling on a standard woman's weight lifting bar, men's bars, with increased knurling and wider bars, are more often used for squats for increased comfort on the upper back.
RecommendationThe type of knurling is largely a matter of preference; however, lifters with smaller hands may opt for a more aggressive knurling as their grip capacity is lower. Conversely, weight lifters with larger hands may select the knurling that provides the most support in terms of grip.
When determining which barbell to buy, the activities for which it will be used should be taken into consideration. It is essential to know the kind of lifting and the exercises to be done before making a purchase.
Olympic Weight Lifting Bars
Olympic bars are designed for the two main Olympic lifts - the snatch, and clean & jerk.They are usually smaller in diameter, but only by 1mm. However, this makes a difference to your grip strength.
The knurling on Olympic weight lifting bars is not as aggressive as other weight lifting bars. There must be enough to provide a good grip, but not so much that it rips your hands apart when the bar spins in your hand during the catch phases of the lifts.
Knurling is marked out for the snatch lift and is further apart than a power bar which is marked out for the bench press.
Olympic bars also require collars that spin. The spin on the bar deadens the rotational force of the barbell during the pull and catch phases of an Olympic lift (during snatch and clean) or the dip and drive (jerk or push press) reducing the impact on your wrists and shoulders.
Olympic bars also require more bend and flexibility. As mentioned earlier, this "whip" (stored elastic energy) can help during the initial pull and the catch phase of the lift to avoid unnecessary damage to your collarbones.
Bars that have achieved IWF accreditation are widely recognised as the best on the market (with the most accurate tolerance in relation to the bar's weight) and only these types of bars are sanctioned for use in international competition.
Barbells engineered for powerlifting are designed for the three major exercises: Squat, Bench Press, and Deadlift.
The knurling on powerlifting bars is significantly more coarse, furnishing a firmer grip on the bar for lifters attempting heavier deadlifts.The knurling extends beyond that of an Olympic bar, enabling users to take a narrower grip during deadlifts and optimized stability during squatting.
Powerlifting barbells are strong and unbending, in comparison with Olympic models that can exhibit a "whip" effect when loaded. Consequently, they should be avoided when performing Olympic Lifts - a slight misjudgement when catching a clean with a power bar may make you feel as if your collar bones have endured a forceful impact!
Specialised deadlifting bars often boast extended length and added whip, resulting in greater stability, as the endplates remain on the ground for a longer duration, thereby granting the lifter an improved leverage prior to the full weight being lifted.
In addition to the specialist powerlifting and weightlifting bars we've discussed there are, of course a whole range of other types of barbells available to buy for your home or gym. Here we've listed just a few of the most popular ones along with their most common uses.
In addition to the powerlifting and weightlifting bars outlined above, a variety of alternative barbells may be purchased for residential or gymnasium use. Herein, several of the most frequent are provided, along with their corresponding purposes.
Technique Bars are a specialized tool for honing technical lifting skills, featuring a lighter weight than an Olympic barbell but more substantial than a broom handle or PVC pipe. Generally constructed of aluminum, these bars typically range in weight from 5-13 kilograms.
Safety Squat Bar
The Safety Squat Bar (also known as the Hatfield Bar) allows you to perform all types of squat movements in much more comfort than with a traditional straight bar.
Handles at the front of the bar reduce shoulder strain and the design of the Safety Squat Bar allows you to let go completely of the bar and it will stay securely positioned with the load spread comfortably over the 3 pads.
This Poliquin Parallel Dual Grip Bar offers an optimal range of exercises for users. As designed by the renowned Charles Poliquin, it enables effective pressing, rowing, and arm training motions.
Built to there usual Watson heavy duty standards, this Poliquin Parallel Dual Grip Bar will handle as much weight as you can throw at it and last many lifetimes.
This bar is available with our new roller bearing revolving sleeves. These run on twin bearings and are incredibly smooth no matter how much weight is on the bar.
Hex Trap Bar
The Hex Bar(or Trap bar) is an interesting variation of the conventional barbell, regularly used in gyms for deadlifting instead of the traditional straight bar. This type of deadlift has gained popularity due to the load being placed in line with the lifter, rather than off centre, causing less strain on the lumbar curve at the start of the lift. Hex bars usually measure 6ft or 7ft, with weights of 25kg and 30kg respectively.
The EZ Curl bar is a lighter and more ergonomically shaped barbell, perfect for those who experience discomfort when using a straight bar for curls due to its angled design allowing for a more natural hand positioning.
Fixed Barbell are generally more common in a health club or commercial Gym setting than in any sports performance, weightlifting or powerlifting facility. They are a durable convenience item that doesn't require any set-up time like adding collars or plates. Fixed barbells are generally around 110mm long and range in weights from 5kg up to 45kg.
Choosing the right type of weight lifting barbell can be very challenging. There are many different features and types of bars to consider when making your final decision.
We hope that this barbell buying guide provides all the information and details required to make an informed choice to ensure you buy the right type of weight lifting bar for your needs.
The barbell buying guide offers detailed information on barbell types, materials, and features, so you can purchase the barbell that best meets your needs.