BarBell Buying Guide | Knurl, Finish & Loading

February 07, 2024 4 min read

Barbell Buying Guide

Selecting the Right Weightlifting Bar

This Olympic Bar  buying guide has been created to help you determine which option is the best fit for you and your style of training such as strength training for over 40s women etc. Firstly what is a Barbell - 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

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 type of olympic bar and how much it weighs that will 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:  


Features to Consider When Buying a Barbell


  • 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.

  • Barbell Sleeves

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.

  •  Barbell Strength

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.


What Type of Knurling Suits Which Lifter?


What knurl is on and olympic bar and the different types

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.


The 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.


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