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April 12, 2021 1 Comment
With so many options for barbells on the market, deciding on which one to buy can be somewhat of a trying task. Not only are there different types of barbells (Olympic, Multipurpose, Power), but there are many specific features to consider as well, such as the kind of knurling, coating, PSI tensile strength and so on.
The good news is we've done all the research on barbells for you, so all you have to do is read this guide to buying a barbell and you will know exactly what barbell to buy.
After reading this, you will know which type of barbell suits your training and what makes a barbell good quality.
At the end, we will also discuss speciality barbells that you can get in addition to your main barbell...that is, if you have the means, as the first priority is your main barbell, which is the straight barbell that we all imagine when we hear the word “barbell”.
And while all straight barbells appear similar to the untrained eye, there are important distinctions to be aware of.
This barbell buyer's guide is about to completely change the way you look at barbells. You are about to become a barbell specialist, and even if you don’t buy a barbell for yourself, the next time you go to the gym, you will know exactly which barbell to pick up depending on the type of lift you are doing.
Now, let's start with a super basic question, as it will lead us into the important points of this buyers guide...
A barbell is a long metal bar that you can attach plates of varying weights at each end. It used for weightlifting, to build muscle, strength and power.
It looks like this:
The barbell is extremely versatile and effective for building muscle and strength, which is why it is arguably the most popular and valuable type of equipment for fitness, ever.
While there are many types of weightlifting bars, the barbell is the most common.
You will find barbells at every commercial gym. They weigh 44lbs and have a very high weight load capacity. Weighted plates that slide on to the ends of barbells can be as little as 1.5lbs and as much as 55lbs.
Barbells are the most popular type of equipment because with barbells and plates, you can easily vary the weight from exercise to exercise, and you can gradually increase the amount you lift over time. This is ideal for progressive overload, which is essential for building muscle and strength.
What’s more, the perfectly balanced and long design of a barbell allows you to lift heavy weight. For example, it's much easier to lift a 200lb barbell than it would be to lift a 200lb rock.
Also, barbell lifts mimic the natural strength curves of our muscles and they can have a much higher maximum load than other free weight equipment, which is great for engaging more overall muscle mass and stimulating hypertrophy (muscle growth).
On top of that, barbell training is very straightforward. The main lifts with barbells are squats, deadlifts, bench press, overhead press and rows. Those 5 exercises (and pull ups or chin ups) are really all you need to get stronger and grow muscle. There’s nothing finicky or convoluted about it.
Because of all that, anyone who is serious about building muscle and becoming stronger will build their training plan around barbell exercises. Barbell lifts are often the foundation of any serious lifter’s (bodybuilder, weightlifter, CrossFitter, powerlifter) training routine, and other exercises like push ups, dumbbell lateral raises, and leg presses are simply additional or accessory.
So, if you want to be serious about lifting weight and get bigger and stronger, then you need a barbell and plates (you clearly already know that since you are reading this)…
However, not all barbells are alike. They can be slightly thinner or thicker, have more “whip”, different finishing, knurling, load capacity, and so on. There are even speciality barbells that have a completely different design and are made for a more specific purpose.
Main Types of Barbells
In addition to the above, there are barbells designed for specific lifts (deadlifts and squats) and women and youth barbells. Like the above barbells, they are all straight barbells.
Speciality Weightlifting Bars
These weightlifting bars all have their own unique design.
Considering the many options, it’s important to know what the different types of barbells are and how to use them best.
Below, we will cover everything you need to know about the above barbells and speciality weightlifting bars, so you can buy the right type of barbell for your home gym or know what type of barbell to use depending on what exercises you are doing at the gym.
We will start with the different kinds of “main” barbells, as one of these will be your foundation for weight training. Then we will discuss speciality barbells that would be barbells you get in addition to your main barbell.…
To know what kind of barbell to buy, t’s important to know what kind of training you plan to do and your fitness goals, as well as what features of a barbell to pay attention to. This will help determine the right barbell for you. So, let's start there...
The type of training people do can fall into a few categories - strength & hypertrophy training (or bodybuilding and general fitness), Olympic lifting, powerlifting, and CrossFit.
Most people who workout are bodybuilding, but they are not "bodybuilders" per se.
The same is true for people who want to get stronger. Strength training doesn't mean you want to be a powerlifter (powerlifting is a sport with a much narrower focus than most people have when strength training at the gym).
The vast majority of people who workout simply want to build muscle, get stronger, and look better.
So, they have a mix of strength and hypertrophy training.
Luckily, the two go hand-in-hand for the most part.
Moreover, the kind of barbell lifts for bodybuilding or hypertrophy training and strength training are the same, just the sets and rep ranges differ.
As such, we can group this all together into general fitness (strength and hypertrophy training).
Main barbell lifts for strength and hypertrophy training:
Other common exercises with barbells are rack pulls, curls and skull crushers.
Note: People who do general fitness for strength and hypertrophy will do a lot of other accessory exercises with various equipment or bodyweight exercises too. It's not all about barbells like Olympic Weightlifting and Powerlifting.
Both lifts are explosive, fast movements that bring the barbell from the floor to overhead.
The barbell used in Olympic Weightlifting is standardized so if you want to be an Olympic lifter, you need a specific barbell called an Olympic Barbell.
Note: “Olympic Barbell” is sort of a misnomer in gyms these days. While almost all the different kinds of main barbells look the same, generally speaking, Olympic Barbells, like the other barbells, have specific features that make them unique, which we will explain below in the types of main barbell section.
Powerlifting is a sport where athletes aim to lift as much weight as possible for 1 rep for three different barbell exercises - squats, deadlift, bench press. That’s it. The entire sport revolves around those three barbell lifts.
During competition, a winner is determined by the accumulative weight of all three barbell lifts.
While powerlifting has standardizations for the barbells they use, it is common for them to use different bars for each exercise, which is why squat barbells, deadlift barbells, and bench press barbells exist. They are similar in how they look, but like Olympic barbells, they have features that make them unique and ideal for these specific lifts.
Note: Powerlifting is really a no-nonsense form of working out. They literally only do the big compound lifts with barbells during training. Some powerlifters may do some accessory work, but sparingly (they only do it if it will somehow help their bench, squat or deadlift).
Crossfit is as much of a lifestyle as it is a type of training. In the most general sense, CrossFit is about strength and conditioning. It involves a lot of functional movements performed at a high intensity.
Crossfit training is a mix of aerobic exercise, calisthenics, Olympic weightlifting, and strength training.
Main Barbell Lifts in Crossfit:
As you can see, it combines both normal strength training and Olympic style training, with its own unique touch. Because of that, Crossfitters need a multipurpose barbell with a design that works well for both standard strength training and Olympic weightlifting.
Because the vast majority of us want to simply get stronger and build muscle, aka strength training and hypertrophy training, this is the group will be placing emphasis on. We will also put emphasis on Crossfit as it is extremely popular.
As for Olympic weightlifters and powerlifters, because this is a type of sport with specific standardized requirements for barbells, it is straightforward for what kind of barbell is needed. Nevertheless, we will go over each barbell in detail, as well as good speciality barbells based on the type of training, with the pros and cons.
We are almost ready to dive into the different kinds of barbells, but before we do that, we want to go over the characteristics of barbells, so you know what to pay attention to when buy one. This will also help make sense of everything that we discuss about the different types of barbells.
The sleeves of a barbell are at the ends of the bar. They are where the weight plates are held. While most barbells you find at commercial gyms have 2 inch diameter rotating sleeves, standard “cheap” barbells have 1 inch sleeves.
Any good barbell with 2 inch sleeves will rotate.
Rotating sleeves are important because it allows the plates to rotate as you move the bar. This reduces the amount of torque that the plates create, allowing for a more secure grip and better overall stability.
Knurling is a finishing process on metal used for gripping purposes. The knurling process can be any combination of horizontal, vertical or crossing lines.
Depending on the kind of barbell, the type of knurling and where the knurling is placed will differ.
Overall, knurling can be stronger as to offer more grip or it can be softer so your hands can slide around the barbell easier. You may think that a soft knurling is not ideal as it is less grippy, but it is actually an important feature for Olympic lifters who need to slide their hands on the barbell during lifts.
Most beginners prefer softer knurling because it doesn't beat up their hands as much. However, after a few weeks of using a barbell with a rougher knurl, your hands will get use to it anyway as you will build calluses. So, if you are not doing lifts that require your hands to move on the barbell, a stronger grip is better.
If you look at the knurling closely, you can see three main styles. You have hill knurling, which is light and soft on the hands; volcano knurling, which is like a medium grip and is not too rough on the hands; and mountain knurling, which provides the most grip and is roughest on the hands.
With all that said, you don't really need to think too much about knurling if you know what kind barbell you are buying. Olympic barbells have light knurling, multipurpose barbells have medium knurling, and power barbells have strong knurling. This is all by design, based on the needs of the lifts. For example, powerlifters need a strong grip, so of course a power barbell will have a strong grip.
Most gyms go for barbells with mild or light knurling because then beginners will not complain or be turned away from working out with barbells if their hands hurt - when you are lifting light loads, grip isn't as important (so you will find a lot of Olympic or Multipurpose barbells at commercial gyms). This is unfortunate for more advanced lifters who go heavy, as they need a stronger knurling for deadlifts (a power barbell). BUT, a good gym will have different barbells to meet the needs of various levels of lifters and their type of training.
Barbells will vary in thickness and “whip”. Whip is how much and how easy a barbell can flex under pressure from the load without permanently bending.
Barbells made for Olympic weightlifting have a slightly thinner shaft. These barbells have whip as it is important for Olympic lifts. It can aid in an experienced lifters ability to lift more. Moreover, Olympic lifters drop the barbell from overhead, so flexibility of the bar is important. All that said, for the average gym-goer who doesn't lift very heavy, the bar is not going to show whip anyway. It only occurs with significant loads and/or fast lifts.
An Olympic barbell's shaft diameter is 28mm. The plate used for Olympic weightlifting are Olympic Bumper Plates, which are rubber coated and made to be dropped from above.
Multipurpose barbells, which are often used in CrossFit, are designed to be thin enough to make turning the hand during a lift easier, flexible enough for some whip during fast lifts, and just hard enough to not flex when doing strength exercises like deadlifts and squats. The whip is like a happy medium that play nice for both fast and slow lifts.
Multipurpose barbells are usually 28.5mm and CrossFit also uses Bumper Plates as they can be dropped.
For standard strength training and hypertrophy, whip is not good, as the movements are not explosive like in Olympic weightlifting. Having the bar flex during a deadlift, squat or bench press is not good. In fact, it can be dangerous. Moreover, you will not be dropping the bar down, you will be placing it down (after all, that’s best for hypertrophy and strength gains). Because of that, a thicker, stiffer, more rigid bar is great. Note: Even these bars can start to flex when the weight is over 500lbs.
Strength Training Power barbells that you find most commonly at commercial gyms are 29mm (but speciality squat barbells are thicker). The plates used in normal strength training and bodybuilding are thicker (the ones you see in commercial gyms) than powerlifting plates, which are thin, as powerlifters need to have as much weight as possible on each side.
All in all, if you plan to do normal strength training like deadlifts, squats, bench press, overhead press, and bent over rows, having no whip is best.
There are so many different mixtures and grades of steel, so we will just keep this simple. Any of the following steels will be appropriate for barbells and can withstand more weight than any human has ever deadlifted.
But, don’t worry too much about this. Most sellers won’t even go into detail on it, but they will go into detail on tensile strength.
What's considered quality tensile strength for barbells?
Anything above 170,000 PSI is appropriate for a commercial gym, and a home gym can get away with a little less. That said, when you start going lower than 160,000 PSI, the barbell is subject to quality issues.
Be sure to read reviews and look at the fine print.
Both bearings and bushings allow the sleeves to rotate.
Here are the key differences…
Bearing barbells provide a little faster and smoother spin than bushing barbells, so they are recommended for faster lifts found in Olympic Lifting and Crossfit. Bearing barbells cost a little more too.
Bushing Barbells are better for heavy and slower lifts, such as deadlifts, squats and bench press. Bushing barbells are also more durable and require less maintenance. They are easier to disassemble, clean and reassemble than their needle bearing counterparts.
Overall, you don’t really need to get caught up in bushings vs bearings. Both options are suitable for either kind of training, but generally speaking bushings are good for strength training and bearings are good for Olympic lifts. Note: Bearing bars can be hybrid style so they can play nice with both kinds of lifts.
Length is something you almost don’t even need to think about. Any proper weightlifting bar (be that Olympic, Powerlifting, Multipurpose or Strength Training Power Barbells) will be approximately 7.2 feet long. This is what you want.
Only women’s and youth bars will be shorter, as well as cheap department store “standard” barbells.
So, for men, always go for a 7 foot barbell.
For women, you can go for a 7 foot barbell just as well, but if you are a smaller than average woman, a woman's barbell may be better, which is 6.5 feet (they weight 33lbs) and the handles are slightly thinner. Note: They can still hold a lot of weight!
Youth barbells are 5.5 feet and they weigh 22lbs.
Standard Barbells with 1 inch sleeves are the cheap ones you find at department stores and they are 5.5-6 feet. We definitely do not recommend them. Only very beginners can get away with them and even they will grow out of a standard barbell quickly.
Barbells are made out of steel, which is obviously a very strong material. However, it is vulnerable to corrosion. With that, barbells will rust way before they start to warp or break.
In regards to rust, this depends on where you barbell is. If in a humid environment, it will rust quicker. It also depends on what protective finish your barbell has, if any.
There are several common types of protective finishings for barbells, which vary in the degree that they fight against corrosion.
There may be some disadvantages with certain coatings, which we will make note of as we go through each coating.
Starting with bare steel, let’s go from the least to most resistance to rust…
Which barbell coating should you buy?
If you have the money to spend, go for a stainless steel barbell. It feels great and it will last forever, looking flawless as you past it down to your children. However, if you are on a budget, zinc is a good option, as it is durable and effective for rust resistance, and it is affordable.
If looks are important to you, you may want to opt for a hard chrome plated barbell rather than a zinc barbell. However, it will cost a little more. Also, get some chalk ready. Either way, both zinc and chrome are a little “slippery”.
What about Cerakote?
A lot of people like Cerakote, as it does have better rust protection than everything but stainless steel barbells, they keep their fresh look for a very long time, and they feel grippier than other coatings, but if you are going to spend the extra money, you might as well cough up a little more for the stainless steel option, which is the best option possible.
Note: Most Cerakote barbells have Chrome sleeves. In fact, hard chrome sleeves are common among barbells.
Feel Over Appearance and Durability
Again, the best option is stainless steel because it feels raw like bare steel but it will not rust and it will look like new forever.
If you are willing to do maintenance, then bare steel and oxide are good options for those on a budget. Bare steel has no rust protection, so consistent maintenance is required, oxide has low-to-medium rust protection, so maintenance is required but not as often as bare steel.
Our point is, we prefer feel over appearance, so we'd go for these options.
Have a Garage Gym or Workout Outside?
Stainless steel is obviously the best choice. But, Zinc is a good option for garage gyms and outside use too because it's the most affordable of the rust resistant options.
TLDR - Summary of coatings/finishings:
If you have a bare steel or oxide barbell, maintenance is required. It’s not difficult, you just have to keep up with it. Even zinc should be cared for if you want it to look great for a longer time.
How to care for a barbell?
Brush out the chalk (and dead skin) with a nylon bristle. Chalk causes rust because it collects moisture.
Make sure you use a nylon bristle as a metal bristle will take off the coating.
Also, use a light coat of 3-in-1 oil all over the shaft of the barbell on a weekly basis (obviously not before using it).
This will keep ensure barbell lasts for many years.
While there are many speciality barbells on the market, you will only need to think about one of those when you already have your straight main barbell.
Assuming you only want one barbell, let’s have a look at the various main barbells to choose from, with best uses and pros and cons to help you decide which one is best for you.
Check out our full post on the Best Barbells on the market today for a full list that will fit all budgets.
NOTE: We will be following ROGUE's barbell dimensions and features when discussing the types of barbells below, as they follow the standards of Olympic sport and Powerlifting, and they are the best in the business when it comes to fitness in general. A lot of Amazon sellers and small brands source barbells from China and their barbells have different dimensions or features than what's stated below, so don't let that confuse you. It's not to say they are bad, but the following information is official -- SOME AMAZON SELLERS HAVE LEGIT SIZES/FEATURES, so we will only recommend the ones that do.
Standard barbells are around 6 feet long and they are 1 inch in diameter (which includes the entire bar, ends and middle) and they weigh around 15kg (33lbs). The “sleeves” do not rotate and the middle of the bar is separated by the ends of the bar using a stopper.
The name standard makes it sound like it is a standard barbell that most people use, but it's not. The simple fact is, you should never get a standard barbell unless it is free. Some people have them at their home gyms (you will never find them at any respectable gym) but if you are at all serious about lifting, a standard barbell is simply not adequate. The following pros and cons will explain why…
Overall, if you are going to buy a barbell, just avoid a standard barbell and go for one of the following barbells to come. The only people who should buy a standard barbell are those who will never be serious about lifting…but then why even buy a barbell? Just get a couple dumbbells.
Standard vs Olympic
Beginners often ask, should I get an Olympic Barbell or a Standard Barbell. This question makes it seem like all 7 foot, 2 inch rotating-sleeve bars are “Olympic”, but they aren't. Again, the term "Olympic" is a sort of misnomer. While all 7 foot barbells that you find at gyms are often referred to as Olympic Bars, there are distinctions between the various kinds of barbells for lifting that you should be aware of. They are not all made for Olympic lifting. They are not all Olympic barbells. So, it’s not as cut and dry as Olympic vs the Standard barbell, as you’ve obviously gathered by now if you have read all the information above. Olympic Barbells have special features, as do the other kinds of 7 foot barbells with 2 inch rotating sleeves.
It’s important to know this when buying a barbell or you could end up getting the wrong barbell (although almost any 7 foot barbell with 2 inch rotating sleeves will be perfectly fine for the general public).
NOTE: While Standard Barbells are technically the 1 inch shorter barbells, the standard barbell size is actually 7 feet with 28-32mm shaft and 2 inch sleeves. So, there is often confusion when people talk about standard barbells. Any gym will have the standard size of 7 feet, but not cheap standard barbells.
Sorry to beat this point down so hard, but we just want to make it clear.
Olympic Barbells were designed specifically for Olympic Weightlifting sport, hence the name.
Olympic barbells are ideal for lifts that involve explosive force that bring the barbell up over head or onto the front of their shoulders. These are called fast lifts. This is because the barbells have whip.
Olympic sport is all about two lifts, the Snatch and the Clean and Jerk. However, it’s not just Olympic Weightlifters who use these two exercises. These lifts are also found in athletic programs and CrossFit because they are good for developing general athleticism.
You won’t find bodybuilders, powerlifters, strongmen or any casual lifter doing Olympic lifts because they simply aren’t good for building muscle or strength. There isn’t enough time under tension and the rep ranges and training volume is too low for that. Moreover, the weights are dropped, not lowered, which only further reduces muscle growth opportunity…Plus, only CrossFit gyms (boxes) or Olympic Sport training facilities will allow you to drop the bar to the ground. You need bumper plates for that and the space.
Now, it’s not to say that Olympic lifts are not useful. Once we are big and strong, learning Olympic lifts can give us explosive strength. For athletes such as football players, this is great. Note: CrossFit is not the same as Olympic weightlifting but CrossFit does use the Snatch and the Clean and Jerk, which is why these two exercises have become popular recently. If it wasn’t for CrossFit, not many fitness enthusiast would know about these exercises, let alone be doing it.
Let’s talk about the features of an Olympic Barbell:
Olympic barbells are 7.2 feet, they have a 28mm diameter shaft, 2 inch rotating sleeves, and they weigh 44lbs. Again, this is standard across any proper straight barbell. So, let’s take a closer look:
As you can see, Olympic barbells were designed perfectly with Olympic lifts in mind. Nevertheless, the vast majority of barbells at commercial gyms will often be Olympic barbells. Any beginner and most intermediate lifters won’t be able to tell the difference or even care. In fact, some beginners might actually prefer Olympic barbells because the bar is slightly thinner and the grip is softer.
All in all, they are great barbells and you really can’t go wrong, but if you are buying a barbell for your home gym and you want to do more than just fast Olympic lifts, there’s not point in buying one. You have better options.
Olympic Barbell Price:
Typically, Olympic Barbells range from $300-$600, and more towards the higher end. These are official Olympic Barbells, not barbells on Amazon that are labeled "Olympic Barbells" but are not actually made for Olympic sport, rather just general fitness.
Note: Olympic Barbells can be as much as $1000. Olympic events use Olympic Barbells of the highest quality and they cost around that much.
If you are serious about Olympic lifting, then you need to get a real Olympic Bar...
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You will find cheaper options on Amazon, listed as Olympic barbells, but most don't follow the standardized Olympic Barbell features mentioned above (for example they will be called Olympic Barbells but they have a 28.5mm shaft and dual ring markings. It's not to say they aren't fine for general fitness, but you can't guarantee their quality for Olympic lifting like you can with Rogue.
The vast, vast majority of us simply want to get bigger and stronger and look better. To achieve that, you want to do strength training and hypertrophy training.
While the strength training and hypertrophy training are not the same, as strength training involves very little accessory work for shoulders, biceps, triceps, upper back and so on, and hypertrophy a fair amount of accessory work, there is a strong overlap between gaining muscle mass and strength. A lot of muscle growth will come along with gaining strength…
Moreover, the types of barbell lifts you do for strength training and hypertrophy training are exactly the same (as is the tempo), just the volume is different.
Most people design a program that has a good mix of both strength training and hypertrophy training anyway. The two go hand-in-hand. You need more strength to build muscle and more muscle allows you to build more strength. This, again, is where the overlap comes in.
Regardless, whether you are doing strength training or hypertrophy training, you will be doing squats, deadlifts, and bench press most likely, and even though you are not a powerlifter, you still want a barbell that is steady, rigid and made for deliberate lifting. You will be doing no throwing or dropping for hypertrophy or strength training.
As such, if you plan on doing bodybuilding or strength training (or powerlifting), you want a strength training barbell. It’s that simple. This kind of barbell is known as a power bar.
Features of a Power Barbell:
Strength training power barbells are 7.2 feet, they have a 29mm diameter shaft, 2 inch rotating sleeves, and they weigh 44lbs. Special features that make them ideal for strength and hypertrophy training are:
Interestingly, even though the vast majority of commercial gyms have members who only do strength training and hypertrophy training, these are the least common barbell. Your average gym might not even have one. However, any high end or large commercial gym will have have some power barbells.
Who should buy a Strength Training Power Barbell?
If you don’t plan on doing any sort of fast lift and you just want to stick to strength training and bodybuilding, go for a power bar. The features make it the most ideal for building muscle and strength. This is particularly true for those who are more experienced lifters (even if you are not now, you will be some day if you keep at it, so you want the right barbell to grow with).
Strength Training Power Bar Price:
You can expect to pay a minimum of $280 for a good quality, official powerlifting barbell.
Multipurpose Barbells are designed to be good for both strength/hypertrophy training and Olympic weightlifting. Think of it like a happy medium between a Strength Training Power Barbell and an Olympic Barbell.
Multipurpose barbells (aka General Use Barbells) will work well for bench press, squats, power cleans, deadlifts, and so on. They have medium whip, so they are strong and sturdy yet flexible when needed, they have bushings that allow them to play nice when doing both fast and slow lifts, and the shaft is middle sized (between Olympic and Powerlifting barbells), as is the knurling, which is of medium strength.
Thus, if you are someone who wants to do a mix of training, like Crossfit, this is a great option.
Features of an Multipurpose Barbell:
Multipurpose barbells are 7.2 feet, they have a 28.5mm diameter shaft, 2 inch rotating sleeves, and they weigh 44lbs. Specific features are as follows:
Like Olympic Barbells, Multipurpose Barbells are very common in gyms. If you see a barbell that has two rings, it is a multipurpose barbell. Gyms like them as they are the most versatile barbell and in terms of feel, the grip is good enough for most lifters, but not too strong to rip beginners hands up.
All in all, we can label them as general “Weight Training” barbells - they are really a safe bet…an all-around barbell for lifters who like to train in a versatile manner.
Multipurpose Barbell Price:
Multipurpose barbells are the most affordable of them all. Good quality multipurpose barbells range from $300-350.
Gyms usually get them for around $250 wholesale. The relatively affordable price is why they are the most common barbell you will find at gyms.
There are barbells designed for women. They look the same and the sleeves rotate as well, but they are smaller. They are about a half foot shorter, they have a thinner diameter (25mm) and they are lighter (33lbs).
The question is...
Should a woman get a Woman's Barbell?
It depends on the woman. If you are a strong woman or you are not short, then you definitely can just get a regular barbell. However, if you are a beginner and/or you are not strong, a woman’s barbell makes sense.
A woman’s barbell is ideal for smaller hands and shorter people. This includes men. If you are a much smaller than average man, then even a woman’s barbell could be good as it will be easier to grip.
If you are below average beginner strength too, then a woman’s barbell may be ideal. Many women have trouble’s learning lifts because even the weight of the bar (without plates) is too heavy. While they most certainly can get stronger and learn with a 45lb bar, they can speed up the learning process if they have a woman’s barbell.
Moreover, in the long run, a woman’s barbell for smaller women is fine as they can still hold hundreds of pounds safely.
All in all, women on average are shorter and smaller than men, so there are barbells designed to their stature. So, it might make sense for certain women (and even men) to get a woman’s barbell. There’s no downside to it for smaller people. However, more often than not, a woman can use a men’s barbell just as well. You can see this at the gym since many women will be using regular barbells, not women’s barbells. So, only get a woman’s barbell if you really think it’s better suited to you (you are shorter and lighter). If not, you definitely don’t need a woman’s barbell, just go for a normal barbell.
Women’s Barbell Cost:
You can expect to pay anywhere from $150+ for a women’s barbell.
Sleek, black Cerakote coating makes this black beauty, giving you impact strength, resistance against corrosion, abrasion and wear...
After reading the above, you should probably already know what barbell is right for you, but let’s just sum it up in the simplest manner possible.
If your focus is hypertrophy training and strength training, then get yourself a Strength Training Power Barbell that powerlifters use. The next best option would be a multipurpose bar. For most people, you will never go heavy enough to notice the difference, but remember, the grip won’t be as strong (which may or may not be a positive for you).
Power Barbell - Our Choice:
If you are focused on Olympic Lifting, then get yourself an Olympic Barbell.
Olympic Barbell - Our Choice:
For gyms, ideally, you want all three options. However, most gyms go for multipurpose barbells as good ones can be bought for around $250, and they do the trick for 95+% of people who go to gyms.
As for the other features we mentioned - coating, bushing or bearing, type of steel - you need to decide for yourself. If you have the money, you can get any of the barbells in stainless steel, which would be the best choice.
Powerlifter? If you want to be a pro powerlifter, then you should get a power bar and ideally a squat bar and deadlift bar. You will see why after reading about them further below.
No matter what kind of barbell you buy, you should be able to get a good barbell that meets your demands for around $250-300 and a damn near perfect barbell for $500.
It’s worth spending a little extra for a high quality barbell. It will be the heart of your training, and you will get so much use out of it. It’s a great investment that will last you such a long time.
If you want a barbell that is undoubtedly high quality, no matter what kind of barbell it is, shop with Rogue. They are the best in the business. They are scientists with this sh*t.
Should I buy a barbell on Amazon?
If you want a barbell that's under $200, there are plenty on Amazon. However, quality is not guaranteed. Just be sure to read plenty of reviews before purchasing. If it's cheap, don't expect it to be great.
NOTE: A lot of Amazon sellers use various names for one product. For example, they will call their barbell an "Olympic Multipurpose Barbell for Powerlifting". So don’t let that confuse you. These are barbells made in China, so they don't follow the rules for each barbell that we will explain below.
Speciality weightlifting bars on Amazon are fine, but again, Rogue has them too if you want quality guaranteed bars.
After you have your main straight barbell, you really have everything you need to build as much muscle and strength as possible. With your main barbell and weight plates, you can do so many different exercises through every movement pattern. Again, you really don’t need any other weightlifting bar.
That said, if you want to make your weightlifting arsenal even more badass, fun, and add some lifting variety to your routine, speciality barbells can be great.
So, while they are not necessary, they can be useful. If you have the money, and you are a serious lifter, they are worth getting.
Let’s first talk about barbells that will pretty much look identical to the main barbells above, to the untrained eye that is. They are squat bars and deadlift bars, obviously which are made specifically for those lifts.
Note: These three barbells are very unnecessary for bodybuilding. They are only necessary for serious powerlifters. Only when you start lifting really heavy will you even want to consider a squat or deadlift barbell, as your main barbell is perfectly fine. As for gyms, these can be useful for your experienced members.
Squat bars are thicker than any of the main barbells we mentioned and they can be as heavy as 55lbs.
These barbells are made for people who can squat insane amounts of weight. They need to be thicker so the bars won’t flex and wobble. Even with the extra thickness, they are still liable to flex during super heavy squats.
While strength training power bars will hold strong up to 500lbs, they will start to flex and wobble at greater weight. A slight wobble can be dangerous. It’s not exactly something to worry about, but if you are squatting that heavy, you are obviously a very serious lifter, so you better just buy a squat barbell. Think of it like a photographer, they don’t have just one lens, they have different lenses for specific kinds of shots. It's worth the money to get the right product as a pro.
Besides being thicker and heavier, they also have extra center knurling. There will be along strip of knurling at the center, rather than a short strip like on strength training power bars because you won’t be deadlifting with this bar.
All in all, only serious powerlifters need a squat bar. If that’s not you, and you aren’t squatting 500+ pounds, don’t worry about it.
Our choice: Rogue 32MM Squat Bar ($445)
Deadlift bars have the opposite effect as squat bars and strength training barbells. They are meant to flex under heavy loads and the shaft is thinner (27mm) because of it.
With strength training and hypertrophy training, you want a rigid barbell because it keeps lifting tempo smooth and technique consistent for higher reps.
Deadlift barbells are made to lift as much weight as possible for 1 REP. That’s it.
The bar flexing as you lift it helps with our strength curve. The hardest part of the deadlift is the first part. So, if the bar bends as the weight leaves the floor, allowing you to open up your hip angle and drive the bar closer to you while reducing range of motion (good for lifting max weight but not for hypertrophy). This improves leverage before you feel the full amount of the bar.
For example, if you are deadlifting 800lbs, when we first pull off the ground a couple inches, we are lifting 500lbs, then the next couple inches it increase to 650lbs, and finally as you keep pulling it reaches the total load of 800lbs, at a point when your joints are in a more optimum range (stronger range of motion).
Again, this is great for 1 rep. But if you have a bar that flexes with multiple reps, it is NOT ideal. If you are doing a few reps in a row and the bar is flexing as you pick it up and put it down, it will throw off your form and it is potentially dangerous.
All in all, deadlift bars are only need for those who want to lift super heavy deadlifts for 1 rep, which is pretty much powerlifters and powerlifters only.
Our choice: Rogue Ohio Deadlift Bar - Cerakote ($395)
There are barbells with a wider diameter. For bench press, you want a barbell that has no flex, similar to a squat barbell, but it won’t have the long center knurling.
A 29mm to 32mm shaft is perfect of bench pressing. The thicker bar not only resists flex but it won’t dig into the hands as much.
Related: Benefits & Variations of Bench Press
The following bars will not look like your main barbell at all. They are totally different, made for their own specific uses.
While there are many kinds of speciality weight lifting bars, we just want to focus on the following ones, as these are the best and only ones you should consider (especially if you are a gym owner).
Note: We will provide options from Rogue and Amazon (as Amazon has some good affordable options for certain speciality bars).
Curl bars (aka EZ bars) are arguably the most useful speciality weightlifting bar you can get. They are perfect for isolation and accessory lifts like curls, reverse curls, overhead tricep extensions, skill crushers, barbell pull overs, underhand rows, and upright rows.
They are 4ft in length, around 30lbs (EZ bars have no standard weight), and they use the same weight plates that you will use for your main barbell.
The real benefit of having an EZ bar is that you have varying degrees of pronation thanks to the bent shape of the bar. This allows the aforementioned lifts to be easier on the joints and tendons of the elbows and wrist. So, while they won’t build more muscle than a regular barbell, they will enable you to get similar growth in a more comfortable manner.
Another benefit of having a curl bar on hand is that you can make your workouts more efficient. You won’t need to keep switching weights up if you were doing supersets. For example, if you were doing barbell rows superset with barbell curls, you could have both your main barbell and curl bar loaded and ready to go so no need to keep taking off and putting on plates.
Overall, curl bars are not necessary, but they are effective for building muscle in your arms and they can help people who have elbow pain when curling with a straight barbell. You’ll be able to find plenty of use for them on days you are training your arms.
Related: 15 Best EZ Bar Exercises
Trap bars have a hexagonal shape, hence them being called hex bars as well.
They weigh about 45lbs, they take the same standard weight plates you use on a straight barbell, and the grip places your hand in a neutral position.
You stand in the middle of them when lifting.
They are mainly used for deadlifts and trap raises, but they can also be used in other unconventional ways. But, let’s just stick to the two main uses for them, as these alone provide interesting variety to your hypertrophy training.
First, your ankle and knee have less limitations than with straight bar deadlifts. You can get more bend in your knees and ankles, which allows you to almost have the same form as a squat but with a different load placement. Changing the placement of the load is important training variable that many lifters overlook. It changes the stress placed on your muscles, which is great for hypertrophy and strength. And while you can do a deadlift with squat form, which places more emphasis on your quads, you can also use the same form as a conventional deadlift with a straight barbell.
Second, the trap bar puts your hands in a neutral grip position. Hand position is another important training variable that changes how stress is placed on your muscles. For both deadlifts and trap raises, the emphasis is placed on your traps more due to the neutral grip. What's more, most people have a stronger grip when in a neutral grip position, so you can likely lift more weight. You will be less limited by grip strength with a trap bar.
Related: How to Improve Grip Strength
Third, they have a higher handle position as the handles are raised above. This means a shorter range of motion for deadlifts. Because of that and the neutral grip, you should be able lift slightly heavier weight. Those with limited hip mobility or back issues from deadlifting will particularly benefit from the raised handles. Note: You can also use the lower handle position if you want a greater range of motion.
Lastly, trap bar deadlifts are just overall easier on the joints. It’s easier to get into a proper deadlift posture. With trap bar deadlifts, you are less likely to strain your lower back.
Overall, the trap bar is great. It is very effective, which is why every gym will have one. Nevertheless, it can never replace a regular barbell.
Related: How Much Does A Hex Bar Weigh?
Safety squat bars have arms that come off the bar and padding that goes around the neck. This allows the bar to sit comfortably and you can hold onto the handles.
If you lack shoulder mobility, the handles solve that problem. But, in our opinion, if you don’t have enough shoulder mobility to hold onto the bar during a back squat, that should be addressed first (although some massive body powerlifters are just so big that it lessens their mobility).
But, it’s not just about shoulder mobility. Safety squat bars shift the center of gravity, which changes the mechanics of the squat. It allows you to get a deeper range of motion by clearing up space for the hips. Thus, it’s also good for those who lack hip mobility or just for anyone who wants to train in a deeper range of motion for squats while maintaining a more upright position, the safety bar squat works.
That said, if you can front squat with a regular barbell, you will have a similar effect of opening up the hips and allowing you to go deeper. The issue is, a lot of people have trouble holding the bar in position for a front squat, and with the safety squat bar, it’s easy thanks to the yoke handles.
Overall, safety squat bars are easier on the low back and they are good for those who lack shoulder mobility. This is why powerlifters like safety squat bars. You can train heavy, safely. However, for the average lifter, these are very unnecessary. In fact, this is the least necessary of all the barbells we’ve mentioned yet.
Oh, and by the way, they typically weigh around 60-65lbs.
Related: Benefits of Safety Squat Bars
The Swiss bar is an upper body weightlifting bar that allows you to have a neutral grip (or slightly pronated depending on the Swiss bar) of varying widths (remember, training variables are good!). It can be used for benching, overhead pressing, rowing, hammer curling, and tricep extensions. The neutral or slightly pronated grip changes the dynamics of all of these exercises. Moreover, it is easier on the shoulders, which is good for someone with shoulder issues or those who just came back from rehab.
They weight around 35lbs, they take the same plates like the rest of the barbells, and they are long enough to fit in a squat rack or bench press.
Overall, it is a cool weightlifting bar that can add variety to your training, which can certainly help for building muscle. BUT, none of these kinds of exercises are necessary in the grand scheme of strength or hypertrophy training.
Cambered bars are arched and they weigh anywhere from 45-85lbs. They take normal weight plates as well.
Cambered bars are made for squatting.
The benefit of cambered bars is that they allow your upper body to stay vertical, training your squat in proper form and max depth. The load placement also places greater emphasis on your posterior chain.
Like the safety squat bar, cambered bars are a little safer and easier on the back. They can help people get stronger in their squat.
Are they needed? Absolutely not. These are about as necessary as a safety squat bar.
While there are many other specialty barbells, that about covers the ones you should even consider.
If you have the wherewithal, then get an EZ curl bar, trap bar, and a Swiss bar. Any lifter who focuses on hypertrophy and strength training can find good use of them all.
If we had to just choose one, it would be an EZ curl bar. If we could choose two, it would be an EZ curl bar and a trap bar.
If you have specific needs, then you need to take that into consideration. For example, if you have shoulder issues, then maybe a Swiss bar would be most beneficial for you.
ALL YOU NEED IS A MAIN BARBELL
If all you could buy was one piece of equipment for building muscle and strength, a barbell would be the ultimate choice. While specialty bars, dumbbells and cable machines are nice to have, they are just conveniences. With just a barbell and plates, you have everything you need to build muscle, get stronger and into fantastic shape.
So, if you can make just one investment, make it a barbell with a set of weight plates.
Related: Barbell Size & Weight Chart
Since the vast majority of us are buying a barbell for hypertrophy and strength training, let’s start there.
Best barbell for strength training and bodybuilding (Power Barbells):
Best Olympic Barbell for Olympic lifting:
Best Multipurpose Barbell:
If you are working out from home and you want to squat, then you need a squat rack, power rack or folding rack.
If you're in the market for a new rack to add to your home gym checkout our posts below that compare the best racks available today.
If you have the money to spend, it would be great to get a bench press. However, if you buy just a bunch, you can set up for benching with most squat racks. Consider this when buying your squat rack as you may just need a bench.
With a bench and a squat rack, you can do all the barbell lifts - squat, bench press (incline and flat), deadlifts (you just need a floor for this), rows, overhead press (again you can use the squat rack for this set up), rack pulls, curls, and so on.
Read our guide on what weight dumbbells you should buy for your home gym.
Have questions? Please feel free to contact us! We are glad to help.
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