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Fact checked by Kirsten Yovino, CPT Brookbush InstituteFACT CHECKED
December 02, 2021
Recently, we were asked, "what is a deadlift bar, and should I buy one?". To answer that question, a deadlift bar is slightly longer and thinner than a traditional barbell so that the bar bends in the middle, which creates a whip effect, enabling the lifter to lift the bar higher before the weight plates leave the ground. As a result, the deadlift bar can help to boost the amount of weight lifted but this advantage is mainly for top-tier lifters. This post will dig deeper into the deadlift bar, the benefits/disadvantages, and how it compares with other popular types of bars.
The deadlift is one of the most recognizable lifts in the fitness world. There are multiple variations of the deadlift, but we'll only describe the standard deadlift. Put simply; the deadlift is an exercise where you pull a loaded barbell off of the floor until you're standing up straight and the bar is at your thighs. You then slowly lower the bar to the starting position back to the floor.
The deadlift is one of the three main powerlifting exercises, with the other two being the squat and bench press. Compared to these other two exercises, the deadlift is a total body strengthening exercise that can help you build both upper and lower body muscles.
The deadlift is a technical lift that requires good form and technique. We always recommend adding a form of deadlifts into your workout programming, barring any conditions where the exercise wouldn't be possible.
Deadlifts offer some fantastic benefits, including building more muscle mass throughout the body, boosting metabolism, burning calories, enhancing balance and stability, improving posture, and helping you function better in daily life activities.
Deadlifts can be done with various equipment, including; barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells resistance bands, cable and Smith machines, and of course, the deadlift bar!
There are plenty of deadlift variations that can keep your workouts fresh and productive. Don't be intimidated by this exercise; if done correctly, people from all walks of life can enjoy the benefits of this legendary movement.
Related: Deadlift Exercise Guide
A deadlift bar is exactly as it sounds; a bar used for deadlifting. Most people outside of the powerlifting world might not know about the deadlift bar but have probably seen one in action at one time or another.
A deadlift bar is a specialized barbell that is made to withstand heavy loads and bend towards the center so that the lifter can pull more weight. For example, if you've ever seen Eddie Hall or Thor from Game of Thrones deadlift 500kg (over 1,000lbs), the bar looks like it's bent in the middle, with each end closer to the floor than the center of the bar. This bend or whip in the bar allows the lifter to build up more speed and momentum before lifting the weight from the floor. This extra speed can enable powerlifters to lift more total weight when deadlifting.
Deadlift bars usually are found with the following characteristics:
For information on how the deadlift bar compares to other types, head to our article on the 12 Types of Weightlifting Bars.
Better Grip: Deadlift bars are thinner than standard barbells, which help increase the bar's bend and support a better grip on the bar. The thicker the bar, the more your grip strength is challenged, so this slight difference can help add some lbs to your deadlift.
Bigger Lifts: Using a deadlift bar makes it possible to lift more weight because of how it's built. There's more whip and bend in the bar resulting in a higher starting point of the center of the bar, and more momentum before the weight plates leave the ground. Regular stiff bars don't have this feature, so you'll have to pull the weight in a greater range of motion.
Great for Sumo Deadlifts: The deadlift bar will have a wider distance between the sleeves, making it easier to get into a wider stance. Also, when doing Sumo deadlifts, the most challenging part of the lift is getting the weight off the floor, so the whip in the bar makes it easier to start the movement and decreases the total range of motion.
Limited Versatility: Deadlift bars pretty much have a singular purpose, to help increase your total deadlift weight. You shouldn't use deadlift bars other exercises if you’re lifting extremely heavy weights. where the bar's bend isn't ideal, like squats or bench press. You wouldn't want the bar to be bending when doing multiple reps, as it could lead to instability.
Weakens Floor Lift: One advantage of the deadlift bar is that it makes it easier to lift the bar off the ground due to the whip. However, this advantage is a disadvantage if you want to become stronger at this portion of the lift.
Not Allowed at All Competitions: The deadlift bar can help set new lifting records but isn't always allowed in competitions (this is why you see higher numbers in federations like the USPA, because they allow it, whereas the IPF doesn't). Therefore, if you've been doing all your training with a deadlift bar and then the competition you're participating in won't allow the bar, then you might've diminished your chances of doing well.
Power bars are the most frequently used bars in gyms worldwide due to their versatility and durability. These bars are around 7 feet long and stiff, making them an excellent choice to perform controlled exercises without getting any whip or bend in the bar.
You can use power bars for all the big compound lifts and isolation lifts. Power bars will have high tensile strength to keep from bending and will have more knurling on the shaft to help provide traction in exercises like back squats. The bar will be thicker than a deadlift bar, and the sleeves will have some ability to spin. Power bars will also usually be cheaper compared with deadlift bars.
The main difference between the Olympic bar and deadlift bar is the intended use. Olympic bars should be used with Olympic weightlifting exercises, like the snatch and the clean and jerk. These explosive movements also require some whip in the bar that allows some flexibility similar to the deadlift bar.
However, the bar differs because the sleeves are built differently so that repeated dropping won't damage the bar. There are ball bearings in the sleeves that provide superior rotation so that the lifter can get under the bar in a fluid movement without releasing the grip.
Olympic bars tend to be shorter than deadlift bars but have longer sleeves. The last significant difference is that deadlift bars should have much more aggressive knurling to help with grip. In contrast, Olympic bars will be less aggressive so that the lifter can slide their hands out on the bar during explosive movements.
These bars share a common use, to perform deadlifts; that's where the similarities end. The deadlift bar is a straight bar usually 7.5 feet in length, while the trap bar is hexagonal shaped where the lifter will stand in the center.
Another big difference besides the design and shape of these two bars is that when the lifter is doing deadlifts, they will use a neutral grip when using a trap bar but will use a standard pronated or overhand grip when using a deadlift bar.
Here is a more in-depth look at the differences between barbell and trap bar deadlifts, as well as how much a hex bar weighs, just in case you don't know.
A deadlift bar is worth it if you're a serious powerlifter and want to squeak out some extra weight while shooting for a new PR or one-rep max. However, for the majority of most people, a deadlift bar isn't a necessity.
Overall, the deadlift bar is excellent for one thing only; helping you to deadlift more weight, but this only matters once you're already lifting hundreds of pounds. If you're deadlifting under 350lbs, this type of bar probably isn't required.
Deadlift bars aren't cheap, and there's a limited selection of manufacturers for this specialized piece of equipment.
You should consider the following factors when shopping for a deadlift bar:
Budget: Let's face it, the budget might not be your biggest concern if you're shopping for a deadlift bar, as they are generally much more expensive than a regular barbell. You're looking at anywhere from $200- $600 for one of these bad boys.
Load Capacity: The max loads will reach up to 1200lbs (545kgs), and the empty bar will weigh 45lbs (20kgs). Not all deadlift bars are created equal so have a look at the PSI rating.
Whip: Most deadlift bars will claim to have great whip because that's one of the main reasons for purchasing one. Take your time to look at the reviews, images, and videos of the deadlift bar you're considering buying.
Knurling: The knurling on a deadlift bar can vary in aggressiveness. The best way to tell which bar is best for you would be to touch/feel it but if you're shopping online, check the verified reviews to see what previous buyers are saying.
Finish: Deadlift bars, similar to other bars, come in various finishes to protect the steel from corrosion and/or damage. This is more of a personal preference and shouldn't change the performance of the equipment much, but if you're spending hundreds of dollars, then you might want to buy one that you think looks cool.
If you're buying specialized equipment like this, you'll want it to last a lifetime, so make sure to check the warranty, reviews, and specifications. Do your research when shopping for a deadlift bar or you could check our post the Best Deadlift Bars available on the market today.
DO POWERLIFTING COMPETITIONS ALLOW THE USE OF DEADLIFT BARS?
There are multiple powerlifting competitions worldwide, and each competition has various rules and regulations. The USAPL and the IPF use the stiff/power bar for all competitions and all three exercises.
The USPA allows for usage of the deadlift bar, which is why you might see some heavier lifts in this competition. You should always check the rules and regulations of the competition you're attending so you know if you should be training deadlift while using a deadlift bar.
WHY ARE DEADLIFT BARS LONGER?
Deadlift bars are longer than stiff bars so that the lifter can lift more weight off the ground. With the weight plates further from the center of the bar, it means that the bar can bend to a greater degree, leading to heavier weight lifted. This whip or bend in the bar indicates that the bar is higher in its path before the load leaves the floor.
HOW MUCH MORE CAN YOU PULL WITH A DEADLIFT BAR?
Using a deadlift bar gives a slight advantage over a stiff bar and is thought to increase deadlift ability by up to 5%. There are several factors at play, but generally speaking, the deadlift bar should be able to help you deadlift slightly heavier weights once you're lifting hundreds of pounds. The heavier you can deadlift, the more a deadlift bar will help you.
CAN I SQUAT WITH A DEADLIFT BAR?
Yes, for most of the population, you can use a deadlift bar for other exercises such as squats, bench press, or overhead press. The exception to this rule would be the genetic freaks pushing weights over at least 400 lbs. You wouldn't want to necessarily be squatting with a deadlift bar if you're using loads fit for Strongmen competitions.
Ok so, now you know a little more about what is a deadlift bar. We believe that the deadlift bar is a highly specialized piece of equipment that is only necessary for the beasts who are deadlifting over 400 pounds.
If you're not in this group, then purchasing a deadlift bar might not be the best bang for your buck; stick with a standard stiff bar for now. Instead, focus on your deadlift form and train hard; one day, you might be one of the few who could get some actual use out of a deadlift bar.
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