Five key points from the guide:
- The best budget barbell overall is the ForceUSA Gunner.
- The Fringe Wonder W2 and Cerakote Utility bar by Bells of Steel are close runner-ups.
- You can get a Rogue Ohio bar by spending 10-20% more than you would on the Wonder or the Utility bar.
- The best budget Olympic bar is the GetRXD Rocket.
- The top-rated budget pick among power bars is the Rogue Ohio E-coat.
Best Power Bar
Rogue OHIO Power Bar
ForceUSA Gunner Barbell
Finding true value in a saturated barbell market of 2022 seems much more challenging now than it did a few days ago. That’s because when I set out to write this guide, I didn’t know “where all the bodies are buried.”
Most of them are right there in the fine print.
At Strong Home Gym we pride ourselves on these reviews. We dive deep with our research to make sure you get the best possible advice. Having bought a LOT of barbells over the years, I’ve learned you don’t want to make a bad decision.
And when buying at the cheaper end of the market, it’s very easy to make a bad decision.
In the early days I bought cheap barbells that bent within months. I’ve bought barbells where the knurling dulled quickly, or where the coating chipped within a few uses. All expensive mistakes.
You may not be able to tell from these images, but these two live in my barbell graveyard… one is bent like a banana and on the other, the knurling has flattened so it’s basically non-existent!
The good news is that when you cut through the information overload, there are some awesome budget bars for under $300…even under $200.
Let’s get right to it.
- 9 best budget barbells
- 1 – Best budget barbell overall – ForceUSA Gunner bar
- 2 – Runner-up budget barbell – W2 Wonder bar by Fringe
- 3 – Third best budget pick – Utility multipurpose bar by Bells of Steel
- 4 & 5 – Best budget barbells from Rogue – Ohio bar in e-coat & bare steel
- Honorary mention – Best cheap hybrid barbell under $200 – E.T. ENERGIC
- 6 – Best budget Olympic barbell overall – GetRXd Rocket
- 7 – Best budget (cheap) Olympic barbell – XMark BLACKHAWK
- 8 – Best budget power bar overall – Rogue OHIO POWER BAR in E-COAT
- 9 – Best budget powerlifting barbell under $200 – Barenaked 2.0 by Bells of Steel
- Choosing a good budget barbell – buyer's guide
- Methodology – how we assess and rate budget barbells
- Other budget barbells – close but no cigar picks
- Best Budget Barbell FAQ
- Best budget barbell – the bottom line
9 best budget barbells
(and one honorary mention)
Our budget picks include 9 barbells in total:
- 5 multipurpose barbells
- 2 bars for Olympic lifting
- 2 dedicated powerlifting barbells
In all three categories, we’ll have at least one “cheap” pick that lives in an even narrower price bracket.
|Name||Rating (out of 18)||Price||Defining feature / characteristic|
|ForceUSA Gunner Barbell||11.8||$$||Overall/ high tensile strength|
|W2 Wonder bar by Fringe||11.5||$$$||both bushing and bearing version available|
|Utility bar by Bells of Steel||11.4||$$$||cerakote coating|
|Rogue Ohio (e-coat and bare steel)||11.3 and 11.1 respectively||$$$$||premium craftmanship / high-end bar|
|Force USA Ranger||10.8||$$||bushings-bearings combo|
|Honorary mention – E.T.ENERGIC||10.3||$||cheaper than the competition|
|Name||Rating (out of 19.7)||Price||Defining feature|
|GetRXd Rocket bar||13.1||$$||hard chrome sleeves|
|XMark BLACKHAWK||10.4||$+||cheaper than the competition|
|Name||Rating (out of 18.6)||Price||Defining feature|
|Rogue OHIO Power bar in E-coat||13.3||$$$||high-end bar|
|Barenaked Powerlifting Bar 2.0||12.7||$$||hard chrome sleeves|
1 – Best budget barbell overall – ForceUSA Gunner bar
Rating: 11.8 out of 18
My initial reaction to 235K PSI of tensile strength was skepticism because I know that steel gets into the 220K+ range. Simply put – it might become too brittle for a barbell in the process.
Now, there are a few high-end brands like Kabuki that use proprietary (I hate that word so much) tech to allow for their steel to go that high without becoming brittle.
Long story short – I looked into the Gunner for a few guides and I am yet to see proof that it’s brittle. Of course, none of these bars will break because of brittleness because no one is pushing them to capacity.
You might see some damage to the knurling at the higher-tension moments, like returning the bar to the rack or dropping it.
I asked ForceUSA about it
I haven’t seen any of that with the Gunner, which is why I wrote to Force USA asking them what they’re doing exactly to offset the potential issue that comes with high tensile strength.
I’m still waiting on that response.
The bottom line – When all is said and done – getting a bar with this kind of tensile strength in this low price range is nothing short of impressive. All the other aspects are on-par with the competition, but the strength stands out.
- Highest tensile strength on the list – you can confidently pack on weight (bar listed at 1,500 lbs) without worrying that your bar might bend
- High-value barbell – you’ll spend about 15-20% less than you would on most bars on the list
- Good spin – balanced by both bushings and bearings, the spin will slightly help with some lifts and protect your wrists
- Coated in Zinc – it won’t be as resistant as hard chrome or Cerakote
2 – Runner-up budget barbell – W2 Wonder bar by Fringe
Rating: 11.5 out of 18
The second version of the Wonder bar DID what the first version TRIED – become one of the most well-rounded budget barbells.
At least that’s what Fringe says…
I’d say that’s not really the case because the W1 was a…how do I put this…a crappy bar. The steel quality wasn’t there, and it was prone to bending.
We can talk spin and knurling ’till kingdom come, but if the bar bends too much (we don’t mind a bit of whip, but there’s a limit!), it might as well be made out of wood.
That’s as much of your time as I’m willing to waste talking about the first version of the Wonder bar.
Steel quality is where the main upgrade happened with W2. Fringe moved onto solid steel of 205K PSI of tensile and 160K of yield strength.
For a budget barbell, that’s as good as it gets.
Bottom line – the second version of the Wonder bar earns the title of the second-best budget barbell without dominating a single category.
There’s “Olympic” in the name, but you get optional bushings for a medium spin and dual knurl marks – and that’s a multipurpose bar.
What I mean by that:
- It’s excellent in a few aspects, like the spin
- It’s as good as similar bars in most aspects
- There’s not a single thing about it that I’d qualify as a deal-breaker
Note: One more version of the Wonder V2 bar hit the market recently, but it’s not worth talking about in our context today. It is good (better than W2, in fact) but doesn’t fall under the “budget” umbrella.
- Made of solid steel with high tensile and yield strength – you can confidently pack on more weight without worrying about bending.
- Both bearings and bushings are offered for the sleeves – you can choose the bearings for more spin (better for fast lifts) and the bushings (for slower powerlifts). This allows you to customize the bar more for the type of training you do.
- Lifetime warranty – you can get the bar without stressing over potentially wasted money.
- Cool, all-black design – will add some oomph to any home gym.
- Zinc coating isn’t very resistant – you’ll see some wear and corrosion over time, especially if you live in a humid area.
- Bearings in this price range aren’t great – there’s a good chance you’ll have to go through the hassle of replacing the bar if the bearings malfunction.
It’s a stiff bar – you won’t get any “help” (whip) from the bar’s momentum (only a CON if you’re used to softer, whippier bars or if you’re big on Olympic lifts)
3 – Third best budget pick – Utility multipurpose bar by Bells of Steel
Rating: 11.4 out of 18
Unlike the Wonder bar, there is a clear-cut reason why the Utility is the second-best budget barbell.
It’s the only Cerakote-coated legit multipurpose bar in the price range.
Let’s break that sentence down…
I’m stressing the ‘legit multipurpose’ part because there is a similar bar from Synergee that poses as a multipurpose, but it’s really not.
Synergee Games is too ‘spinny’ for your average home lifter and features sub-par phosphate sleeves (remember that I promised to point out a few buried bodies).
The Utility bar further proves that most of the industry is sleeping on two value brands that keep popping up in my research time and again – Bells of Steel and Force USA.
A note about the popularity of the two best budget barbells
As the data sample grows, I expect to see this bar at the very top.
Not to bore you with back-end stuff, but our ratings partly rely on the bar’s popularity among lifters. It’s not ideal, I know, but it’s the closest we can get to rating these fairly. The collective brain of the community is powerful, and we can’t ignore that entirely.
Now, this barbell is not as popular as the Wonder, but Bells of Steel is not as popular as Fringe.
The bottom line- If I excluded popularity as a factor, the Utility bar would pop right above the W2 and into the top spot with a nice margin of 0.2 points.
- Cerakote coating is significantly more resistant than the coatings typically used in this price range – this means your bar will last longer, change less with time, and require less maintenance.
- Available color choices for the shaft – you can add a pop of color to your gym (currently available in orange and blue). Not a performance ‘pro’, but some people like pretty things!
- Excellent packing and on-time shipping – no chance of your bar getting dinged or damaged in shipping (might seem like a given while it’s anything but in this price range).
- At 1000 lbs, the weight capacity is lower than the competitors – if you’re a beastly creature that lifts half a ton, you’re probably better off with the Wonder bar or Rogue Ohio.
- Ceramic coating dulls the knurling a peg more than Zinc or Chrome – if you’re used to bare or stainless steel bars, Cerakote might feel passive.
Cerakote sleeves are sensitive to metal-on-metal contact – you’ll need to invest extra care (and money) into getting good collars. Read all about collars in our best barbell collars buying guide.
4 & 5 – Best budget barbells from Rogue – Ohio bar in e-coat & bare steel
Rating: 11.3 (e-coat) & 11.1 (bare steel) out of 18
I decided to be flexible about what I call a “budget barbell” when choosing the candidates for this guide, and I allowed for a 5-10% leeway over the $300 bracket.
This minor adjustment means I can include the two cheapest versions of the Ohio bar – e-coat and bare steel.
If I didn’t do that, I’d have to settle for the ECHO to represent Rogue, and I was never a fan. The 1-year warranty raises too many questions…especially for a bar from a brand that brags about warranty policies oh-so-proudly.
- It comes from a high-end brand – high-precision manufacturing and an added coolness factor that comes with the Rogue logo.
- Treated with Rogue Work Hardening – if you’re in the habit of dropping your barbell, Ohio will handle it better than any barbell in the price range.
- Bare steel offers a more natural grip – no coating means a better grip because there’s nothing between the steel and your hands.
- Environment-friendly – both bare steel and e-coat are stable and have no volatile compounds that might end up in the air.
- Cost more than the competing barbells – you’d need to spend 10-30% more than you would on most barbells on the list.
Bare steel is not resistant to corrosion – your bar will rust much faster than the coated ones, especially if you live in a humid area. You’ll REALLY have to stay on top of barbell maintenance if you have a bare steel bar.
Honorary mention – Best cheap hybrid barbell under $200 – E.T. ENERGIC
Rating: 10.3 out of 18
I want to make this clear…I wouldn’t go below $200 when shopping for my main barbell.
And if I did, I’d buy used.
I know the cost of everything that goes into making a good barbell, and corners have to be cut to make one that ticks the basic boxes and still costs under 200 bucks.
If I had to buy new in this price range, there are only a handful of barbells I’d consider.
I’d look at E.T., the WOD 5.0 from GetRXD, and maybe the Synergree Games.
Once you go below $200, things change and get more complicated for the reviewer and, in turn, the potential buyer. That’s especially true if you don’t have the bar in front of you, which I don’t in the case of E.T.
You can’t take the specs at face value and have to question everything.
I questioned (almost) everything, and this bar came on top of the sub-200 bunch.
- Cheap – you pay almost half of what you would for the barbells in the top spots.
- Massive value for the money – high tensile strength (200 K PSI) and hard chrome sleeves amount to great bang for your buck.
- Well-balanced 1.2 mm knurl – you’ll get a better grip on the E.T. than you would on most bars in its price range.
- Features both bushings and bearing in the sleeves – you’ll get a nice spin without the bar feeling “bouncy.”
- Rugged construction – friction welding of the sleeves is not common in this price bracket. The construction and solid welds inspire confidence, which is not something you can say for many barbells in the price bracket.
- Black chrome is not resistant to scratches – you’re likely to see some wear and tear on the shaft…and fast.
- Manufacturing standards are not as high and tolerances are not as strict as with high-end brands like Rogue – you’ll see imperfections, and not everything will always line up.
Sub-par packaging – your bar is more likely to arrive dinged or scratched.
6 – Best budget Olympic barbell overall – GetRXd Rocket
Rating: 13.1 out of 19.2
In an age of labels, it’s pretty early to buy me with a bit of machined-in grove. The machined white-on-yellow logo on the first thing you notice on the Rocket barbell.
And it does the trick – it makes the bar look much more expensive than it is.
But I’m straying from the important points, so let’s get back on track…
What makes the Rocket Olympic barbell the best? Is it much better than the competition?
Well, no… it’s just as good but delivers the goods at a 20-30% lower price. This is massive – why pay more?
That’s especially true for the closest competitors in the price range – the Stealth bar and the Wonder bar V2 (which we already discussed as the all-around category winner).
One thing we weren’t sure about is how different “oil-impregnated” bushings are. It turns out – very, primarily in terms of maintenance/oiling. We reached out to GetRXD and asked. You can see what they said about it below…
A few things about the Rocket bar stand out:
- The combo of oversized bearings and bronze bushings delivers a well-balanced spin.
- The sleeves lean towards spinny without actually overdoing it.
- The hard chrome finish is a rarity in this price range.
- The other bars that feature hard chrome all fall into two groups – those that combine hard chrome sleeves with phosphate shaft and those that cost more than the Rocket.
- Cheaper than bars of similar quality – you’ll pay about 20% less.
- The spin is just as smooth as in a bearing-only Olympic barbell – protects your wrists in cleans and jerks, feels good in hand, and it’s a solid choice for Crossfit workouts.
- Oil-impregnated bushings mean less maintenance – less external lubrication, less hassle for you.
- Precise, medium-depth knurl – you’ll get a good grip without the bar cutting into your hands.
- Knurling termination (parts where the knurl starts and stops) could be more precise – it might bother you if you’re a craftsmanship prude…the Ron Swanson type.
- The bar might be too spinny for some “bumpers” – if you’re in the habit of bumping the bar of your hips, the spin might mess with your stability (“the bump” is something you’ll want to fix anyway, so this isn’t an actual CON for me) – Just a point, I’m not sure that’s a real con for me. Bumping the bar pushes it away from the body, but it won’t actually impart any spin on the plates.
- I’d go with a con being ‘The high spin bar might be too much for people who don’t incorporate much (if any) olympic weightlifting movements in their training. If you’re powerlifting or bodybuilding, you won’t need the additional spin’.
7 – Best budget (cheap) Olympic barbell – XMark BLACKHAWK
Rating: 10.4 out of 19.2
I’m writing this, and I’m not sure if the best cheap Olympic barbell is the best way to describe the Blackhawk.
Perhaps, the cheapest among the good Olympic bars is a better way to put it.
I’m splitting hairs here because I’m not comfortable describing a bar as “cheap” if it features needle bearings and hard chrome sleeves.
Buyer beware of cheap bearings
I do want to stress that I made an exception here because I don’t usually recommend needle bearings in the low price range. That’s because I know how much good bearings cost, and I know that cheap ones aren’t great.
That can mean two things:
- More time invested in maintenance.
- A bar that won’t spin after a while.
Of course, there’s the off-chance of both those things happening.
Finally, a higher percentage of faulty products is typical when you go this low price-wise. I’ve seen reports of people getting faulty bars. In my estimate, the faults account for about 5% of all Blackhawk barbells and range from rubbery smell to imbalanced bars.
This wouldn’t be that much of a problem if the XMark customer service were more responsive.
Still, if you’re on a shoestring budget, the low risk of getting a faulty bar (and potentially being stuck with it ) is worth it.
- Cheaper than any of the good budget Olympic barbells we looked at – you’d spend 40-50% less.
- The bang for the buck is second-to-none in its price range – spending less is a big deal for the conservative buyer.
- Solid warranty of 90 days against bending – you get more peace of mind than you would with your average money-back warranty (typical for the price bracket).
Phosphate coating isn’t impact-resistant – it will chip away with time, leaving the bar vulnerable to corrosion.
8 – Best budget power bar overall – Rogue OHIO POWER BAR in E-COAT
Rating: 13.3 out of 18
If you can get any Rogue Ohio bar for a price similar to ANY competitor, 8 times out of 10, it will be a good idea to go with Rogue.
The Ohio power bar with an e-coat is just as good as the famous Texas bar but costs slightly less.
On the other hand, the few good cheap power bars from lesser brands can’t compete in manufacturing practices and the details like knurling termination and tolerances.
- A power bar from a high-end brand – high manufacturing and customer service standards mean you get what you pay for.
- Treated with RWH (Rogue Work hardening) – Rogue claims RWH makes the bar more resistant to dropping.
- US-made – not a PRO per se, but there’s still added confidence compared to imported bars.
- It costs more than some good power bars – you’ll pay 30-50% more than you would for bars like the Bells of Steel Barenaked 2.0 or the Titan Midway.
E-coat is less corrosion-resistant than hard chrome – it will require more maintenance, and you’re still likely to see more rust than you would with hard chrome (used on some of the competitors like the Texas bar).
9 – Best budget powerlifting barbell under $200 – Barenaked 2.0 by Bells of Steel
Rating: 12.7 out of 18
This is the bar I had in mind when I said “power bars from lesser brands.”
The Barenaked currently costs about 30% less than the Ohio and ticks most of the same boxes. One could even argue that bare steel feels better in hand than e-coat, which is no small thing for a power bar.
- Cheap – you’ll spend about 30% less than you would on the Ohio of the Texas bars.
- Bare steel doesn’t dull the knurl – the bar will feel grippier, which is a big plus when you’re smashing those personal bests.
- Hard chrome on the sleeves – it’s more durable than Zinc or e-coat that you get with the Ohio.
The bare steel shaft has zero corrosion resistance – it will need more maintenance & attention on your side and will still rust in time.
Choosing a good budget barbell – buyer’s guide
We discussed the factors to consider when choosing a barbell at great length in our main guide on best barbells which you can see here.
Here, I’ll keep it concise and focus on the parts specific to the process of trying to buy a good barbell on a budget.
For the sake of simplicity, I’ll group these factors into primary and secondary based on their importance.
For some of these, we directly award points.
We’ll list the gravity (number of points they carry) for those. Others, like intended purpose, are descriptive and can’t be quantified.
6 primary factors of choosing a good value barbell
Intended purpose – hybrid home gym use, Power or Olympic lifting
All classic (non-specialty) barbells fall into three groups: hybrid or multipurpose, Olympic, and power bars.
Those are also the categories we chose our winners in.
Note: We only considered barbells with 2-inch sleeves, not the thin “standard” ones.
The low price bracket is a melting pot
The lower you go with the price bracket, the blurrier the line gets between an Olympic and a multipurpose bar. That’s why our top picks among the Olympic barbells have the word “Olympic” in the name but are not competition barbells.
Most of them even have dual knurl markings.
In other words – the manufacturers understood the budget market and adjusted these bars to cast a wider net.
A professional lifter preparing for an Olympic weightlifting event is not their demographic – it’s the roofer next door and the dental hygienist across the street who leads a keep-fit (or keep-buff) lifestyle… guys like you and me.
Anyway, the runner-up among the Olympic weightlifting barbells, the Blackhawk, is a multipurpose bar. The Wonder isn’t, although they say it is; it’s too spinny for an all-around bar.
What it all means for you
Simple…it means that if you don’t know what you’re looking for, the best budget barbell for you is probably a hybrid bar. It’ll be a jack of all trades and will suit all lifting styles to a decent level.
Those who specifically need an Olympic barbell or a power bar, knew it before they got here.
You can read more about the differences between the three groups in this section of our main barbell guide. link
Weight capacity of a budget barbell
(2 point gravity for multipurpose and 3 for power and Olympic bars)
This one is pretty straightforward, and it’s almost always in the bar’s specs.
It defines the maximum weight you can use with a barbell.
Unless you’re Eddie Hall, the weight capacity value is theoretical, and it’s more about the quality of the steel than an actual limit you might lift over. A bar listed at 1,500 is probably made of better steel than the one listed at 1,000 lbs.
Unless, of course, the manufacturer simply lies about it because who’s going to test it…
The bad news is that it does happen…the lying, I mean.
The good news is that listing weight capacities willy-nilly is never a sustainable long-term strategy. I’ve seen dozens of shady companies do it, and they never last. Even while they do, you won’t find their products in our guides.
You can see the weight capacities of the top 10 multipurpose budget bars in the graph below.
Yield and Tensile strength
(-1 to 1.5 points in our ratings)
Barbell tensile strength is a number that tells you how much force a bar can take before breaking. Yield strength is similar, but it’s rarely in the specs – it tells you the pressure a bar can handle before permanently bending.
You might see something like this in the specs: “tensile strength of 200,000 PSI.”
What does that mean exactly?
First things first – PSI is short for Pound per Square Inch.
That means if the steel were one square inch in cross-section (about 1.13 inches in diameter), it would hold 200.000 pounds without breaking.
What it all means for you?
It means you shouldn’t try to understand it if you don’t already and just go for the bars that are in the 165-220 K PSI range.
That’s where a high-quality barbell lives…most of them anyway.
The barbells with tensile strength under 165 might bend under the extreme weight that we, the Strong Home Gym tribe, lift.
Go over 220 K PSI, and the steel becomes brittle.
Spin – Bushings, bearings or both
(0 to 1.5 points in our ratings)
Unless you go for the really cheap barbells (and I advise against it), you get some sort of a system in the sleeves that allows them to spin.
That protects your wrists at sudden changes of direction, primarily in cleans and jerks, which is why the Oly barbells are the “spinniest.”
The power bars have little to no spin because stability is paramount in all the primary power movements – the squat, deadlift, and bench press.
Instead of going into detail about the difference between bearings, bushings, and the sub-types, I’ll drop a link to that section in the main guide here. link
Finish of the sleeves and shaft
(0 to 2 points in our ratings for the sleeve finish and 0 to 1.5 for the shaft)
Let’s just make sure we’re thinking of the same things – the sleeves are the end parts of the barbell where the weight plates go, and the shaft is the middle part you grab.
I can almost hear the eye-rolls, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t have the basics right.
Finish vs. coating of a weightlifting bar
The finish OR coating of your barbell will determine how resistant to mechanical and chemical “abuse” it is and how much it affects the feel of the barbell.
By “feel” I mean how much it dulls the knurling.
I used the word OR above because some finishes like bare steel aren’t a coating, they are the absence of.
One of those two finishes is the least resistant to corrosion (such as the Ohio bare steel bar), and one is the most resistant (stainless steel).
What you typically get in budget barbells
Most of the barbells in our database are coated in either Zinc or Chrome, with a few outliers using superior Cerakote or inferior phosphate. You don’t see stainless steel in the price ranges we’re looking at today.
The graph below explains it better than me rambling on.
Note: Make sure to note if the barbell specs say “chrome” or “hard chrome.”
Nine times out of ten, the former is just decorative chrome, which is of the least resistant coatings. Skip it and go for the ones using hard chrome.
You’ll know it; any brand that invests in hard chrome for their bars will shout it from the rooftops.
Warranty of a good budget barbell
(0 to 3.5 points in our ratings)
THE FACTOR with the highest gravity in our ratings because you can’t talk your way around it.
The industry lingo has gotten out of hand, and there are bars out there literally called “Beast’ with a tensile strength of 110 K…way below what I consider acceptable.
My point is that if you take the specs at face value and get caught up in the hype, you won’t see the forest for the trees.
If that happens and you feel overwhelmed, look at the warranty terms.
Maybe even do what I do – just skip any barbell without a Lifetime warranty. It makes things a heck of a lot easier.
The good news is that all but two of our top picks have a lifetime warranty. The exceptions are the two “cheap” bars – the E.T. Energic in the multipurpose category and the Blackhawk in the Olympic group.
The all-important price of a budget barbell
(0 to 2.5 points in our ratings)
Price carried fewer points than it typically does in our other barbell guides because the list was pre-filtered. We’ve gone for the budget barbells to begin with, so the separation between barbells wasn’t as significant.
But let’s take a step back here – what is a “budget barbell” anyway?
We crafted this whole guide around the milestones of $200, $250, and $300.
Occasionally, we allowed some wiggle room on the upper end of that range to give specific barbells a chance.
An example is Rogue Ohio, which you can get a few more bucks. So, we allowed it to slip into the budget category because you should absolutely know about it.
On the other end, we only went lower than $200 to find a few dirt-cheap barbells that might do the trick if you’re on a shoestring budget.
Summary of the primary factors
We looked at the factors that actually carried points and one basic primary factor here.
You can do a lot more reading on the basics of choosing a good barbell like length, sleeve and shaft diameter, the weight of the barbell, knurl marks, center knurling, and more in the main guide here.
Methodology – how we assess and rate budget barbells
“Exercise shouldn’t be expensive” was one of our core values from the get-go, so this guide carried some extra weight for us.
We might not be there yet, but it’s our goal to turn this page into THE GO-TO resource on budget barbells.
That meant going the extra mile – measuring and crunching the numbers where others offer opinions.
But enough bragging, this is precisely what we did for this guide.
1. We created a database of 60+ budget barbells.
2. We separated all bars into three groups: multipurpose, Olympic, and power bars.
3. We gathered all available data on the candidates, from objective to subject factors like popularity among lifters and owner satisfaction.
4. We contacted the manufacturers if we had missing data or were unclear about something. An example is asking GetRXD if “oil-impregnated bushings” are in any way different than regular bushings because the wording implies they require less maintenance (which they do).
5. We went through at least three iterations when pondering the gravity of the factors. That’s a fancy way of saying that assigning points to the factors was critical and anything but easy.
6. We picked our winners and analyzed every review of our picks to ensure we didn’t miss something that would be a deal-breaker.
Other budget barbells – close but no cigar picks
This section will cover a few low-cost-high-value barbells that deserve a mention but didn’t get into our top picks.
- Rogue Echo Bar 2.0 – the margin between the Echo and the Top 5 hybrid bars here is razor thin. Echo’s main “problem” is the 90-day warranty.
- GetRXD WOD bars 5.0 – the only bar that didn’t make the cut because of “penalty” points (for incomplete data). I have no idea why you’d leave out basics like the loadable sleeve and total length from the specs. We do like it, but it’s still a numbers game. Perhaps with more info it would have scored higher.
- Synergee Games – a good, needle-bearing bar with Cerakote sleeves. The phosphate shaft and the 1-year warranty kept it back from the finish line.
- XMark Voodoo – finishes of the shaft and sleeves are not good enough for the top 5.
Olympic barbell category
- GetRXD Stealth bar – if the price weren’t a factor, the Stealth bar would get the same rating as the Rocket. It’s pretty much the same bar; it only costs slightly more.
- Fringe Wonder V2 – the overall winner of the hybrid category is the third-best budget Olympic barbell. I already talked about the wording flexibility in the two categories that makes some bars eligible for both. If I weren’t flexible with the picks, I’d miss out on some crucial info for you, the reader.
- PRx Men’s Elite Olympic barbell – one of the few US-made barbells on the list. It was never reaching the top with only bronze bushings, though.
- Buddy Capps Texas Power Bar (The “Original”) – there are zero things wrong with this mythical beast; it just costs more than the competition.
- Titan Blues City – a true power bar with single marks that needs a better warranty. If you’re asking me to pay double than I would for the Midway, you better make sure I don’t have to worry about bending for at least five years.
Best Budget Barbell FAQ
Are cheap barbells good?
Cheap barbells can be very good for a home gym especially if you do not plan on lifting more than 400lbs with them.
There are more and more good companies producing Olympic barbells now that you can buy a very high-quality barbell for under $200.
Any cheap barbells that cost under $100 can’t typically take much weight over 300lbs and will often have a finish that rusts over time.
How much should a barbell cost?
A good quality Olympic barbell costs $200-$350. You can buy a great barbell for $250 that will last a lifetime.
There are cheaper bars that cost under $150, but they usually do not have as strong tensile strength and can be warped or rust over time.
What is a good cheap barbell?
The ForceUSA Gunner Barbell is a great cheap barbell for multi-purpose use.
It has 235k PSI tensile strength and uses a zinc finish, which is very resistant to rust and scratches.
After comparing over 100 barbells this is the best quality cheap barbell available currently.
What barbell is most adequate for beginners?
If price is a huge factor, the XMark BLACKHAWK is probably the best option for a beginner that wants to start trying out and incorporating barbell exercises into his/her workout regimen.
If price is not hugely important, I’d recommend the Force USA Gunner barbell, our overall winner for best budget barbell.
Best budget barbell – the bottom line
After around 50 hours of research for the budget barbell guide, a few clear winners emerged in the three categories.
To most people looking to add a good budget barbell to their home gym, I’d recommend the second version of the Wonder bar from Fringe.
It’s as well-rounded as any bar here and the most versatile because you can choose between the bearing and the bushing version.
If you really want to go cheap, the E.T. ENERGIC will be a real find.
Its price will leave you wondering what’s wrong with it. You’ll likely get a few answers within the first year of use. Still, it’s the best of the cheap ones.
Among the Olympic bars, I’d go with the Rocket bar from GetRXD. It’s the top budget pick and one of the cheapest we looked at, which rarely happens. Getting a bearing-bushing combo and a hard chrome coating would sound like a scam if you didn’t get a lifetime warranty. Good job with this one, GetRXD.
Finally, I’d go for the Rogue Ohio Power bar among the budget power bars. The cheaper bars are not nearly as good, and the ones that are as good cost more, and that says it all.
Click here if you want to skip back to the table with the top pick.
This is the bar that we recommend for ‘most people’.
We have spent over 120 hours of research and tested over 100 barbells.
It is affordable but comes with some high specs. The Rogue Work Hardening and 190k PSI tensile strength mean the bar will last a lifetime in a home gym.
It is a multi-purpose bar with a 28.5mm diameter shaft and composite bushings in the sleeves. This means it’s balanced for heavy slow bench presses but you can also perform snatches and fast overhead lifts.