Choosing the best budget barbell is not as simple as I thought it would be. There are tons of companies that create affordable barbells now and many of the reviews are pretty biased.
So I have spent over 40 hours researching over 100 barbells. I’ve personally tested many of them and ranked them all against a criteria including tensile strength, knurling, finish and price. You can learn more about this in the best Olympic barbell buying guide here.
Dozens of home gym users have shared their opinions about their own barbells. I’ve also taken the opinions from the personal trainers and gym owners that work here at Strong Home Gym.
With that being said… if you are in a hurry, I would recommend the XMark Blackhawk for most people. The high tensile strength, needle bearings in the sleeves and hard chrome finish make the quality of this bar as good as many that cost twice the price.
However, if you know you won’t perform any Olympic Weightlifting or CrossFit lifts, I would recommend the REP Sabre as the best budget power bar. It’s a bit cheaper than the Blackhawk and REP Fitness have great customer service and a 1-year warranty.
Best budget barbells
Here are the barbells that make the cut…
|Name||Best for||Price||Tensile Strength||Diameter||Finish||Knurl||Sleeves (Spin)||Rating (out of 12)|
|1. XMark Blackhawk||Budget multi-purpose||$$||185k||28||Hard chrome||Medium||Bearings||10|
|2. REP Sabre Bar||Budget power||$$||150k||25 or 28.5||Zinc||Medium||Bushings||9|
|3. Synergee Open Bar||Runner up multi-purpose||$$||150k||25 or 28||Black Phosphate||Medium||Bearings||6|
|4. Titan Olympic Power Bar||Runner up power||$$||165k||30||Chrome||Medium||Bushings||8|
|5. REP Basic Barbell||Cheapest||$||65k||30||Chrome||Medium||Bushings||5|
|6. Rogue Ohio Power bar||Powerlifting||$$$||205k||29||E-coat/ Zinc/ cerakote/ stainless steel||Volcano aggressive||Bushings||12|
|7. REP Gladiator Bar||Multi-purpose||$$$||230k||25 or 28||Hard Chrome||Medium||Bearings||12|
You can learn more about the criteria I used to assess the barbells later on. But for now, let’s dig into why these barbells are the best budget options around…
The XMark Blackhawk is the best barbell I found that you can buy for around $200.
To be honest… it’s the best budget barbell I found by quite a long way.
It has 185k PSI tensile strength, which is more than enough for even the strongest lifter. XMark claims it can hold 1,500lbs. Manufacturers often overestimate this but you can be sure it can withstand a lot of 700lbs drops from deadlifts… if you lift that much.
The medium depth knurling allows you to do high rep workouts (such as thrusters or CrossFit exercises). But it’s also grippy enough for those heavy deadlifts. It also comes with the useful IWF (hand placements for clean and jerk) and IPF (hand placement for bench press) knurling marks.
The needle bearings in the sleeves make the spin extra smooth. This also makes the spin super fast, which is ideal for Oly lifts such as the clean & jerk and the snatch.
The hard chrome finish is one of the most resistant types of finish that you can find for a barbell. It’s not going to rust or scratch easily and will look as good as new in a few years time.
Honestly, the next closest Olympic Weightlifting or multi-purpose bar for this price range is the Synergee Open bar, which isn’t bad at all. But here’s the big differences:
- 150k PSI (compared to 185k)
- Black phosphate coating, which is not as resistant to rust and can impede the knurling and grip (compared to hard chrome)
There are so many positive reviews from users that it really is hard to find anything this bar could do differently.
I would highly recommend this bar for most people if you’re in the market for a budget barbell.
- 185k PSI tensile strength- the highest of any barbell we found for this price.
- Hard chrome finish- very resistant to rust and scratches.
- 5 needle bearings in each sleeve- super smooth spinning sleeves making Oly Weightlifting or CrossFit movements possible.
- Medium knurling- grippy enough for deadlifts but it won’t rip your hands apart with high rep thrusters.
- Good customer service- XMark responds to questions very quickly.
- No center knurl- not as much grip on your back for heavy squats. But this is good if you plan on doing a lot of CrossFit workouts with thrusters as a center knurl would scrape your chest raw!
- 90-day warranty- much less than most companies offer.
The REP Sabre is a strong bar for an amazing price from a company with a great reputation.
REP Fitness has great customer service and a decent 1-year warranty for this bar.
The 150k PSI tensile strength is more than strong enough for most people. It can comfortably take over 500lbs of weight without damaging the bar.
Technically, this is not designed to be a power bar. But the dimensions and quality of it make it better than any other cheap power bars like the CAP “The Boss” Power Bar.
It has a 28.5mm diameter, which is slightly thinner than the standard 29mm power bar. The good thing about this is that it allows you to grip the bar better for heavy deadlifts. Even the world record breaking Texas Power Bar uses 28.5mm.
The bushings mean the sleeves spin slower than the Blackhawk which uses faster bearings. Although the spin is still very smooth.
The thicker diameter and bushings help the bar to be more rigid.
This means you won’t lose energy from having a lot of “whip”. Powerlifting movements such as the bench press, squat and deadlift benefit from this rigidity.
The zinc finish provides resistance to rust and scratches. Although it’s not as good as the more resistant cerakote or stainless steel, it is better than decorative chrome or black phosphate.
For most people that want to lift weights from home this is a great all round bar that I highly recommend.
- Reputable company- REPs customer support is renowned for being great.
- 150k PSI tensile strength- strong enough for most people to lift anything they want on there.
- Center knurling- provides extra grip on the back for squats.
- 28.5mm diameter- more rigid than 28mm bars, but is better for deadlift grip than 29mm.
- Zinc finish- protection against rust.
- 1 year warranty- peace of mind for any potential knurling defects or problems with the coating.
- Dual knurl markings are IWF/ IPF standard- the markings are 31” and 35” apart instead of the IWF/ IPF 32 and 36” standards. Just something to be aware of if you plan on competing at any competitions.
The Synergee Open bar is our second choice if you are looking for a budget multi-purpose bar.
The XMark Blackhawk is better for most things. However, Synergee offers a 1-year warranty compared to XMark’s 90 days. This may be a better choice for you if you’re looking for peace of mind and worry about any defects.
Even though I would recommend the Blackhawk first, this is still a very good budget barbell. The 150k PSI strength is a lot more than alternatives at a similar price range. For example CAPs “The Beast” bar costs about the same but only has 110k PSI.
The Open bar also uses faster spinning needle bearings in the sleeves. This means that your wrists won’t be forced into unnatural positions when lifting the bar above your head for movements such as the clean and jerk or snatches.
- 150k PSI strength tensile- strong enough to handle more weight than most people can lift.
- 4 needle bearings in each sleeve- makes the sleeves spin faster than bushings, which is ideal if you plan on doing Oly Weightlifting movements.
- 1 year warranty- peace of mind if your bar picks up any unnatural defects in year 1.
- Standard knurling- provides enough grip for deadlifts but won’t scrape your hands apart for high rep overhead lifts.
- Black phosphate finish- can scratch easily, which makes the bar not look as good.
- No center knurl- not as much grip on your back for heavy squats. But this is good if you plan on doing a lot of CrossFit workouts with thrusters as a center knurl would scrape your chest raw!
The Titan Power bar is my runner up power bar due to the low cost and the 165k PSI tensile strength.
This is actually more than the REP Sabre.
However, the reason this is the runner-up pick is purely because of the diameter of the bar. 30mm compared to 28.5mm may not sound like much. But it is a noticeable difference, especially when trying to grip a heavy deadlift, which is an exercise most people will do.
Whereas, you won’t notice the difference between a bar using 150k PSI compared to 165K PSI on day to day workouts.
Sure, for heavy squats and bench presses a thicker bar will be more beneficial. It reduces the whip and makes the bar a lot more rigid, which is ideal for these slow movements.
The downside is that most people want to use their barbell at home for a variety of lifts. Shoulder pressing, deadlifts and any thrusters or snatches will be much harder to perform with this barbell.
If you are someone that mainly wants to use this barbell for squats and bench presses or someone that has another thinner bar then this may be perfect for you.
- 165k PSI tensile strength- supports a weight capacity of 1,500lbs and will handle more than enough weight you’ll be able to lift.
- Center knurling- provides extra grip on your back for squats.
- IPF knurling markings 32” apart- position your hands in the correct place for bench presses.
- Pricing- the second cheapest bar on this whole list (behind the REP Basic Bar).
- 30mm diameter- makes gripping a heavy deadlift much harder than 28-29mm.
- Decorative chrome finish- not as resistant to rust as many other options.
By far the cheapest option on this list.
This is because it only has 65k PSI tensile strength compared to the next lowest 150k PSI. This means the bar should not be used for lifting as much weight as the other bars on this list.
However, REP claims this bar can handle 700lbs of weight. That is more than what most people can squat or deadlift so it’s actually still strong enough for most people.
I personally wouldn’t use this bar if I was lifting anything around 400lbs. Once you damage a bar it is bent permanently and if you intend on lifting anything around this you should probably be looking for another bar.
The Basic bar does use a zinc finish, which helps to protect the bar against rust and scratches. It’s the same size and weight as any Olympic barbell. Although it does have a 30mm diameter.
I just explained the issues with this in the Titan Power Bar summary, so I won’t repeat myself here. All you need to know is that this actually helps with squats and bench presses, but it’s much harder to grip a heavy deadlift.
Overall, here is the general consensus from many customers…
The REP Basic Barbell is a lot stronger and higher quality than what you may expect.
- Cheapest barbell- it’s hard to find any Olympic barbell for this price.
- 700lb weight rating- still strong enough for most people.
- Center knurl- provides grip on your back for squats.
- Zinc coating- protects the bar to rust.
- 30mm diameter- makes gripping the bar for deadlifts harder.
- 65k PSI tensile strength- by far the lowest tensile strength of any bar on this list.
The Rogue Ohio Power Bar (OPB) is the cheapest power bar that scored a perfect 12 out of 12 against our criteria (out of 3).
It simply ticks all of the boxes for things you should look for in an Olympic power bar…
It uses bronze bushings, which tend to have this opinion that they last longer than self-lubricating composite bushings, which are seen in other barbells.
The OPB has 205k PSI tensile strength, which can comfortably allow you to lift anything you want. Rogue claims it can hold 1,500lbs of weight before damaging the bar.
But the stand-out feature of this barbell is the “volcano” style knurling. It allows an aggressive knurl without feeling like it’s going to shred the skin off your hands like the more common “mountain” style knurl.
It basically has 4 contact points on every knurl (in the shape of a volcano).
The great thing about this is that it provides extra grip for those really heavy deadlifts. But it isn’t painful if you want to do any higher rep lifts in your routines.
I’d recommend you get the OPB with an e-coat finish if you’re on a budget. But if you want the best finish you can also choose to get it with a stainless steel shaft.
This is the bar I would recommend for most people. It features as number one in my list of the best overall barbells.
- Volcano knurling- aggressive to help with heavy deadlifts, but not as sharp as “mountain” style knurling.
- 205k PSI- strong enough to lift anything that you can handle.
- Finish options- zinc, e-coat, cerakote or stainless steel options to provide resistance to rust or scratches.
- Center knurl- provides extra grip for squats on your back.
- Not ideal for Oly Weightlifting movements.
The REP Gladiator has the strongest tensile strength out of any bar on this list.
To be honest it’s one of the strongest bars even when you don’t consider the price! It’s another bar that makes it into my list of the overall best Olympic barbells.
The hard chrome finish is one of the most affordable hands off finishes to a barbell. Sure it benefits from a bit of oil and cleaning, but you can leave this type of bar alone for years and it will still look like it did on day one. It’s very resistant to rust or scratches.
Each sleeve has 3 needle bearings and 2 bushings. This makes the sleeve spin very fast and incredibly smooth, which is crucial for any fast overhead lifts such as the clean and jerk or snatch.
The knurling is not too sharp but provides a decent grip for most lifts. This makes those fast overhead lifts easier as it won’t rip those calluses off your hands.
This is the bar I would recommend for most people if you plan on doing any CrossFit or Oly Weightlifting lifts.
- 230k PSI- stronger than any other bar on this list.
- Hard chrome finish- prevents rust or scratches to the bar.
- 3 needle bearings and 2 bushings in each sleeve- makes the sleeves spin faster, so it won’t bend your wrists when performing CrossFit or Oly lifts.
- Knurling- medium depth with a good grip.
- The knurling is not made to be aggressive for deadlifts over 600lbs.
Budget barbell buying guide
There are some important factors to consider when buying an Olympic barbell.
There are 5 areas to consider before making a purchase:
- What will you use the bar for?
- Size of the bar
- The durability of the bar
- What the bar can be used for
- Pricing and user reviews
What to look for in an Olympic barbell
There are so many nuances to how good a barbell is. However, there are some things you can find out and compare about most Olympic barbells.
Here are 5 of the most important aspects to look into:
- Steel quality
- Knurling (aggressiveness and center knurling)
- Spin of the sleeves
- Whip (how much the bar bends when in use)
- Finish (the coating of the barbell to prevent rust and scratches)
I took these main characteristics and created 12 criteria to assess each barbell against…
How we assess barbells
To most people those weird words above simply don’t mean much.
So here is an explanation of what all of this means, with the 12 criteria that I assessed for each of the 100+ barbells in the research…
Size of an Olympic barbell
- Olympic bar size- a basic construction scored a point. See below measurements (mens; womens)
- Length – 2.2 meters (7.2 feet / 86 in); 6.5 feet
- Weight – 20 kg / 44.1 lbs or 45 lbs; 15 kg or 33 lbs
- Sleeve diameter – 2″ / 50 mm (“Standard barbells” have a 1” sleeve. 2” Olympic sleeves provide a lot more options and can take more weight).
If you’re wondering why there is a difference between men’s and women’s barbells, watch this 100 second video…
Durability of the barbell
- Tensile strength
- Over 165,000 PSI is more than strong enough for most people and scores a point on our tests.
- Weight capacity
- Anything that can take 1,000 lbs is usually strong enough for most people.
- Not all barbells will share their tensile strength so sometimes you need to judge it on weight capacity alone. Or vice versa.
- A point is scored if the bar has zinc plated, e-coat, hard chrome or cerakote finish. That’s In order of resistance.
- A stainless steel bar is an alloy of steel that doesn’t require a coating to prevent corrosion so it also scores a point. Many people consider this the best possible “finish” to reduce corrosion and rust.
- Bare steel, black oxide or decorative chrome is the least resistant type of finish and doesn’t score a point.
- 5 years or more is a good sign that the company will provide good quality bars and scores a point.
Practicality of the barbell
- The cross hatched part of the bar that you grip.
- A medium knurl on a multi-purpose bar scores a point and an aggressive knurl on a power bar scores a point. We either personally tested the bar or took reviews from trusted people in the Strong Home Gym community. As a “medium” knurl can differ between brands.
- Centre knurl
- If the bar has a centre knurl it scores a point on our tests.
- It’s useful for squats as the bar grips to your back. Most people do squats (or should be doing squats #dontskiplegday)
- However, you may not want a centre knurl if you are doing a ton of reps of cleans and thrusters. This is only something you’d do for a CrossFit workout and you may end up scraping your chest raw. This is why the Fringesport Wonder bar is our CrossFit barbell pick.
- The ends of the bar (sleeves) should spin.
- A multi-purpose or weightlifting bar should have more spin. Needle bearings are better for this and score a point.
- However a power bar spins less so the bar feels more stable for heavier lifts. “Bushing” scores a point for power bars.
- An average lifter may not notice the difference between bushing or bearing sleeves. But it makes a huge difference to professional Olympic weightlifters or powerlifters.
- How much the bar can “bend” (see 10 second video below).
- Diameter of the bar- between 28-29mm (or 25mm for a women’s bar) scored a point in our tests as this suits most people. A thinner bar tends to have more “whip”.
- 28mm- has more whip perfect for weightlifting or CrossFit.
- 28.5mm is an in between size- good for an “all-purpose” bar.
- 29mm- for powerlifting.
- 30mm- some people prefer this for bench pressing as there is less “whip”. You may also find some cheaper barbells over 30mm diameter. It’s much harder to grip and not ideal for generic movements.
- 32mm- some powerlifters use this for heavy squats as there is even less “whip” and your grip is not as important.
Pricing and users reviews of the barbell
- If the bar is over 165k PSI tensile strength and under $300 it scored a point.
- The average price out of over 100 barbells is $345.
- (and 12) General users opinions
- If it was easy to find multiple very positive reviews from forums, groups and people I know then it gets 2 points.
- It scores one point if it seems like the vast majority of reviews are positive but there are some negatives or there are not dozens of people in agreement.
- It scores no points if there is a common complaint about a barbell (such as the CAP bars).
Other barbells we tested
American Barbell Grizzly Power Bar– Scoring a perfect 12 out of 12, this gets our runner up pick in the best Olympic barbell guide. It really is a great bar with a lot of attention to detail. It simply doesn’t have the same “volcano” aggressive knurling as the OPB.
Buddy Capps The “Original” Texas Power Bar- The famous bar for breaking world records actually also scored 12 out of 12 against our criteria. It just happens that the American Grizzly and Rogue Ohio also did. They are also cheaper, have the same or higher tensile strength and are 29mm in diameter compared to the old standard 28.5mm. Simply put there are better options than this bar now for a more competitive price.
Fringesport Power Bar- With 216k PSI this has a higher tensile strength than the Rogue Ohio and American Barbell Grizzly. However, it’s more expensive than the other options and the difference doesn’t warrant the price.
American Barbell Cerakote Mammoth Power Bar– A great cerakote finish power bar. Again the price was the reason it didn’t make the cut here.
CAPs “The Beast” bar– A good budget option. There are just far too many complaints about the metal shavings coming off the sleeves to be considered on this list.
CAP “The Boss” Power Bar– Similar to above. This bar nearly did make the cut as there are a lot of positive reviews about The Boss. However, the REP Sabre and Titan alternatives are more affordable and arguably better quality.
XMark Lumberjack– XMark does produce some great bars for a very affordable price. This was a contender for the list but the Blackhawk gets my top pick over the Lumberjack due to the needle bearings used in the sleeve compared to the bushings used for this bar.
XMark Black Olympic bar– The black oxide finish comes off too easily. There are better options in this list.
Body Solid OB60B- The 30mm diameter makes deadlifts very hard to grip. It only has a 600lbs weight capacity and a poor quality black oxide finish.
Budget barbell FAQs
Budget Olympic barbell: The bottom line
There are more and more companies producing budget Olympic barbells. Once you figure out what type of lifts you will use the bar for, you can find a great budget barbell for you.
The XMark Blackhawk is the bar I would recommend to most people that are on a budget. The strong steel and hard chrome finish make the quality as good as many bars that cost double the price.
I would recommend the REP Sabre bar to most people that know they will not perform any CrossFit or Olympic Weightlifting lifts. The slightly thicker 28.5mm diameter makes the bar more rigid and ideal for bench presses, squats and most slow controlled lifts you may perform.
Make sure you check out my ultimate Olympic barbell buying guide and recommendations to see what the best picks are from over 100 barbells on the market.