Every year more and more bars come on the market. And choosing the best Olympic barbell for you gets more and more confusing.
So I have spent over 80 hours of research and compared over 100 of the most popular barbells. The team at Strong Home Gym (including a gym owner and certified personal trainers) then ran these bars against 12 criteria including the knurl, finish, whip and price. We’ve physically tested many of them and found hundreds of customer testimonials.
If you’re in a hurry, the Rogue Bar 2.0 is what I would recommend for most people. The proprietary Rogue Work Hardening means this is one of the most durable bars that exist for this price range. It’s versatile, uses strong tensile strength, and has a decent rust-resistant zinc finish.
The REP Gladiator is the overall best Olympic weightlifting bar scoring a perfect 12 against our criteria. This is the bar for you if you will mainly use it for clean and jerks or snatches.
If you’re looking for a bar with more grip, then the best valued 12 out of 12 power bar is the Rogue Ohio Power Bar. The volcano style knurl makes it very aggressive but not as sharp as the more traditional mountain style.
Here’s what I’ll cover in this guide…
Best Power Bar
Rogue Ohio Power Bar
Rogue Bar 2.0
Best Oly WL Bar
11 best Olympic barbells
Here’s a quick overview of the 11 barbells selected. Click on any product name to see more information and other people’s reviews.
|Name||Best for||Rating (out of 12)||Price||Tensile Strength||Finish|
|Rogue Bar 2.0||CrossFit/ Multi-purpose||12||$$$||190k||Black Zinc|
|Rogue Ohio Power bar||Powerlifting||12||$$$||205k||E-coat/ Zinc|
|REP Gladiator Bar||Oly Weightlifting||12||$$$||230k||Hard Chrome|
|Rogue Ohio Stainless Steel||Upgrade Multi-purpose||11||$$$$||200k||Stainless Steel|
|Kabuki- The Power Bar||Upgrade power||11||$$$$$||258k||Zinc/ Electroless nickel|
|Rogue Pyrros Bar||Upgrade Oly WL||11||$$$$$||200k||Stainless Steel|
|Fringesport Men’s Wonder Bar||Budget Multi-purpose||11||$$||205k||Black Zinc|
|REP Sabre Bar||Budget Power||9||$$||150k||Bright Zinc|
|XMark Blackhawk||Budget Oly WL||9||$$||185k||Hard chrome|
|Fringesport Women’s Wonder Bar||Women||9||$$||160k||Black Zinc|
|REP Basic Barbell||Cheapest||5||$||65k||Chrome|
The barbells selected really are a variety of the top options out there to suit any budget and lifting ability. You can find out more about the criteria we tested each barbell against later.
But before you dig into each one you should also know some of the averages of the 100+ barbells.
|Average tensile strength||187,000 PSI|
So let’s find one that suits you…
The Rogue 2.0 was one of only two multi-purpose power bars to score the perfect 12 out of 12 against our criteria. If you’d like to see why we chose this over the REP Excalibur and learn what to look for in a multi-purpose bar then check out our best CrossFit barbell buying guide here.
The reason it gets our top pick is because of the price for the tensile strength, smooth-spinning sleeves, and the proprietary Rogue Work Hardening.
Rogue Fitness is not new to the gym equipment space. In fact, they have spent over $2 million and 5 years of research to create their patented F Scale rating.
After all of this testing they worked out that bars using their special Rogue Work Hardening (RWH) lasted about 3 times as long as bars with the same specs not using this tech. You can see how long they estimate the bars on this list will last in years below…
If you are buying a multi-purpose bar, then you are likely going to drop it a lot. Cleans and jerks, snatches, overhead squats or even thrusters all involve dropping the bar from above your head.
The good news is that the Rogue Bar 2.0 will last for decades if you’re using it at home. Even if you were to use this bar in a busy commercial CrossFit gym it would last for 16 years as good as new.
The composite bushing sleeves provide just the right amount of spin for any of these fast lifts overhead. It’s certainly not as fast as some speciality Olympic Weightlifting bars with needle bearings such as the REP Gladiator. But it’s very unlikely you will lift this bar and think… I wish the sleeves would spin a bit more!
Rogue provide an impressive lifetime warranty on the bar.
Many other barbell manufacturers will provide 5 years or less as a lot can go wrong with a barbell if you mistreat it. But Rogue is that confident in their bars that they still offer this and provide exceptional customer service and delivery.
|Rogue Bar 2.0|
|Sleeves type||Composite bushings|
- Price for the quality- the specs are the same as some bars that cost twice as much.
- 190k PSI tensile strength– durable and will not deform from lifting heavy weights.
- Composite bushing sleeves- smooth spin but not too fast so it won’t make slow lifts like a squat or presses unstable.
- Lifetime warranty- peace of mind and it proves Rogue Fitness rates their bars highly.
- F8-R F scale rating- the proprietary Rogue Work Hardening supposedly allows the bar to last three times longer than other bars.
- Unique bands- brand your gym with your own colors.
- Dual knurl markings- make it easy to position your hands for different lifts like the bench press and the snatch.
- Black zinc coating- can wear off and make the bar look more used. It doesn’t affect the performance though.
The Rogue Ohio Power bar (OPB) was one of three power bars to score the perfect 12 out of 12.
The reason it gets our top pick is because of pricing for the finish options and aggressive (but not sharp) knurling.
The “The Original” Buddy Cappas bar costs more for a zinc or chrome shaft. And the American Barbell Grizzly has a lower tensile strength and less aggressive knurl. In reality, there isn’t much between the three bars but we want to provide you with the best option.
You can find all of our top power bars with a buying guide here.
The stand out feature of the OPB is the volcano knurling design. There are four points on each knurl spike in the shape of a volcano. This makes it aggressive but not sharp.
It makes it the perfect weapon for anyone looking to focus on the bench, squat and deadlift with one bar.
It’s another bar that uses Rogue Work Hardening. In fact, it’s the only power bar on this list to have a F Scale rating of F8-R (the most durable bars according to Rogue).
I used this calculator on the Rogue F Scale to figure this out…
Unless you plan on doing CrossFit or Olympic weightlifting lifts, this is the bar that I would recommend most people buy.
Once you feel the knruling on this bar, you’ll understand why!
|Rogue Ohio Power Bar|
|Sleeves type||Bronze bushings|
- Aggressive but not sharp knurling- Volcano knurling makes the grip of this bar amazing.
- Strong- 205k PSI can handle any weight you put on it.
- F8-R F Scale rating- a very durable bar that will not warp unless you really mistreat it.
- Finish options- black zinc, cerakote, stainless steel options available.
- Pricing- the black zinc and cerakote finish options are very hard to beat for price. Very good option considering this is from a typically more expensive Rogue.
- Not ideal for weightlifting movements like thrusters or snatches.
If an all-around affordable good quality barbell is what you’re after then this ticks all the boxes.
It’s the only Olympic weightlifting barbell that scores 12 out of 12 on our criteria. And that’s out of over 40 Olympic weightlifting barbells that I compared!
Only the Kabuki Power bar has a higher tensile strength in our top picks. And that is twice as expensive at the Gladiator.
The 28mm diameter of the bar makes it easy to grip and helps to give it the good “whip”.
It also uses 3 needle bearings and 2 bushings in each sleeve. The needle bearings provide the fast spin, but the bushings make the bar more durable and last longer.
When you combine this with the medium knurling you have a perfect Olympic weightlifting barbell!
The REP Gladiator uses a hard chrome coating, which will not crack and peel over time. Only a cerakote finish is more resistant so it makes the bar very durable.
For the price of this bar you simply can’t beat the quality.
|Sleeves type||3 needle bearings 2 bronze bushings|
- Strength- 230,000 PSI tensile strength that can hold up to 1,500 lbs of weight.
- Won’t rust– due to hard chrome finish.
- Pricing- you can pay double the price for a lower quality bar.
- Spin- 3 needle bearings and 2 bushings in each sleeve (ends of the bar). This makes the spin very smooth for weightlifting movements like cleans and snatches.
- Medium knurl- good grip so it won’t slide in your hands but not too aggressive so it can be used for CrossFit movements too.
- If you’re looking for a stiff powerlifting bar with aggressive knurling, this isn’t for you.
The feel of stainless steel metal in your hands is totally different from a bar with a coating. This is the main reason the Rogue Ohio stainless steel option gets our multi-purpose upgrade pick.
The knurling feels more aggressive as there is nothing between the steel and your skin.
But it won’t grind your hands up during fast high rep workouts.
Stainless steel is the most corrosion resistant metal a bar can use so no “finish” is needed to protect the bar…
Other than that, it’s very similar to the Rogue Bar 2.0 apart from it uses bronze bushings instead of composite bushings. There really isn’t much between bronze and composite bushings in the sleeves anymore, but some people still prefer bronze’s durability. They both have a great smooth spin which means your wrists won’t be bent backward during fast lifts like the clean and jerk.
This is a great bar for you if you plan on doing high reps of thrusters or cleans.
You won’t scrape your chest raw as there is no center knurl, like standard Olympic weightlifting bars.
But thanks to the bushings in the sleeves this bar can also deal with slower lifts like squats, rows and presses (bench or overhead). Oly weightlifting bars with needle bearings can feel a bit unstable for these types of lifts.
This bar is made for someone that wants a bar that can do anything and last for decades and still look brand new.
|Rogue Ohio Stainless Steel|
|Sleeves type||Bronze bushings|
- Stainless steel- the most corrosion-resistant option for a barbell.
- Bare steel bar- feels special! The knurling feels more aggressive as there is no coating over the steel.
- 200k PSI tensile strength- the bar won’t break or warp for decades unless you mistreat it.
- Lifetime warranty- peace of mind and it shows Rogue backs their products!
- Bronze bushings sleeves- supposed to last longer than composite bushings & provides a decent spin for those fast lifts, like the snatch.
- Dual knurl markings- make it easy to position your hands for different lifts like the bench press and the snatch.
- Price- it has very similar characteristics to the Rogue 2.0 but it costs more for the better finish and feel of the bar.
- No Rogue Work Hardening- the stainless steel option doesn’t use RWH. If you are buying for your own home gym, this will still last for decades. If you are buying for a commercial gym I’d recommend going for the Ohio bar with cerakote finish, which does use RWH.
5. Power bar upgrade pick: Kabuki- The Power Bar
The Kabuki Power bar is our upgrade pick due to the insane amount of research and intense manufacturing process. It simply has everything you’d want in a power bar… It only drops a point against our criteria due to the price tag (but it’s probably as cheap as it could be for Kabuki to make a small profit and warrant making more!)
It has an incredible 258k PSI tensile strength and uses fine aggressive volcano knurling which is pretty much indestructible.
Chris Duffin, the co-founder of Kabuki, has worked for two decades as an engineer… but he’s also an accomplished powerlifter himself. He simply loves this stuff! The process the bar goes through to be manufactured is like no other bar out there.
Watch 30 seconds of Chris showing you how indestructible the bars knurling is to see what I mean…
The reason no other company produces bars at this strength is because once the PSI rating goes too high they become “more brittle”. Rogue even found in their $2million research that the sweet spot for a bar is 190k-220k PSI tensile strength.
Chris begs to differ!
Kabuki has spent over 1 year of prototyping, engineering, and testing. Some tests include bending the bar with a 40-ton press brake to make sure it wouldn’t just crumble under intense pressure. Again it’s all proprietary tech that they are not willing to share (for obvious reasons!)
This bar is expensive but margins on this bar are minimal compared to many other bars on the market.
Simply put… this bar costs a lot to make!
So when this bar only scores 0.6 on Rogue’s F Scale, you do need to take this with a pinch of salt!
It will last you for decades of powerlifting lifts. But it is not designed to do a ton of clean and jerks or snatches.
The knurl is much finer than the OPB, therefore making the grip even more aggressive for those heavy deadlifts. However, it also uses volcano knurling meaning it’s not really sharp and less likely to rip the skin off your hands if it twists mid-lift.
It comes with 3 types of finishes:
- Zinc (cheapest)
- Black oxide (middle)
- Electroless nickel (more expensive)
Kabuki has stated that they haven’t made a stainless steel version as they believe electroless nickel is superior… and keeps costs lower on an already expensive bar.
For the “feel,” there really isn’t much in it between the OPB and Kabuki. The finer knurling is different but it’s a personal preference between the two.
To sum it up… If you want to get one of the most fine-tuned power bars that exist, this is the one for you.
|Kabuki Power Bar|
|Sleeves type||Bronze bushings|
- Heavy lifting- if you lift very heavy weight or compete in Powerlifting competitions, this is the bar for you.
- Strongest bar- 258k PSI is far more than any other out there (out of almost 150 bars 230k and 217K are the next best two PSI bars)
- Aggressive fine volcano knurling- Kabuki’s proprietary knurling is not sharp but will outlast any other bar out there.
- Range of finishes- allows your bar to look the same for years to come without any rust. Choose between zinc, black oxide or electroless nickel.
- New raw steel option now available.
If you want a great Olympic weightlifting barbell and money is not a consideration then this is your barbell.
The Pyrros has IWF Olympic standard knurling, 200k PSI tensile strength and a super smooth spin thanks to the 5 needle bearings in each sleeve. It really doesn’t scrimp on anything.
A stainless steel alloy bar doesn’t require any coating to finish. It simply is the best material out there for corrosion resistance. If treated well, it can last decades without rusting and still look brand new.
In fact, the only area it didn’t score in our criteria was the pricing.
If you could design an Olympic weightlifting barbell with the best possible specs, this would be it.
|Rogue Pyrros Bar|
|Sleeves type||5 needle bearings per sleeve|
- IWF Olympic standard knurl- provides a good grip without tearing your hands.
- Stainless steel alloy- the “creme de la creme” of corrosion resistance.
- Good spin- 5 needle bearings per sleeve make them spin very smoothly. This helps to prevent injury in any weightlifting moves like the clean and jerk.
- Strong steel- 200k PSI is more than enough for almost all lifters.
If you plan on doing high reps of thrusters or cleans then this is a great bar for you.
You won’t scrape your chest raw as there is no center knurl like standard Olympic weightlifting bars.
The 28mm diameter makes the bar easy to grip for heavy deadlifts. However, it does make it a bit more “whippy”, which isn’t ideal for slower lifts like the squat and bench press. This is the only area that the bar dropped a point against our criteria for a multi-purpose bar.
The knurling is a bit passive compared to our previous multi-purpose picks, the Rogue 2.0 and Ohio. But that’s the trade-off to expect with a cheaper bar. If you want to see our other budget barbells guide you can check that link out to find what makes a good budget bar.
You can’t beat the price of this bar for what you get. This is the bar for you if you are on a budget and want to do a mix of slower lifts and faster CrossFit or Oly lifts.
|Fringesport Wonder Bar|
|Sleeves type||4 needle bearings per sleeve (Green “W”)/ Bronze bushing (Yellow “W”)|
- Strong- 205,000 PSI tensile strength
- No center knurl- don’t scrape your chest raw during CrossFit routines doing lots of “cleans” or “thrusters”.
- Spin- the Green bearings option make the sleeves spin very fast which helps with Oly weightlifting moves. The Yellow bushings option (moderate spin) is more suited if you plan on using the bar for squats and bench press mainly.
- Pricing- good price in comparison to others out there.
- Zinc finish- is more prone to corrosion over time than Cerakote, hard chrome or e-coat. It’s the “worst good type” of coating I’d recommend.
Our best budget power bar pick is the REP Sabre.
For under $200 you will be hard pushed to find a power bar that uses anything over 135k PSI tensile strength. The Sabre uses 150k PSI steel.
Technically, this isn’t made to be a power bar. It can be used for Olympic lifts or CrossFit workouts if you want. But I’d recommend you check out our best CrossFit barbells if this is what you’re looking for.
This means the knurling on this bar is quite passive compared to most other power bars I’d recommend.
However, it does provide a decent amount of grip.
As it only has a 28.5mm diameter it helps with the grip for heavier deadlifts. Use a bit of chalk on your hands and most people will find the grip of this barbell more than enough. A “good knurl” is very subjective. However here are a few different opinions:
Knurl is just enough to help with grip without tearing up your hands. Bar feels incredibly solid even when squatting 300lb.Customer review on REP Sabre sales page
I’ve had this bar for 4 years now. Over that time I’ve averaged a little over 3 workouts per week (3.4 to be exact). I’ve done the usual stuff with it- squats, deadlifts, various presses, rows, curls, skull crushers, shrugs, and others I may be forgetting. This bar works well for all of them and has never let me down or left me wanting more. The knurls are still in good shape. It still rotates like it’s brand new.Customer review on Amazon
There are tons more like this. Even with the few negative reviews, they were not about the knurling (one person had one sleeve that didn’t spin very well and someone received a bar that looked used).
The zinc finish helps to keep the costs down. But it also provides a decent amount of resistance to rust compared to bare steel, black phosphate or decorative chrome finishes that most budget bars use.
Other popular cheap options, such as CAP’s “The Boss” have too many complaints around metal shavings coming off the sleeves or the black oxide finish scratching easily.
REP Fitness has great customer service, fast delivery and has produced a very decent affordable barbell. That’s why I would recommend anyone on a budget buy this for a power bar.
|Sleeves type||Bronze bushing|
- The price- it’s hard to find a power bar with these specs for under $200.
- Zinc finish- more durable than other cheap bars using black oxide or bare steel.
- 28.5mm diameter- better for grip on deadlifts (the knurling is not as strong but the thinner diameter balances this out).
- REP Fitness- a very reputable company with great customer service.
- Volcano knurling- helps to provide good sticking grip, but it’s not as sharp as the mountain style knurling.
- Medium knurling- not as easy to grip for heavy deadlifts.
- 150k PSI- whilst lower than other options on this list, it’s stronger than many other budget bars.
If you’re looking for a good all round barbell that you can pick up on Amazon for a good price then this is your best bet.
Similar to the Wonder Bar, there is no center knurl. The only other area this bar dropped on our criteria is the limited information on the warranty. If you buy this barbell, don’t expect the high customer service that you will get from Rogue, REP or Eleiko if something goes wrong.
But apart from that it ticks all the boxes.
With 185k PSI tensile strength this bar will take any weight you’ll likely put on it, with a max load of 1,500lb. The hard chrome finish is very good and will prevent any rust or damage to the bar for a long time.
Plus, the 5 needle bearings in each sleeve make the spin extra fast and ideal for the clean and jerk or snatch. It means your wrists won’t bend awkwardly for lifts like snatches moving the bar from the floor to above your head.
|Sleeves type||5 needle bearings per sleeve|
- Pricing- hard to beat for the quality.
- Still strong- 185k PSI can handle up to 1,500lb s of weight without breaking.
- Resistant- the hard chrome finish won’t rust easily.
- Good spin- 5 needle bearings in each sleeve reduce the risk of injury to the wrists and elbow for any CrossFit moves.
- No centre knurl- provides less grip for heavy squats
The reason this is our top pick for a women’s bar is because of the price.
The quality is very similar to other options out there, but the price point just beats the competition.
It only drops points on our criteria for not having a centre knurl and the tensile strength.
However, at 160k tensile strength it narrowly missed our cut of 165k. This can still hold 1,000 lbs! And if you plan on doing any weightlifting or CrossFit movements then not having a centre knurl is a good thing… it won’t rub your chest raw!
The 4 needle bearings per sleeve make the spin super smooth. Watch 30 seconds of the video below to see the spin in action…
|Fringesport Women’s Wonder Bar|
|Sleeves type||4 needle bearings per sleeve (Green “W”)/ Bronze bushing (Yellow “W”)|
- No centre knurl- don’t scrape your chest raw during CrossFit routines doing lots of “cleans” or “thrusters” reps.
- Spin- bearings make the sleeves spin smoothly which helps with weightlifting moves.
- Pricing- good price in comparison to others out there.
- Zinc finish- is more prone to corrosion over time than Cerakote, hard chrome or e-coat. It’s the “worst good type” of coating we recommend.
- No centre knurl- less grip for heavy squats.
By far the worst specs of any bar on this list.
But if you are just starting out, on a very tight budget, or want a “beater bar” then look no further.
The bar only uses 65k PSI tensile strength, which means that it may permanently bend if you consistently lift over 300lbs on it or drop it with weights on. The sleeves have very little spin and are bolted on rather than using bushings or needle bearings.
But overall, it’s hard to find such a cheap bar that can actually represent a decent barbell.
Most people say how pleasantly surprised they are at the feel of the medium knurling. Although if you use it regularly for years it will eventually become very passive.
Here are the lifts that most people use a barbell for:
- Bench press
This bar simply works if you only use it for these controlled slow lifts. But if you intend on using the bar for CrossFit or Oly lifts and are on a budget then check out our best budget barbells guide.
|REP Basic Bar|
|Sleeves type||Bolted on|
- Cheap- hard to beat the price for any Olympic barbell.
- Perfect if you do not lift very heavy.
- Great “beater bar”- if you would like a spare bar that you don’t care about as much this can be great.
- Strong enough- it says it can handle 1,000 lbs. I would say it can safely handle 350 lbs without warping, but I wouldn’t want to lift this much weight on it regularly.
- 30mm diameter- thicker than the standard 28-29mm bars. It will make it harder to grip for deadlifts but makes it more rigid and better for squats or presses.
- Decorative chrome finish- (not to be confused with hard chrome) can peel off and leave the steel exposed to rust.
Different barbell types
Before you think about what to look for in a barbell, it’s important to recognise what types of barbells exist.
Firstly, there are two main types of bars you’ll find:
- Standard barbell
- Olympic barbell
A standard barbell is 5 to 6 feet long, weighs between 15 and 25 lbs and has 1” diameter sleeves (ends of the bar). They have a load capacity of between 100 to 200 lbs.
You will often find these types of bars available on Craigslist and eBay and think you’re bagging a bargain. Here’s me with my first bar, which I thought was a bargain (it’s not, it’s just pretty useless)…
However, these bars are not ideal for a gym. There are much fewer options to buy weight plates or collars and you can quickly “out squat” the maximum load of these bars.
So the only bars you see above are Olympic barbells with 2” sleeves. They weigh either 45 lbs or 33 lbs for mens or womens versions. There are three main types of Olympic bars you’ll find:Hybrid or multi-purpose
Made to be dropped.
A cross between an Olympic weightlifting bar and a powerlifting barbell.
Typically an “in-between bar” with a 28.5mm diameter.
The sleeves can use bushings or bearings or even a mixture.
This is the type of bar I’d recommend for most people with a home gym as they are very versatile. Our top pick is the Rogue Bar 2.0.
Designed for powerlifting movements (squats, bench press, deadlifts) and slow controlled movements like presses, curls, or rows.
More rigid than Olympic weightlifting bars. Typically, they are slightly thicker at 29mm diameter (this small difference can make a big difference in the “whip” though!)
Knurling (the grip) is more aggressive to help the lifter with heavier weight. Our top pick, the Rogue Ohio Power Bar uses volcano-style knurling to provide more grip but is not as sharp as the “mountain” style.
Uses bushing sleeves that don’t spin as much as needle bearings and are easier to maintain.
Olympic weightlifting bars
Made to be dropped.
Typically designed to be used for movements like a “snatch” or “clean and jerk”. See the 30-second video below for a clean and jerk.
The sleeves mainly use “needle bearings” which helps the plates spin more than “bushings”. The REP Gladiator actually uses both, which makes it more durable and possible to use the bar for some other lifts if you want.
Usually have a 28mm diameter. This is the smallest diameter you’ll typically find, as this helps with more “whip”.
More flexibility (“whip”) in the bar to help for these Olympic lifts. But it can also hinder powerlifting movements like the squat or bench press. See the slow-mo below to see whip in action.
Important note on whip- a bar will only start to bend with a load of around 220 lbs (100kg) of weight. If you do not perform Olympic lifts with this much weight, whip really doesn’t matter.
This really is only scratching the surface of different types of bars available e.g. EZ curl bars, trap bars, safety squat bars etc.
But you only need one good barbell in your home gym. Any of the options we list above are more than enough for most people.
So you’re probably wondering…
What to look for in a barbell
There are five main things you should consider before buying a barbell…
- What will you use it for?
The first thing you really need to think about is what you will use your barbell for…
Power bar vs Olympic bar
There are some key differences between a power bar and an Olympic bar. The main features of a power bar are:
- Thicker (29mm vs 28mm)
- More rigid and have less “whip”
- More grip and aggressive knurling
- Less spin on the sleeves (usually uses bushings instead of needle bearings)
There are certain movements that are better performed with a certain type of bar…
|Power bar movements||Olympic/ multipurpose bar movements|
|Bench press||Any power bar movements plus the below…|
|Tricep press||Sumo deadlift high pull|
|Controlled movements without dropping the bar||Fast movements dropping the bar from a height|
* Some experienced lifters claim that you can use the whip of a barbell to help with deadlifts, so a multipurpose bar is better.
However, for the average home gym user any of these bars will be more than enough. Whip only starts taking effect if you are lifting over 220lbs of weight with Olympic weightlifting movements.
And unless you are squatting over 400 lbs you probably won’t notice the difference in spinning sleeves. If you are planning to squat at home then be sure to check out our squat racks buying guide.
These differences are just important to be aware of.
If you plan on doing CrossFit or Olympic Weightlifting movements at any stage, it is wise to get an Olympic weightlifting bar or multi-purpose bar. But if you plan on competing in powerlifting competitions or know you won’t ever want to do CrossFit movements, a power bar is for you.
If you’re still not sure, then you may as well go for an in-between multi-purpose bar like the Rogue Bar 2.0.
Now you have decided what you will be using the barbell for let’s dig into…
Barbell buying guide- how we assess barbells
Once I had selected the 101 barbells to compare for this guide I made a huge spreadsheet and collected all the data.
There were some sales pages that made it hard to find all of the data I wanted. So I reached out to each company to clarify missing elements such as this…
Once I had gathered this raw data, I then spoke to the team at Strong Home Gym, including certified personal trainers and even a gym owner.
We came up with 12 criteria that we considered to be the most important factors in deciding the best Olympic barbell.
Olympic barbell size
- 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; 2″ (this is important. “Standard barbells” have a 1” sleeve. 2” Olympic sleeves provide a lot more options and can take more weight).
- Diameter – 28-29mm; 25mm
If you’re wondering why there is a difference between men’s and women’s barbells, watch this 100 second video…
Olympic barbell quality and durability
- Steel tensile strength
- Over 165,000 PSI is more than strong enough for most people and scores a point on our tests.
- The higher the number the more pressure the bar can take before warping.
- Rogue found the sweet spot is 190k-220k PSI for optimal strength as bars over this can start to become brittle. However, Kabuki’s Power Bar uses a proprietary manufacturing process to produce a bar with 258k PSI… and it’s not brittle!
- 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. I’d always rather find the tensile strength out though.
- 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. The Rogue Pyrros has a stainless steel option. Many people consider this the best possible “finish” to reduce corrosion and rust. It is also more scratch-resistant from lifting on and off your squat rack.
- 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. Fringesports Wonder bar is affordable and offers a lifetime warranty.
Olympic barbell practicality
- The cross-hatched part of the bar that you grip.
- A medium knurl on a multi-purpose and Oly weightlifting bar scores a point and an aggressive knurl on a power bar scores a point. The Rogue Ohio power bar uses “volcano” style knurling to provide more contact points on your hand. This makes it aggressive but it won’t rip calluses off your hands when lifting as it’s not as sharp.
- 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.
- Center knurl
- If an Oly or power bar has a centre knurl it scores a point on our tests.
- A multi-purpose bar without a center knurl or a passive center knurl (like the Rogue Chan) scores a point.
- It’s useful for squats as the bar grips to your back or chest for front squats. And 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 Rogue Ohio bar is our CrossFit upgrade barbell pick.
- Spinning sleeves
- The ends of the bar (sleeves) should spin.
- An Oly weightlifting bar should have more spin. Needle bearings are better for this and score a point. It’s why the XMark Blackhawk is our budget Oly WL pick.
- However, a power bar spins less so the bar feels more stable for heavier lifts. “Bushing” scores a point for power bars.
- A multi-purpose bar scores a point if it uses self-lubricating bushings. They are easier to service if something goes wrong and last longer.
- Bronze or composite bushings are the most common type of bushings.
- 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” without permanently warping it (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”.
- 27mm- a deadlift specialist bar as it’s easier to grip.
- 28mm- has more whip perfect for Olympic weightlifting.
- 28.5mm- an in-between size- good for an “multi-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 harder to grip and not ideal for pulling lifts like a deadlift. The cheap REP Basic bar has a 30mm diameter.
- 32mm- some powerlifters use this for heavy squats as there is even less “whip” and it provides more surface area on your back.
Olympic barbell pricing & value
- If the bar is over 165k PSI tensile strength and under $300 it scored a point. The average price out of 101 barbells is $345.
- (and 12) General users opinion
- If there are raving positive reviews from multiple sources online and users then the bar scores 2 points.
- The bar scores 1 point if there is a slight issue with the bar that pops up, but doesn’t affect the overall quality of the bar (it could be packaging, shipping, or customer service)
- 0 points are awarded here if there is a common complaint about the bar from different sources (scratches easily, poor grip, metal shavings etc.)
This helped us separate the wheat from the chaff!
Once I found the best-ranked barbells I selected around 20 and again went back to the team. We had personally tried or still use 14 of these bars and have managed to at least get our hands on the bars in the list above.
But I also dug into gym communities, asked friends that love their home gyms, and researched customer reviews on sales pages or forums such as Reddit.
We’ve ended up with a ton of data and a wide variety of opinions, which we tried to express in simple English rather than just showing you charts like this…
Obviously, not every bar can make this list.
So the main thing I’ve tried to do is include an option that suits everyone’s budget and is “best for most people”.
Other barbells we tested
There are a ton of other very good barbells that exist. But there’s a reason why they haven’t made our list.
Saying that some were so close to making the cut I thought they deserve a mention…
American Barbell Grizzly- This almost made the list! Everything is 100% made in the USA and their attention to detail is second to none. But at 195k PSI tensile strength the bar is not as strong as the Rogue Ohio Power bar. The knurling is not as aggressive as the OPB either but it provides enough good grip for most movements. If you prefer a more passive knurl on a power bar this may suit you.
American Barbell Stainless Steel- This bar is simply too expensive to put on this list when the bars like the Rogue 2.0 and Pyrros exist. What makes this bar stand out is the bearings. For one, it uses a protective ring on the inner collar to keep chalk and dust from getting into the bearings. But it’s the proprietary bearing technology used by American Barbell that makes the difference.
Buddy Capps The “Original” Texas Power Bar- The famous bar for breaking world records actually scored 12 out of 12 against our criteria. It just happens that the American Grizzly and Rogue Ohio Power Bar 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.
Rogue Russian Bar- Ticks all the boxes with stainless steel and 200k PSI. However it’s just too expensive to include in this list.
Vulcan Strength Bushing Barbell- A great bar, but there are reviews that the zinc finish rusts quickly. A much better option is the Rogue Ohio stainless steel bar.
Fringesport Power Bar- With 216k PSI this has a higher tensile strength than the OPB 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.
CAP “The Beast” bar– Super cheap option… But there are too many complaints about metal splinters to include this bar on our list. Our budget pick, The REP Basic bar, is your best bet if you want a cheap bar.
Synergee Regional Olympic Barbell- This bar is a great option if you’re into CrossFit. However, the one year warranty is a concern. You can buy Fringesport’s Wonder Bar for slightly cheaper and it comes with a lifetime warranty.
Olympic barbell FAQs
Best Olympic barbell- the bottom line
After spending over 80 hours of research and running over 100 Olympic barbells through our tests we have found some clear winners.
I would recommend the Rogue Bar 2.0 for most people. It is a multi-purpose bar with decent knurling that is not too aggressive, smooth-spinning composite bushings in the sleeves and costs half the price of similar spec barbells.
The Rogue Ohio Power bar is my top power bar pick due to the tensile strength, volcano knurl, and price. If you want a more aggressive knurl and do not intend on doing any Olympic weightlifting or CrossFit lifts then this bar is ideal for you.
However, our overall best Olympic barbell pick is the REP Gladiator Bar if you plan on focusing on clean and jerks and snatches. The mixture of needle bearings and bushings in the sleeves means it has a much faster spin than but can work for other lifts too.
You can check all of the prices and other users’ reviews of all of the top picks here in this table.