Ultimate Barbell Buying Guide – How To Pick The Right Bar!

Picking the correct barbell for your home gym can definitely be difficult if you’re not sure what to look for.

Luckily, I have a ton of experience with garage gym equipment, including barbells.

In this barbell buying guide, I’ll help you decide what bar is right for you!

Let’s get started!

What is a barbell?

rogue cerakote power bar

First up, what is a barbell?

A barbell is a piece of exercise equipment built with a steel shaft as well as two sleeves to load weight onto.

They usually weigh around 45 lbs on average and have an average length of around 7 feet. Obviously, this can be much lighter/ heavier, or shorter/longer.

There are a bunch of different types of these bars for any type of lifting you like to do.

Types Of Barbells

Before we even get into all of the features you should be paying attention to, it’s important that we go over the various lifting bars out there.

Here are the main ones you should be paying attention to in my barbell buying guide.

Related: Different Types Of Barbells

Olympic Bar vs Standard Bar

olympic bar vs standard bar

I’m sure most of you have seen both standard and Olympic bars at different weight rooms and gyms out there.

The biggest difference between the two is that an Olympic barbell is heavier, longer, more durable, have higher weight capacities, and is just generally safer overall.

Standard bars usually only have a 25mm, or 1” diameter thickness, which extends all the way out to the loadable sleeve.

These require you to use standard 1” plates as bigger 2” Olympic plates just aren’t going to fit at all.

Standard bars are fine for very light training, but if you want to get serious in your pursuit of strength, you need an Olympic bar.

They just provide much better performance and safety overall.

Olympic Weightlifting Barbells – WL Bar

man doing a snatch with rogue weightlifting bar

I know this might be confusing, but an Olympic barbell and an Olympic weightlifting bar aren’t necessarily the same thing.

Most people refer to an Olympic bar as any barbell with around 2” sleeves and around 7 ft long.

However, an Olympic Weightlifting bar is basically a specialty bar built specifically for Olympic Weightlifting. Hence the name.

These lifting bars are used in competition for the Clean and Jerk as well as the Snatch.

Here are a couple of the features of Olympic Weightlifting Bars.

  • Men’s bars are 28mm while women’s bars are 25mm.
    • Thinner shafts allow for more whip to get under the bar.
  • Moderate/Aggressive knurling depending on the type of Oly bar.
    • Competition bars are more aggressive as you want the best grip possible and you’ll only be doing a single rep in competition.
    • Training bars are more moderate to allow for higher training volume.
  • Men’s bars have center knurling, women’s bars do not.
    • The center knurling on men’s bars is nice as it provides extra grip when catching the bar in the Clean & Jerk.
  • The biggest feature is faster/smoother rotating sleeves.
    • The reason you want this is simple. When performing the Olympic lifts, you generate a ton of power and torque. 
    • If the sleeves don’t spin smoothly and quickly – more of that torque is going to be directed to your shoulders, elbows, forearms, wrists, your entire upper body, etc.
    • Try performing an Olympic lift with a standard barbell that doesn’t spin whatsoever, it’s not going to feel great.

Over a lifetime of lifting, you want to minimize wear and tear as much as possible.

If you plan on competing in Olympic Weightlifting, you need to invest in at least a training Weightlifting bar.

If you just want to do standard strength training with some Olympic lifts thrown in, a multipurpose bar is going to be perfect for you.

Multipurpose Barbells – CrossFit Bars/Hybrid Bars

man doing a clean and jerk with multipurpose bar

Multipurpose barbells, also known as CrossFit bars or hybrid bars, are the type of barbell I recommend for most people.

The reason is simple, multipurpose bars are made to handle pretty much any lift you throw at them.

They’re the best barbell you can get if you just want one barbell that can do it all!

A general purpose bar is great for slower powerlifting movements as well as explosive Olympic ones.

Here are the main features that set this bar apart from other Olympic lifting bars.

  • The men’s bars have a nice balance between a power and a WL bar with a 28.5mm shaft diameter (although some can be 28mm).
    • This makes them less stiff than powerlifting bars and less whippy than a Weightlifting barbell.
  • Women’s bars have the same shaft diameter as a Weightlifting bar at 25mm.
    • This is mainly because women tend to have smaller hands, so a thinner shaft is much more comfortable.
  • As I just stated, the whip is going to be moderate compared to a true WL bar.
    • You really don’t want a super whippy bar on your back while squatting or over your face while benching.
  • They are usually completely absent of a center knurl.
    • If they do have a center knurl, the knurling is super passive overall.
  • Dual knurl marks are the main feature that all Multipurpose bars have.
    • These have both Powerlifting markings (or IPF), as well as Weightlifting markings (or IWF).
    • This makes it really easy to find where to place your hands for both types of movements.
  • The sleeves usually have a smooth spin to allow for basic Olympic lifts, but it isn’t going to be nearly as fast as a Weightlifting bar.
    • Multipurpose bars use bushings to allow for a smooth spin. Make sure to only invest in an all purpose bar with cast bronze, composite, or sintered bronze bushings.
    • If you ever see a barbell with brass bushings, steer clear. They do not last as long and are just a cheap, low quality option.

Overall, if you want one barbell that can do it all, I recommend investing in a multipurpose bar over anything else.

Powerlifting Barbell – Power Bars

man doing a sumo deadlift with deadlift bar

Powerlifting barbells, often just called power bars, are made specifically to excel at the powerlifts.

The powerlifts, if you’re not sure what they are exactly, are the Squat, Bench Press, and Deadlift. These are also commonly known as the Big 3 for their ability to build massive strength.

If you only plan on doing these types of lifts and have no need for Olympic lifting in your training, I would definitely recommend a solid power bar.

Power bars have a couple of standard features that separate them from other barbells.

  • They have a 29mm shaft diameter which increases the bar’s overall strength and rigidity.
    • You want a stiff barbell for the Powerlifts – mainly just the Squat and Bench press as Deadlifts are much smoother with a whippier bar as I’ll cover in a second.
  • Power bars are usually around 20kg, but there are quite a few out there at a standard 45lbs.
  • They have a center knurling which is basically to help the bar grip onto your upper back/traps while squatting.
  • Very aggressive knurling to hold onto the bar easier.
    • Powerlifting is a heavy sport, so you want the best grip possible.
  • Powerlifting bars have rotating sleeves just like all Olympic bars, but they aren’t super fast or smooth.
    • The Squat, Bench Press, and Deadlift don’t create anywhere near as much torque on the bar as the Olympic lifts. So there isn’t really a need for super quick spinning sleeves.

If you just want to do the Powerlifts, investing in a solid power bar will get the job done for all barbell movements.

However, there are also specialty Power bars for the Squat and Deadlift that assist in training those lifts specifically.

Which we’re going to cover starting now!

Squat Bar

man doing a powerlifting style squat with power bar

There are a couple of specialty Squat bars out there that make Squatting a whole lot easier.

I’m not talking about a Safety Squat Bar though.

A power bar made specifically for Squatting is going to have a center knurling to allow the bar to grip onto your traps, rear delts, and upper back overall.

They also tend to be stiff like a regular Power bar as you don’t want a lot of whip at any time while squatting.

On top of that, they have very aggressive knurling to “stick” to your upper back better.

There are also a couple of more advanced Squat bars that have more knurling over the entire shaft of the barbell.

This provides even more grip for your upper back and allows you to Squat even safer.

The three lifting bars that do this the best are the Bells of Steel Squat bar, the Texas Squat bar, and the Rogue Squat bar. 

While the Bells of Steel and Texas Squat bars are great, the Rogue Squat bar is on another level!

rogue squat bar showing off fully knurled shaft

It is fully knurled across the entire shaft so there are no smooth surfaces at all while the bar is on your back.

This is an example of a true specialty squat bar and I think for most people it isn’t really necessary.

However, if you want to push your Squat variations even harder, picking up a Squat bar might be worth it!

Deadlift Bar

man doing the deadlift with a deadlift bar

A Deadlift Bar is going to have the most differences from a traditional power bar.

First off, it’s going to be a bit more narrow in diameter than a powerlifting barbell.

At 27mm, it’s even narrower than an Olympic Weightlifting Bar.

This allows for much more whip and because the bar can flex more, you’re able to break the plates off of the ground easier.

When you Deadlift with a stiff bar, all of the plates tend to break off the ground at the same time, making the starting position harder.

Plus, because the bar is thinner, it gives you an even better grip on the barbell.

This, combined with super aggressive knurling makes deadlifting much easier as the better your grip is, the stronger your deadlift will be.

The other key feature of a Deadlift bar is the overall longer length.

A longer barbell is going to help you in the starting position as well.

If you plan on competing in Powerlifting, investing in at least a Deadlift bar along with a Power bar might be a good idea.

Type Of Training You Do

Your lifting style will determine what type of bar you need. 

Do you compete in Powerlifting? Better get a power bar. 

Are you an Olympic Weightlifter? Time to invest in a Weightlifting Bar. 

If you just lift to get stronger, build muscle, and stay in shape – get a multipurpose bar to cover all your bases.

Warranty

This is important for deciding what barbells to invest in. The better the warranty, the better the quality of the bar should be. 

If a barbell has a lifetime warranty like what is usually offered by companies such as Rogue Fitness, you can be confident you have a high-quality bar.

Price Range

There are a ton of great barbells for less than $200 up to $500+. However, I do think if you’re going to invest in a solid bar, anything less than $150 isn’t a great idea. 

Just raising your budget into the $200-$300 range will get you a solid bar for any type of lifting you plan to do.

Barbell Finishes & Coatings

The overall finish of your barbell is incredibly important for overall performance, rust prevention, and just how cool the bar looks. 

It does matter to some lifters after all!

Also, it should be obvious that not all barbell finishes are created equal!

Let’s cover each of them in depth now!

Hard Chrome

close up of hard chrome coating on barbell collar and sleeve

Chrome is available in polished chrome and satin chrome colors. 

There are subtle differences between them but from a performance standpoint, there’s no difference.

Polished chrome is super shiny as they policy the chrome after the initial application. 

Satin chrome is more of a matte finish as it is not polished after being applied.

Hard chrome offers a solid surface finish that is very resistant to oxidation. Making it a great option for rust prevention.

It has about the same amount of oxidation resistance as zinc in low to moderate humidity. 

However, if you’re in a high humidity region, it’s better to get hard chrome as it’s much more resilient in those conditions.

Also, it is generally more durable than zinc. As zinc tends to fade away much quicker over time. 

Hard chrome is also very resistant to normal wear and tear – such as chipping, scratches, and fading with use. 

Compared to different zinc finishes, it feels pretty natural in comparison. 

Compared to other finishes such as stainless steel and just a bare steel bar, you’ll find that the knurling is much more mild. 

This is due to it being a much thicker finish which will actually partially fill in the knurling a bit. 

If you choose a barbell with this finish, I recommend getting one with a more aggressive knurling so this doesn’t affect the performance as much.

There’s one important thing to pay attention to when investing in a hard chrome bar. 

If the price of the bar is cheaper than average lifting bars with the same specs, it most likely is finished with decorative chrome and not actual hard chrome. 

Some equipment companies will try to pass it off as the same thing when it’s not the same at all. 

Make sure you don’t fall for the false advertising as the bar is not going to hold up nearly as well. 

Overall, I would say hard chrome is more middle of the road in terms of price, performance, and durability.

If you get a true hard chrome finish on your bar, you’re getting a ton of value. 

Bare Steel (Carbon Steel)

bare steel shaft finish

Bare steel, which is also called raw steel, is an interesting choice for a barbell. 

It isn’t technically a barbell finish as they’re just an unfinished bar without any actual finish or coating applied to it. 

This raw steel or just carbon steel is actually the best option for a natural barbell feel. 

This is obviously because there are no thick finishes to fill in the knurling. So you get all of the best grip possible. 

And yes, because there’s no finish, it’s going to be much cheaper as a result. 

However, this sounds too good to be true right?

That’s because it is!

Bare steel offers great performance and a natural feeling. The cost for this is your barbell is going to require more maintenance. 

The best barbell finishes protect your bar from oxidation and rust buildup. 

So, if you don’t mind doing maintenance on your bar, bare steel is a good choice. 

If you don’t want to go through the hassle, (and who could blame you?), then I would steer clear of a raw steel bar and go for something like stainless or even an e-coat finish.

Bright Zinc

bright zinc shaft finish

Bright zinc can withstand oxidation in almost any condition. 

The full zinc plating makes it very hard for oxidation to get through to the steel underneath.

However, this is only true for low or moderate humidity regions.

If you live in an area with a lot of humidity, your best bet is investing in either a hard chrome, cerakote, or stainless steel bar instead. 

The main disadvantages of bright zinc are that it doesn’t feel as natural in the hand.

The bright zinc plating fills in some of the knurling a little less than hard chrome, but it’s still enough to make the knurling less aggressive overall.

If you choose to get a bright zinc bar, make sure you get one that has a little more aggressive knurling to counteract the zinc coating. 

Black Zinc

black zinc barbell shaft

Black zinc finishes are basically just a bright zinc coating that goes through a process called conversion coating.

The main difference between this and regular bright zinc is the black color it gives the bar. It looks pretty nice for sure!

However, there are a couple of other factors that differentiate them further.

The biggest one is that black chromate isn’t as grippy or natural feeling as bright zinc.

This is most likely due to the fact that it’s a little slick compared to regular zinc. It also tends to fade quicker. 

Overall though, other than the cool black color, there aren’t a lot of benefits to getting a black zinc finish.

Cerakote

cerakote barbell shaft

Cerakote is one of the coolest finishes you can get on a barbell as it allows you to add pretty much any color you want to a bar.

This is part of why it’s been so popular in the last couple of years as you can choose a bar to match your own personal taste.

The overall performance of a cerakote barbell is comparable to chrome as it has great resistance to oxidation, abrasion, and the feel of the bar.

While it might be pretty durable, I’ve seen many noting that they have more chips and overall wear than a hard chrome bar.

So while they might look cooler than anything else out there, check some reviews to determine just how durable certain cerakote bars are.

Black Oxide

black oxide barbell shaft

Black oxide bars oxidize quicker than any finish out there other than bare steel. 

A big benefit to investing in a barbell with this type of finish, is how solid the grip is compared to other finishes.

Because black oxide is a very thin finish, it doesn’t fill in the knurling much at all. This makes the knurling just as awesome as a bare or stainless steel barbell without dulling it down with a thicker finish.

Black oxide finishes are one of the cheapest options you can get for your barbell.

The only real downside to this barbell coating is that they require a lot of maintenance and the black oxide is going to fade from your grip, sweat, tears, etc.

Once again, if you are fine doing maintenance on your bar, black oxide is a great finish that is very cost effective.

Stainless Steel

stainless steel barbell shaft

This type of steel is similar to bare steel in that it isn’t actually a finish, it’s bare steel.

The main difference is that the bar is constructed entirely of stainless steel which is naturally resistant to rust. 

This makes it the best choice if you want to do the least amount of maintenance.

It also has the added benefit of having a natural feeling in your hand and provides the best grip when paired with more aggressive finishes.

The biggest downside is that it’s a great deal more expensive than other barbell finishes. But they’re absolutely worth the price for the awesome performance and low maintenance it offers.

Sleeves

Barbell sleeves are what you actually slide the weight plates onto and hold the weights while you’re training.

Of course, you have to consider the rotation system of the sleeves, whether they use bushings or bearings, and even the overall loadable sleeve length.

This section of my barbell buying guide will cover all of the key points you should pay attention to when it comes to barbell sleeves.

Bushings

internal bushings of barbell sleeve

Barbell bushings are basically just solid metal rings that allow the bar to spin freely.

There is typically a minimum of two bushings per side of the sleeves.

Bushings are going to be used for most power bars and multipurpose barbells.

Cast Bronze Bushings

Cast bronze bushings are very durable but the downside is that they aren’t self lubricating. Meaning that you have to maintain them if you want them to last a long time and spin smoothly.

These are a common choice for most power bars but are also used in CrossFit and multipurpose barbells.

Overall, if you’re fine doing a little maintenance every couple of months, then cast bronze bushings are a great choice.

Sintered Bronze Bushings

These are the best type of bushings you can get as they’re super durable like cast bronze bushings, but they’re self lubricating as well.

Sintered bushings are made using powdered bronze that is heated up and fused together.

This makes them more porous throughout so that the oil can pass through easier.

Getting a barbell that you don’t have to lubricate occasionally is great, especially if you want your bar to last a long time.

Composite Bushings

Composite bushings are usually the best value overall as they are self lubricating and offer a ton of impact resistance.

Brass Bushings

These are the cheapest material you will find for a barbell and something you shouldn’t consider investing in as the performance is much lower overall.

They actually do require lubricating occasionally and on top of that, they’re a softer metal which means they’re most likely to lose shape over time.

Unless you have a really low budget, I would recommend you don’t get a bar with these types of bushings.

Bearings

internal bearings of barbell sleeve

Bearings are the preferred choice for Olympic Weightlifting bars and usually consist of either needle or ball bearings. Although the latter isn’t very common at all.

Needle bearings are just more durable as they can handle far greater impact forces than ball bearings. So if you find a weightlifting bar with anything other than needle bearings, find something better.

Chances are, you won’t have to look very hard.

The main reason most weightlifting bars use bearings is that you want a fast and smooth rotation. This is incredibly important for Olympic lifting as you need to get under the bar as quickly as possible.

The only real reason you would get a bearing bar is if you plan on competing in Olympic weightlifting.

If you are mainly going to perform powerlifting movements and some Olympic lifting, just get a multipurpose bar as it’ll be cheaper and good enough for most people.

Sleeve Rotation

Olympic barbells are designed to rotate while lifting. This only really matters to Weightlifters and CrossFitters who have to snatch and clean/jerk the bar.

If this is you, your bar should have needle bearings that allow the bar to spin fast and smooth.

If you’re anybody else, you can get a barbell with bushings as they’re much more cost-efficient, and the lifts don’t require a fast rotation to do them successfully.

The best bushings you should look for are either composite, bronze, or stainless steel; anything other than these is entirely inferior.

If you’re looking into a multipurpose bar to do a variety of power lifts, cleans, and snatches, you can get a combination of bushings/bearings instead.

Loadable Sleeve Length

man loading a bumper plate onto barbell sleeve

This should be obvious, but the loadable sleeve length is simply the part of the sleeve that you can load with weight plates.

The main thing you should consider is what type of plates you currently have.

If you have thicker bumper plates, you’ll need a longer loadable sleeve length to ensure you have enough room on the bar.

Most typical power bars are around 16.25”-17”, multipurpose/Weightlifting bars from 16”-16.5”, and women’s multipurpose/Weightlifting bars around 13”.

You shouldn’t have too much of an issue loading the bar if you have standard iron plates.

As long as your bar has an average length in the above ranges, it should be enough for most lifters.

Unless you’re maxing out your barbell, in which case it’s over. You’re done, you won the gym!

Sleeve Finishes

Unlike shaft finishes which come in a wide range of options, sleeve finishes are a little more limited. 

The most common ones you tend to find are bright zinc and hard chrome sleeves. 

You’ll sometimes find black oxide, cerakote, and even stainless steel. 

I recommend you only invest in barbells with hard chrome, stainless steel, or zinc finishes, as they will have way better resistance overall. 

Even though colored sleeves such as black powder coats and even cerakote might look cool, the coating isn’t very durable when loading/unloading plates over time. 

Shaft

Your barbell shaft is going to determine how stiff or whippy your barbell will be, and depending on the finish and knurling, how solid your grip will be.

This section of my barbell buying guide covers everything you need to know about a barbell shaft!

Shaft Diameter

The whip of your barbell will determine how much the bar is going to flex. A thicker 29mm bar will be a lot stiffer and be more suited for Squatting and Benching. 

A thinner 28mm bar will have a lot more whip, making things like Olympic lifting and even Deadlifting easier.

Make sure to get the correct shaft diameter for the type of lifting you plan to do. 

Another thing to consider is how big your hands are. If you have smaller hands, you might prefer a smaller diameter in general so you can grip the bar better.

Barbell Whip

Your barbell whip is essentially what happens when you move the bar quickly, like in the Snatch or Clean & Jerk.

The barbell can also whip considerably if you’re performing an explosive Squat or Deadlift as well.

There are actually quite a few factors to consider when it comes to how much whip, or lack thereof, your barbell has.

  • Diameter of the barbells shaft
    • In general, a barbell will have more whip if the shaft is narrower overall.
    • A thicker 29mm power bar is going to be much stiffer, even with heavy weight on the barbell.
    • Everything else being equal, the shaft diameter is going to determine the amount of whip the barbell has more than anything else.
  • The overall  yield & tesile strength will also affect a lifting bars flex.
    • The higher the PSI tensile strength, the more stiff the barbell will be. A lower PSI tensile strength barbell will have more whip on average as well.
  • Overall load on the barbell
    • This one is definitely common sense. With no weight on the bar, the bar isn’t going to flex or whip at all.
    • That’s why power bars need to be thicker so they don’t whip a lot with heavy loads.
    • On the flip side, Weightlifting bars are never going to approach the loads that Powerlifters use. So Weightlifting bars need to be thinner to allow for more whip with heavy weights during the Olympic lifts.
  • Position of the plates
    • The farther out the weight is on the barbell, the more the bar will flex and whip in response. This is very common with wider bumper plates especially.
    • If you use standard iron plates which are much thinner by default, they’re going to be closer to the collars and reduce whip.

Basically from all of these, there are a couple of key takeaways.

First, Powerlifting bars are constructed to be as stiff as possible. You don’t want the bar to be whippy while squatting or benching with heavy weights.

However, the Deadlift does benefit from a whippier bar and that’s why deadlift bars have a 27mm shaft.

Second, the Olympic lifts are all about using the power and momentum you generate to get the bar as high as possible so you can get under the bar and catch it.

Plus, when you catch the bar, you want it to whip so the force can transfer away from you when you’re catching it. 

Just try Olympic lifting with a stiff power bar, you’re gonna feel the weight crushing you much more when you catch a Clean or Snatch.

Finally, you have multipurpose bars, which are a nice balance between power and Olympic bars.

These have a more moderate whip so that you can do the explosive Olympic lifts, and handle the heavier loading of the powerlifts.

This is why multipurpose bars tend to have a shaft diameter of 28.5mm to allow for just the right amount of whip for all lifts.

Shaft Finishes

The finish on the shaft of your barbell will determine how it feels, performs, and even its resistance to oxidation.

Some can even affect the knurling, making it less aggressive from the knurl depth being filled in. 

Choosing a barbell with a specific shaft finish is very much up to the individual’s preference. 

However, there are some recommendations I can give you to make it easier. 

  • If you want the overall best feel and highest oxidation resistance – stainless, electroless nickel, and cerakote will be your best options.
    • They’re more expensive, but you’re paying for a premium finish that will keep your barbell in the best condition possible. 
  • If you want something a bit cheaper that still offers a decent amount of oxidation resistance, chrome, e-coat, or zinc finishes are going to be perfect.
    • The main thing you need to know is that you’re trading oxidation resistance for less aggressive knurling. These finishes are applied coatings that usually feel inferior to other types of finishes, but again, they require less maintenance than no finish at all. 
  • Finally, bare steel and black oxide provide the best overall feeling but the lowest oxidation resistance.
    • Bare steel is exactly what it sounds like; it’s just a bare steel barbell with no coating at all. This gives it the best grip and feel but requires more maintenance than any other finish. 
    • Then you have black oxide, which has what’s known as a conversion coating. It provides a little more resistance than bare steel, and the feeling is pretty close. 

Hopefully, this helps you decide what barbell finish is right for you; if you have any questions, let me know in the comments section below. 

Center Knurling

Depending on the type of lifting you do, you may or may not want a center knurling.

This can sometimes be an afterthought for some people so make sure you check this section of my barbell buying guide out to make sure you’re picking the right bar for you!

No Center Knurling

two different types of rogue bars without center knurling

If a barbell has no center knurling, they’re most likely intended for the Olympic lifts, Deadlifts, and other movements where you don’t want or need grip in the center.

However, if you plan on Squatting with the barbell you choose, I would recommend you get a bar with at least a passive center knurling for some grip.

Passive Center Knurling

passive center knurling on barbell

This type of knurling is great for multipurpose bars as you can Squat safely knowing the barbell is gripping your traps and upper back securely.

You also have the added benefit of getting some grip when you catch your cleans without tearing up your collarbones like a more aggressive center knurl.

Aggressive Center Knurling

aggressive barbell knurling

Finally, we have an aggressive center knurling which is a very common and popular feature for power bars.

This type of center knurling is literally only going to be used for Squats as you need the most grip possible.

Weight Capacity

The overall weight capacity of your barbell is an important feature you need to consider.

In general, I recommend you invest in a barbell that has a minimum of at least 1000 lbs. This is the gold standard that good quality barbells should be capable of handling.

That being said, not every company is actually going to be trustworthy with the weight capacity that they list.

So when in doubt, make sure you look around and see if the bar you’re interested in has positive reviews and isn’t a safety hazard.

Tensile Strength Rating

You’re going to see the tensile strength rating thrown around a lot on barbell specs. All it’s referring to is when the barbell is literally going to explode from the pressure placed upon it.

PSI stands for pounds per square inch and is a basic way to determine how much pressure the steel of your barbell can handle.

The pounds per square inch/psi refers to how many lbs it can handle per square inch and is basically the breaking point of a barbell.

The minimum tensile strength rating I and many others recommend is between 150,000-190,000 PSI.

However, the best-constructed barbells that will stand the test of time are going to be in that upper 190,000+ PSI tensile strength range.

Yield Strength Rating

While the tensile strength rating is more readily reported, it isn’t quite the best spec to pay attention to.

Instead, you should see if you can find the Yield Strength Rating, as this is when a barbell will bend and never return to its original shape. 

Good luck finding this rating, though, because I rarely ever see companies reporting it.

Maybe in the coming years, they’ll start giving lifters more information on their products, but for now, Tensile Strength it is.

Knurling

The knurling of a barbell is by far one of the most critical factors you need to consider. This is what you use to grip onto the bar, after all, so it’s just a little important, you know?

The three main types are Hills, Volcanoes, and Mountains. These are just a fancy way of visualizing the styles of knurling you can get.

Hills – Mild/Passive Knurling

mild/passive knurling

This knurling is the mildest knurling and is sometimes even described as passive. You’re going to see this on a typical gym bar, multipurpose, and Olympic weightlifting bars. You’ll notice that this knurling is a lot flatter than the others and isn’t quite as sharp as a result.

Volcanoes – Medium/Moderate Knurling

moderate knurling

This is what medium or even moderate knurling is typically referring to. Usually, this knurling has four points on the corners and the middle is like a crater of a volcano, hence the name. 

Mountains – Aggressive Knurling

aggressive knurling on barbell

Finally, we have the most aggressive knurling of all. This one is super obvious since it essentially looks like the peak of a mountain. The steeper that point is, the more aggressive the knurling and the better grip you’re going to have as it will bite into your hand as a result.

Knurl Marks

The knurl marks on a barbell are important as they allow you to set your grip up evenly without eyeballing it.

They’re easy to spot as smooth marks inside of the lifting bars knurling.

There are only a couple of different versions available for the basic barbell types.

IPF Knurl Marks

three power bars with IPF knurl marks

IPF Knurl marks, or the International Powerlifting Federation, are the marks found on powerlifting bars.

These help you determine the maximum hand placement you can have on the bench press especially. 

This ruling basically states that your index finger has to at least cover the knurl marks and can go no further.

These marks are 810mm or ~32” apart. 

IWF Knurl Marks

The IWF knurl marks or the International Weightlifting Federation, are found on Olympic Weightlifting bars.

These marks are further out than IPF knurl marks at 910mm or ~36” apart.

Dual Knurl Marks

dual knurl marks on multipurpose bar

Finally, we have dual knurl marks, which consist of both IPF and IWF marks.

This is the easiest sign that you’re using a multipurpose bar as it can handle all lifts and has dual knurl marks for any movement you do.

Frequently Asked Questions

Conclusion

I hope that this barbell buying guide helped you out!

If you’re interested in seeing my top recommended barbells. Check out the links below to navigate to the proper sections!

Top 38 Best Barbells – Ultimate Buying Guide For 2022

Leave a Comment