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There are a ton of different types of barbells out there other than your typical Olympic bar.
Other than your basic straight bars, there are a ton of specialty barbells to add more variety to your training.
So in this guide, I’ll cover the most different types of barbells and what they’re useful for.
RELATED – Top 38 Best Barbells For Your Home Gym
Let’s get started!
Table Of Contents
- 1 Straight Barbell
- 2 Specialty Bars
- 3 Frequently Asked Questions
- 3.1 What barbells do most gyms use?
- 3.2 What are the different size barbells?
- 3.3 Which barbell should you use for squats?
- 3.4 What are the curvy barbells called?
- 3.5 Which barbell for bench press?
- 3.6 What barbell is used in powerlifting?
- 3.7 How do you tell if a bar is a powerlifting bar?
- 3.8 What is the difference between weightlifting barbell and powerlifting barbell?
- 4 Conclusion
Straight bars are exactly what they sound like, a barbell that is perfectly straight without any specialty handles, bends, or curves.
They consist of a shaft and knurling where your grip goes, collars that prevent the plates from moving, and sleeves that you slide your plates onto.
These types of barbells do the same thing but have a couple of differences depending on the lifts you use them for.
A standard barbell is the most basic type of bar available.
It has a 1″ diameter throughout, which decreases the overall weight capacity it can handle and requires you to use 1″ standard plates to load them.
They can be anywhere between 4-7 feet long and are usually less than 45 lbs.
While a standard barbell can have its uses, I don’t recommend them as Olympic bars are far superior in every way.
Olympic bars are the most popular type of barbell there is.
It’s typically used to refer to any style of barbell with 2″ rotating sleeves, single or dual knurl marks, and loaded using Olympic plates.
There are still some key differences between these bars which I’ll cover now!
However, there are a few that matter more than you might think!
First, the knurl marks are located closer together than on Olympic weightlifting bars. This is so you can find the correct grip width while performing the power lifts.
In powerlifting, a powerlifter can grip the bar wherever you’d like as long as your index finger is in contact with the ring. Any wider than that and you have an illegal grip.
The second difference is that they use barbell bushings that spin the sleeves. These aren’t as fast as smooth and fast spinning as bearings but for the slower powerlifts, they don’t need to be.
Powerlifting bars are also thicker than other bars with a 29mm diameter. This allows for a much higher weight capacity and a stiffer barbell in general.
You don’t want the bar whipping around on your back or over your face while lifting.
Another key difference is the knurling as well as the inclusion of a center knurling.
Since you’re using more weight for the powerlifts and need a better grip, the knurling is going to be more aggressive overall.
A powerlifting bar will usually have a center knurling that keeps the barbell on your back much easier while squatting.
Overall, if you just want to do heavy powerlifting movements, a powerlifting bar is probably all you’ll ever need.
Deadlift bars are a special type of powerlifting bar designed exclusively for Deadlifting.
They have a smaller diameter shaft of 27mm which allows for more whip and is easier to grip as well.
The knurling is going to be even more aggressive than a typical powerlifting bar, and it has a longer overall length.
This makes Deadlifting much easier as it combines everything you want when performing the Deadlift.
A solid grip, plates that break off the ground one at a time for a more explosive starting position, and a longer bar for increased leverage over the barbell.
A squat bar is usually referred to as a safety squat bar or even just a regular powerlifting bar.
However, a specialty squat bar has more aggressive knurling along the shaft to cover as much of your back as possible.
Some will just have a regular sized center knurl and call it good.
Others will add more knurling closer to the center knurl to minimize the smoothness of the bar.
Then there’s Rogue Fitness and their Squat Bar.
Their bar has completely removed the smooth sections you find on a standard power bar, and in its place is a fully knurled shaft from collar to collar.
This will give you the best coverage on your upper back, ensuring that the barbell won’t slide around or move an inch.
Plus, since it’s a specialty power bar, the knurling is going to be even more aggressive.
RELATED – Best Rogue Fitness Equipment
Most people can probably stick with one power bar and call it good.
However, I’m sure some of you that can Squat over 800 lbs would find a use for this!
A multipurpose bar, also known as a CrossFit/All Purpose/Hybrid barbell, is a nice mix between a power and an Olympic bar.
They have dual knurl marks to find the correct grip for both powerlifting and the Olympic lifts.
These types of barbells tend to have more moderate knurling and sleeves.
This way you have enough grip and whip for any type of lifting without pushing into either extreme.
The shaft is also going to be in the middle as well, around 28.5mm. This keeps the bar from being too stiff or whippy.
All in all, if you want one barbell that can do it all, I will always recommend a multipurpose bar over anything else.
Here are the differences a men’s and women’s multipurpose bar can have!
- Men’s Bar
- 28.5mm shaft
- 20kg (44lbs) weight
- No center knurling
- Women’s Bar
- 25mm shaft for smaller hands
- 15kg (33lbs) weight
- No center knurling
Olympic Weightlifting Bars
Olympic Weightlifting bars are the most different than a standard Olympic barbell.
These are primarily used in the sport of Weightlifting, hence the name!
An Oly bar will have a thinner shaft that allows for more whip.
The knurling can be moderate or more aggressive depending on whether you’re working with a competition or training bar.
The biggest differences are the sleeves use bearings for a fast and smoother spin, while the knurl marks are going to be located closer to the collars.
Beyond that, here are a few differences between both men’s and women’s types of barbells!
- Men’s Bar
- 28mm shaft
- Center knurling
- Women’s Bar
- 25mm shaft
- No center knurling
Then you have technique bars used for Weightlifting.
These are exactly what they sound like, lighter barbells designed only for technique work.
A lot of technique bars are constructed with aluminum to lower the cost and overall weight.
This typically means they can handle up to 200 lbs max but make sure you check with the manufacturer as it could be far lower!
Specialty bars allow you to add a bunch of variety to your training, target weak points, work around injuries, etc.
These are by no means necessary but a lot of people will find they’re still worth checking out after you have your standard barbell taken care of.
Here are the many different types of barbells made for specialty lifts.
Hex, or Trap bars, are shaped like a trapezoid, hence the name.
A trap bar is commonly used to perform deadlift variations, shrugs, and farmer walks.
This type of specialty bar is nice as it allows you to hold the barbell with a neutral grip.
This is an easier position and allows you to perform exercises with a more upright torso.
Making the trap bar great for those with back issues as you can use the high handles and drop your hips lower than a traditional barbell.
If you want to see one of my favorite trap bars available, check out my review of the Rogue TB-2 Trap Bar.
Open Trap Bar
An Open Trap Bar allows you to perform all the same movements as a regular Hex bar, but one side of the frame is left open.
This allows you to step in and out of it instead of over it and potentially tripping after a hard set.
The main benefit I love with some of these is a built-in deadlift jack. You just flip the bar up onto the open side, and it balances perfectly.
Making it easy to load and unload plates to save energy and your lower back.
Some of these are also constructed with circular tubing instead of square, so you can use them as a type of cambered bar for squats.
Safety Squat Bar
Safety Squat bars, or just safety bars are by far one of my favorite specialty bars available.
They have a yoke and handles built into the bar so it rests comfortably on your upper back and you don’t have to externally rotate your arms to grab the barbell.
This type of bar is great for those with bad shoulders, and because the camber distributes the load out in front of you slightly, it places much greater demands on your posterior chain and abs to keep you upright.
There are even some safety squat bars such as the Kabuki Transformer Bar that give you a ton of versatility over a standard SSB.
The Transformer bar specifically can adjust where the sleeves distribute the load. Meaning you can make it feel more like a front or back squat, or just a traditional Safety Bar.
The Swiss, or Football bar as it’s sometimes known, allows you to perform pressing variations with a neutral or even angled grip depending on the bar.
Swiss bars are perfect for those with shoulder and/or wrist issues as everything is lined up, unlike a standard barbell.
You can even use this for rowing exercises and some companies, such as Rep Fitness, make a Swiss bar that can be used as a pulldown attachment as well.
Swiss bars are a versatile and useful tool for anyone looking to add variety to their training routine and target different muscle groups.
Cambered bars are mainly for intermediate and experienced lifters due to their awkward shape.
The bend in a cambered bar changes the load distribution to be much lower than a standard straight bar.
If you’re using one for the squat, the weights are going to be located much closer to your waist.
This will put even more stress on your posterior chain than even a Safety bar, so it’s a great option for those that want to build up their torso strength while squatting.
EZ Curl Bars
An EZ Curl bar is pretty much only for training the upper body. While it may be called a curl bar, many also use it for tricep extensions as well.
The curved knurling of EZ curl bars allows you to grab the bar with a much more ergonomic-friendly grip.
If you want to train your arms harder without feeling that extra torque on your wrists and forearms, an EZ curl bar is an awesome specialty bar to invest in.
Tricep/Hammer Curl Bar
A tricep bar, sometimes referred to as a hammer curl bar, is literally just built for extensions and hammer curls. And that’s it!
This bar tends to be oval-shaped with two knurled handles placed vertically inside of the dual shafts.
You can definitely get this if you have elbow problems as the neutral grip will cut down on any wrist/elbow torque.
I think a better value that will allow for more variety in your training is a swiss bar.
You can do extensions and hammer curls, presses, and rows, and everything you do will be rackable to save on fatigue.
An axle, or fat bar, is very popular in the strongman crowd for its thicker diameter.
This type of bar will build grip strength much better than a standard barbell. Considering having a vice-like grip is super important in strongman, axle bars are a great type of barbell to train with.
You’ll often see an axle barbell used in the axle clean and press, which is a more brute-force version of the traditional clean and press done in Olympic Weightlifting.
If you want to build grip strength though, getting some Fat Gripz to use with traditional bars will probably be a better fit for most people.
If you’re a strongman competitor though, picking up a dedicated Axle bar might be a good move.
A log bar is something that you’ll never see at a typical commercial gym.
It is really only used during Strongman training or competitions such as the World’s Strongest Man.
It’s basically just a long steel rod and the shaft is constructed to look like a log. The two neutral grip handles in the openings of log bars allow you to do a muscle clean and press with a comfortable grip.
As that’s all you’ll basically be doing with a log bar, it isn’t very versatile and is really only for strongman training.
If you just plan on doing more traditional lifts, there’s no reason to invest in this type of bar as even a swiss bar is more versatile with its multiple neutral grip options.
If you want to get stronger at a log overhead press for competition, it might be worth it depending on how serious you are.
An Elephant bar is another straight specialty bar that has one very important purpose, to lift the absolute most weight possible.
An Elephant bar is a specialized Deadlift bar used in Strongman.
It’s about 1.5 times longer than a standard bar at around ~9.7ft.
The sleeves themselves are around ~28” so you can literally load this type of bar up with a million plates and keep going.
In fact, most Elephant bars are made to handle up to 2,500 lbs!
It’s also made to have a ton of whip and flex even though the 30mm shaft diameter is trying its best to hold it together.
All in all, you’ll probably never use this bar, but it is absolutely an elephant of a bar indeed!
A buffalo bar is similar in looks to a standard Olympic barbell but it has one very important difference.
It has a curve through the shaft instead of just being straight.
When a buffalo bar is on your back while squatting, it conforms to the shape of your traps and rear delts much better than a straight bar.
This allows the bar to stick to your upper back much easier while keeping your hand position lower as well.
Squatting with a buffalo barbell will help reduce the strain on your shoulders, elbows, wrists, and pretty much everything.
It is one of those specialty bars that is absolutely worth it if you want to train for a long time by minimizing injuries.
You can use a buffalo bar for your bench press as well!
Because you’ll be gripping the barbell on the curved portion as well, your grip will actually be much easier on your wrists.
Plus, it will help increase the range of motion slightly as well.
A lot of lifters have used the most popular buffalo bar on the market, the Duffalo bar, created by Chris Duffin of Kabuki Strength.
There are tons of reviews of people being able to squat and bench press heavy again for the first time in forever (yes like Frozen).
If a bar can allow you to continue adding weight and prevent injury, I’d say it’s worth it. Don’t you?
Earthquake/bamboo bars require a ton of stability to lift effectively.
Because they’re mostly constructed of bamboo, they do flex quite a bit and while they may be pretty durable, they aren’t nearly as capable as standard bars.
Some of these bars allow you to add weight plates to them but others have special slits you can slide bands into. You’ll often see people utilizing this with weights dangling from the bands.
This creates a very unique lifting experience that requires a ton of stability to perform effectively.
Unless you have a very specific use for this type of training, I would recommend just sticking with basic barbells for the majority of your training.
A tsunami bar is just what it sounds like, a barbell made that bends and flexes as you lift it. It’s truly like a tsunami in that it is constantly moving and chaotic in motion.
It is definitely similar to earthquake/bamboo bars as it assists with building stabilization while pressing, pulling, and squatting.
I really wouldn’t recommend this for anybody but advanced lifters capable of stabilizing efficiently while lifting.
A Freak Bar is an interesting specialty bar made by Westside Barbell.
It has springs built into the shaft and handles that allow you to adjust your grip throughout the movement.
This is a pretty cool idea and is something that should definitely help in upper body pressing movements especially.
Performing a bench or overhead press using this bar will allow you to press in an arc similar to dumbbells, cables, and converging machines.
Considering the pecs and shoulders are fully shortened when pressing like this, this is a pretty great idea.
From what I can tell though, this bar isn’t widely available on their website but hopefully, that will change in the future.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which barbells are you most interested in for your own home gym?
Let me know in the comment section below, right now!
Until next time,