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Best Barbells

Updated October 2018
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

  • 115 Models Considered
  • 10 Hours Researched
  • 1 Experts Interviewed
  • 153 Consumers Consulted
  • Zero products received from manufacturers.

    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Why trust BestReviews?
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.

    Shopping guide for best barbells

    Last Updated October 2018

    Whether you’re trying to lose weight, get stronger, or achieve a lean, toned look, strength training is a key component of any workout routine. Strength training usually requires some type of equipment, however, and since most of us can’t fit bulky machines in our home, handheld exercise tools are a practical option. If you’re serious about strength training, a barbell is a good choice.

    If you’re new to working out with a barbell, choosing the right one can be a challenge. You have to decide what barbell type, length, strength, and other features fit your exercise program, and it can get confusing.

    At BestReviews, our mission is to take that confusion out of shopping. Our in-depth product research helps save you time, while making sure that you wind up with the right products for your home. If you’re looking for some tips on how to choose a barbell, our shopping guide has plenty of good advice.

    Most commercial gyms use Olympic barbells.

    What is a barbell?

    A barbell is a long steel bar that holds weighted metal plates that slide onto each end of the bar to total a desired weight. Collars hold the plates in place so they don’t fall off and cause injury. The surface of the bar has an engraved, textured pattern, called knurling, that helps you to maintain your grip while you lift the barbell.

    Barbells are typically used for heavy weight training. Common exercises done with a barbell include the deadlift, stiff-leg deadlift, bench press, overhead bench press, front squat, back squat, overhead squat, bent-over row, and push press.

    Versatile, durable performance

    The Rep Fitness Sabre Olympic Bar is ideally suited for deadlifts, squats, and bench presses, as well as Olympic lifts. Its zinc coating prevents rust, and the snap rings and bushings keep the sleeves moving smoothly, which helps the barbell stand up to regular use. The knurling won’t tear up your hands, and the dual knurl markings work for both weightlifting and powerlifting.

    Barbell benefits

    There are several advantages to working out with a barbell rather than dumbbells or other weight training equipment, including the following:

    • Ease of use: A barbell is very simple to use. With some basic training, nearly anyone can learn how to do barbell exercises in a short time.

    • Stable weights: The weight on a barbell is fixed in place, which means it’s very stable and more likely to follow a normal range of motion than other strength training equipment.

    • Heavier weights: A barbell can provide heavier weights for your workout than dumbbells or other strength training equipment.

    • Increased weights: With a barbell, it’s very easy to add more weight to the bar as you become stronger.

    • Greater power: You’re able to generate more power with a barbell than you can with a dumbbell, so you can do more explosive exercises, such as power snatches.

    • Target legs: With a barbell, you can do exercises like deadlifts and squats that enable you to use heavier weights for workouts aimed at strengthening legs.
    EXPERT TIP

    To keep a barbell in good condition, rub it down with oil once or twice a month. Wipe off the oil and let the bar sit overnight before wiping it down again.


    Staff  | BestReviews

    Types of barbells

    Powerlifting: Powerlifting barbells usually have a pronounced knurl to allow for the best grip, wide grip markings, and are generally stiffer than other barbells.

    Olympic: The knurl isn’t as pronounced on Olympic barbells, which gives you an adequate grip without abrading your hands. These barbells typically have more bend, or whip, than powerlifting barbells to help provide momentum when you’re transitioning between exercises. The sleeves on Olympic bars also spin more freely to help with momentum.

    Hybrid: A hybrid barbell essentially combines elements from both powerlifting and Olympic barbells. It has two sets of grip markings and may also have greater bend and spinning sleeves, depending on the model you choose.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    Many lifters with small hands prefer a barbell with a more textured knurl to help improve grip.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    Barbells without oxidation protection will rust with exposure to sweat.

    Barbell features to consider

    Size

    Barbells come in several different sizes, typically designated as men’s, women’s, and youth or trainer models.

    • Men’s barbells are typically 7.2 feet long and weigh about 44 pounds. The diameter of the grip area is usually 1.1 inches, while the ends are 2 inches.

    • Women’s barbells are typically 6.6 feet long and weigh about 33 pounds. The diameter of the grip area is usually less than an inch.

    • Youth or trainer barbells can vary in length but usually weigh about 22 pounds. Like women’s barbells, the grip area diameter is usually less than an inch.

    Strength

    A barbell’s strength is measured in two ways: yield strength and tensile strength.

    Yield strength refers to how much weight it takes to permanently bend the barbell out of shape. This measurement is determined simply by adding weight to the ends of the bar to see how it holds up. It’s not the most important measurement, though, and most barbell manufacturers don’t provide a yield strength number in their product specifications.

    Tensile strength refers to the maximum load that a barbell can hold without breaking. It is measured in pounds per square inch (psi), such as 165,000 psi. The higher a bar’s tensile strength, the higher the quality. Most manufacturers indicate the tensile strength in their product specifications.

    Avoid purchasing a barbell with a tensile strength below 165,000 psi. For most people, a bar with a tensile strength between 175,000 and 200,000 psi is a good choice. The highest-quality barbells have a tensile strength of over 200,000 psi.

    Whip

    As mentioned above, whip refers to the amount of bending or oscillation that the bar does at the end of a motion or lift phase. An experienced weightlifter can use the momentum provided by the whip to help move the barbell during each exercise.

    The material a barbell is made of and its thickness affect the whip. If you want a bar with greater whip, opt for one with a smaller diameter.

    Finish

    Barbells are typically made of steel but come in a variety of finishes, which can affect the bar’s grip and how well it holds up to rust. The most common barbell finishes include the following:

    • Bare steel provides a very solid grip. However, because it has no finish, it’s more likely to rust and so requires more maintenance.

    • Black oxide doesn’t provide as solid a grip as bare steel, but it isn’t as likely to rust and doesn’t require as much maintenance.

    • Zinc offers effective rust protection, but it requires maintenance to help keep its sheen.

    • Chrome can feel a little slippery, but it provides the best rust protection.

    • Stainless steel provides an outstanding grip that’s similar to bare steel. It is about as rust resistant as chrome. Barbells with a stainless steel finish are usually the most expensive.

    Sleeves

    A barbell’s sleeves are the ends of the bar where you place the weights. The sleeves spin to allow the weight plates to rotate as well, which helps ease the impact on your wrists when you’re lifting. Barbell sleeves have either bushings or bearings to help them spin. Bars with bushings tend to be less expensive, while those with bearings tend to be higher quality. However, in most cases, only experienced lifters will really appreciate the difference.

    It’s important to pay attention to the way the sleeves attach to the shaft of the barbell, with either bolts or snap rings. Snap rings are usually the better option because bolted sleeves can break too easily.

    Knurl

    A barbell’s knurl refers to the engraved crisscross marks that provide texture to improve your grip on the bar. Powerlifting bars have an extremely rough knurl. Olympic lifters prefer a barbell with less pronounced knurl because it’s gentler on the hands.

    Pay attention to the extent of knurling on the barbell, too. Some bars have knurling on the entire length of the shaft between the sleeves, while others have a gap in the center with no knurling.

    Budget-friendly and dependable

    With a 250-pound capacity, this CAP barbell can hold up to your entire strength-training routine. The light knurling provides grip without cutting your hands, and the chrome finish adds durability. We also appreciate the fact that it’s available in three different lengths so you can choose the best bar for your workout.

    Barbell prices

    Barbells range in price based on size, tensile strength, and finish. In general, you can expect to pay between $20 and $600 for a barbell.

    • Inexpensive: Barbells less than six feet long that have a tensile strength below 150,000 psi and a bare steel, black oxide, or zinc finish usually cost between $20 and $75.

    • Mid-range: Barbells longer than six feet that have a tensile strength between 150,000 and 200,000 psi and a bare steel, black oxide, or zinc finish usually cost between $75 and $210.

    • Expensive: Barbells longer than six feet that have a tensile strength over 200,000 psi and a chrome or stainless-steel finish typically cost between $210 and $600.
    Unlike men’s barbells, women’s barbells usually don’t have center knurling.

    FAQ

    Q. What type of barbell is best for beginners?

    A. Many weightlifting beginners start with a hybrid barbell because it combines elements of Olympic and powerlifting models. That enables you to decide which features from each type you prefer, so when you upgrade you can choose either the Olympic or powerlifting type.

    Q. What type of weight plates should I use with a barbell?

    A. When you’re buying weights for a barbell, you usually have a choice between bumper plates and iron plates. Bumper plates are made of very dense rubber, which makes them safer for floors should you drop them. Iron plates are less expensive and highly durable. In the end, the type of weights you use isn’t as important as the quality of the barbell, so choose whichever type of plate you prefer.

    Q. How should I store my barbell?

    A. It’s a good idea to invest in a bar stand or rack for your barbell. Be sure to remove the weights from the bar before you store it. Storing a barbell with the weights in place can cause the bar to bend.

    The team that worked on this review
    • Bronwyn
      Bronwyn
      Editor
    • Devangana
      Devangana
      Web Producer
    • Eliza
      Eliza
      Production Manager
    • Jennifer
      Jennifer
      Writer
    • Linsay
      Linsay
      Editor
    • Melinda
      Melinda
      Web Producer
    • Peter
      Peter
      Writer

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