Barbells Buyer's Guides

Best Barbells For Seasoned Lifters & Beginners Too! (2021 Update)

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Barbells are used in professional gyms all over the world. They are a core tool of strength training and with the advent of the home or basement gym over the last couple of decades, barbells have become more popular than ever. The best barbells will remain popular for years to come!

Barbells are the piece of weightlifting equipment that goes between the big circular weight plates that look like big heavy discs. They typically have 2 sleeves on the end which are used to hold the weight plates, and texturing on the bar to make it easier to grip, called knurling.

They come in different finishes and sizes and weights as well, some are more suited to certain lifting routines than others. Like all mature markets (this one is over 30 years old) some styles and brands have come out on top while others have faded away into history.

Here we will take a close look at the most popular barbells you can purchase right now, and explain why they are the best, and compare them with other similar options.

Best Overall- CAP 7-Foot Olympic Bar for Weightlifting and Power Lifting

Our Rating: (5/5)

The CAP 7-Foot Olympic bar is the best option overall, for most people. The bar has 110,000 PSI tensile strength which means it can hold as much weight as you can put on it.  This is common with most mid to high-level bars, they need to extremely strong due to what they are used for.

This one is made with Japanese cold-rolled steel which is especially strong. It weighs 44 pounds on its own with no weights on, which is a fairly heavy bar.

The sleeves are designed with snap clips which makes it easy to load and unload with weight plates.

There are six different options for this bar, each one is a bit different than the others and fills a specific need.

  • The Beast is the most popular option, and it comes in black or chrome. It has no center knurl. It has a 30mm grip size.
  • The Boss is the second most popular and it comes in black. It has a knurled grip but not in the center. The boss has a 28.5mm grip size which is slightly smaller than the beast. There is a second option of the boss which is more expensive because it comes in silver zinc.
  • The Master is the most expensive weight bar by far and is made of zinc. It has a center knurl and a 28mm grip size. It also comes with a 2-year warranty.
  • The Rebel is finished in black phosphate and has a center knurl grip. It weighs 20 Kg and has a 28.5mm grip size.
  • The Warrior is the rarest of the options, and it will cost the most other than the master. It has a knurled grip and a 28mm grip size. The warrior comes in a chrome finish which is part of the additional cost.

Pros

  • Very well made
  • Many options to accommodate lots of lifting styles
  • Reasonably priced considering the build quality
  • Trusted manufacturer
  • Good warranty options

Cons

  • Not the most affordable

Conclusion

The CAP 7 Foot Olympic Bar is well known and well made. There are many options for you to choose from which will work for almost anyone. When it comes to serious workout equipment sometimes you will pay more than you like, but this stuff will last an exceptionally long time and the manufacturer provides solid warranty options. This is not the cheapest bar, but it will last and do the job with no issues.

 

Best Budget- 5′ Olympic Barbell Weightlifting Bar 60″ Threaded Chrome Standard Solid Steel Weight Bar

Our Rating: (4.5/5)

This is a light bar when you compare it to the CAP above. At 21 pounds with no weight on it, it is about half as heavy as the CAP which was 44 pounds empty. This bar is not in the same ballpark, quality-wise but you must keep in mind it is less than a third of the price, too. If you are on a tight budget, this one will work for you.

This bar is made of steel and finished with metallic chrome and has a basic no-frills kind of design. It specializes in squats, deadlifts, cleans, rows, and bench presses. The bar comes with spring collars which keep the weight plates steady and prevents them from sliding off the bar and causing injury or floor damage.

It is 5 feet across and has a knurled type of grip and a 28mm grip size. It holds up to 500 pounds safely, but I would not recommend pushing it must past 400. It will fit Olympic weight plates.

The surface is knurled in the diamond pattern which is preferred by many pro lifters because it allows the hands to grasp the bar with more of a solid secure grip. The length between the sleeves is 36.5” with a 2” sleeve diameter.

Pros

  • Solid construction
  • Comes with spring clips
  • Comparatively inexpensive
  • Diamond knurling

Cons

  • Smaller and less heavy duty than more expensive models

Conclusion

This is my favorite budget bar because it has everything a beginner needs without having a crazy high price tag like most of this stuff. It comes with both spring clips, has a good gription, fits Olympic size weights, and weighs only 21 pounds. It is not very fancy like the CAP options above but for the money, you cannot do better in my opinion. This one is great if you are just starting.

 

Best Barbells with Weights- Club Quality 4-Weight Deluxe Barbell Set (includes the bar) by Step Fitness

Our Rating: (4.5/5)

Finally, a complete set that a normal person can afford. The Club Quality 4 Weight Set is not going to win any awards for detailed fancy design or being the sexiest looking weight set on the planet, but if you need a 60-pound barbell set, this is the best option I could find.

It is billed as ‘The Perfect Starter Set’ and although that may be a little bit of a stretch (it is not the perfect set if you want 80 pounds!), it is fair to say it is the best starter set if you only need 60 pounds to start out with.

The weights themselves are quite interesting and smartly designed. They are environmentally friendly material (but not sure what it is) encased in a strong HDPE shell that looks and feels basically like plastic. The interesting part of the weights is how they are shaped, like steering wheels with spots on them where you can grip them and use them for a variety of other exercises. This is a smart way to get more value from your investment.

The bar is only a 1” bar and nothing like the big Olympic-style bars mentioned above, but this bar will do the job for you if you are starting out or if you are a smaller person not interested in lifting massive weights.

It has 2 different options you can choose from:

  • 60-pound set (50 pounds in weights, 10-pound bar)
  • Dumbbell set (35 pounds)

Pros

  • Complete set great for beginner
  • Weights can be used in many other exercises with steering wheel design
  • Easy to change out weights using quick release collars
  • 2 options to choose from

Cons

  • Looks and feels a little cheaper than the other options

Conclusion

For what you pay to get this set, you will have a hard time finding too much to complain about. It comes with weights that can be easily gripped to use in other exercises, easy to switch out weights, comes as a complete set with no additional purchase necessary to get started lifting right away.

 

Best Barbells for Cross fit- XMark Black Diamond Olympic Barbell Sets with The Crowbar 7′ Olympic Bar

Our Rating: (4.5/5)

The Xmark Black Diamond Olympic Crowbar 7’ Bar is a bar for a serious lifter. It is made of alloy steel and will hold up to 1500 pounds. This is a pro-level bar that has a unique black manganese phosphate coating which is said to be soft enough to really allow your hands to stick. It has knurling to allow better grip as well.

The 28.5mm grip shaft does have knurling in the center (not all do) which allows for more diverse grip styles while lifting.

Due to the black manganese phosphate finish, it is recommended to rub your bar down with some 3 in 1 oil periodically to keep the finish fresh.

The sleeves are secured with a maintenance-free snap ring lock system with brass bushings. There are also microgrooves on the sleeves which help keep the plates in place while lifting. The sleeves have a hard chrome finish which stands out from the black manganese phosphate of the main bar area.

Of course, the manufacturer recommends using their own proprietary 3 in 1 oil to maintain the bar, but you can use any oil to the same effect.

Pros

  • Comfortable black manganese phosphate knurled grip
  • Exceedingly high-end construction
  • Sleeves are well made (will hold plates steady)
  • Will hold up to 1500 pounds

Cons

  • Expensive and does not come with clips

Conclusion

If you are a serious lifter and into cross-fit, this is a great option for you. The XMark is extremely well made and will not break. The grip is extremely comfortable, and the sleeves will hold plates more securely than most other competitors due to the microgrooves and brass bushings. You are going to spend a nice chunk of change to get one of these, but if you know what you are getting you will see it is worth the expense.

 

Best for Powerlifting- Synergee Regional Olympic 20kg Men’s and 15kg Women’s Hard Chrome & Black Phosphate Barbells

Our Rating: (4.5/5)

The Synergee Regional Olympic bar is designed for powerlifting, which is obvious when you take a closer look at it. It is made from high-grade steel which gives it a 1500 pound capacity much like the XMark mentioned above. Also, like the XMark it has a black phosphate coating on the bar, but that is where the similarities end.

The grip on the Synergee is 25mm which is a bit smaller than many others in this class. It weighs 35 pounds on its own which is lighter than some and heavier than some, making it a middle-of-the-road option as far as weight goes.

The sleeves have needle bearings which provide great whip when lifting but not too much which makes them appropriate for squats and other moves where you want your plates stationary. The solid construction of this bar will allow for many drops with no damage occurring.

There are 2 different knurl marks on the bar making it easy for you to see where your hands should be if you are powerlifting or Olympic lifting.

Pros

  • Solid steel construction
  • Black phosphate finish
  • 1500 pound capacity
  • Versatile for powerlifting or Olympic style

Cons

  • Smaller grip than you may be used to if you are a serious lifter

Conclusion

If you are a powerlifter you will immediately understand why this is my choice for the best in this category. It is made like a tank; the black coating holds up great against rust (from salty sweat) and other things that may scratch or damage it. The sleeves are Olympic size diameter, and the knurling allows for easy grip. There are 4 options you can choose from with this barbell:

  • 15 KG Black
  • 15 KG Silver
  • 20 KG Black
  • 20 KG Silver

 

Best Kit for Beginners- YAHEETECH 55lb Olympic Barbell Dumbbell Weight Set Gym Lifting Exercise Workout Olympic Bar Curl Bar

Our Rating: (4.5/5)

After all the pro-level barbells we have covered this one may come as a shock. You are not going to see Olympic-style design here, or pro-level sleeves, or even clips. You are going to see a solid 55-pound kit designed for beginner weightlifters.

The Yaheetech set is a great kit for the beginner lifter. The bar is just over 47 inches long. It comes with the bar, the star locks, and weight plates as well. The bar is made of high-quality iron and it does have some diamond knurling across it to help facilitate better gription. The bar is ergonomically shaped, with recessed areas for the hands which you tend to see on beginner sets and curl specific bars.

It comes with 2-star locks which are threaded onto the sleeves and tightened to hold the weight plates securely. You will not see this kind of setup on a pro kit, but it makes sense here in a beginner set.

You will be getting 55 pounds of weights with this set, the bar, and the star locks in the package.

Pros

  • Comes with the full kit, plates and bar
  • Star locks keep weights secure for beginners
  • Attractive silver color
  • Full kit for a good price

Cons

  • Nowhere near the quality level as pro level kits

Conclusion

For a beginner just starting with lifting, this is a solid little kit for a fair price. You will get all the pieces you need to have serious workouts in the comfort of home without spending much money. You may eventually need to upgrade and get more weight plates, but until then this little kit will keep you plenty busy. The fastening mechanism is designed to be dummy proof, so you will have no issues hurting yourself with plates slipping off the sleeves. This is a great kit for the newbie at a great price.

 

Best for Bench Press- Yaheetech Olympic 7 feet Weight Bar with Two Collars Solid Iron Weighted Workout Bar

Our Rating: (4.5/5)

With a bench press-specific bar, you are going to have some more specific requirements. You are not going to be dropping it, doing deadlifts, or other powerlifting moves, so the bar needs to match the exercise, in this case, bench press.

The Yaheetech Olympic 7 foot bar is the best choice for all around bench press use. The bar is 7 feet across matching the industry standard benches perfectly. It is constructed of iron and coated with a nice silver chrome finish.

It weighs 36 pounds empty and has nice knurling which is not too deep or too shallow, perfect for bench pressing. The sleeves are the standard 2” diameter sleeves and will hold any standard Olympic plates. The sleeve length is 13.6 inches total from start to tip.

It comes with spring clips which will fit securely on the sleeves and prevent the plates from sliding around while you are lifting. The bar is straight across design instead of a curved design which is perfect for when you are bench pressing. A curved bar can feel awkward and actually be dangerous for this exercise.

Pros

  • Well made iron bar
  • 2” sleeves
  • Comes with spring clips
  • Perfect knurling for bench pressing
  • Straight bar design, not curved

Cons

  • Will not hold over 330 pounds

Conclusion

This is not a super fancy pro-level bar, but it is just about the best thing you will find for bench pressing in your basement or home gym. The bar is iron and will be sufficient for bench presses. I would not recommend dropping it on the ground over and over, however. The bar comes with the spring clips which is nice, you will not have to make a separate purchase for those. After spending a significant amount of money on a bench and some weight plates, this is a great bar for bench pressing that will not cost you too much.

 

Best for Curling- Everyday Essentials Olympic Super Curl Barbell Curl Bar, 48 inch (350 lb Weight Capacity), Silver (CB4S)

Our Rating: (4.5/5)

If you are someone who likes to focus on curling, you know that there are lots of bars out there that go far beyond what you need, and far beyond what you want to spend.

Curling requires a different design on the bar with different knurling patterns in different spots than powerlifting does. Most other non-curling specific bars are also much too long, making it so difficult to curl comfortably since they take up the entire room almost!

The Everyday Essentials Olympic Super Curl Bar is designed exactly for curling. It is 48 inches long from end to end and features the popular ‘W’ design which is ergonomically informed for lifting with your arms in front of your torso.

This curling bar will hold up to 350 pounds which is more than enough for most normal humans. The sleeves are the standard 2” diameter to accommodate any Olympic size weight plates you may already have laying around. The knurling is not too deep and should not rip up your hands, but you may want to use some gloves or talc powder just in case.

It is a silver color due to the chrome finish, which gives it an easy surface to clean if it gets too dirty. With many of the phosphate coatings, it is difficult to clean off sweat stains or dust that has become wet and decided to settle into the finish.

Pros

  • Perfect design for curling
  • Inexpensive
  • Not too long
  • Good grip
  • Easy to clean and maintain chrome finish
  • Fits standard Olympic plates

Cons

  • Can not hold over 330 pounds
  • Plain looking

Conclusion

If you are looking for a good curling bar and do not want to drop a massive chunk of change, this may be a good choice for you. It will not accommodate pro-level curlers because it will not hold over 330 pounds, but for most of us, that is more than enough. It holds standard 2” diameter weight plates and has an ergonomically designed curved bar that feels nice in your hands. For somebody on a budget that needs a solid bar for curling, this is my favorite choice.

 

Types of Weightlifting Bars / Barbells

best barbells

Olympic Bar

Olympic bars are used in the sport of Olympic Weightlifting, thus the name. However, not all of them are used specifically for this sport. Olympic bars look much like power bars.

They are designed to have more whip than a standard straight bar. Olympic bars appear similarly to power bars. A whip is a phrase used to describe the amount of spring that a bar has when going from flexed to a straight position and vice versa.

One of the other specifics is that the knurling is not usually seen in the center of the bar, but instead pushed off to the sides where the hands will be. Also, on the topic of knurling, it is not usually as deep or rough as some other bars. This is to avoid the knurling irritating or scratching your knees in the c

ase of deadlifting, etc.

Standard Bar (Power Bar)

This is the most popular type you will see. Standard bars are common in every gym and basement across the world. They are typically made of steel and 7 feet long. They are very rigid and do not have the spring that Olympic bars do, which is due to the steel used to make them.

Standard bars will have knurling to allow you to get a good grip, the knurling will usually extend through the center of the bar (but not always) this is called ‘center knurling’. Standard bars are good for use with almost any traditional weightlifting exercise, they are versatile and plentiful.

There are different variations of the standard bar which are created to match certain exercises. Some of the variations are:

  • Bar weight
  • Deadlift bar
  • Bench Press Bar

Curl Bar

This type of bar is made to be easier to use when doing curls or other upper body exercises. Olympic and standard bars can be too long, heavy, and cumbersome if you just want to stand up and do some curling reps. Curl bars are smaller and usually a bit lighter than standard or Olympic bars. They can be a few different shapes:

  • Straight
  • W Shape
  • EZ Bar Shape

The different shapes you will find are to make it more comfortable to use for curling. The ‘W’ shape is one of the more popular shapes because it has indentations for each hand and is ergonomic and will not hurt your wrists by making them go into uncomfortable positions. The EZ bar shape is somewhere between a straight and a w shape, it looks like a ‘D’ in the middle of the bar with slight indentions where your hands go.

Yoke Bar

This is also called a safety squat bar and is a special bar you will not come across too often in normal life. This bar has little extensions that come off the sides near the middle which are used to make it possible to grip them when doing very heavy squats. You can find them in some gyms especially Olympic-style gyms where people are trying to specialize in squats.

Swiss Bar

The Swiss bar is a strange-looking fellow. It has a rectangle in the middle of it with small bars that join each side of the rectangle. It looks like boxes right in the middle of the bar. It is used for upper body workouts like curling or triceps extension work. It is a specialty bar that has a group of passionate supporters that love using it. In general, you are not going to see many of these because they are so specialized and if you have a good curl bar there is no need for the Swiss bar.

The Swiss bar specializes in French curls, lots of upper body exercises, and bicep hammer curls as well. It is also sometimes referred to as a hammer curl bar or a triceps bar.

Hex Bar

The hex bar is named after the hexagonal shape. It has six sides and a small cross bar on each side. The bar is designed for you to put your body inside the hexagon hole. This is designed this way to put your body directly in the center of gravity of the bar.

This is technically better for your joints than lifting the traditional way. The hex bar is the safest choice for deadlifts. The small crossbars mentioned earlier are perfect handles in a deadlift situation.

The hex is also used for overhead presses, pushups, and even squat jumps. It is a common bar in many weightlifting specific gyms, as it has so many varied uses. This type of barbell is good for newbies starting with difficult lifts like the deadlift because it is harder to hurt yourself with a hex bar. Hex bars are a bit more expensive than regular bars due to the additional manufacturing expenses and market demand.

How to Buy the Best Barbell for Your Needs

Because there are so many options in this category, it is important to narrow down what you are looking for before you pull out the wallet.

Narrow Down Your Usage Needs

To make the smartest buying choice, the first step is to decide what you are going to use the barbell for, how often you will use it, and how much space you have to work with.

If you are a hard-core weightlifter with a decent home gym with a fair amount of space, you may want to consider a more substantial pro-level bar like the CAP 7 Foot Olympic Bar or something similar. However, if you are just starting and want something to get you started that will not cost too much you may want to consider a full kit that has weights included at a discount price.

Figure out what your needs are by asking those types of questions, and once you have an idea of the category you are looking for, you can then consider your budget.

Budget

There is no point thinking about your budget if you have no idea what you are looking for. Once you know what you need, you can start comparing the options against your budget. Think about what you have to spend, and how much value you are getting for that money. Remember you get what you pay for when it comes to fitness equipment, sometimes the cheapest is not the best choice.