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There’s perhaps no better symbol for the world of strength training than the barbell. Equally at home in the hands of vintage bodybuilders, as it is in today’s CrossFit or powerlifting gyms, the barbell is an integral tool to the fitness goal so many of us set out to achieve — getting stronger. Whether you’re knocking out barbell rows on back day, barbell curls on arm day, barbell squats on leg day or a barbell bench press on chest day, it’s clear that no proper strength training workout is complete without a good, quality barbell.
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The best barbells generally run between four and eight feet, feature a knurled handle to help with grip strength and sleeves on each end to rack up large barbell weight plates. Because of this construction, they’re built to haul tons of weight, giving them a major advantage over the standard dumbbell when it comes to maxing out or hitting a new personal record. This explains why barbells are so popular among the powerlifting and bodybuilding crowds.
The men’s Olympic barbell — a standard used in competitive weightlifting — measures 7.2 feet and weighs 44 lbs, with a shaft diameter of just over 1 inch. The women’s bar is 6.6 feet long and 33 lbs, with just under a 1-inch shaft diameter. There are plenty of variations on this size and shape, which we’ll explore later on, but the Olympic barbell is one you’ll find in most gyms, and a good baseline to compare to.
When shopping for the best barbells, there are a few basic terms that are helpful to know:
Tensile Strength — the maximum stress a barbell can take before breaking. It’s measured in pounds per square inch (PSI). In general, anything 180,000 PSI or greater will be high quality durable.
Weight Limit/Capacity — the amount of weight a barbell can support before it bends. This will depend on how much weight you plan on lifting. But in general, the higher, the better. The last thing you want is a cheap bar that bends when you’re going for a new personal record on the deadlift.
Whip — how much a bar bends during fast exercises that rely on flex for momentum, like the snatch or clean and jerk. Generally speaking, the thinner the barbell, the more whip it has. If you’re just looking to do standard compound exercises for weightlifting, you’ll want a bar with less whip.
We’ve sourced the best barbells on the market, along with a few other pieces of gear to get your strength training journey started. Keep in mind that while there are a ton of affordable barbells on the market, many of them lack the quality to warrant a place on this list. For that reason, we’ve kept our list lean and left off barbells that could definitely get the job done, but don’t quite measure up to our standards. If you really want the best of the best, we recommend shelling out the cash for commercial- and competition-quality brands like York Barbell, American Barbell, or the supplier of our pick for the best overall barbell — Rogue Fitness.
The Best Barbells
1. Rogue Fitness The Ohio Bar
Rogue Fitness manufactures some of the best quality weightlifting gear in the game, which makes sense considering the company’s ubiquity in today’s gyms. Its barbells are no exception, and while they cost a pretty penny, Rogue Fitness barbells really do represent the gold standard in barbells. Available in dozens of different builds and coatings, The Ohio Bar with a stainless steel shaft features dual knurl marks for extra grip and an unparalleled construction that matches Rogue Fitness’ reputation. The Ohio Bar is also a reminder that purchasing gym-quality equipment for your home is a sizable investment. The stainless steel iteration is the most expensive on this list, but also Rogue’s most affordable barbell, which gives you a sense of the company’s offerings. Still, if you want the absolute best barbell, it’s this one.
2. LIONSCOOL 7-Foot Olympic Bar
If you’re just starting out and don’t fancy investing $400 in a barbell, we get it. This Olympic barbell from LIONSCOOL offers a more wallet-friendly option, thanks to the fact that it’s available in three different weight capacities. Lifting light? The 500-pound weight limit bar costs under $150 and features a PSI of 80,000, which wouldn’t be enough for professional bodybuilders, but will get the job done at an entry-level price point.
3. Annzoe Olympic Barbell
If you want a quality barbell at an affordable price, check out this option from Annzoe, which sports a PSI of 190,000 and a weight limit of 700 pounds, which should be plenty of support. It’s worth noting, however, that while this barbell claims to be up to Olympic standards, most reviewers indicate it weighs about 10 pounds less than the 44-pound standard. This is still a great choice for the price if you aren’t particular about official Olympic standards.
4. Synergee Games Colored Barbells
To be frank, you’ll need to leave Amazon to get the best barbells and head to companies that supply gym-ready equipment. But if you’re dead set on sticking with your favorite mega-retailer — or the shipping is delayed from one of the other brands, as has often been the case during these workout-from-home times — this barbell from Synergee Games is your best bet. While it’s only about one inch in diameter, it sports the Olympic-standard 44 pounds and features a 190,000 PSI with a 1,500-pound weight capacity. You can choose between red or black shafts at the 44-pound level, or opt for a hot pink option at the 33-pound offering.
5. CAP Barbell 7-Foot Olympic Barbell
With a name like CAP Barbell, you’d better believe this company delivers in the barbell department. In fact, it’s been manufacturing exercise equipment for more than 25 years and supplies a range of barbells and accessories. This particular barbell comes in a handful of different styles of varying quality. We recommend skipping THE BEAST — its cheapest iteration — as multiple reviewers note that barbell’s penchant for splinters. Instead opt for one of the higher-quality styles, which boast a higher PSI. Based on its 4.7-star rating and nearly 3,500 reviews (with the knowledge that most of the bad ones are centered on THE BEAST), you can’t go wrong with this barbell from CAP Barbell.
6. Sunny Health & Fitness 60-inch Barbell
At 5 feet long and only 13 lbs, this light barbell from Sunny Health & Fitness doesn’t meet Olympic standards, but the $35 price tag alone makes this worth considering. Again, this is another good choice for beginners (the weight capacity is only 250 lbs) or building a home gym on a budget, as the money saved here will allow you to invest in other barbell accessories and gym equipment. Not convinced? More than 6,000 reviewers tout the great value of this handy little barbell.
The Best Barbell Accessories
1. AMGYM Bumper Plates
While you can definitely use a barbell without weights for a light workout or warmup, you’ll need a good set of bumper plates to make the most of those strength gains. Coated with a protected rubber exterior, bumper plates are much safer than exposed cast iron plates, both for you (in case you drop a weight on your foot) and the floors, when you need to slam down the barbell after a big set. These bumper plates from AMGYM come in different weight combinations, but we like the 160-pound set, which features three pairs of plates at 10, 25 and 45 pounds.
2. Clout Fitness Barbell Clamps
There’s nothing worse than seeing your plates slide up and down the sleeves of your barbell during a heavy lift. That alters the stability of your barbell and can make things pretty dicey. Luckily, this set of barbell clamps will keep your plates firmly in place. Available in 12 different colors, these are handy to keep in your gym back for barbell days. The quick-release lever makes them easy to take on and off.
3. ProFitness Barbell Pad
When it’s leg day and you’re ramping up the weight on the squat rack, your shoulders take a beating supporting the barbell. Next time you’re going for a new personal record, try using this barbell pad from ProFitness, which uses high-density foam to ease the pressure of that heavy barbell on your upper back. It’s small enough to store in your gym bag for those heavy leg days. Trust us, your shoulders will thank you.
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