If you are about to set up your own home gym, you’re probably already thinking about the best Olympic barbell to get.
No doubt about it…
Your Olympic bar is the crown jewel of your home gym, and the selection out there is pretty vast, as are the prices.
I did my homework and researched just about every brand I could, from Rogue, Fringe Sport, Titan, CAP, and more and cherry-picked the top Olympic barbells for this list.
Come with me as I show you the 11 best Olympic Barbells of 2021.
- TOP 11 Best Olympic Barbell Sets & Bars 2021
- Invest in the Best Olympic Barbell You Can Afford!
- Why it is Important to Choose the Right Olympic Barbell
- 5 Features to Look at Before Choosing the Best Olympic Lifting Bar
- Olympic Barbell FAQ
TOP 11 Best Olympic Barbell Sets & Bars 2021
Invest in the Best Olympic Barbell You Can Afford!
Cheaper Barbells do Not Spin as Smooth as Higher Quality Barbells
Higher quality bearings or bushings, and the attention to detail and craftsmanship in top-quality Olympic barbells allow the sleeve to spin smoothly during both fast and slow lifts.
If you have ever encountered an old cheapie style Olympic barbell, you no doubt noticed the sleeves were locked in place and no longer rotate. Such is the fate of most cheap barbells.
Top-quality barbells, however, will retain their spin year after year.
Cheaper Barbells have Larger Diameter Grips – Meaning Harder to Grip
Cheaper barbells are made from inferior quality materials and in order to bring the weight of the bar up to the standard 20kg some manufacturers need to make the diameter of the bars thicker.
Wider and thicker diameters make the bar more challenging to grip. Not to mention barbells made with inferior metal are not as strong, which leads me to my next point…
Cheap Barbells Can and Do Bend, and Occasionally Break in Half
Cheaper barbells are made from inferior quality metals that bend easier and are not as resilient as high-quality steel. I have heard of many people who have had a cheap barbell that developed a bend over time, or after being dropped while weighted.
Usually, a cheap barbell will bend if overloaded, instead of break. But…
There have been cases of cheap barbells straight-up breaking in half, which can be very dangerous. Whew! I am glad those two guys are OK, that was a close call with the barbell breaking right by their head.
Speaking of cheap barbells, did you realize, cheap collars are not doing you any favors either?
Barbell collars keep the weight securely in place and the best barbell collars are easy to get on and off, so it’s easier to change the weight. Anyone who has wrestled with janky spring collars knows what I am talking about.
Pick up a set of the best Olympic barbell collars here.
Why it is Important to Choose the Right Olympic Barbell
Here is the problem with choosing a cheap, inferior quality bar:
- The bar may not hold up under the weight you want to lift without bending.
- The bar may be too heavily knurled that you tear up your hands or not knurled enough for you to get a decent grip.
- The bar may not match your style of lifting. Powerlifters, Olympic lifters, CrossFitters, Heavy lifters, and casual strength trainers have different needs and specific bars that suit their sport best.
Types of Lifters and the Kind of Bar They Need
Olympic Style Weight lifting
Oly lifters need a bar with good spin to perform the snatch and the clean and jerk and quickly get under the bar.
You may see needle bearings on an upper level Oly bar because bearings spin better than bushings, usually. There are, however, plenty of good Oly bars that use brass bushings, but the top-level bars like the Rogue Euro Competition Barbell, have quality needle bearings.
Oly lifters usually lift really heavy weight and slam or drop the bar. A cheap barbell will eventually warp.
The best Olympic weightlifting bars have a good whip to peel the weights from the ground.
The weight plates used for Olympic lifts are called bumper plates. Bumper plates have a uniform diameter and are designed to be dropped. Check out the best bumper plates here.
Powerlifter Olympic Bar
Powerlifters focus on the squat, bench press and deadlift. Powerlifters focus on RAW strength, as opposed to Olympic lifts which focus on explosive power.
The bar of a powerlifter does not need a huge amount of spin because these moves are performed slowly, compared to the snatch and clean of Oly lifters.
A powerlifting bar should be STIFF with a minimal whip, and usually has bushings.
The CrossFit Olympic Bar
Crossfitters also perform the snatch and clean and jerk, along with the squat and deadlift.
They need a multipurpose or versatile bar, which usually has dual hand placement markings. CrossFitters often do Olympic style lifts using lower weights and far more repetition.
Crossfitters use rubber bumper plates when lifting, like Oly lifters. The best Olympic lifting bar for Crossfitters is a bar with a good whip.
Speaking of CrossFit, if you are in the process of building your own CrossFit gym at home, take a look at this list of essential CrossFit gym equipment I put together.
5 Features to Look at Before Choosing the Best Olympic Lifting Bar
The Price – You get What You Pay For
When it comes to the best Olympic weightlifting bar, you get what you pay for.
Ideally, the bar diameter should be 28mm for a good grip on the bar. Cheaper bars are often thicker because the use lower grade steel which means the bars are made thicker to compensate, making grip challenging.
A good Olympic weightlifting Barbell often costs upwards of 400 dollars.
Tensile Steel Strength – Weight and Stress Resistance
Tensile strength is the strength it takes to pull the steel apart.
Tensile strength is measured in pounds of pressure per square inch, or PSI. The higher the PSI, the stiffer the metal is.
Corrosion Resistant Coatings
Coating of the barbell matters. The coating is what keeps the bar free of rust and corrosion, and in some cases, the coating adds grip.
Many Olympic barbells will have one coating for the bar portion and a different coating for the sleeves because hands affect the barbell in a different way than weights, so different applications are necessary.
The sleeves need to be protected from impact and metal on metal wear. The grip or bar portion needs to resist sweat, salt, perspiration dirt, etc.
In order from least effective to most effective, the most common coatings are:
Worst: Bare steel
Not much protection, unless the steel is high-quality stainless steel.
OK: Black Oxide
This type of bar is immersed in chemicals that darken the bar, and finished with oil, while the bar is hot.
This coating leaves the bar feeling bare, which means you can get a good grip, but it requires maintenance.
Chrome often flakes or chips, and then rusts. Chrome is also easily chipped by the impact of the weights.
Chrome also has a slippery feel and when applied over the knurling, tends to dull it, decreasing grip.
Chrome does provide excellent corrosion protection, provided it stays on the bar. It requires virtually no maintenance.
Chrome is common on power bars, because powerlifters do not drop the bar. This is one reason power bars are less expensive than other bars.
Better: Black Zinc or Bright Zinc
The bar is dipped in zinc, imparting a silver color that is not shiny like Chrome.
Zinc feels more ‘bare’ than chrome, but it still causes the bar to lose a little grip.
Zinc imparts excellent corrosion and oxidation properties.
Even Better: Manganese Phosphate
Manganese Phosphate resists rust better than black oxide, and has a nice matte finish that helps improve grip.
It also requires no maintenance, and does not chip like Chrome might.
Cerakote is a relatively new coating often seen on firearms. It is a polymer ceramic coating that is said to last up to 70 times longer than any other coating.
A few of the bars featured in the review are Cerakoted. Cerakote does not wear away, like a zinc coating will, and it has a natural matte finish that improves grip.
Best: High-Quality Stainless Steel
While not technically a coating, high-quality stainless steel bars resist rust and corrosion on their own, and do not need a coating.
The best Olympic barbells are made with superior quality stainless steel like European or Japanese steel.
The Sleeves: Bushings or Bearings
Olympic weightlifting bars that get dropped are better off with a needle bearing system than a bushing.
Bearings not only turn more freely, but bushings can get crushed and malformed from repeated drops to the ground.
Power bars, which are not meant to be dropped, use bushings exclusively.
Bushings do not turn as freely as bearings, but powerlifters do not need much spin as they lift much slower than Olympic lifters.
Bar Diameter Matters, Smaller Diameter = Better Grip
High-quality Olympic bars are commonly 28mm. This width offers a good grip and decent whip.
Power bars are more often made with larger diameters like 30 mm. This makes the bar stiffer, and less flexible, hence, less whip.
Watch out for cheap bars, which are also made thicker to compensate for poor quality steel.
If you are an Olympic weightlifter or intend to lift heavy weights, you can expect to pay more for a barbell than a powerlifter.
Regardless of what lifting sport you are involved in, investing the money in a decent bar is worth it.
Even one failed deadlift on a power bar can warp or permanently bend the bar, which will need to be replaced.
One of the most common regrets I see among lifters is not getting the best Olympic barbell they could.
While you are looking for the ideal Olympic barbell, take a look at this carefully curated list of the best equipment for your home or garage weight lifting gym.
Olympic Barbell FAQ
What is the Best Olympic Barbell?
The Rogue Ohio bar has a nice diameter, great knurling, without center knurling so I don’t rip up my knees deadlifting, a PSI tensile strength so high I could never lift enough to cause to fail or bend, and high-quality bushings I know will still spin years from now.
I love the Fringe Sport Wonder Bar for all the same reasons. It too has a 28mm diameter for easy grip, no center knurl, a slightly higher tensile strength than the Rogue Ohio bar and needle bearings that spin well, but need oiling and maintenance.
They are both solid Olympic barbell choices.
What Size Olympic Bar Should I Buy?
Men’s Olympic Bar
A men’s Olympic barbell has a standard length and weight. A men’s Olympic barbell is 20kg, 7.2 feet long and has a diameter of 28 to 29mm.
Note: a men’s bar is sometimes said to weigh 45 lbs, although technically it’s closer to 44 lbs and is 20kg.
Woman’s Olympic Bar
A woman’s Olympic bar is 15 kg and has a diameter of 25mm, and is 6.9 feet, usually.
Note: A woman’s bar is sometimes called a 35 lb bar, although it is technically closer to 33 lbs and is 15 kg.
Training Bar for Practicing Form
Training Olympic bars are even lighter at 15 lbs. These lighter Olympic barbells are designed to train proper form.
True 35 lb Olympic Bar
There is also the rather rare 35 lb Olympic barbell, that actually weighs a full 35 lbs, unlike the woman’s bar which is sometimes called a 35 lb bar but weighs closer to 33 lbs. The true 35 lb bar is pretty uncommon.
So what size barbell should you get? It depends on your goals, gender and what you want.
I will say this, the most common size is the men’s Olympic barbell that is 20kg, 7.2 feet and 28 to 29 mm in the center, but many gyms also carry the women’s bars too.
What is the Difference Between Standard and Olympic Bars?
Standard bars have thinner 1 inch sleeves, while Olympic bars have two inch sleeves.
But the biggest difference?
Olympic bars are stronger and can hold more weight than standard bars, by Olympic bars themselves vary in weight capacity.
Want to know more? I wrote a guide to the difference between standard and Olympic bars here.
Do all Olympic Bars Weigh the Same?
- Men’s Olympic bars weigh 20 kg
- Women’s Olympic bars weigh 15 kg
- Olympic Training bars usually weigh 15 lbs
So no, not all Olympic bars weight the same.
The most common Olympic bar is the men’s Olympic bar, which weighs 20 kg, is 7.2 feet long and has a center diameter of 28 to 29 mm. This bar is sometimes called the 45 lb bar, even though it actually weighs closer to 44 lbs, and weighs a true 20kg.
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