Best Cheap Barbell For Your Home Gym – 7 Top Picks for 2021

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In this review article I share my evaluations of several popular & inexpensive barbells available at fitness equipment retailers & online stores.

Olympic barbells for your home

The best barbells made by the best barbell brands cost from several hundred dollars to well over a thousand bucks.

I won’t be talking about those.

Taking a more modest approach, I limited my retail store and gym product recon & online research to models that cost under $400.

Below are my seven choices for best budget barbell that we’ll be looking at.

 

Top Pick – Rogue Ohio Bar series

Rogue Ohio Bar series of barbells

 

Runner Up – Rep Gladiator

Rep Gladiator Olympic barbell

 

Best Barbells for Home under $300

Last update on 2021-11-29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

 

Best (really) Cheap Home Barbells under $200

Last update on 2021-11-29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

 

 

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Science resources included

As is my custom here on heydayDo, I will provide links to all of the relevant sports science & medical resources, clinical studies, and nutritional data used in this article.

 

 

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The hunt for the good but inexpensive Olympic barbell

Given the amount of junk sold at my local sporting goods & big box stores – as well as online – it was easy to distill the original pack of 15 or so barbells I handled down to the seven powerlifting bars highlighted in this article.

Someone on a tight budget (like me for example) or someone looking for a beginner’s Olympic barbell doesn’t have to spend a ton of money to get a good Olympic bar for their purposes.

My two favorites of the bunch — the Rogue Fitness Ohio Bar and the Rep Fitness Gladiator Olympic Barbell — prove that you can get an excellent barbell at a reasonable price.

 

Notes

You can click on the links or the pics to go read more owner feedback & reviews on Amazon if you want. Note that Rogue Fitness won’t sell their great powerlifting equipment on Amazon, so their pics & links go to their site, as do Rep Fitness’.

Rep used to sell a few things on Amazon but like Rogue, they’re doing just fine selling their top-quality gear off their own site now.

 

Cheap Olympic barbell sneak peek

So what does an owner have to say about the budget Olympic barbell they purchased? Well, every powerlifting bar in the group has buyer grades well above average for a piece of home gym equipment, and I’ve tested and researched hundreds of ’em.

The Rogue Ohio power bar and Rep Fitness’ Gladiator barbell both have outstanding owner ratings — the Rogue Ohio bar is just shy of a perfect 5-star rating with over 3,000 buyers weighing in.

And the two XMark bars and the Synergee power bar have excellent ratings from hundreds of happy campers.

Even the cheaper bars from CAP and Body-Solid have received very good buyer feedback, both with over 90% of their owners giving their products a 5 or 4-star rating.

 

Best Olympic barbell under $400

Rogue Ohio Bar

Bought this Rogue Ohio bar for my home gym, I love it. Better than any bar I’ve used in any commercial gym anywhere. The finish is awesome, feels natural without the hassle of dealing with a bare steel bar. Worth the extra cost IMO. – MI

Rogue Ohio Bar , best barbell for home gym

 

Runner up: Best barbell for Home Gym under $400

Rep Fitness Gladiator Olympic Bar

“This barbell is great, 45 lb. version. The machining on this bar is excellent, you can tell how well done the knurling is. I’ve deadlifted up to 415 with it and the bar feels great & spins for days, if that’s something you need.” – SP

Rep Gladiator Olympic barbell for home gym

 

Best Olympic barbell under $300

Synergee Rhino PowerBar

Synergee is an exceptional company! Purchased this bar along with a Hex bar. Slight issue and customer service (Kelsey) handled my concern with a courtesy and fairness that is rare these days. This company not only makes great products, but they care about their customers.”

 

Best home gym Olympic barbell under $250

 XMark Fitness Voodoo Olympic Bar

“Excellent bar for Olympic lifting. After much research, I decided to go with this bar and it has been outstanding. The black finish doesn’t wear off onto my hands. With weight plates on, the sleeve will spin about 3 times, it’s just right for me.” – B

 

Best home gym barbell under $200

XMark Lumberjack Olympic Bar

“Quality for a great price. The coating is ideal for non-slip grip, no chalk or straps needed. Do not let price fool you, ideal for bench press, deadlifts, and squats. I use for my home gym so the brass bushings work fine for me and wifey. ” – J

 

Best-selling cheap Olympic bar

CAP (The Boss) Olympic Bar 

“Good value for a a barbell. I was looking for a solid bar that was a step above the poorly made bars that come with weight sets. I can say the quality appears good and it should last me a very long time.” – FC

 

Lowest-priced budget bar

Body-Solid Olympic Bar

“Great value for home gyms. I workout at home and don’t do any lifting over 300 lb. or where I’d drop the barbell. Very happy with this product! Seems to be built pretty well.” – MD


 

Best Cheap Olympic Barbells Review

Best Barbell - heydayDo - in article image

 

Top Pick: Best Barbell for a Home Gym under $400

Rogue Ohio Bar

4.9 ⭐   3,000+ online reviews

Rogue Ohio series barbell

Easy choice for the top barbell under $400, the Rogue Ohio series of power bars are simply built better with better materials than any other cheap barbell, and come with a lifetime warranty against bending just to prove it to you.

The only barbell in this review that’s made in the USA, the Rogue Ohio power bar comes in several shaft coatings including cerakote, zinc oxide, black oxide, and in a wide range of colors.

Unmatched durability in this price range and an easy recommendation for home weightlifting enthusiasts, high school & collegiate athletic gyms, CrossFt boxes, and powerlifting competitions…Rogue’s been there and done all that, thousands of times.

The Rogue Ohio power bar stats below are from the Cerakote model, and all of the series under $400 are about the same.

 

Owner satisfaction rating: 99%, 4.9 stars (200+ online reviews)

 

Tech Specs:

Bar use: Multi-purpose

Warranty – Lifetime against bending.

Tensile strength – 190,000

Knurl – standard multi

Center knurling – No

Bearings or bushings – Bronze bushings for reliable spin.

Markings: Dual-marked for Olympic and power lifts.

Shaft coating – Cerakote

Sleeve coating – Cerakote or chrome

 

Potential issues?

*None with the bar or the company that builds it. The Rogue Ohio power bar may be outside the budget for a beginning lifter.

See reviews & current price on Rogue Fitness

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Runner Up: Best Barbell for a Home Gym under $400 

Rep Fitness Gladiator Olympic Bar Review

Very well-made & very strong considering its price, Rep’s Gladiator is a true Olympic Bar with a 1,500 lb. static rating and good spin, thanks to 5 needle bearings per sleeve.

And with a tensile strength of 230,000 it is a great choice for powerlifting and Olympic lifts alike.

Rep Fitness Gladiator Barbell Review - heydayDo image

High quality details like hard chrome finishing, needle bearings, & consistent knurl machining make this a great barbell for the money among the low-priced bars available.

Owner satisfaction rating: 96%, 4.9 stars (200+ online reviews)

(By the way, heydayDo’s infiltrated RepFitness’ HQ a few times, since my son used to live north of their Denver operation.)

 

Tech Specs:

Static rating – 1500 lb.

Tensile strength – 230,000

Knurl – medium depth

Center knurling – No

Bearings or bushings – bearings, needle. Weight plates have good spin for the price.

Markings: Dual-marked

Coating – Hard chrome, superior to oxides

Warranty – 5 years

Other/Notes – Available in both 20kg (44.1 lb.) & 15kg (33.1 lb.) versions

 

Potential issues?

*None with the bar itself; it feels great and has all the makings of a durable piece of home gym equipment…I have a minor quibble regarding its warranty.

And though the 5 year warranty Rep has for the Gladiator MX is great, I was just hoping for a lifetime warranty since that’s what the Rogue Ohio Bar has.

I do know that the Rep Gladiator Stainless Steel bar that costs about a hundred bucks more has a lifetime warranty.

See reviews & current price on Rep Fitness

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Best Barbell for Home Under $300

Synergee Rhino PowerBar

Synergee 45lb Rhino Power Bar Cerakote Finish Barbell. Rated 1500lbs...
  • ★ MADE FOR SERIOUS POWERLIFTERS ★ – The Rhino is different from our Open, Regional, and Games barbells because it is stiffer, has less flex, is...
  • ★ SUPERIOR SPECS ★ – This bar weighs a solid 45 lbs, 29 mm diameter, and 16.4” of loadable space on each sleeve. It carries a tensile strength...
  • ★ CERAKOTE FINISH ★ – Our Steel Bar has a Cerakote-coated shaft and Black Phosphate sleeves, giving it a tough as nails, no-nonsense look. . It...
  • ★ WHAT’S IN THE PACKAGE ★ – This comes with a 45 lb Rhino Power Lifting Bar, accompanied by a complementary pack of Wrist Wraps and Lifting...
  • ★ NO SWEAT GUARANTEE ★ – Leave the sweating and swearing for your training! Buying from Synergee means quick, hassle-free, and caring customer...

Last update on 2021-11-29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The Rhino was designed for powerlifters, and does a pretty fantastic job of meeting these specifications given its low price-tag. It’s about as good as you can get without splurging on a premium Olympic barbell.

The Rhino is a solid Olympic bar and has a 1 year warranty — nice for a cheap bar — that’s nine months longer than either of the two Xmark Olympic barbells in this review.

Because it’s designed to be a powerlifting barbell, the Rhino features bushings (not bearings) and less flex than other barbells. It’s rigid, but still offers a smooth spin, so it’s still comfortable to use.

Plus it looks pretty cool, and a matte-black finish is always a crowd-pleaser.

Synergee also throws in a complementary pack of Wrist Wraps and Lifting Straps with each purchase if you like using those, though I don’t know how good they are.

 

Owner satisfaction rating: 90% based on over 150 reviews.

 

Tech Specs:

Static rating – 1500 lb.

Tensile strength – 190,000

Knurl – Volcano knurling

Center knurling – No

Bearings or bushings – Bushings.

Sleeve length: 16.4″

Markings: One-set of powerlifting marks.

Coating – Cerakote coated shaft and Black Phosphate sleeves

Warranty – 1 year. If there is any issue, there are free replacements. 100% satisfaction guarantee.

Other/Notes – Available in several different varieties, all clickable from the Amazon link.

 

Potential issues?

A few customers have taken issue with this bar’s “aggressive knurl” – stating that it’s not noticeably different from a standard knurl. Synergee was probably going for a good grip without the rip and split the difference.

(I’m OK with that. Never met anyone who liked to wear rawed-out skin on the back of their neck or hands as a badge of gym immortality or something…)

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Best Home Barbell Under $250 

XMark Fitness Voodoo Olympic Bar

XMark VOODOO Weight Bar, 7’ Olympic bar, Barbell bar, 1500 lb Weight...
  • A 5-STAR STAPLE OF ANY HOME GYM. The XMark VOODOO Olympic bar is over built for performance, under-priced for everyone.
  • The VOODOO weight bar offers a superior tensile strength of 185,000 PSI with moderate flex and a 1500 lb. weight capacity.
  • Crafted using a heat treated alloy steel and a snap ring lock system, the VOODOO barbell offers ultimate performance for Olympic and power lifting...
  • The 28mm grip shaft of the VOODOO Olympic barbell has a black manganese phosphate coating which is one of the hardest coatings available and provides...
  • The Voodoo's collars have micro grooves assuring your plates stay in place. Not only does this increase the safety of your exercises but it also...

Last update on 2021-11-29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

I think this is one of the best barbells under 250 bucks you’ll be able to find.

The Xmark Voodoo has a static rating of 1500 lb., tensile strength of 185,000, and a finish (manganese phosphate) that’s a definite step up from the decorative chrome found on other cheap barbells in its price range.

 

Owner satisfaction rating: 95%, 4.7 stars (350+ online reviews)

 

Tech Specs:

Static rating – 1500 lb.

Tensile strength – 185,000

Knurl – medium depth

Center knurling – No

Bearings or bushings – bushings, brass. Good spin for the price

Markings: Dual-marked

Coating – Manganese phosphate. Superior to decorative chrome, and more resistant to oxidation than oxides

Warranty – 90 days against bending

 

Potential issues?

*The warranty seems stingy to me (I’m allergic to short warranties by nature), but I have to remind myself “Dude, it’s under $250. What kind of warranty do you expect with a budget barbell like this?”

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Best Home Gym Barbell Under $200 

XMark Fitness Lumberjack Olympic Bar

XMark Lumberjack Weight Bar, 7’ Olympic bar, Barbell bar, Strength...
  • The XMark LUMBERJACK 7’ Olympic bar with a moderate flex makes it a great performance bar. This bar hits the middle of the road between flexible and...
  • A high quality shaft coating adds to the longevity of the bar. The LUMBERJACK’s shaft is black manganese phosphate which provides unbeatable...
  • The chrome sleeves of the LUMBERJACK Olympic bar rotates freely on self-lubricating brass alloy bushings and are secured to the bar using a...
  • Crafted using a high quality alloy steel, the LUMBERJACK 7 foot Olympic bar offers ultimate performance for cross training, Olympic and power lifting...
  • Uncompromising quality and affordability are what you have come to expect and receive from XMark. Your XMark 7' Olympic LUMBERJACK Bar is an...

Last update on 2021-11-29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Another XMark “best barbell for the money” model, this time the money’s less than 200 bucks.

The Lumberjack is like the junior sibling to the previously-reviewed Voodoo.

As mentioned this Lumberjack bar is very similar to the Voodoo except in terms of its strength & load capacity (700 lb. vs. 1500 lb. for the Voodoo).

All of the other build & design characteristics are the same, although subjectively I thought the knurl on the Lumberjack was a little more aggressive.

(However, both bars I had access to were used, and I don’t know by how much).

 

Owner satisfaction rating: 96%, 4.8 stars (700+ online reviews)

 

Tech Specs:

Static rating – 700 lb. weight capacity.

Tensile strength – none listed (since static rating isn’t high).

Knurl – medium – aggressive

Center knurling – No

Bearings/bushings – bushings, brass. Good spin for the price.

Sleeve length: 16 1/2″

Markings: Dual-marked

Coating – Manganese phosphate. Superior to decorative chrome, and more resistant to oxidation than oxides.

Warranty – same as Voodoo’s, that 90 days against bending protection.

 

Potential issues?

*Well, there’s that same skimpy warranty that bugged me a little with the Voodoo. But look at the low price. Decent quality in a cheap barbell is very tempting, especially if we’re on a tight budget.

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Best-selling Cheap Olympic Bar 

CAP Barbell “The Boss” Olympic Bar

CAP Barbell THE BOSS Power Squat Olympic Bar | For Weightlifting
  • ✔️CONSTRUCTION – Made with solid Japanese steel with a black phosphate finish; Collars are not included
  • ✔️SPECS – 132,000 PSI tensile strength steel; 2185mm in length; 51.5-inch shaft length; 15-inch loadable sleeve length; 28.5mm handgrip...
  • ✔️FEATURES – Medium-depth diamond knurling for secure, non-slip grip; Rotating sleeves with bushings for a smooth spin when lifting and to...
  • ✔️VERSATILE – Get a full body workout or target specific muscle groups to build mass and strength; Use for squats, bench presses and deadlifts
  • ✔️TRUST – Trust experience. CAP has been a pioneer in the fitness industry for over 30 years with locations worldwide; Chances are, if you have...

Last update on 2021-11-29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

This very popular, dirt cheap barbell comes in several different versions, and it’s 2 biggest selling versions are The Beast & The Boss.

I’m reviewing the Boss here because it’s the superior bar in terms of static rating (1500 lb. vs. 1000 lb. for The Beast) and tensile strength (132,000 vs. 110,000 for The Beast).

This is a good beginner barbell that is kinda-sorta priced the same as the XMark Voodoo, so I thought I’d put the two barbells head-to-head.

 

CAP The Boss vs. XMark Voodoo

Comparing the two, I found the XMark Voodoo scored better in a few areas that are important to me.

YMMV, so here’s what I found:

 

Price: currently CAP’s cheaper by $20 ($208 vs. $188)

Rating: same (1,500 lb.)

Tensile strength: advantage Voodoo (185,000 vs. 132,000)

Bushings: advantage Voodoo (brass vs. plastic)

Spin: same (they’re both good considering the price)

Coating: same (if you order the CAP barbell with the manganese phosphate)

Knurl: same (medium depth)

Markings: advantage Voodoo (no powerlifting marks on the CAP bar)

Warranty: advantage Voodoo (90 days vs. 30 days)

 

Non-deal breakers for me, but maybe for someone else:

Bar diameter: advantage Voodoo (28mm vs. 28.5)

Sleeve length: advantage Voodoo (16.5” vs. 15.5”)

 

Owner satisfaction rating: 92%, 4.7 stars (3,500+ online reviews)

 

Tech Specs:

Static rating – 1,500 lb.

Tensile strength – 132,000

Knurl – medium depth

Center knurling – with or without, your call

Bearings/bushings – Bushings, plastic. Good spin for the price

Markings: single, and they’re the wide Oly lifter marks

Coating – manganese phosphate or zinc oxide, your choice

Warranty – 30 days for home use

Other/Notes – As mentioned earlier, note that the sleeve lengths are 1” shorter than standard, 15.5” vs. 16.5”. Also note that the CAP bars in this series have a diameter of 28.5mm vs. the standard 28.5mm.

 

Potential issues?

*Here I go again, but the 30-day warranty on this CAP barbell is even shorter than the meager warranties offered on XMark’s 2 models.

* A few recent buyers have bars with defects right out of the box.

 

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Best Budget Barbell 

Body-Solid (OB86) Olympic Bar

Body-Solid Tools Olympic Straight Bar (OB86), 7 Feet, Chrome
  • OLYMPIC BARBELL: Our Olympic bar weighs 44 pounds and has a 600 weight plate capacity on a loadable sleeve length of 11. 25-inches
  • WEIGHT TRAINING: Our 7-foot Olympic bar is perfect for various forms of power lifting, weight lifting, bench press and cross training exercises
  • PRODUCT SPECS: Olympic bar has a shoulder bolt collar bolt and is built with a 30mm bar diameter
  • DURABILITY: Our 7-foot Olympic bar is precision engineered of the highest quality components. Triple plated chrome finish protects against rusting,...
  • PRODUCT DIMENSIONS: Overall bar length is 86" with a 51. 5" shaft length and 2” end bar dimension

Last update on 2021-11-29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Here ‘tis, the cheapest of the cheap barbells that made the team, Body-Solid’s OB86 Olympic Bar.

For a little over $150 you get a pretty good beginner barbell for the money, one that has over a thousand satisfied owners too.

This bar can’t compete against any of the other bars in this review in terms of quality of materials, strength, or design features.

Yet it still has a few good “bang for the buck” qualities of its own, considering its super low price.

 

Its an Olympic-sized bar: 7’ with 2” sleeves – and its rated for 600 lb. weight capacity.

Those stats alone make it an acceptable choice as a beginner barbell in a home gym if a little over a hundred bucks is all you can afford barbell-wise.

 

For powerlifting not Olympic lifts

It doesn’t have much spin and it’s not meant for dropping, so if you’re an Olympic lifter you’d look elsewhere.

Also, it has only single markings, and they’re the narrower markers found on powerlifting bars.

Owner satisfaction rating: 90%, 4.6 stars (1,200+ online reviews)

 

Tech Specs:

Static rating – 600 lb.

Tensile strength – none listed (low static rating anyway)

Knurl – medium depth

Center knurl – Yes

Bearings/bushings – bushings, plastic

Markings: single, marked at powerlifting width

Coating – your choice, black oxide or chrome (likely decorative chrome, so choose the oxide if you’re buying this one)

Warranty – their product literature & website make it difficult to determine exactly how long they offer warranty protection, and what’s covered & what’s not. It’s a very cheap barbell, so it’s probably best to assume the warranty is chintzy.

 

Other/Notes – The bar diameter is larger than the standard Olympic bar diameter, which is usually 28 mm.

The Body-Solid’s diameter is 30 mm, which is not an inappropriate number for a pure powerlifting bar, just a little bigger than most.

Also note that the sleeve lengths are 1” shorter than standard Olympic bars (15.5” vs. 16.5”)

 

Potential issues?

* I wouldn’t buy the black one due to a handful of buyer reports of premature rusting over the past few years.

* Cheap barbell price = cheap barbell materials, which means the Body-Solid bar is not built to handle dropping and it doesn’t spin. So this not for Olympic style lifting and is strictly a beginner bar suited for someone getting into powerlifting at home.

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Powerlifting bars and bars for Olympic lifts

If you’re new to weightlifting you might not know that the best barbell brands manufacture 2 types of barbells: one for powerlifting and one for Olympic lifting.

Olympic lifting competitions – at the Olympics & wherever else – consist of only 2 exercises, the clean & jerk and the snatch.

These links below connect to a brief description and 10 second video of each exercise, courtesy of a site I like called ExRx.net. They open in a separate tab.

Clean & Jerk

Snatch

The Olympic bars designed specifically for these exercises have slightly different characteristics than the powerlifting bar, which is made for our Big 3:

  • deadlift
  • squat
  • bench press

Yet in most instances the term Olympic bar is loosely used to describe the bars used for both lifting styles.

 

Broad-brush use of the term ‘olympic bar’

You can see that the product names for many of the barbells in this review contain the words “Olympic bar”.

Note though, that these bars are technically general purpose (or multi-purpose) barbells capable of being used for both Olympic lifts and powerlifting, as well as all of the other barbell-friendly lifts too.

Sometimes you’ll see manufacturers of cheap barbells & top-notch barbells alike use the word Olympic in a generic, descriptive fashion like this to simply indicate that the bar has 2” sleeves built to accommodate Olympic plates and 2″ bumper plates.

 

Olympic bars vs. the standard barbell

This is just a quick overview in case you heard the term standard barbells at the gym but wasn’t sure what that meant.

Simply put, all of the bars in this review article are Olympic bars as far as their size goes:

  • weighs 45 lb.,
  • is seven feet long,
  • has a bar diameter between 28 mm – 30 mm,
  • has 2″ rotating sleeves built for their respective weight plates and bumper plates, etc.

The term standard bar refers to the skinnier bar you’ll see at the gym that is:

  • usually between five and six feet long,
  • has sleeves that don’t rotate, and are
  • smaller than those on the Olympic,
  • and weighs less than half what an Olympic bar does, around twenty pounds.

Given the standard bar in only five to six feet long, it won’t fit on a typical powerlifting bench press or squat rack. Nor do you want to put typical 2″ plates on it either, since they’ll be loose and slide on you.

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Barbell Buying Guide

close up of young man & woman loading an Olympic plate onto an Olympic bar near the floor

Here are several possible points of consideration for you when buying a barbell, but not all of them are mandatory by any means.

Advanced lifters are usually very attentive to all these details, just like anyone who deep dives into a hobby, sport, or career.

Depending on your intended use and how much weight you’ll be lifting, some of these factors may be more important to you than others or not even a factor at all.

I think it’s up to you, your current budget, and your weightlifting goals at this point.

 

Barbell Strength

A barbell’s tensile strength is a spec you’ll see listed in its product description.

The definition of tensile strength is “the resistance of a material to breaking under tension” (Oxford).

And as it pertains to barbells, the tensile strength number represents the amount of force it can handle without breaking, so it’s not exactly how much weight it can hold.

It’s measured in PSI (lb. per square inch).

 

Higher tensile strength isn’t always better: for example, someone performing Olympic style lifts needs more bar whip in order to perform snatches & cleans compared to typical power bars.

Higher tensile strength implies stiffness, so a stiff bar is reserved for powerlifting.

And with cheap barbells, sometimes any tensile strength reported in their manual is better than coming across a bar where the manufacturer won’t disclose it because it’s so poor.

 

Tensile strength limitations

Rogue Fitness (who make their own Olympic barbells in Ohio, in case you didn’t know) doesn’t think getting hung up on static rating vs. tensile strength is a good use of one’s time.

In this article here, they go into great detail about F Rating and how it measures the true strength of a barbell under pressure; check it out if interested. I’m kind of dense when it comes to math science, so I didn’t absorb it all that well.

 

Needle bearings & Bushings

These are what allow the sleeve to move friction-free around the shaft.

Needle bearings are what people into Olympic lifts want, because they provide the most spin and are less likely to deform than ball bearings when they drop their bars loaded up with bumper plates.

Bushings are preferred for powerlifting because spin isn’t as important while benching, squatting, etc.

With bushings, bronze is better than brass which is better than plastic composite material.

In a cheap barbell, an undisclosed bushing material can be assumed to be plastic or brass.

Bronze costs more than those 2 materials, and so manufacturers will usually talk their bronze up.

 

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Price

Not to be smart-alecky, but “you get what you pay for” when it comes to home gym power bars.

That doesn’t mean you have to throw down gobs of cash to get a decent barbell for your home gym…not at all.

 

There are a lot of good reasons you might not want to go for a top-quality Olympic barbell:

* they cost way more than you ought to spend on a barbell at this point in your life;

* if you’re just starting out and not positive you’re going to even want to keep weightlifting, you might be be better off with a decent beginner barbell.

* you’re nowhere near banging out 400 lb. for reps on any powerlifting move, nor are dropping my loaded bar all the time.

* etc.

So may I gently suggest first determining what it is you can and want to spend, then dial in the best bar for your weightlifting plan within that budget.

 

close up of female powerlifter's gloved hand gripping an Olympic bar

 

Knurl & Center Knurl

New to barbell anatomy?

Knurling is the the machine-ground pattern on the barbell.

It provides your hands with a better grip than smooth steel would.

It’s oft-discussed and oft-described…

 

No shortage of person-knurl opinion

How much knurling has been machined onto the bar is one thing.

What 10 dudes in a room say about how passive, medium, or aggressive it is…well, that’s likely 10 things.

So I’m in the camp that feels that “great knurl” is a personal preference, though I don’t think that anyone likes a slippery bar on one hand, or a bar that makes your palms bleed either.

I like to feel a connected grip without getting chewed hands, but I’ll take raked callouses over a slippery bar.

 

To center knurl or not to center knurl, that is the a question

Same thing for center knurl.

Back when I went to gyms before I went Full Home Gym, I’d often be at the mercy of whatever bar was available.

Sometimes I didn’t notice it squatting or military pressing, but other times the bars with aggro knurling scraped my neck & bugged me.

 

But as you can see, these are only my personal preferences.

And we’ll all have our own preferences about things like how much knurling is ideal for our weightlifting purposes.

Somewhere between a slippery bar and chewed skin probably… 😄, though I bet most lifters are just fine without any center knurling.

 

Powerlifting male doing t-bar rows

 

Coatings

Since the focus of this article is on the bargain bin side of the barbell aisle, we won’t be offered the same full range of coatings available on the top-quality barbells…although the Rogue bar has a few nice choices: cerakote, zinc oxide, & black oxide.

Bottom line is if we have a choice, we ought to steer clear of junky stuff whenever we can. “Junky” will show itself in several buyer reviews that complain about premature rusting or flaking, such as is the case with the Black model Body-Solid barbell reviewed in this article.

 

Our bar’s durability doesn’t critically hang in the balance with our choice of coating, but a barbell’s usefulness to us will sharply decline if it starts to corrode on us prematurely.

 

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So here are the coatings typically found on barbells, in order from worst to first:

Low-budget plain steel: Avoid.

Decorative chrome: Boo, it’ll rain on you at some point.

Black oxide: Possibly OK if it’s the best/only option, but can flake &/or rust early (like the black Body-Solid in this review).

Zincs: OK.

Manganese phosphate: Movin’ on up, and some esteem it better than zinc (XMARKs, CAP), but to many it’s a wash.

Hard chrome: Good for powerlifting bars (Rep Gladiator).

 

…And here are the coatings currently above our pay grade:

Cerakote: Space-age ceramic coating used on gun metal & other things. Now on barbells like the Rogue and the Synergee, and it’s durable.

High grade stainless steel: The top of the line best barbells are often made with this.

 

Warranty

The best barbells made by the best barbell brands will have the best warranties, and that’s no surprise.

Their warranties are usually lifetime warranties.

Cheap barbells are not accorded the same degree of protection by any means.

That’s hopefully not a surprise to anyone either.

 

Reality of cheap barbell warranties

I harp on stingy warranties here on heydayDo a lot.

But that is when I’m evaluating fitness equipment that has a number of moving parts under the hood, so to speak.

Those problems can take awhile to show, so I expect the manufacturer to back the product accordingly.

In the case of a cheap barbell though, I’m not sure the same rule applies.

(However, I really like the fact that the Rogue Ohio Bar has a lifetime warranty, and it’s nice that the Rep Fitness Gladiator Oly Bar offers five years on their warranty too.)

 

Since a barbell is a simple piece of equipment, I think any blatant manufacturing defect would show up soon after regular use began.

So with an expensive top-shelf barbell, an excellent warranty is definitely expected, since its price tag is high because you’re paying for its years’ worth of durability.

But with the budget barbell I don’t think it’s as important, especially if you’re not lifting heavy or dropping every one of your standing lifts all the time.

Like I said, I think a serious defect in a cheap barbell will show itself soon during regular use.

 

Benefits of weight training…

young girl lifting colorful child's barbell

(…besides getting stronger & building bigger muscles)

 

Here are a few positive things that sports science & medical research have shown that strength training provides us when we make it a part of our lifestyle. And remember, don’t forget to stretch before every strength training workout.

(The links go to the clinical research studies I’ve read that pertain to each of  their topics.)

 

Weightlifting helps develop strong bones

Mayo Clinic (& many others) have determined we start losing more bone mass than we produce once we hit 30.

A great thing about weightlifting is that its been shown to rebuild lost bone density, preserve what you have, and increase your bone cell production.

 

Increases endurance

You might only associate cardio with endurance and stamina benefits. But, in fact, weight lifting will develop the muscles that are crucial to endurance, resulting in great performance during endurance activities.

 

Increase calorie burn & burn more fat

Muscle burns more calories than fat tissue, Mayo Clinic says quite plainly.

And as we increase our muscle mass thanks to lifting, we increase our body’s ability to burn more calories while we’re at rest; that is, when we’re not working out

Weight lifting also takes aim at fat directly, both the ugly (belly fat) and the mortally dangerous (visceral fat).

Both of these two clinical research studies here & here had their weight training participants lose “significant” percentages of both visceral & belly fat over the course of their studies, which ran for 25 & 16 weeks, respectively.

 

Weight training makes our brains stronger too

There are a bunch of ways that lifting is good for our minds and good for our souls. Below are some bullet points with links to their relevant clinical research studies.

Strength training can:

*Improve our thinking ability

significant improvements in cognitive function

*Help our memory

strength training can benefit memory

*Reduce anxiety

resistance training group significantly reduced trait anxiety

*Boost self-esteem & mood

weight training subjects showed significant gains in self-esteem” 

resistance exercise had positive effects on mental health and well-being

 

To check out more of the medical & sports science communities’ work on this topic, I posted a research paper I wrote here on heydayDo, The Benefits of Strength Training.

 

dumbbell green - heydayDo icon

Wrapping Up

I hope my product recon & research of these affordable Olympic barbells is useful to you, and that the health benefits of weight lifting is a boost for you too.

I wish you well on your fitness journey.

 

– greg

July 2021

 


About heydayDo

heydayDo author Greg Simon
Hi I’m Greg Simon. Fitness training & nutrition researching since 1982. Organic food & wine grower. Surfer. Congenital heart disease survivor (so far). Read more…
heydayDo is my “fitness after 50” website that’s about embracing the physically active lifestyle as we get older.
 
I write about the fitness and health research I’ve found concerning the quality of life benefits that exercise and good nutrition provide.
 
When I get curious about something, I’ll dig into whatever sports science & medical facts there are on the topic to learn what’s real & what’s only hype. I also post my experiences product-testing & evaluating home gym equipment & fitness supplements.
 
 It’s an information-sharing, personal opinion blog of mine.
 
So if you’re looking for medical or nutritional advice, please consult with your doctor or health professional for that, since heydayDo does not provide medical advice.