Welcome to the Garage Gym’s Olympic barbell review and shopping guide. If you’re in the market for a quality Oly bar, powerlifting bar, WOD bar, or even a general purpose bar, then you’ve come to the right place. If you’re interested in learning the basics of bar construction, again you’ve come to the right place. Whether you’re a man, woman, or youngster; newbie, intermediate, or elite athlete; in this bar guide you will find information and specs for some of the best barbell options on the market for you and your gym.
In an effort to stay current with new equipment and changing prices this page is frequently updated. Recent update: Dec 2017
Barbell Guide Table of Contents
- Understanding Barbell Specifications (intended for new lifters)
- The Barbell Review & Shopping Guide
- My Top Bar Picks
Other In-Depth Barbell Guides (on this site)
- 15 kg Women’s Olympic Bars
- Expanded Powerlifting Bar Guide
- Comprehensive Eleiko NxG Barbell Guide
- Comprehensive Rogue Bar Guide
- Comprehensive Vulcan Bar Guide
- A Guide to Specialty Bars
Understanding Barbell Specifications
Barbell Differences for Men, Women & Youths
Barbell’s are not all the same for men, women, and junior lifters. They vary in weight, shaft diameter, and in many cases overall bar length. Most bars are 20 kg men’s bars, but many major manufacturers offer a women’s version of their most popular 20 kg bars. Below are the typical specs for each type:
- Men’s Barbell: weighs 20 kg (~44 pounds), has a bar shaft diameter of 28-29 mm, and length of 2.2 meters (7.2 feet).
- Women’s Barbell: weighs 15 kg (~33 pounds), has a bar shaft diameter of 25 mm, and a length of 2.01 meters (~79 inches). Reduction in overall length comes off the sleeves.
- Youth Barbell: weighs 10 kg (~22 pound), has bar shaft diameter of 25 mm, and length of 60-67 inches. Reduction in overall length comes off the sleeves.
Type of Bar (Olympic vs Power)
There are three primary types of barbells available; Olympic WL bars, powerlifting bars, and dual-marked, multi-purpose bars. Power bars are designed for heavy deadlifts, squats, and bench press. They are rather rigid, stiff bars that do not store elastic energy, making them a poor choice for the Olympic lifts. Power bars have their own unique knurl markings (or hash marks) that differ from those on the Olympic bar.
Olympic barbells are designed for the two explosive Olympic lifts; the snatch and clean & jerk. Olympic bars are generally smaller in diameter and more flexible than Power bars (28 mm vs 29 mm+), and they store more elastic energy (referred to as whip) that is used to the lifter’s advantage when performing heavy cleans. The markings on an Olympic bar are also a couple inches further out from center than the markings on Power bars.
There is a third type of bar that has become commonplace these days, and that is the dual-marked weightlifting bar. These hybrid bars are intended to be used as a general-purpose bar; a bar that is suitable for the Olympic lifts, but can also handle the slower and heavier power lifts. This type of non-specialized bar is generally the best choice for most beginner and intermediate lifters and CrossFitters, and more times than not what you will find in a box or affiliate setting.
Both the IWF (International Weightlifting Federation) and the IPF (International Powerlifting Federation) specify that a men’s 20 kg barbell should have a center knurl. For women’s 15 kg bars, no center knurl is required by the IWF, and there are no 15 kg power bars to worry about.
What this means is that you can expect the majority of 20 kg bars you come across to have a center knurl, while almost no 15 kg bars will have a center knurl. If you prefer to not have center knurling on a 20 kg bar, you’ll want to look at multi-purpose CrossFit bars; as more times than not those do not have a center knurl.
Center knurling is usually passive (softer than the rest of the bar’s knurling), but not 100% of the time. Just make sure to read product descriptions carefully if this feature (or lack of) is important to you.
Sleeve Assembly: Bushing vs Bearing
This describes which components are used to permit the sleeves to freely spin around the shaft. Bushings are a low friction material (usually bronze or sometimes composite) placed between the shaft and the sleeve. Needle bearings (or roller bearings) spin more smoothly than bushings, but typically increase the cost of the bar. Both mechanisms produce ample sleeve rotation but bearings allow for a smoother, quieter spin, and a more reliable turnover at maximum loads.
Nearly all dual-marked/general purpose bars and powerlifting bars are bushing-based bars. Bearings are generally only found on high-end Olympic bars. Novices do not need to spring for bearings, as any benefit of owning them will be lost on them. Check out this discussion if you’re curious about these two mechanisms.
It’s in your best interest to go with either bronze or composite when selecting a bushing bar. Materials like brass and steel are not a good choice for this application, and seeing either of these materials being used is kind of a red flag in terms of the overall quality of the bar. The wholesale cost of cast bronze bushings is probably about $.50 a bushing. If a manufacturer is cutting corners on this, imagine where else corners were cut.
Bar Tensile Strength Ratings
Measured in pounds per square inch (PSI), this is the supposed breaking point of the shaft. This number is intended to illustrate the strength (and ideally an inferred quality level) of the steel used for that particular bar. It is the modern-day equivalent of the ‘maximum capacity’ rating that we used to see in product descriptions in the past.
This rating is important, but it is also irrelevant. Tensile strength is tested by pulling the shaft apart from both ends; something that the shaft is not ever subjected to in use. The test you see being performed in the above image is actually a yield rating test; a far more important figure, and one we are almost never privy to. Yield ratings tell us at what point the shaft will deform and not return to straight, so you can see why that would be more useful.
Despite the fact that tensile strength alone is only marginally useful to consumers, it’s still worth paying some attention to. Since lower tensile strength ratings equate to a lower yield rating, you should still avoid any bars with low tensile strength (less than 165k) or no tensile strength rating at all. I recommend that you stick with 190k and up as this steel has proven to be very resistant to developing permanent bends.
What you don’t want to do is allow tensile strength ratings to be the determining factor of a barbell purchase. Many manufacturer’s know that you’ll be looking for this number so they use it as a means to market cheap, inferior bars to you. They’ll buy up some super cheap, high tensile/low yield scrap iron and put together a bar that looks amazing on paper, but is absolute garbage in reality. They basically take advantage of the fact that yield ratings are considered ‘trade secrets’.
Don’t overthink it though. After reading this guide you’ll know what a 200k+ PSI Olympic bar should cost, so you’ll know that when you see a $250 bar with specs like a $700 Eleiko that something is up, and you’ll know to avoid that $250 scrap iron bar. Vulcan has some crazy high tensile strength bars, but Vulcan discloses yield ratings on them and they aren’t $250 bars anyway. Just be real. No one is hooking you up; they’re actually trying to rip you off.
Shaft and Sleeve Finishes
Finishes are the protective coating applied to the steel. Their main purpose is to prevent or reduce oxidation, but aesthetics are a big factor too. Here are the most common finishes:
- Black oxide: Most natural feel among finishes, but limited oxidation protection. Tends to rub off where hands frequently touch the bar. Maintenance/upkeep required.
- Black zinc: Good oxidation protection, but has mediocre feel (feels slick with sweaty hands). Vibrant color fades to awful green. Absolutely horrible finish for sleeves.
- Black manganese: Fairly uncommon finish. Has a grippy texture on par with oxide, but with more oxidation protection. Not sure why it’s not more often.
- Bright zinc: Less costly alternative to hard chrome. Offers great oxidation protection if not in an extremely humid region, as zinc is a sacrificial metal.
- Hard chrome: Hard chrome (includes polished and satin chrome) is probably the most durable of the common finishes. It stays shiny, doesn’t chip, and doesn’t rust except in the most hostile of conditions.
- Decorative chrome: Usually found on cheap box-store bars. It looks like chrome, but it’s not. It chips/flakes off very easily because rust actually develops under this finish. If you buy a “chrome” bar that’s under $100, it’s just decorative chrome.
- Cerakote: This finish used to be exclusive to American Barbell. Cerakote is a colored ceramic typically used for firearms. It’s durable, grippy, and quite oxidation resistant. It’s also very pricey compared to other finishes.
Most unfinished bars (raw bars) are carbon steel. They feel the most natural in hands, they are affordable, but they will definitely rust if not maintained. Stainless steel is an alternative to carbon steel. Same natural feel, but no rust. Unfinished stainless steel will cost you more than any of these other finishes though. It’s the premium shaft material.
Sleeve Design (Snap Ring vs End Cap)
This is the method by which the sleeve is secured to the bar. Both of these methods work well and I wouldn’t worry too much about which your preferred bar has. If however you do want to learn more about how these both work, try this article.
I do suggest that you run away from any bar with a hex bolt sticking out of the sleeve. This is indicative of a bad bar. You shouldn’t come across a hex bolt when dealing with reputable brands; you’re likely only to see this on barbells offered in chain sporting good stores and a good number of the inexpensive bars on Amazon (such as CAP, Marcy, Gold’s Gym, etc.)
Barbell Guide – Comparisons & Reviews
All the bars listed in this guide meet a couple of minimum requirements. First, they all have a stated tensile strength, not just a max static weight. This alone eliminates just about every cheap box-store bar. I very strongly believe that buying a $100 barbell is an absolute waste of money, and I refuse to pretend otherwise just to temporarily save you a few bucks. If you are lucky you’ll just outgrow a junk bar in a few months and simply be out some cash. If you are unlucky you’ll break the bar during a lift and hurt yourself.
If you want to be a cheapskate do it on a different piece of equipment, not your barbell. This is your most important piece of training equipment.
Second, all these barbells are manufactured by well established, reputable companies that know what they’re doing, and they stand behind their products. Vulcan Strength, American Barbell, Rogue, Eleiko, Ivanko and so on are all established players in the industry and they all offer warranties.
Finally, I did not include any of the bars that are like those I alluded to in the tensile strength explanation above; scrap iron bars with artificially inflated specs. Trust me when I say that a 28 mm, 210k-250k PSI, needle bearing bar that sells for $200-$300 is a piece of junk made with the cheapest components available. No one can assemble a safe, durable, functional bar with those specs for that kind of money and still have a margin. It cannot be done – not even in China. If it looks too good to be true, it is.
Dual-Marked / Multi-Purpose Bars
Many of the most popular bars on the market right now are dual-marked bars. These bars will allow you to perform both the explosive Olympic lifts and the slower powerlifting lifts all on the same bar. These bars are generally 28.5 mm bushing bars, but some variation does exist. Multi-purpose bars generally quite affordable. They are more versatile than power or Olympic bars, perfect for most athletes, and ideal in CrossFit and garage gym settings.
The 28.5 mm Vulcan Standard Review
The 28.5 mm Vulcan Standard is a USA-made, multi-purpose bushing bar. The shaft of the Standard is rated at 194,000 PSI, the sleeves rotate on oil-impregnated bronze bushings, and the knurl is moderate; which along with the lack of center knurl makes this bar ideal for high-rep work. The Vulcan Standard is a reliable and affordable piece of equipment that has the added bonus of not having a single drop of black zinc anywhere on the bar – rather it is finished in resilient, bright zinc. The Standard ells for $286.
This bar was actually designed to withstand the day-in and day-out abuse of a commercial gym or CrossFit box, and is warranted for just that. If the Vulcan Standard can handle the negligence typical of that kind of an environment, imagine how well and for how long it will keep up in your garage gym.
The Standard is a great alternative to both the Rogue Bar 2.0 and the Bella Bar (yes, there is a 15 kg Standard as well). While both of these Rogue bars are also USA-made, reliable, and priced reasonably, the Standard does have the advantage of sintered bronze bushings over cast bronze; and like I previously mentioned; no black zinc. [full Standard review here]
The 28.5 mm Vulcan Standard currently has about 30 5-star reviews. There’s also a 28 mm variant of the USA-made Standard that has a nickel chrome shaft finish. This variant would be more suitable for those whose interests weigh heavily on the Olympic lifts, and very little on the slower strength lifts like the bench press. All great options; all USA-made.
American Barbell Cerakote California Bar Review
The California Bar was American Barbell’s first dual-marked CrossFit bar, and it was initially considered their answer to the Rogue Bar 2.0. However, in the last year or so it’s received a number of upgrades that has put the California’s specs (and pricing) much more in line with higher-end multi-purpose bars like the SS Ohio Bar than the classic Rogue Bar.
The California Bar sports the industry standard 190k PSI alloy steel shaft. It has dual IPF / IWF markings, no center knurl, and sleeves that spin reliably on industrial-grade, high-load composite bushings rather than classic bronze bushings. What makes the California special is the finish. The shaft is coated with black graphite Cerakote; the same rust-resistant finish used for firearms. Cerakote is clean, consistent, completely rust-proof, and naturally grippy.
A couple of other features that make the California different from the Rogue bars (and most other multi-purpose bars for that matter) is the use of a 28 mm shaft rather than the typical 28.5 mm shaft, and the use of industrial chrome for the sleeves rather than a cheaper bright or black zinc finish. [see full California Bar review]
So between the 28 mm shaft, chrome sleeves, and the Cerakote finish (a finish that AB first brought to market btw) you end up with a rather premium multi-purpose bar; but all of these features do put the price on the high-end of WOD bars ($335). This is more expensive than all the standard Ohio bars, but it’s still $15 less than the SS Ohio; the only Ohio Bar variant worth comparing the Cali to. As the proud owner of five different American Barbell bars I do not hesitate to recommend this bar. It has a flawless 5-star review rating as well.
Rogue Stainless Steel Ohio Bar (SS Ohio) Review
The Stainless Steel Ohio by Rogue is the best priced stainless steel bar on the market, and one of Rogue’s best bars overall. At $350 this dual-marked barbell has a 195k PSI stainless steel shaft, composite bushing system, and bright chrome sleeves. It’s a very beautiful and functional piece of equipment.
The 28.5 mm shaft of the SS Ohio offers flex on par with Rogue’s other multi-purpose bars, and knurling that’s far superior to any zinc or chrome finished multi-purpose bar that I know of (even the Matt Chan). This is a fantastic bar for anyone who trains both the big three and the Olympic lifts with the same bar, as it performs well for both.
I personally think that the SS Ohio is one of the best bars in the current Rogue line-up, and definitely a contender for a home gym. If you are considering any of the basic Ohio Bars for your garage gym, the SS Ohio is a no-brainer upgrade so long as you can afford to pay the minor price difference. You’ll be happy you made the jump if you do, I can tell you that with certainty. [SS Ohio Bar Review].
The 20 kg Rogue Bar 2.0 Review
The Rogue Bar 2.0 is a 20 kg, 28.5 mm multi-purpose, CrossFit bar. The 190k PSI shaft is dual-marked with no center knurl and finished in black zinc. Bright zinc sleeves rotate on a pair of composite bushings. As an interesting little bonus the shoulder is machine grooved so that custom-colored rubber bands can be added as a way to personalize your bar.
If your budget is in the mid-$200’s, the American-made Rogue Bar should be on your short list. It’s the most commonly purchased bar for CrossFit boxes and garage gym WODs, and there are over 200+ 5-star reviews for this bar (in addition to countless off-site reviews) to prove its incredible value, durability, and performance. The only real downsides to the 2.0 is that it’s quite loud to drop, and that it has black zinc.
Rogue finally released multiple rubber bracelets for the sleeves so now the Rogue Bar 2.0 is customizable in reality, and not just in theory.
The 15 kg Bella 2.0 Review (The Women’s Rogue Bar)
This is the women’s 15 kg version of The Rogue Bar. The Bella 2.0 has similar construction to the Rogue Bar (bright zinc on black zinc, 190,000 PSI shaft, dual-marked, etc). However, the shaft is narrower at 25 mm, the Bella uses cast bronze bushings instead of composite, and the bar is slightly shorter at 79-3/8″ (the difference in length comes off the sleeves, not the shaft). The Bella is a solid ladies bar, and the best thing about it is the $215 price tag.
The Bella 2.0 is also available with a Cerakote finish. The Cerakote version features all the same specifications, only the shaft and sleeve finish has changed. Currently there are like a dozen different color options for Cerakote Bella; all selling for $275. [Cerakote Bella review]
The 20 kg Rogue Ohio Bar & Ohio Variants
The Rogue Ohio Bar is a 20 kg, dual-marked, multi-purpose (CrossFit) bar with a 28.5 mm shaft that’s rated at 190k PSI; the same shaft used for the Rogue Bar 2.0 actually. The Ohio sports cast bronze bushings, moderate knurl (Rogue’s ‘standard’ knurl), and average whip. The Ohio Bar is available in multiple different finish options including black zinc / bright zinc for $282, black oxide for $295, and multiple Cerakote options for $325.
The Ohio Bar is Rogue’s flagship bar; the first bar to be manufactured entirely at the Rogue campus in Columbus, Ohio. It currently has a 5-star rating based on over 200 reviews, and tons of positive feedback for this bar can be found all over the web. The only variant of the Ohio Bar that I see no purpose for in the $282 zinc bar. The Rogue Bar 2.0 is effectively the same bar for about $30 less – just go with that if you don’t want oxide or Cerakote.
FYI: The following bars are identical to the Ohio Bar, only with different finishes: The Castro Bar (bare steel), The Froning Bushing Bar (all black zinc), and the Operator Bar (olive drab or desert sand Cerakote). The new Cerakote Ohio Bars are listed on their own page, much like the Stainless Steel Ohio Bar is (discussed above).
The Rogue Matt Chan Bar is yet another variant of the Ohio Bar, only with the Chan it’s not the finish that’s different, but rather the knurl situation. The outer knurling of the Chan is set further away from center to allow for a wider stance with deadlifts (a blessing for taller folks like me) while also being knurled more aggressively than the other variants. It also has a passive center knurl; something that the other variants do not have. Fantastic barbell. [see Chan Bar review]
In my opinion, the classic Ohio Bar is nearly obsolete thanks to all the other variants. I can see the appeal of an Operator, Chan, or the stainless steel version, but with the Rogue Bar 2.0 being less expensive I cannot see buying a Classic Ohio Bar over it.
York Burgener and Rippetoe 20 kg Bar Review
The original York B&R Bar is discontinued and has been replaced with the Rogue B&R Bar. The newest version of this bar is built to feel the same as the original but a few things have changed in terms of specifications; the tensile strength of the shaft is up to 205k PSI (from 190k); there is no longer an end cap, but rather the standard Rogue snap ring system; and the bronze bushings are no longer self-lubricating sintered bronze, but rather cast bronze. The price has remained the same.
In addition to the 20 kg men’s B&R, there’s a women’s 15 kg B&R. Both of these are great multi-purpose bars, and the ladies version is one of the only bare steel options in that 15 kg category, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I liked the York a little bit more. I really dug those bolt-on end caps, and sintered bushings just hold lubricant so much better than cast bronze bushings. Oh well, it is what it is.
The standard men’s B&R is $295, and the women’s is $205 – a difference in price so large that it literally confuses me. This bar is great for novices and Starting Strength.
Vulcan One Basic Economy Bar Review
The Vulcan One Basic Bar is one of the better economy multi-purpose, CrossFit-style bars currently on the market. At $249, it’s quite competitive with the other 190,000 PSI bars like the Rogue Bar 2.0, Ohio Bar, and the California Bar, yet even at that lower price has some features that make it more appealing. For instance, the men’s One Basic is fully chromed – no zinc. It also has a true 28 mm shaft rather than 28.5 mm. Finally, the One Basic ships for free unlike the Rogue and American Barbell bars.
The One is offered in both a men’s 20 kg and women’s 15 kg version ($219). Both of these bars used to be black zinc coated (middle bar in above image) but that finish easily chipped and scratched away so Vulcan started using chrome instead.
This bar is a very real alternative to some tried-and-true mid-range bars. When compared to the lesser imports like the Bomba, Team Bar, and other similar bars from the small CrossFit shops, the difference in quality and performance is night and day. The One Basic will serve novices well, and will even grow with them and handle intermediate training too. [review]
Again Faster Team Bar 2.0 Review
The Again Faster Team Bar is a train wreck of a bar, and should absolutely be avoided. The only reason I bother to mention it here and risk drawing any attention to it or the brand is to save people who have it on their short list from actually buying it.
Normally I would just let the reviews do the talking, but Again Faster (owned by X-Training) has been removing the negative reviews from their site. As in, they are literally just deleting the reviews that speak to the Team Bar’s bent shafts, frozen sleeves, and their total lack of willingness to make exchanges or offer returns – a disgraceful and unforgivable thing for a company to do.
If you’re so inclined and somewhat savvy, you can use the Internet archives to dig up these reviews, but a customer who stumbles upon AF would probably never think to do this, so I felt it was my duty to point it out here. Below are a few of the reviews out there that cannot be deleted and hidden from you. Shop Again Faster and X-Training at your own risk.
Wonder Bar V2 Review
The Wonder Bar is an entry level WOD bar that teeters on the edge of being one of those bars I mentioned in the tensile strength section above. At only $220 it boasts a 205k PSI tensile strength and a [literally unbelievable] 199k PSI yield strength, and all while being a bearing bar rather than a bushing bar like most other WOD bars.
I previously owned and tested the Wonder V2 and found it to be stiff, lacking adequate knurl depth for pulls, and the sleeves rattled loosely and loudly on the shaft. If it were not for the bearings and complete lack of knurl I’d actually be inclined to consider this more of a power bar than a WOD bar.
There is just no reason for a novice WOD bar to have bearings over bushings other than as a way to sell said bar to the misinformed. I do not recommend this bar. Spend an extra $30 for the Vulcan One or Rogue Bar 2.0 and get an actual WOD bar – one with a real warranty, and one that will grow with you. I also suggest avoiding bars with black zinc on the sleeves; even when it’s a better bar than this one overall.
28 mm Olympic Weightlifting Bearing Bars
Olympic Weightlifting Barbells are designed for the two explosive lifts; the snatch and clean & jerk. True Olympic barbells have a 28 mm shaft diameter (25 mm for women’s), and they will almost always utilize the more expensive roller bearings for sleeve rotation rather than using bushings. Matter of fact, all of the bars in this section are bearing WL bars, but I have included bushing-based training bars in the section immediately following this one.
American Barbell Stainless Steel Olympic Bar (SS Pro)
The Stainless Steel Bearing Bar is American Barbell’s most expensive bar, and easily also their best bar. The core specifications for this bar are very much like the Rogue Olympic WL Bar – both are 20 kg, 28 mm Olympic bearing bars, and both are built around a 190k steel shaft. One of the most obvious differences between these bars is that the American Barbell SS Pro Bar is a stainless steel bar.
Stainless steel is superior to every other shaft material or finish option not only because of its resistance to oxidation, but also because stainless steel offers a natural and secure grip that no applied finish can compare to. Stainless bars don’t need to have overly aggressive knurl to stick to your hands, making them ideal for long training sessions. The SS Pro Bar’s shaft is one of only two bar shafts that I’ve considered to be a 10/10 for both grip and knurl quality.
Another less obvious feature of the American Barbell SS Pro that makes it better than the competition is in the sleeves; the bearings. American Barbell is one of the only companies to use high-load, tracked bearings in their high-end Oly bars. What this boils down to is a bearing that won’t wear over time, will never lose its ability to rotate, and will rotate reliably under any load. You will never in your life clean the amount of weight this bar can deal with. Only Eleiko offers a similar bearing system, and they just recently joined the party in 2017.
All these features; the stainless steel and the bearings; come with a price though. You’ll pay about $125 more for the SS Pro than you would pay for the equivalent non-stainless steel Performance Olympic Bar (the chrome version of this same bar), and about $40 more than the chrome Rogue Olympic Bar (but $25 less than Rogue’s SS Oly Bar, and it doesn’t even offer the same bearing system.)
So is it worth the cost? Well I own this bar and I think that it’s worth every damn penny, and I picked it up when it was $799! The sleeves are a beautiful and resilient chrome, the grip is solid and completely secure, the bearings can handle more weight than even Dmitry could put on the bar, and the whip is above average. This bar is as functional as it is beautiful and I think that the new $675 price tag is more than reasonable price for such an elite, premium piece of equipment. I absolutely recommend it. [SS Pro full review]
Vulcan Professional Needle Bearing Olympic Bar
This is one of Vulcan’s high-performance Olympic WL bars. It’s not only comparable to the IWF training bars (DHS, Elieko, Zhangkong) but probably even superior to them. It is also less expensive; by a lot in most cases.
The Vulcan Professional Bar is a 20 kg, 28 mm needle bearing bar. The shaft specs blow all other professional bars out of the water; it has a sick, lab-verified tensile strength of over 240,000 PSI and a yield strength of 223,000 PSI. The yield strength is actually higher than the tensile strength of all other professional Olympic bars, meaning it would take an act of God or an almost deliberate form of negligence to put a permanent bend in it.
The Vulcan Pro is said to be one of the most elastic (whippiest) Olympic bars on the market at high weights, and it displays its reflexive properties fairly well even at moderate weights. The whole bar is finished in engineered, hard chrome; which is beautiful, durable, and thick enough to contribute to the bar’s overall strength.
If you are looking for a true, competition-worthy Olympic bar but you don’t want to pay the $800-$1000 price tag of an IWF-certified bar, this bar needs to be considered. The Vulcan Pro is an end-game Olympic bar, and if you choose to purchase another Olympic bar after purchasing the Vulcan Pro, it will be for the fun of it, not out of necessity. $599 with shipping included. 15 kg women’s variant is $579. [see full review]
Eleiko Performance Olympic WL Bar – 15 and 20 kg
The Eleiko Performance Weightlifting Bar is replacing the Sport Training Bar by name. The specs of both bars are technically the same, but since the Performance Bar is an NxG bar, it’ll have all of the NxG features; including track bearings, dust seal, and improved knurling.
The Performance WL Bar is basically Eleiko’s “budget” 28 mm Olympic training bar. Don’t let the word budget confuse you though; this is still an Eleiko and still expensive at $729.
This bar uses the same 215,000 PSI Swedish steel shaft and the same high load, smooth bearings that you’ll find on the Eleiko IWF Comp and Training bars. It even has the same bearing count. The only difference in overall feel is the use of a lighter knurl (1 mm in depth versus 1.2 mm) than the IWF bars. The difference is noticeable, but minimal – this bar still has a very firm grip.
The Performance Bar is available for both men and women (20 kg and 15 kg). The price for either is $729 and they both have the standard strict 10-year Eleiko bar warranty. Very beautiful bar, and now even better than ever thanks to the NxG changes. [see review]
Rogue Olympic WL Bar & Rogue Oly Variants
Not all that long ago Rogue developed the Rogue Olympic WL Bar line to compete with the high-dollar IWF trainers. At a starting price of $525, these American-made bearing bars are definitely far less expensive than their European and Chinese counterparts yet they do offer comparable quality and performance.
The Rogue WL bar is your standard 20 kg, 28 mm Olympic bearing bar that’s available with multiple finish options, the option to have or not have a center knurl, and even the option to have blue bushings. This bar is made with the highest quality American steel available and it has a minimum tensile strength rating of 190,000 PSI. Like the Eleiko and Ivanko bars, all of these bars are straightness tested before they leave the factory
There were two close cousins to the Rogue Oly; the Froning Bar and Burgener Bearing Bar, but they appear to have both been discontinued; probably due to the release of the newer Rogue Euro. In case you come across either of these old bars, all you need to know is that they are exactly the same as the Rogue Oly, just with different finishes.
There is also a 15 kg women’s version of the Rogue Olympic WL Bar, but it uses the 215k PSI Euro steel rather than the 190k US steel. You can see the 15 kg variants here. There is also a stainless steel variant as well that sells for $695. All in all it’s the same bar, only the shaft is rated at 195k instead of 190k.
Finally, there is now the Pyrros SS Olympic Bar, a variant of the SS Oly Bar that features a more aggressive knurl, custom greasing process that mimics track bearings, and of course its own custom, Greek-themed Pyrros end-cap. The price is the same at $695, and is by all accounts a better buy than the basic Stainless Steel Oly Bar.
Rogue Euro 28 mm Olympic WL Bar
The Rogue Euro Oly Bar is an upgrade to the Rogue Olympic WL Bar, and the only USA-made answer to the high-end competition bars like those from Eleiko or Uesaka. While this bar shares a couple similarities with the Rogue Oly Bar; like the number of bearings, knurl depth, and the chrome finish; the two bars are very different at their core.
The Euro has a shaft rated at 215,000 PSI rather than 190,000 PSI; a number that puts it completely on par with the Eleiko IWF bars. Rogue claims the Euro is whippier, smoother, and quieter than it’s US-steel predecessor, and they’re absolutely right. Instead of being one piece, the sleeves are friction welded, and the entire bar is finished in polished chrome. The Euro is completely IWF-spec; including the presence of a center knurl. It will ultimately be IWF-certified as well – but isn’t yet.
This Euro sells for a great deal more than than the original Rogue Oly WL Bar at $695 (vs $525 and up), but the price is well within reason. The Euro is completely capable of going toe-to-toe with any European or Asian IWF bar. It’s still considerably less expensive than a comparable WerkSan, Eleiko, and Uesaka bar while still being competitive with the cheaper DHS and ZKC training bars. It’s biggest rivals in terms of performance and price are the AB SS Pro, and the Vulcan Pro Oly; two less expensive powerhouses. [Rogue Euro Review].
Ivanko OB-20KG Olympic Bar
No other company more thoroughly tests their bars than Ivanko Barbell. Each and every premium bar is tested for defects in the steel with no less than three separate tests: x-ray, mag, and ultra-sonic. Ivanko bars are also straightness tested to ensure that no deviation greater than 0.006/ft over the length of the bar exists. Good luck finding an Ivanko defect!
The OB-20KG Olympic bar is a polished black oxide, true 28 mm Olympic bar with a steel shaft rated at 200,000+ PSI. The MSRP for this bar is about $650, which is reasonable for an Ivanko bar. There is also a stainless steel version of this bar; the OBS-20KG Olympic Bar, and that bar is rated at 218,000 PSI and sells for over $1000.
Either of these Ivankos are fine bars, but not too many people want oxide on an Oly bar, and the stainless variant is just way too expensive when the superior American Barbell SS Pro is under $700.
28 mm Olympic WL Training Bars
These bars are more or less the same as the Olympic WL bearing bars. They have 28 mm, high-whip shafts designed exclusively for the two explosive lifts, only they utilize a bushing system for sleeve rotation rather than high-cost roller bearings.
The point of these bushing-based Olympic bars is simply to provide a less-costly option for Olympic training. These are great for beginners to the sport, adequate for intermediates, & less than ideal for professional lifters (go with bearings).
American Barbell Precision Training Bar
The Precision Training Bar is a very nice training bar. It’s a lot more expensive than the rest of the Olympic training bars that I’ll talk about, but that’s because it’s the exact same bar as the above-mentioned SS Professional Bar only with composite bushings instead of needle bearings. Same flawless stainless steel shaft and hard chrome sleeves, just no bearings.
Like the SS Pro, the tensile strength of the stainless shaft is 190,000 PSI. This IWF-spec’d bar is made entirely in the USA, comes with a lifetime warranty, and is offered in both a 28 mm, 20 kg version, and a women’s 25 mm, 15 kg version. I have a ton of experience with American Barbell’s stainless bars (I own three of them); I think they’re very well-designed, high-performance bars that look as amazing as they feel. They are expensive though – this bar being $450.
Alternatively, American Barbell does off a version of this bar that is far more in line with the competition, yet still a fantastic bar. For $295 you can pick up the Performance Trainer. The Performance is basically the same as the Precision, only the stainless steel shaft is chrome finished allow steel. You can’t go wrong with either of these bars, and the Performance Bar is just as much bar for those that can’t afford the luxury of stainless steel.
Rogue 28 mm Olympic Training Bar
The 28 mm Trainer is Rogue’s affordable alternative to the Rogue 28 mm Oly Bearing Bar. For $325 you get the same 190k PSI shaft, same standard knurl, and the same sleeves that are found on the $525+ Rogue Oly Bar, but instead of high-speed needle bearings you get simple cast bronze bushings. In other words you get the same grip, whip, and feel of the more expensive bearing bar, but you save about $200 by ditching the bearings.
This is one of the more reasonably priced 28 mm training bars on the market. It’s a fine bar offered by an outstanding company. The only real drawback in my opinion is the use of zinc rather than chrome; or rather, the lack of chrome as one of the options. The only finish that’s currently offered is black/bright zinc. There is also a women’s version of the Olympic Training Bar (15 kg, 25 mm shaft.)
If budget is your primary concern when shopping for a 28 mm trainer, this is your bar. If you can throw a few more bucks at this bar, you’ve got to consider the Vulcan Elite 3.0.
Vulcan 28mm Elite Olympic Training Bar 3.0
The Vulcan Elite Olympic Training Bar is an amazing barbell overall, and an unbelievable barbell for the price. The Vulcan Elite is a 28 mm, 20 kg, self-lubricating bushing bar with an incredible 221k PSI tensile strength and 206k yield rating. This is a chrome moly bar with a matte chrome finish on the shaft (has a sticky grip like black oxide) and engineered chrome sleeves. What it all boils down to is that the Elite has phenomenal whip, high-quality steel, and great protection against oxidation.
The Elite adheres to all IWF specifications, including having the center knurl. The bar has moderate knurling typical of an Olympic training bar, but the center knurl is of a lower depth in order to be more accommodating to high rep clean sets – making this a good choice for elite CrossFit as well as Olympic training. The sleeves of this bar are also grooved to keep rubber change plates on the bar when used outside of the collars.
You will not find a nicer Olympic training bar for the money. Matter of fact the only way to improve upon this bar is to upgrade to a bearing bar. $369 with free shipping for the men’s, and $359 with free shipping for the women’s Elite. [Vulcan Elite review]
GetRx’d Space City Bar Review
Since a couple people have asked, the Space City is basically an old Chad Vaughn Bar (no longer in production), which is basically an old Vulcan Elite. I don’t recommend the GetRX’d Space City over the Elite, as the Vulcan has better steel (literally the whippiest shaft on the marker for under $600), better bushings, better finish (chrome is infinitely better than black zinc), and best of all – a lower price. In other words, buying a Get Space City for more cash makes no sense whatsoever. Vulcan Elite every time.
Power Bars are designed for the big three powerlifting lifts: the bench press, deadlift, and the squat. Power bars are knurled and marked a little differently than Olympic WL bars (the marks are closer to center). A power bar should always have the center knurling.
Power bars are more stiff and rigid than an Olympic bar due to the large amount of weight that gets put on the bar. Additionally, power bars don’t need the sleeves to spin as quickly so they are almost always bushing bars.
There are no women’s power bars. They are all either 45 pounds or 20 kilograms, and the shaft diameter will be between 28 mm and 29 mm. Women are expected to use the same bars as men.
For more power bars, see the Comprehensive Power Bar Guide.
American Barbell SS Elite Power Bar Review
The AB Elite Power Bar is a 29 mm, stainless steel power bar that is probably the closest we’re ever going to get to the classic (and retired) AB Super Power Bar; my own personal favorite. At $450 the Elite is an expensive bar for the big three, but it is a hard bar to beat when it comes to overall feel & grip, performance, and construction quality, and you’ll find that it’s the perfect bar for more than the big three.
The knurl depth of the AB Elite is standard American Barbell; which as many of you know is mild to moderate. While normally this is the opposite of what you’d want on a power bar, the fact that it’s a stainless steel bar with moderate knurl makes it surprisingly appealing. That’s to say, the Elite offers a very nice grip without being a cheese grater, and unlike it’s biggest rival the SS Ohio Power Bar, the Elite isn’t uncomfortable for back squats like the OPB can be because it doesn’t have that aggro center knurl.
It should also be said that American Barbell just makes amazingly refined, tight bars. There is no lateral play in the sleeves, the composite bushings are smooth and over-engineered, and the hard chrome finish on the sleeves will outlast any other manufacturers finish. What I like to show people who visit my gym is the AB vs. the others drop test. I simply drop an unloaded AB bar from 4-5″ and listen to the sound it makes, then do the same with another brand’s bar. AB is always quieter and less train-wreck sounding, which illustrates well how precisely the components fit together.
Is American Barbell a hint more expensive than the couple other USA-made bars? Yes, but you’ll give an AB to your kid some day in perfect working condition – and I don’t doubt that he or she will then give it to their kid. Best bars NA. [view review]
Vulcan Absolute Power Bar
The Vulcan Absolute Power Bar is currently the highest-rated tensile strength power bar on the market. At 221,000 PSI, this 29 mm beast of a bar will handle any amount of weight you throw at it. The shaft is aggressively knurled and finished in black oxide, and the sleeves are unfinished bare steel. Veteran lifters will feel right at home with the Absolute.
The Absolute is a 20 kg bar with bronze bushings. It sells for $339, and that includes the shipping. There is also a lifetime warranty against breaking or bending – a warranty you’ll never have to call in. This bar is amazing. [Vulcan Absolute Review]
Buddy Capps Texas Power Bar
The most talked about power bar in existence has got to be the Texas Power Bar. The TPB is 86″ long with 15″ sleeves, 4″ center knurling, and it has a 28.5 mm shaft. It’s 20 kg, has a 1500 lb max capacity (whatever that means), and the shaft is finished in black zinc.
The Texas Power Bar is a solid powerlifting bar, and the price is still pretty reasonable after all these years. I don’t care for black zinc, and the 186k PSI tensile strength is a little low by today’s power bar standards, but for about $290 it’s still a solid piece of equipment. If you use bumpers you may want to find something with longer sleeves though.
When shopping for a Texas Power Bar, look for the Buddy Capps end cap; there are TPB knock-offs. The current Amazon listing I linked to is legit, as is the TPB from IronDawg.
Eleiko Performance Powerlifting Bar
The Eleiko Performance Powerlifting Bar is the new training variant of the IPF Competition Power Bar. It has all the same features and specifications as the Competition Powerlifting Bar except for the final finish; which is a galvanized zinc rather than raw steel. The Eleiko Performance Power Bar is also not calibrated like the IPF Comp is.
The beauty of the Performance Power Bar is that the galvanized finish takes a little of the edge off the super aggressive knurling. It’s definitely still aggressive, but softening it up a bit with a finish makes it less unpleasant for sets of three, five, etc. Galvanized zinc also helps to prevent oxidation, whereas bare steel bars are just magnets for rust when not properly maintained.
The Performance Power Bar is $849; which is a hefty price to pay for a powerlifting bar. It is however $100 less than the Competition variant. Unless you are running an event or simply must have a raw bar, there is no reason to pick up a Comp bar for training.
Vulcan Powerlifting Bar
The Vulcan Elite Powerlifting Bar is a 29 mm, 196k PSI power bar. It has very aggressive knurling, Oilite self-lubricating bronze bushings, and a bright zinc finish. Since power bars tend to be black oxide and/or bare steel, the Vulcan being a more corrosion-resistant finish creates yet another option for us when trying to find a power bar, and that’s a good thing.
An interesting feature of the Vulcan Elite Power Bar is the presence of dual hash marks. It has both IWF and IPF marks just like a multi-purpose bar, only it is not a multi-purpose bar. I’ve tried to come up with a good reason for putting weightlifting marks on a power bar, but I came up with nothing. Your guess is as good as mine.
I’m optimistic about this bar, and hope to review it at some point. At $295 it has a nice price point for having Oilite bushings and bright zinc instead of oxide (or nothing.)
Rogue Deadlift (Ohio) Bar
The new Ohio Deadlift Bar is a 90″ long beast designed for nothing but deadlifts. The thin 27 mm shaft is rated at 190k PSI, the knurl is super aggressive (no center knurl), and the bar flexes under even moderate amounts of weight. Rumor has it that you can add 20-lbs to your deadlift just by switching to a deadlift bar. I’m not so sure that applies to anyone with a deadlift under 500-pounds, but who is to say!
The Ohio Deadlift sells for $295-$350 depending on finish (bare or zinc), and while that’s a hefty price to pay for a single-lift bar, I will admit that it was a welcome addition to my gym. I only deadlift with the Ohio now, and I’m super glad that I picked one up for a review (read that here). It’s one of those bars I will not be getting rid of. I recommend checking it out if you’re an avid deadlifter and an “accessory” bar is in your budget.
CAP OB-86B Power Bar
I’ve been reluctant to include any CAP bars on this site as I really hate recommending box-store imports, but the CAP OB-86B is probably the least amount of money that you could spend on a barbell and not have it break or bend within a week, so I have finally decided to talk about it.
Just briefly let me say that this bar is not marketed as a power bar, but it is a power bar. It has only IPF markings, crappy steel bushings that don’t spin well, and it’s rigid as they get. Even the knurl is very power-bar’ish. This is absolutely a power bar despite the use of the term Olympic in the name of the bar. The only thing CAP left off this bar is a center knurl, which is actually another minor reason I hesitated to include it.
The OB-86B has a tensile strength rating of 130,000 PSI, a price tag of about $130-$150 depending on which way the wind is blowing at Amazon, and no real warranty to speak of. This is a beginner’s bar. It won’t handle a boatload of weight, but it’ll get you by if you’re flat broke and just need to lift.
While this is indeed the best product that CAP has produced in a long time, that isn’t saying much, so don’t run out and equip your gym with CAP-branded products. Nine times out of ten you will be disappointed. CAP is 100% imported, box-store equipment, and will not last.
Rogue Ohio Power Bar
The new Ohio Power Bar is a 205,000 PSI power bar with a 29 mm shaft. It’s stiff, it’s rigid, and it has practically no whip whatsoever. There is both a 20 kg version of this bar and a 45 pound version of this bar. Additionally, there will be a choice between bare steel (awesome) and a black / bright zinc finish. Hats off to Rogue for finally updating the Rogue Power Bar.
The Rogue Ohio Power Bar is probably the nicest power bar at its price point; at least when talking about the bare steel version. The knurl is perfectly aggressive, the build is as solid as any Rogue bar, and you just can’t beat the feel of raw steel. This is the bar you buy on a budget, not a box-store bar. $250 for bare steel, $275 for zinc.
Rogue also released both variants (lbs and kgs) in stainless steel at a more premium price. Stainless is an obvious upgrade if it’s within budget to do so, but there is still nothing wrong with lifting the raw Ohio – they technically feel the same, only the stainless won’t rust.
Ivanko OBX-20KG Powerlifting Bar
Bust out the wallet. The Ivanko OBX-20KG Power Bar is 20 kg and has a thin, 28 mm, 200k PSI shaft. This bar has a black oxide coating and the center knurling is 4.75″ rather than 4″. This bar is sweet, IPF approved, and expensive; well over $600! If it helps, each Ivanko bar is mag tested, ultra sonic tested, and x-ray tested for defects in the steel. Ivanko is serious about putting out quality bars.
There is also a stainless steel version of this power bar that’s rated at 218k PSI. It’s a great barbell, but at over $1200 it’s a total rip off. There are way too many good power bars out there for half or a third of that cost to even bother considering spending that kind of money.
I am blown away by the limited number of youth bars available (quality youth bars, that is). If you know of any that you’d like to recommend for this review, leave a comment.
OSO Mini – Kid’s Technique Bar
The OSO Mini is a 5-lb, 48-inch long anodized aluminum bar designed for teaching children proper lifting technique. The shaft is 22 mm thick, the sleeves spin on a unique, low-cost bearing system, and the bar can handle being loaded to up to 50-pounds. The Mini is made in the USA and comes in three different colors; the red being unique to Rogue. $99
American Barbell Junior Gym Bar
The American Barbell Junior Gym Bar is a great choice for a beginning youth lifter. It can be used for a variety of lifts; it features impact resistant composite bushings, it has a normal 28 mm shaft, a chrome finish, and weighs in at just under 30 pounds. The total bar length is 5′, the distance between sleeves is about 38″, and the loadable sleeve length is 9.68″.
It doesn’t specify, but I’m assuming based on the weight that this is a steel bar rather than aluminium. $155
Rogue 10 kg Junior Bar
The Rogue Junior Bar is a 10 kg bar with a 25 mm black zinc shaft. This 66.75″ long bar is shorter than standard 15 kg and 20 kg bars, but the distance between collars is the same as a competition bar; the difference comes off the sleeves (at only 6.6″ long each.) Rogue’s Junior Bar is a cast bronze bushing bar with snap rings, and it has an impressive 190k PSI tensile strength (same as any Rogue bushing bar).
This junior bar is different from other Junior bars in that it is dual marked for both Olympic and Power lifting. It has no center knurling. USA- made, $175
Olympic Barbell Guide Summary & Bar Recommendations
So the take away is this; there are a lot of solid bars on the market. Just about every barbell manufacturer offers something unique. Rogue Fitness has what must be the largest variety of bars and finish options, Vulcan has the most unique, high-end barbells, American Barbell makes the highest quality bars in American, and Eleiko produces some of the nicest bars in the world for prices that force us to buy someone else’s bars. There’s literally something for everyone.
So what are my favorites? My recommendations? Let’s see, shall we? [links in this section take you back up to the bar’s listing on this page.]
My Pick for a Competitive CrossFit Bar
The Rogue Olympic Bar (or one of its variants) is the way to go for a competitive CrossFit bar. You can pick up the zinc variant for only $525 and own a true 28 mm bearing bar. The steel is strong, you can opt to not have center knurling, and it’s backed by Rogue for life – which means something.
Additionally, if you’re serious about competing in the Games it could be in your best interest to train on the same barbell that you’ll compete with. The Rogue Olympic Bar is the current Games Bar, after all.
Technically, any of the Olympic bearing bars I discussed could fill the role as a competitive CrossFit bar. I suggest the Rogue Oly is because it offers all the performance that would be needed for a WOD at a slightly more reasonable price. To say that a $1000 Eleiko would be overkill for a WOD would be an understatement; even at the Games.
My Pick for a Budget CrossFit Bar
I can’t argue that two of the better deals on WOD bars are the Rogue Bar 2.0 and the 15 kg women’s Bella Bar. Both of these bars fill CrossFit affiliates and garage gyms all around the world because they are reliable, perform well, and are affordable. Many of you will default to one of these Rogue bars simply because of how popular they are.
That said, the 28 mm Vulcan One Basic does give the Rogue Bar a run for its money. They are about the same price, but the hard chrome finish, 28 mm shaft, and included shipping is hard to ignore. I mean you can’t personalize the Vulcan One, but do you care?
My Pick for a Professional 28 mm Olympic WL Bar
With no consideration to price, I’d have to say the American Barbell SS Pro. It’s the ultimate high-end training bar because it has a medium-depth knurl that is far more accommodating to long training sessions than the IWF cheese graters, but because of the use of a stainless steel shaft there is no sacrifice to grip security. Matter of fact, even with less coarseness the SS Pro offers a comparable grip to the IWF trainers.
In addition to the quality and feel of the knurl, the bearings of the SS Pro are simply insane; they are unstoppable. No amount of weight that you could load onto this bar will slow down or seize the bearings. The bar is a champ, and it’s original $799 is now only $675 making it even more competitive with the IWF bars.
For something more traditional (and less expensive), the Vulcan Professional would be my next choice. The specs are off the charts and the price is reasonable. With whip and tensile strength being the most important specs when hunting for a high-end Olympic bar, well, you certainly can’t do any better than this bar for the money.
My Pick for an 28 mm Olympic Trainer (bushing)
Hands down the Vulcan Elite 3.0. It’s a self-lubricating bar, stronger and whippier than any bar you’ve lifted on, beautiful to look at, and so affordable when you consider what you’re getting.
I like the Elite more than the American Barbell Precision Bar despite the fact that the AB is a stainless steel bar simply because the Elite is $100 less and whippier. I like the Elite a lot more than the Rogue 28 mm Trainer because it just doesn’t offer anything special for that $325 price tag. The Vaughn used to be an okay option, but it’s way over-priced at $400 and the sole retailer has become quite gimmicky. No matter, it’s out of production anyway.
My Pick for a General Strength and Conditioning Bar
By general strength and conditioning I’m thinking of your standard gym workout – presses, rows, squats, deadlifts, power cleans, or pretty much anything you can imagine doing in a gym environment while not specializing in anything in particular.
Right now the Stainless Steel Ohio Bar is the bar to beat for general strength training. At $350 it has a stronger than average shaft, a super grippy knurl (without being too much), and of course the best feeling shaft material possible – stainless steel.
I prefer the SS Ohio to any other multi-purpose bar that Rogue currently offers, and I’d even include the discontinued chrome Matt Chan Bar in that statement. I can’t think of any other multi-purpose bar that I’d rather use, although to be fair there are some great alternatives that cost a good $50-$75 less.
My Pick for a Powerlifting Bar
Re-evaluating the power bars – lots of new ones out there to try out. Of all the power bars I own, I still prefer one that can no longer be purchased. You can’t buy it, so does not good to recommend it to you. I am leaning on the American Barbell Elite though. Be sure to check out my dedicated power bar guide.
If you enjoyed this article or learned anything helpful, please consider sharing this article on your favorite social media site. Thanks!