How To Buy A Weightlifting Bar: What To Look For & Recommendations

Aprox. Reading Time: 8 Minutes

weightlifting bar
Whether you are looking to start a full on gym, working out at home, or looking to get into competitive lifting, you will need at do least one thing; Buy A weightlifting bar
A weightlifting bar, or barbell rather, is going to be the staple in almost every lift that you try to complete or master. It’s considered a necessity by many…and for good reason. They are the most versatile pieces of equipment in the weight room, help bring on massive strength, help achieve fantastic aesthetics, and are a major piece of the “get-fit” puzzle.

In other words…if hitting yours goals is important to you, then YOU NEED to buy a weightlifting bar!

So now that we know that you need one, the next question is an obvious one…how do you buy one?? With all the different types of bars and variations within them, it can be difficult to make a decision.

Well, glad you asked, because that’s exactly what we’re going to talk about. Let’s get into it!

The Basics Of A Weightlifting Bar

The first thing to know is that the word “Barbell” and “Weightlifting bar” are interchangeable. They are the same thing! This is important to know for the simple fact that some people and websites will call them barbells, while others will simply call them weightlifting bars.

Now that we got that out of the way…

The next thing you should know is that there are different barbells for men then there are for women (sorry feminists). The standard length for a mans barbell is 7.2 ft & weighs 44 pounds, while the typical length for women will be 6.5 ft and it will be 33 pounds. So that will obviously be your first determining factor in deciding what kind of weightlifting bar you need.


The next factor will be how much money you are going to spend. Barbells can range anywhere from $150 to $2,000!

Now don’t worry, unless you plan on figuring out that you’re Hercules with super strength or going to the Olympics anytime soon, you won’t need to drop anywhere near $2000. However, do know that like most other things, you’re going to get what you pay for. So what creates these huge differences in price and quality?

The answer is how they are manufactured and what features they have! To truly understand that, let’s dig a little more into the world of barbells…

Which Barbell Suits You?

Barbells have just a few different parts and changeable features, so they aren’t too difficult to understand and get a grasp on…pun intended.

Look below and you’ll see just what makes up the barbell and what differences one can have from another.

weightlifting bar

Shaft The shaft is pretty self-explanatory. It’s pretty much the bar itself and is what everything else goes onto. As stated above, it’s going to be a little lighter and shorter if it is a woman’s weightlifting bar, and a little longer and heavier if it is a man’s.

 weightlifting bar

Sleeves – The sleeve is pretty simple to understand…it’s the piece that you put the weights on! There is one thing that makes sleeves on a weightlifting bar, different from other sleeves. That is how they rotate on the shaft. There is really only two types of sleeves: Sleeves that spin using bearings, and sleeves that spin using bushings.

If you have ever been into your local gym and used their bars, then they were more than likely bars that used bushings. Bushings work absolutely fine and save you a good bit of money. Now, I understand that some of you don’t mind spending a little more for quality, but unless you are an Olympic lifter, a competitive power lifter, etc. then it will be very hard to tell a difference in bushings and bearings when lifting your weight.

 weightlifting bar

Knurl (The Grip) – Your knurl is probably going to be pretty important to you. The knurl is where the bar has a rougher texture, which is for grip. Any bar that is worthwhile is going to have a section of knurl, but what changes between one bar or the other is where the knurl is, where the knurl isn’t, and the intensity of the knurl (smoother vs rougher).

Knurling on some bars extends all the way to the sleeves while others don’t. If you do a lot of wide grip lifts, such as wide grip power cleaning, snatches, etc. then I would recommend getting a bar with the knurling that extends all the way to the sleeves. If you don’t do many Olympic type lifts like that, then it probably really doesn’t matter either way, because you will not be using much of that knurling.

Also, knurling is absent in the center of some bars, while other bars have the knurling in the middle. If you do a lot of squats while shirtless or a lot of high rep work with the center of the bar resting on you, then you may want to opt for the bar that has no center knurl so that the knurl doesn’t scratch you.

However, if you are a power lifter, or even just do a lot of heavy squats with your shirt actually on, you may want to go with a bar that has knurl in the center in order to let it catch grip and not be so slippery on your neck/upper back while squatting.

Also, if you look at the “barbell anatomy” picture above, you will see that there are markings in the knurl that look like rings. These markings indicate which type of grip you would use on a specific kind of bar. Unless you are getting into competitive lifting or something like that, a bar with both marks will do you just fine.

The Color Of The Weightlifting Bar – Barbells come in many different finishes, but know that all of the colors are really just for preference only. Stainless steel probably being the only exception because of it being corrosion and rust free. 

The Hidden Fact Of The Barbell…The Strength!Different barbells do have different breaking points. There are a few different things that are used to measure the strength of a barbell, but unless you are trying to make your own, the only important one is how much weight the barbell can hold without fracturing or breaking. This is called Tensile Strength, and should most definitely be a major factor in your buying decision. The higher the tensile strength, the better.
weightlifting barEven if you are not lifting super heavy all of the time, I recommend going with the highest tensile strength that you can find/afford. I think the reason for this is obvious – so your freaking bar doesn’t snap when you’re in the middle of a lift!
So what exactly is considered a “high” tensile strength? Well, the first thing to know is that tensile is measured in pounds per square inch, or simply PSI. So from there we can simply look at the numbers that are usually given by the manufacturer of the barbell. Here’s a good guideline to go by:

  • 150,000 PSI or less = Beginner; Light Weight on the bar; Not rough with the bar
  • 150,000 – 175,000 PSI = Someone starting to strength train and occasionally rough with/dropping the bar; moderate weight.
  • 175,000 – 200,000 PSI = Someone using heavier weights; frequently dropping the bar; more serious into strength training and olympic type lifts.
  • 200,000+ PSI = Olympic, professional, and elite athletes who use and rough up their bars constantly, possibly daily; Using heavy weights; competitive lifters.

Our Top 3 Picks 

Now, if you still are a little undecided on the type of weightlifting bar you need to buy, don’t worry! We have a few that you can’t go wrong with! Check em out!

weightlifting bar

  1. Rogue – Ohio Power Bar: Anyone who knows Rogue, knows that they make quality bars, and this one is definitely no exception. With 205,000 PSI tensile strength, this beast will probably be out living you. It certainly won’t be breaking anytime soon, and it doesn’t hurt that it’s easy on the eyes.

weightlifting bar

  1. Eleiko – XF Bar: If you want a truly dependable, quality, guaranteed bar, then you can’t go wrong with an Eleiko XF. Eleiko’s weightlifting bars are a little more on the pricey side, but if you’re a frequent and heavy lifter, that’s worth knowing the bar isn’t going to snap in your face.

weightlifting bar3. Ivanko – OB20kg Olympic Bar: Ivanko is a powerhouse of a company, putting out some of the best barbells, and other workout equipment, on the market. This bar is one of their mid range bars, but you would never know it. It has a beautiful black oxide finish that prevents corrosion or rust, has 200,000+ PSI for tensile strength and rotates on nice smooth bearings. If you don’t mind coming out of wallet a little bit, you’ll never need another bar after this one.

There you have it! You certainly have the freedom of choosing from tons of barbells. However, you absolutely cannot go wrong by choosing one of the bars above that we have recommended if you are unsure on making a decision on your own.

Now that you know what it takes in order to determine what type of weightlifting bar you should go buy, what are you waiting on?? Go do it! Your fitness goals and dreams will not begin working until you do!

What do you think is the best barbell? let us know below!