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Dedicated deadlift bars are becoming a big thing.
I’ll be comparing a few of the best deadlift bars specifically for how well they perform as dedicated deadlifting bars for intermediate and advanced lifters.
Deadlift bars are a specialty type of power bar that caters specifically to deadlifts. It makes sacrifices in other areas when necessary to make it even better for deadlifting.
Every one of the bars I’m reviewing here are really nice bars. If they were crap, I won’t include them. And hopefully I’ve included all the top ones.
No, Not Trap Bars
While there’s nothing wrong with trap bar deadlifts, it’s not what I’m talking about in this article in terms of a deadlift bar. I’m talking about only straight bars.
Trap bar deadlifts are an excellent lift, but they don’t involve the same muscles, to the same degree, as a straight-bar deadlift. With a straight bar you have to bend over more, involving your back and hamstrings, while with a trap bar the movement turns into more of a squat. Some lifters do both. A traditional deadlift is not to be overlooked, because it works your back, glutes and hamstrings so well.
For more advice on these, see my post on specialty squat bars that includes hex bars.
Some lifters only use trap bars because they have an issue with straight bars hitting their knees or shins. This is a form or flexibility issue. Start with lighter weight, warm up, stretch, and watch videos on good deadlift form… like this one.
Deadlift Bar vs Stiff Bar / Power Bar
Traditionally, any old power bar / powerlifting bar is used for deadlifts, squats, presses, and just about anything else you want to do.
Power bars are a bit more stiff than is optimal for deadlifts. They can still work, just not ideally, assuming you’re trying to lift as much weight as possible.
Here are the differences in a specialty deadlift bar that make them uniquely designed for this purpose.
A Killer Grip
Aggressive knurling is a must. Aggressive knurling doesn’t just mean it’s cut deep. It’s a whole science in itself, based on how it feels and how well your hands grip it without it feeling needlessly sharp.
Eventually, every lifter learns that the weak point in his deadlifting game is his grip. His fingers start to slip, and he starts to appreciate aggressive knurling. This is not the case with other exercises.
The Texas Power Bar and a few others have a very aggressive knurling, so this isn’t necessarily unique to deadlift bars.
Tacky and Thin Finish, or None At All
The finish/coating of the bar needs a certain amount of “tack” to it to keep your hands from slipping too easily.
Chrome is notorious for getting slippery when wet from sweat. It’s just too smooth, making it the worst possible finish on a deadlift bar.
Black oxide has a good amount of tack. Black zinc is also good, similar to black oxide. Black oxide and zinc can both wear off with enough use, leaving bare steel underneath. This is not unusual. Still, it’s some of the best coating. You might just need to wipe some oil on it occasionally to prevent rust.
The absolute best to use is bare steel. Outside of use, it requires some maintenance to prevent rusting. Preventing rust is the whole point of having a coating on a bar, after all.
The other thing to keep in mind with the finish is how thin it is. The thinner the better. Black oxide is by far the thinnest. The others will fill in some part of the depth of the knurling. Why go to all that trouble cutting deep knurling if you’re just going to fill it back in?
IPF Knurling Marks
This isn’t the knurling but the non-knurled rings spaced 810mm apart for the International Powerlifting Federation specs. The spacing here doesn’t matter if you’re using the same bar all the time, but if you aren’t, it helps to know for sure that you’re holding the bar in the same spot each time. Having a powerlifting bar with IPF spaced rings is most appropriate and consistent.
Extra Long Shaft
Normally, powerlifting bars have a shaft length between the inside collars of around 52″. This way the shaft is wide enough to fit over a 48″ / 120cm wide olympic bench rack or power rack with some room for slop. The overall length of the bar is roughly 86″ / 7ft / 220cm.
The deadlift bars here have an extra long shaft, about 56″ instead of 52″, while the sleeves stay the same length as other power bars. The long shaft isn’t needed for grip. I mean, some athletes have a wide grip for snatches or squats, but deadlifts are not one of those wide grip exercises. What the long shaft does is flex more, and that helps spread the load over time as you lift off the floor, giving you an extra advantage of not heaving to pull 100% of the weight from the very bottom and getting a smoother pull that doesn’t shock your muscles so hard as it clears the floor.
Think of it this way: When the first few inches of the pull weighs less, due to the plates not clearing the floor yet, wouldn’t that make it easier? So yeah, you might think of it as cheating. In the end, though, you still have to get the weight up.
In olympic lifting, this flex is also called “whip”. It doesn’t really apply to deadlifts, done more slowly and with a smaller range of motion than a clean, but they’re talking about the same kind of effect in the shaft.
That being said, you do have to be lifting a lot of weight for the steel to start to flex. It varies, but let’s say 315 lbs / 140kg with a sumo grip (narrow grip, hands between legs), and 405 lbs / 180kg with a conventional grip. If you’re new to this, those numbers just correspond to three or four 45lb plates per side. If you aren’t lifting that much, you won’t get this benefit out of the bar. Therefore a specialty deadlift bar is really only meant for lifters reaching those numbers.
Just about the only disadvantage to deadlifting with this kind of extra-long bar is if you’re attempting the Reeves deadlift. Never heard of it? Check it out.
Also, don’t use this kind of bar in a power rack. It’s too susceptible to being permanently bent if you drop it on the safety bars, with the extra torque at the ends. So don’t try benching with a deadlift bar, or squatting, or anything else.
One type of bar that is not publicly available anywhere is the Elephant Bar, made by Rogue exclusively for the Arnold Strongman Classic. It is more flexible than a regular bar, and it has 27″ long sleeves instead of 16″. The center shaft between the inside collars remains the same length, 52″.
Again, you can’t get an Elephant Bar anywhere as of writing (2020). But it comes up every now and then when people watch the Arnold Classic, so there you go.
Thin Diameter Shaft
The other thing about the shaft is the diameter should be thinner than a traditional 29mm powerlifting bar, or even a 28mm weightlifitng bar. A thinner bar is easier to get your hands around. To illustrate this, try pulling on a 2″ pipe that you can’t even get your fingers around to touch your thumb. Your grip fails REALLY quickly. Fat bar training is a whole different area of training, where people use 1.5″ and 2″ bars to work their grip strength.
27mm is what the manufacturers have settled on to provide for a stronger grip. Strength of the steel also becomes an issue with thinner bars.
While we’re still on the subject of grip, consider learning to use a hook grip for your deadlifts. EliteFTS wrote a good article on 3 critical deadlift lessons most lifters never learn, one of which is the hook grip.
|Rogue Ohio Deadlift Bar||Texas Deadlift Bar||Okie Deadlift Bar||StrongArm Deadlift Bar|
|Finish||Bare Steel or Black Zinc||Black Zinc or Chrome||Black Zinc||Bare Steel|
|Tensile Strength||190,000 PSI||186,000 PSI||none given||none given|
This is the new popular specialty deadlift bar. It came out in 2016, making it much newer than the others. I’d call that a good thing. Rogue knows what they’re doing. They put real research into their equipment. The employees lift. You won’t find anyone saying that they bought something from Rogue that was low quality.
This video really shows the flex of these extra long 90″ bars. He also talks about the knurling and how it really isn’t that bad on his hands despite going over 400 lbs.
But the flex on this bar is reportedly not as high as the Texas Deadlift Bar, further below.
The knurling feels a lot like the Texas Deadlift Bar. They cut it really deep and round off the peaks, making it grip really well without too much bite.
Despite the extra length, the 27mm shaft makes up for the weight, putting the bar at the same 20kg / 44lb weight as other power bars.
The Texas Deadlift Bar has huge inside collars and a loadable sleeve length of 14 3/8″.
One of the classic bars manufactured by Capps Welding / Buddy Capps. The end cap has the state of Texas logo. As you can imagine, it’s made in Texas. (Capps is not the same as CAP, a Chinese manufacturer… And not to be confused with the end “caps” as noted above. We need more words!) This bar is known for its deep, pointy knurling. This kind of knurling provides a killer grip, but there’s a reason most bars out there don’t have it: it can hurt with a lot of weight. But there’s no denying how well it grabs onto your palms to keep from slipping. That’s the whole appeal of it.
The knurling pattern is an important thing in that it’s not only about how deep the knurling is but how how flat or pointy the tops of each diamond are as a result of the knurling process (space between knurls and depth of cut). As shown, you can see that it does leave flat tops, but compared to other bars this is still fairly pointy and deep.
The 56″ shaft is significantly longer than the typical 52-53″ of regular power bars.
The longer shaft and big collars have the effect of providing more flex to the Texas DL bar on your pull before it clears the floor, because the plates are further out and there’s a longer shaft to flex. This was an intentional design feature. These 7.5ft deadlifting bars create a problem if you have an 8ft residential ceiling to content with and you want to store your bar in a vertical bar holder. If you’re careful you should be able to just barely store a 7ft bar that way.
In contrast with Rogue, weight of this bar is 45 lbs, not 20kg /44 lbs and is therefore meant more to be used in competitions where pounds are the denominated weight.
The Okie was the first deadlift bar made to these kind of specs, originally sold as the Oklahoma Deadlift Bar in 1984.
Its other claim to fame is it has been used in tons of local, state, national and international lifting competitions over the years. In other words, it’s a proven favorite of heavy lifters.
The design is perhaps dated, so be sure to see the details on the upgraded Okie Extreme Deadlift Bar, further below.
The Okie Deadlift Bar has 15 15/16″ sleeves, pretty long. You’ll fit another plate on each side compared to the others.
Like the Rogue, it weights 20kg / 44 lbs.
Like the Texas DL bar, it has a longer shaft. The point of the longer shaft on these bars is so they will flex more, so you don’t have to lift the entire load starting at the bottom position. It does take a lot of weight for this flex to come into play.
I couldn’t get a tensile strength rating for this, but my guess is it’s got to be right about the same as the others. The strength isn’t going to be an issue.
The flex is about like the Rogue Ohio Deadlift Bar.
As far as knurling goes, it feels pretty similar to the Texas DL bar, but it’s not quite as deep so is a little easier on your hands between the two.
Here’s something interesting. This bar doesn’t have bushings in the sleeves. The sleeves are just steel on steel. For deadlifts, you know, maybe that’s a good thing. You don’t want the bar to rotate out of your hands.
I’m told the Okie has pinned sleeves. Rogue is definitely snap ring. It’s just the method used to secure the sleeves. Rogue talks about it like snap ring allows for a better spin, but I don’t know.
There used to be an Okie Extreme Deadlift Bar, now discontinued. It had snap rings, bronze bushings, an uncoated bare steel shaft, and zinc plated sleeves. They didn’t sell enough of them, I guess.
The newest bar on the scene.
StrongArm Sport is a Canadian company. US customers (the vast majority of you reading this) can get the bar at Bells of Steel’s US site. Bells of Steel is also a Canadian company, and they opened up the US facing site in 2019, along with a US distribution center.
Like the Okie, there isn’t a tensile strength (PSI) rating for this bar. You can assume it’s lower than the others. Maybe they haven’t yet settled on what strength of bar they need to avoid bending. I don’t know how they make these decisions. It’s quite an glaring hole to not have a tensile strength to compare to the others. This should help the flex. They advertise it as good for 800 lbs.
Like Rogue, they calibrate this bar to 20kg / 44lb.
It’s just a hair longer than the others, at 90.9″ overall and a 56.7″ shaft. That extra 0.7″ shaft compared to the others may not sound like much, I know. It makes a difference with the flex. It’s about leverage. This extra shaft length, all other things being equal (which they might not be), would give you another partial inch of flex before the plates clear the floor.
This bar comes only with a bare steel shaft and chrome sleeves. A bare steel bar does require some maintenance to prevent rust. If you can deal with that, there’s nothing like the good grip of an uncoated bare steel bar. Every coating smooths out the surface at least a little bit, even black oxide, which is why people prefer bare steel. Manufacturers don’t always like to make bare steel bars because they can and do rust after a while exposed to moisture or salty air and are not wiped down regularly with oil as described in the post at the link above.
Brandon Campbell Diamond did a video review:
Here’s something unique. They have an alternate version of this bar called the StrongArm Sumo Deadlift Bar.
It has a completely different knurled area. For sumo deadlifts, you want knurling around the center to grip, but it’s nice to not scrape your shins. This does the trick.
Sumo deadlifts have gained popularity among the powerlifting crowd. A lifter who trains it enough can typically sumo deadlift a bit more weight than a conventional deadlift, due to the shorter distance the bar has to travel. Robb Wolf published a biomechanical analysis of the sumo vs conventional deadlift.
Alternative: 25mm Women’s Bars
One thing you could do is get a 25mm women’s bar. The thin shaft makes a big difference in what you can get your fingers around and pull. The closest thing I’ve found is the Women’s B&R Bar. This version has a bare steel shaft, giving you the best grip texture possible even though the knurling is only medium depth.
A women’s bar has shorter sleeves, so keep that in mind as you figure how many plates you’re going to be able to load on it. You won’t be able to load it to 405 lb with regular bumper plates.
All of these bars are great for deadlifts, depending on your situation. If you have access to one, it’s a mile ahead of any regular power bar. If it’s time to buy one, then you can be more picky.
Here’s a very brief rundown of which bar to pick:
The Okie is becoming dated. It was the original groundbreaking design, and there’s a certain fame behind it. Capps eventually copied the Okie, and Rogue copied them both. There are some old rusty Okies out there (that’s what happens after 30 years if you don’t oil it) that people love too much to replace. If a powerlifting meet you’re competing in will be using the Okie, which is entirely possible, then it’s sure nice to practice your lifts on the exact same bar.
Rogue bars are popular for a reason. The Rogue Ohio Deadlift Bar is the newest one of the bunch and is getting great reviews. Everything about it is superb as a deadlift-only bar. It’s the only choice if you want bare steel, rather than a coating like black oxide. I recommend this one as the best deadlift bar choice overall. You can’t go wrong with it.
The Texas Deadlift Bar is what Rogue appears to have modeled theirs after. If you have any reason not to go with Rogue, like maybe you hate the state of Ohio, then this is a reasonable pick. It also might be used in a competition.
The StrongArm Deadlift Bar is relatively unproven. Back when it first debuted, the price was lower than everyone else, and you could maybe justify picking it. At this point, there isn’t much of a price difference. The only thing would be if you want to see how that extra 0.7″ of shaft length helps you with getting a smoother pull due to the flex, or you compete and could use a specialty sumo deadlift bar.