Amidst the dozens of manufacturers of barbells, with several models each, you might feel overwhelmed about what olympic bar to buy. After all, you plan on using it multiple times per week for possibly years to come.
So how do you go about picking a bar and knowing it was the right choice?
Don’t worry, it’s easy. I’m not going to send you off to do more head-scratching by giving you lines like “Well it depends on what finish you like better, black oxide or zinc.” Great, so now you have to figure out what those are. No, let’s just break down the biggest issues with the different types of bars out there, and you can avoid making any big mistakes with your purchase. In a couple years will you maybe wish you had bought another olympic bar you hadn’t heard of? Sure, maybe. But that isn’t what this is about. These bars I’m recommending are ALL great bars, and chanes are you aren’t going to notice that some aspect of it isn’t perfect for your needs until you do way more research than is good for you.
First, the cheap bars. These are included in many 300lb weight sets. They do the job for most people. You know what, go ahead and start with one of these. Maybe you won’t have any complaints. If you end up putting a slight bend in it by crashing it down on your rack too hard, or you try dropping it with bumper plates thinking it can take the hit, or you start noticing the spin of the collars isn’t so good, then you can take the plunge for a real bar.
And when you buy a high-quality olympic bar, it’s not like you have to spend three times as much to get a good one. Figure about $200, or about twice that of an economy bar, and the quality improves drastically. Suddenly the sleeves spin better, it can take a harder drop on a rack or onto the floor, and there’s no allen bolt on the end that comes loose.
But the biggest deal with high quality olympic bars is they FEEL better. These things have been around for decades, and manufacturers have really figured things out. They’re so perfect it’s almost like cheating.
So I said I’d make it simple, and I am. Here are the bars I suggest for these situations.
BEGINNERS – I said it above, and I mean it. Start with an economy bar. Don’t blow money until you can understand what you’re getting.
BEGINNER WOMEN – Is 45 lbs too much to start with? Get an aluminum bar. It’s 18 lbs. And unlike other lightweight bars, it will fit on an olympic width (48″ wide) rack.
GENERAL LIFTING – This is most people lifting at home to gain muscle and maybe get in better shape. Bench press, deadlifts, military presses, curls, squats, all that good stuff. You want the CAP OB-86B. There’s just nothing like it at the price point. The shaft is an average diameter, the sleeves have great spin, the knurling is good, and the black oxide coating is nice and grippy.
FUNCTIONAL TRAINING – You need a bar made for olympic lifts, but it doesn’t need to be a crazy high end bar that competitors use. The Rogue Ohio Bar is a classic pick. It has a grippy anti-corrosion black oxide coating, a perfect 28.5mm diameter, good spin on bronze bushings, and no center knurling that would scratch against the front of your neck.
COMMERCIAL GYMS – If you’re managing a gym, you need a bar that you can buy and never think about again. The Troy AOB-1500B is a commercial grade power bar that can be used anywhere.
For more complete information, see our olympic bar comparison, which lists all of our weightlifting bars and more information about what makes them different. If you want some specialty bars made for certain exercises like deadlifting, you need to read this article.