The Best Olympic Weightlifting Bars Reviewed


NOTE: This is for olympic weightlifting bars for doing the clean and the snatch, not powerlifting bars for deadlifts, squats and bench press. They look similar but have many subtle differences.

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Olympic weightlifting bars are used frequently at olympic lifting gyms, Crossfit boxes, the Olympic Games or anywhere that lifters may be doing the olympic lifts (snatch or clean-and-jerk). They are made to be springly at high loads to facilitate explosiveness, prevent a high shock load for the lifter, and absorb the shock of being dropped. The tensile strength (PSI) tends to be lower than powerlifting bars so that it isn’t too stiff, but newer manufacturing methods are resulting in some very high tensile strength bars that remain springy.

The IWF spec calls for center knurling as a throwback to when they did one-handed snatches, but many lifters don’t like it because it scratches their necks during cleans, so if there is any center knurling it’s at least pretty soft such as on York bars. The knurling further down the bar should extend to the end of the shaft to accommodate tall users with the maximum width snatch grip, but this isn’t the case on all bars.

Clean with Olympic BarWeightlifting bars typically have:

  • More Flexible Steel to facilitate the whip desired for heavy cleans
  • No Center Knurling so it doesn’t scratch the front of your neck during cleans.
  • Soft Knurling so the bar can slide in your transition from the pull to the catch.
  • 910mm Spaced Ring Markings
  • Thinner 28mm-28.5mm Shaft for a good pulling grip (or 25mm for women’s bars)
  • Needle Bearings on the high-end bars for sensitive spin

 


OUR TOP PICK

See further below for the complete list, but this is one of the best ones for the price that appeals to a lot of lifters.

Get Rx’d Stealth
$270.00

stealth bar

 

A very well-made piece of equipment. Nobody else comes close to this price with this kind of bar. Your next step up would have to be a $600 Eleiko.

A true 28mm shaft, combination bearing and bushing sleeves (mostly bearings), knurling all the way to the inside collars, and a high 215,000 PSI tensile strength. 


COMPARISON CHART

We have listed all “pure” weightlifting bars as well as hybrid bars. These all are high-quality bars, and the sleeves are secured with snap rings or roll pins (no allen bolts).

Click a column header to sort.

MEN’S 28MM WEIGHTLIFTING BARS

Model Level Finish Thickness PSI Rotation Center Knurl Ring Marks Price
Troy Hybrid Bar Training Copper Oxide 28.5mm 270k Bushing No Both $249
Rage Phoenix Training Bright Zinc 28.5mm 155k Bushing No IWF $195
York 32110 Training Chrome 28mm 150k Bearing Yes IWF $280
Vulcan VSOB1 Training Bright Zinc 28.5mm 194k Bushing No IWF $271
Vulcan VSOLTS28M Training Bright Zinc 28mm 194k Bushing No IWF $294.49
Intek 3NBR Training Chrome 28.5mm 200k Bearing No Dual $419
Eleiko XF Bar Training Chrome 28mm 215k 2 Bearings / 4 Bushings No Dual $ 589.00
Eleiko Sport Training Bar Competition Chrome 28mm 215k Bearings Yes IWF Error parsing: Query returned empty response
Get Rx’d WOD Bar 5.0 Training Your Choice 28mm 190k 2 Bearings / 2 Bushings No Dual $170.00
Get Rx’d Stealth Bar Competition Your Choice 28mm 216k 8 Bearings / 2 Bushings No Dual $270.00

All men’s bars featured here are about 7ft long and have IWF spaced rings in the knurling. The ones marked “Dual” also have IPF spaced rings alongside them.

WOMEN’S 25MM WEIGHTLIFTING BARS

Model Grade Finish PSI Rotation Price
Troy VTX Womens Training Copper Oxide 266k Bushing $229
York 32111 Training Chrome 150k Bearing $250
York 32003 Training Chrome 195k Bushing $325
Intek 1000JRHBR Training Chrome 200k Bushing $251
Get Rx’d WOD Bar 5.0 Training Your Choice 190k 2 Bearings / 2 Bushings $160.00
Get Rx’d Stealth Bar Competition Chrome 216k 8 Bearings / 2 Bushings $250.00
Eleiko Sport Training Bar Competition Chrome 215k Bearings Error parsing: Query returned empty response

All women’s bars have a 25mm diameter shaft with IWF spaced ring marks, no center knurling, and are about 6ft long.


ATTRIBUTES OF A BAR

Level

Training weightlifting bars are suitable for all home users, Crossfit boxes and other group environments. They can take a pounding all day, every day. Even elite athletes use these. These are the most commonly used bars. They’re called training bars because lifters will use these bars for training purposes where they don’t care about using a bar that feels the same as one used in a competition. The sleeves usually spin on bushings. The shaft diameter is often 28.5mm instead of a true 28mm.

Competition weightlifting bars are made to IWF competition spec, including a true 28mm diameter and needle bearings in the sleeves. They also have very high tensile strength steel and have knurling all the way to the sleeves to facilitate a wide snatch grip. Competitive lifters train with these so that it’s the same kind of bar they will compete with, or because they have come to appreciate these features. Only a handful of bars such as Eleiko’s top-of-the-line bar are IWF certified and can demand a much higher price of over $1000 because of it. Other bars used in non-IWF competitions may be only $300-500.

Finish

The finish applied to a bar makes a difference in its durability, tackiness, its rust resistance, and how well it holds chalk.

Hard Chrome
Chrome plating looks nice and wears well from repeated banging on a rack. All of the bars we sell, including our standard 1″ bars, and virtually all of the high quality bars sold today elsewhere, have a hard chrome finish rather than decorative chrome. The cracking and flaking chrome you might see on old bars might be decorative chrome. Hard chrome has the lowest level of corrosion resistance in any finishes, other than bare steel (ie: no finish). The smoothness of chrome makes it slippery when your hands get sweaty, even over good knurling. Chrome can sort of get a bad rep because most of the economy 300lb weight sets include a cheap chrome bar which might be made with decorative chrome. And the last thing about chrome is it does NOT hold chalk very well in comparison to all the other finishes.

Black Oxide
This is a thin coating that feels almost like bare steel. It’s thin enough that it doesn’t fill in any of the depth of the knurling like chrome or zinc plating does. It also gives a better grip than chrome. And it helps prevent rust (anti-corrosion), but the anti-corrosion properties of black oxide are activated by oil, so you have to oil it once in a while. It scratches more easily than other finishes, so a bar used in a rack will immediately show signs of use from the metal-on-metal contact. It can also wear off simply from the abrasion of your hands against it.

Bright or Black Zinc
Like black oxide, it provides a good grip and prevents corrosion without the need to oil it as much. Zinc plating has a certain thickness to it, so it does fill in the knurling slightly like chrome does, making the knurling softer. Zinc itself is a bright silverish color and the black coating is actually applied over the bright zinc.

Stainless Steel
Not a finish, but a type of steel. Stainless steel is easily the most resistant to rust, and you get a good grip on the steel bar even with sweaty hands.

Bare Steel (Raw)
These develop a light brown patina over time. Patina is actually rust, but it’s a much less “active” rust and won’t eat away at the steel. It actually is like a coating that protects the steel from active rust. And it clings to the steel really well, so there’s no danger of getting it rubbed off onto your hands and eventually in your eyes or an open wound. Anyway, some people prefer the feel of bar steel bars.

All finishes will eventually start rusting with exposure to enough moisture (sweat) that you don’t wipe off, and if you don’t apply oil to the surface to protect it, but it can take a while.

Diameter

Not to be confused with the size of the sleeve where the weights go, which is always 50mm (1.97″) on a high quality bar. We’re talking about the shaft that you grip. 28mm is IWF regulation size for men’s bars, and 25mm for women’s bars. Some lifters into olympic lifting prefer a 28mm bar to get a better hook grip, but most people are fine with 28.5mm. Anything larger than that is considered a powerlifting bar.

PSI / Tensile Strength

The strength of the steel, measured in PSI, pounds per square inch. With a given bar diameter, this serves as a comparison of how much force can be applied before a bar breaks or bends permanently. The higher the number, the stronger it is. Another factor, yield strength, helps determine how much a bar can flex without suffering a permanent bend, but not all manufacturers have those numbers available, and some of them confuse the two terms, so we just give one number.

Static Test

The static test strength is what you see sometimes advertised as the “capacity” or “weight limit” of a bar, such as 1200lb, 1500lb, etc. What, you don’t see this in the chart above? That’s right, we removed them. They don’t mean anything. The numbers are determined different ways by different manufacturers. It doesn’t mean it will hold up to anyone loading 1500lbs on it and dropping it badly (if they were theoretically even able to lift such a weight). It’s a static rating. The manufacturer determines it by perhaps loading the bar to 1500 lbs and seeing if it has a permanent bend in a few hours, or using a machine to press on the center of the bar with 1500 lbs of force, or who knows. They all may do it differently. Remember that the dynamic force is much greater during heavy cleans or heavy squats due to the high torque from momentum reversal. And when a bar is dropped on a rack or the floor it can incur quite a shock load that is very difficult to estimate, depending on how evenly it ws dropped. So even though I know you’re looking for this number to compare the strength of bars, don’t fall for it. It’s a number used by companies who are trying to mislead you. If you want to know the strength of the bar, take a look at the PSI and the diameter. The thicker it is and the denser it is, the stronger it is. If you want a relatively strong bar, get one that we rate as Commercial quality.

But how much weight can it take? – This is what you really want to know. We understand that. Think of it this way. Virtually any bar is likely to bend if you load it up for heavy squats and drop it violently on the safety bars of a power rack. Weightlifting bars aren’t really meant to be dropped on racks this way, as they are more springy and more prone to bending. A really high-end bar might take such a crash without bending, but most likely you got lucky, and I wouldn’t put my money on it holding up to repeated drops this way. On the other hand, if you drop a high quality bar (with bumper plates) on the floor, or only set it down only sort of hard on a rack, it should not bend.

Spring

Also called whip or flex. This is highly desirable for doing cleans. You can roughly determine this from the PSI and bar diameter, but the carbon content of the steel also makes a difference, so there’s no formula you can nail it down with, not without having more technical info. But generally speaking, a 28mm or 28.5mm bar between 130,000 and 170,000 PSI will have some good spring. A PSI under that range is pretty weak steel prone to bending permanently rather than flexing and maintaining their straightness when the load is removed, and a PSI above that range may or may not start to get a little stiff, depending on the makeup of the steel. Nowadays there are a lot of good olympic lifting bars around 190,000 PSI with good spring. At light weights when you’re learning the movement, the shock absorption of the spring is only noticeable when you do a power clean and do a bad high-impact catch on your shoulders.

Rotation

Bushings or bearings inside of the sleeves serve to reduce friction and make the sleeves spin freely. Bushings are the most common and are appropriate for most people. Bearings allow for an even smoother and sensitive spin (it will start spinning easier), but they are more expensive and are usually only desired by elite olympic weightlifters. We don’t recommend you get a bearing bar unless you know that’s what you want or you’re really curious. Bearings in the past tended to not last as many years as bushings, or they would need more frequent oiling to keep the spin smooth. Nowadays many are sealed in and shouldn’t ever require extra oil. One consideration is if you slam the bar down into a vertical bar rack (used for storage), you may damage bearings, whereas bushings can take the impact.


Knurling

All bars have knurling over most of the length of the shaft. Some bars have a section of about six to nine inches of knurling in the center of the bar, while others are smooth in that area. The IWF men’s specifications for men’s bars have center knurling, so that’s why York’s men’s bars all have center knurling, and the women’s bars don’t for the same reason. Center knurling for IWF bars is a throwback to when they did one-handed barbell snatches. Nowadays it’s just annoying, with the center knurling scratching the front of your neck during cleans, but at least York has mitigated that with softer center knurling.

On some bars the knurling extends all the way to the inside collars, for lifters who need a maximum width snatch grip. Bars that do will have a product picture showing it. Otherwise you can assume the knurling stops an inch or two from the inside collars.

Ring Markings

ring mark in knurlingEvery bar has a 1/4″ wide smooth mark in the knurling where you place your hands. IWF spaced markings are spaced for olympic weightlifting and are 910mm apart, while IPF markings for powerlifting are 810mm apart. Not a big deal for non-competitors, but it’s good to know where you’re placing your hands if you’re used to a certain spacing. Some bars nowadays are adopting dual IPF and IWF ring marks, which helps even more to get your hands exactly where you want them for various lifts. It’s with the understanding that people want to use the same bar for everything from bench presses to snatches and want to be able to place their hands in the familiar spot after having used a bar with either IPF or IWF spacing.

 

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2 thoughts on “The Best Olympic Weightlifting Bars Reviewed”

  1. Very good information. I’m working out with a tentative muscle building goal. Not bodybuilding or any power lifting just toning and strength training. I’ve been shopping around and mostly just see weight test ratings. Rogue is the only bar I’ve seen with tensile strength rating.
    I imagine I won’t go higher than working out with about 250# on bench and squats.
    Should any retailer be able to quote the tensile strength of their bars?
    Any bar I purchase will definitely last me a lifetime so I’m looking to spend between $100 and $200.
    Is it possible to get a 190k to 200k bar for that price?

    1. Good questions!

      All of our bars show the tensile strength (PSI). Other stores might not always have that info or understand that customers would like to know it. Any bar for around $100 will have such a low tensile strength that they might not know because it’s not a selling point at all. But anything more expensive nowadays should have it.

      You should be able to find something in your price range. This article about bars under $200 is geared towards olympic lifting bars, but they’re good for your purposes too.
      http://blog.adamantbarbell.com/698/best-olympic-bar-under-200/

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