Olympic Weightlifting Bars Comparison

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 PICKS

See further below for the complete list, but here are our most popular sellers.

York Elite 32000
$499
Rage Phoenix
$195
York Competition Bar Rage Phoenix
A 28mm needle bearing bar by York that you’ll be very happy with.

The knurling goes all the way to the shoulders for a maximum width snatch grip. The center knurling is quite soft and made for doing cleans with while meeting IWF specs, so it won’t be an issue with tearing your throat open like with the center knurling of power bars.

A budget but effective weightlifting bar by Rage Fitness.

This is a very similar bar to the Titan, but made in China, with steel bushings instead of needle bearings in the sleeves. That’s fine for most people.


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 AOB-1200B Home Black Oxide 28.5mm 125k Bushing No IWF $199
Troy Hybrid CF Bar Training Copper Oxide 28.5mm 270k Bushing No Both $249
Body Solid Chicago Bar Training Black Oxide 28.5mm 155k Bushing No Both $405
Body Solid 25th Anniv. Training Red Chrome 28.5mm 155k Bushing No IWF $319
Rage Phoenix Training Bright Zinc 28.5mm 155k Bushing No IWF $195
Rage Elevation Training Bright Zinc 28.5mm 155k Bushing No IWF $259
CAP OB-86B Home Black Oxide 28.5mm 130k Bushing No IPF $161
CAP OB-86PB Home Black Oxide 28.5mm 150k Bushing No IPF $205
CAP OB-86PBSZ Home Bright Zinc 28.5mm 150k Bushing No IPF $228
York 32110 Training Chrome 28mm 150k Bearing Yes IWF $299
York 32000 Competition Chrome 28mm 195k Bearing Yes IWF $499
York 32002 Training Chrome 28mm 195k Bushing Yes IWF $409
York 32010 Training Stainless 28mm 165k Bearing Yes IWF $704
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 $427

 

WOMEN’S 25MM WEIGHTLIFTING BARS

Model Grade Finish Thickness PSI Rotation Center Knurl Price
Rage Elevation Womens Training. Bright Zinc 25mm 155k Bushing No $259
Troy VTX Womens Training Copper Oxide 25mm 266k Bushing No $229
York 32111 Training Chrome 25mm 150k Bearing No $263
York 32001 Competition Chrome 25mm 195k Bearing No $479
York 32003 Training Chrome 25mm 195k Bushing No $325
Intek 1000JRHBR Training Chrome 25mm 200k Bushing No $269

 


ATTRIBUTES OF A BAR

Grade

Home weightlifting bars can take drops fine, but you don’t want really strong athletes loading them up and abusing them. These are hybrid bars that aren’t really ideal for weightlifting, such as knurling that’s a little deep, or knurling that doesn’t extend all the way to the ends for wide snatches, or sleeves that are a little loose or don’t spin as well as higher grade bars.

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.

Competition weightlifting bars are made to competition spec, very strong and with bearings in the sleeves. Competitive lifters train with these so that it’s the same kind of bar they will compete with.

Finish – The finish applied to a bar makes a difference in the durability of a bar and how tacky/grippy it feels.

Chrome – Chrome plating looks nice and wears well from repeated banging on a rack. And it can take a while for chrome to start rusting. But there are downsides. The smoothness of chrome makes it kind of 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, and on really cheap bars the chrome plating can start chipping off, but that won’t happen with the good chrome plated bars listed here.

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 is anti-corrosion. Zinc plating has a certain thickness to it, so it does fill in the knurling slightly, the way chrome does.

Stainless – 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.

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 about 50mm (2″) 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 people insist on a 28mm bar to get a better hook grip, but most people are fine with 28.5mm.

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 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. 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 a PSI above that range may or may not start to get a little stiff, depending on the makeup of the steel. 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.

ring mark in knurlingKnurling – 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.

Ring Markings – Every 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 are really more weightlifting bars but have IPF spacing for some reason. 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.

 

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