Best Olympic Bar Under $200
You’re convinced you need a good 7ft bar and not a cheapo bar like one included in a basic 300 lb olympic weight set, but you balk at seeing people spend a week’s salary on one. You want it as a tool for weight lifting that will last a long time, but you wonder if you’ll regret spending $300 on one.
If that’s you, read on.
You can spend $700 on a new bar if you really want to. And you might discover why it’s so good once you start using it. The reality is it only makes sense for competitive athletes who want to be lifting on the same bar they have at the meet.
For bars strictly under $200, I’ve narrowed it down to this short list.
These include bars for both powerlifting and olympic weightlifting. There aren’t many of them in this price range, so I thought it best to just include both rather than write a separate article.
Click a name to hop to the detailed description further below.
|Model||Diameter||Shaft Finish||Tensile Strength||Spin||Knurl Marks||Price|
|Rogue Echo||28.5mm||Bright Zinc||190,000 PSI||Bushing||IWF||$195|
|CAP OB-86B||28.5mm||Black Zinc Phosphate||130,000 PSI||Bushing||IPF||$161.00|
|Rage Phoenix||28.5mm||Bright Zinc||155,000 PSI||Bushing||IWF||$195.00|
|Get Rx'd WOD Bar 5.0||28mm||Black Zinc||190,000 PSI||Bearing||IWF||Error parsing: Query returned empty response|
|Fringe Wonder Bar||28mm||Black Zinc||205,000||Bushing||Both||$199|
ALL of the bars above have NO center knurl, are 7ft long, and weigh 45 lbs or 44 lbs (20kg).
Note: I have the prices above set to auto-update, so I apologize in advance if any of them jack up the price to over $200 and make me look stupid. (please let me know in the comments at the bottom)
|Shaft Finish||Bright Zinc|
|Tensile Strength||190,000 PSI|
|Sleeve Spin||Composite Bushing|
The Rogue Echo is Rogue’s lowest priced high-quality bar. It uses the same exact shaft as most of their other bars, with differences only in the bushings and other parts.
It’s basically a downgraded Ohio Bar, their current flagship bar, to get the price under $200 just for the budget shoppers! Here’s what they downgraded:
- One set of IWF knurl marks instead of dual IWF/IPF
- Bright zinc all over, no other coating options
Other than the end caps, I believe those are the only differences between the Echo and Ohio. That’s not bad for a $80 price cut, as I see it.
|Shaft Finish||Black Zinc Phosphate|
|Tensile Strength||130,000 PSI|
|Sleeve Spin||Brass Bushing|
CAP re-branded the OB-86B in 2015 with a green “Beast” label on the ends. The other change was the black oxide coating is now black zinc phosphate. Other than that, it’s the same stand-out bar they’ve been selling for years.
Let me get one thing clear. CAP has a ton of junk products. Right down to plastic cement-filled dumbbells and plastic jump ropes. It’s like the quintessential Chinese dollar store products. I believe C.A.P. actually stands for Chinese Athletic Products.
On the other hand, they actually make a few really good products, and their price points are low even on them. Most notably their line of barbells is great, and some of their dumbbells and weight plates are fine too. At the moment I sell mostly Troy and York plates, but I’ve sold tons of all models of the CAP barbells, and I don’t get any complaints.
The bodybuilding.com forum has a thread devoted to this bar, with links to reviews as far back as 2010. Come to think of it, I’m not sure when this bar was first made, but CAP had it in 2007 when I first started doing business with them.
The gist of opinions I’ve heard is people do like it but also acknowledge that it isn’t the strongest bar. Go ahead and drop it with bumpers. That part isn’t a problem. It’s when you drop a bar hard on a rack, or bounce hard out of the hole during a 400lb squat (yeah, most of us don’t have that problem), that your eyes start to widen. At 130,000 PSI, the math does indicate that this bar can’t hold up like some others, and hey, that’s why it’s so low priced.
Because the steel isn’t as strong, that gives it a ton of whip as you get up close to 300 lbs, so this is actually a pretty good bar for cleans. For the same reason, it’s not so good for powerlifting style squats.
It’s worth mentioning that this is the only bar on this list with IPF knurl marks, those little 1/2″ wide smooth spots you use as finger guides. The iPF marks are not quite as far apart as IWF. It just affects the hand placement you’re used to.
My Personal Evaluation
I have the CAP bar at the moment and have been using it.
Note that I do NOT lift a lot of weight. As of writing I’ve only cleaned 205 and deadlifted 300 on it.
The spin really does make a difference in how easy it is to rotate your grip during the catch. It’s no needle bearing bar, but it’s got brass bushings and spins good on them. Every bar I’m listing here has good spin though.
Now the noise. I like this one. It’s mostly just the thud of the bumpers. That’s what you want. I’ve used bars that had rattle on the sleeves, and a little rattle means a huge clanging sound when you drop it. And really that can’t be good for the bar.
I have no problem with the grip. The knurling is just fine. You know, all knurling feels a little different and is hard to describe. It’s not just a matter of what’s deeper. The pattern makes a difference. The shape of the peaks, all that. At first I wasn’t sure I liked it, but it quickly grew on me and I found it to be easier on my soft woman-like hands than the Troy AOB-1200B bar I had prior to this (which I am not including in this review because it was lousy), without sacrificing gripping power. The zinc phosphate coating lends itself to good grip too. It doesn’t wear off as quickly as a black oxide coating.
|Shaft Finish||Bright Zinc|
|Tensile Strength||155,000 PSI|
|Sleeve Spin||Steel Bushing|
Just like the CAP, the Rage Phoenix has bushing sleeves secured with snap rings on the ends, no center knurling, and a 28.5mm shaft.
It does have several differences.
This bar is marketed specifically for Crossfit, so you can’t beat the spin without going for a pricey bearing bar.
And for the same reason, Crossfit, it’s got smoother knurling that is about as easy on your hands as possible during high-rep workouts.
It’s also stronger at 155,000 PSI. That’s a decent spot to be at. If you want a stiff bar you can blow money on a high PSI bar, 200,000 or so, but around the 155,000 range the steel facilitates some whip without being so flexible that it can develop a permanent bend. To be fair, some higher strength bars are made with a special alloy that keeps them flexible.
The bars below are generally better. The reason I’m listing the Rage is it has a little more whip than the higher tensile strength bars. So if maximum whip is really important to you and you’re not into the CAP, this could be the one for you. Everyone likes different stuff. Don’t feel weird about picking this one.
|Shaft Finish||Black Zinc or Chrome|
|Tensile Strength||190,000 PSI|
|Sleeve Spin||Needle Bearing|
This is made with high level WL bar features. Needle bearing sleeves for maximum spin sensitivity. A true 28mm diameter for olympic lifting.
Needle bearings are expensive. That’s the reason that no other bars on this list use them. Get Rx’d was able to pull off a partial needle bearing bar with the WOD Bar 5.0. They actually do have bushings in the sleeves too to keep the price low while taking advantage of bearings to assist smooth rotation. So a 100% bearing bar is going to spin better, but come on, for the price point it’s pretty darn good.
Some folks prefer bushings. Needle bearings are good for cleans, to rotate your hands under the bar easily during the catch. Otherwise when you’re at your limit you’ll tweak your wrists. But powerlifters don’t need that kind of spin at all, and they prefer the normal amount of spin that bushings provide, to keep things under control better.
The other thing about this bar is the true 28mm shaft. Olympic lifters adore this size because it fits most men’s hands so well and they can get a nice hook grip on it. 28mm is the IWF spec. And any thinner than 28mm and it starts getting too whippy and weak. That’s why women’s 25mm bars are so expensive; they have to be made with really good steel.
The black zinc plating, if you go with that rather than chrome, is a durable finish. A zinc plating is a little thicker than some others, and it’s applied as a plating rather than a coating. This means it fills in a little of the knurling, accounting for some of the smooth, easy feel on your hands. It also means it’s more of a solid layer, like chrome, so it’s not going to wear off easily. Zinc is the same stuff they put on some screws at the hardware store. Unlike chrome, it doesn’t get slippery when your hands get sweaty.
|Shaft Finish||Black Zinc|
|Tensile Strength||205,000 PSI|
Most of the bars on this list are made with bushings in the sleeves, but the their Wonder Bar is available in both. So I just want to be clear I’m referencing the bushing version that makes the cut under $200.
Anyway, this is the strongest 28mm bar out there for this price, at 205,000 PSI tensile strength. Fringe is competitive on their pricing for everything, and they give free shipping.
One thing about Fringe is they offer a really generous 365-day return policy, even for stuff in used (but usable) condition. And in the first 30 days they’ll even pay to take it back. I don’t know of any other supplier of this kind of equipment that does this. So they rank the best on the risk scale if you’re feeling jittery.