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 $300 is a lot of money.
If that’s you, read on.
You can spend $700 on a new bar if you really want to. Only lifters putting up big numbers will discover why it’s so good. Plus, it 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||Composite Bushing||IWF||$195.00|
|CAP OB-86B||28.5mm||Black Zinc Phosphate||130,000 PSI||Steel Bushing||IPF||$161.00|
|Rage Phoenix 2.0||28mm||Black Oxide||155,000 PSI||Bronze Bushing||Dual||$199.00|
|XMark Voodoo||28mm||Black Manganese Phosphate||185,000 PSI||Bronze Bushing||Dual||$189.00|
|Fringe Wonder Bar||28mm||Black Zinc||205,000 PSI||Bronze Bushing||Dual||$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.
The Echo’s composite bushings are cheaper than bronze, don’t wear out, and spin consistently over time, but the spin isn’t as delicate as bronze.
Rogue stands behind their products, and you know they’ll be around for years to come. It’s one reason people often go for Rogue when in doubt.
Also see Rogue’s Boneyard Bars in their closeouts, which have cosmetic blemishes off the production line. You can sometimes get a Boneyard Ohio Bar for under $200, which is a better bar than the Echo..
|Shaft Finish||Black Zinc Phosphate|
|Tensile Strength||130,000 PSI|
|Sleeve Spin||Steel 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. 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 had the CAP bar for a while to use myself.
Note that I only cleaned 205 and deadlifted 315 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 I’m not a big fan), 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||Black Oxide|
|Tensile Strength||155,000 PSI|
|Sleeve Spin||Steel Bushing|
|Knurl Marks||Dual IWF/IPF|
Rage redesigned their Rage Phoenix in 2017. New with this model over their old one is:
- 28mm shaft, down from 28.5mm. This can be slightly easier to grip for heavy pulls than 28.5mm. It’s not much, but it matters.
- Black oxide finish. The old one was bright zinc. The black oxide helps your hands stick to it a little more.
- Dual knurl marks for easy hand placement no matter what exercise you’re doing.
It isn’t Rage’s strongest bar, but the typical home user in a garage will do great with it. Those dual knurl markings are a big deal, and if you’re really OCD about even hand placement then this could be the one for you.
|Shaft Finish||Black Manganese Phosphate|
|Tensile Strength||185,000 PSI|
|Sleeve Spin||Bronze Bushing|
|Knurl Marks||Dual IWF/IPF|
A black manganese phosphate finish is unique for olympic bars, but it’s used in other metalworking. Like other finishes, it’s known for its corrosion resistance.
The knurling is a solid “medium”, not really deep but more than most of the other bars here, making it good for heavy pulling movements so the bar won’t slip out of your hands.
XMark sells it on Amazon for the same price as on their own website.
Like the Rage Phoenix and CAP OB-86B, the sleeves are grooved to help plates and collars stay securely on the bar. Only one of their product pictures makes this clear, the other pics being touched up so much that the sleeves look smooth. So just a heads up.
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.
|Shaft Finish||Black Zinc|
|Tensile Strength||205,000 PSI|
|Sleeve Spin||Bronze Bushing|
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.
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.
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 as easily as black oxide. 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.