You’ll see a classical straight barbell in pretty much any gym. Besides, it’s fairly popular in home gyms, though probably not every home gym has a training bar due to space constraints.
Why are training barbells popular, and why should you try to get one for your home gym? Well, you can use a straight bar to train every single muscle in your body. Though a straight bar isn’t the best for, say, curls, if you were to have only one bar, it probably should be the good-old straight bar.
If you just so happen to be looking for a straight training bar for a home gym or perhaps even commercial gym use, then let us introduce you to what we think are the 5 best barbells for home gym use.
Types Of Barbells
So first of all, let’s talk about different barbell types available out there and which one you should get.
- Weightlifting bar. The Olympic weightlifting bar is perhaps the most popular barbell type in commercial gyms. The Olympic barbell is mainly used in weightlifting and CrossFit, but it may be used for general-purpose training as well.
The key feature of the Olympic bar is its whip and sleeve rotation. These two features make snatch and clean & jerk a little easier and safer.
- Powerlifting bar. The powerlifting bar is thicker and heavier than the Olympic bar. Besides, they have little whip and less smooth sleeve rotation since these aren’t critical to powerlifting. At the huge weights that powerlifters move, these two features disturb lifting rather than benefit it.
- Hybrid bar. Hybrid bars have the features of both weightlifting and powerlifting bars, though they excel at neither discipline. For most people, hybrid bars are going to more than enough.
Typical gym bars rarely are pure Olympic or powerlifting bars. You’ll see real Olympic or powerlifting bars in specialized gyms, but probably not in the average gym.
High-quality Olympic or powerlifting bars are very costly, and only a few people really need their benefits like a great whip, exceptional strength, or extra-smooth sleeve rotation. This is why most gyms will prefer to opt for the more general-purpose hybrid bars that are cheaper and perhaps more reasonable for the average user.
Things To Look For In The Best Barbell For A Home Gym
Now, let’s have a brief overview of the key things to look for in a barbell for a home gym.
Keep in mind that our guide implies non-competition training – we will not be covering things like a whip, for example, since it’s specific to weightlifting. If you are a competing athlete, then you may need to look for different things, which you probably already know about.
Barbells are traditionally 2.2 meters (roughly 7.22 feet) long. This is the competition-compliant size of weightlifting and powerlifting bars, and most bars out there are sized exactly like competition bars.
For home use, a 2.2-meter bar may be too big – you will need plenty of space for it. If storage space is indeed a concern for you, then look for a smaller bar.
For most people, the length of the sleeves, the length of the grip section, and the overall dimensions of the bar will not matter much. However, keep in mind that non-competition bars very often do not comply with the rules of IWF or IPF, which may matter to some people.
But if you have thick bumper plates, then sleeve length may indeed matter for you. Longer sleeves would allow you to load more weight on the barbell.
The handgrip diameter is also regulated by sports federations, and it may not be important for you if you will not be competing. However, there are a few things that should be kept in mind with the handgrip size.
Competition barbells – both for powerlifting and weightlifting – have a grip diameter of 28 mm (around 1.10 inches). Most general-purpose bars available out there will have a 28mm grip as well.
However, some bars have thicker grip sections – as thick as 30mm, and maybe even more. The important thing to note here is that the thicker the grip, the more difficult it will be for you to hold the weight in your hands. This, on one hand, allows for a very decent forearm workout, but on the other, not everybody may want this.
Both weightlifting and powerlifting bars weigh 20 kilograms (44.09 pounds), though weightlifting bars for females weigh 15 kilograms (33.07 pounds). Most non-competition bars will weigh between 15-20 kilograms.
Outside of competition, it doesn’t really matter how heavy your bar is – the only important thing for you is to know exactly how much your bar weighs so that you can work out properly. This is important because the actual weight of a bar may noticeably differ from the weight stated in the product description.
With that said, if you aren’t sure whether you will be able to lift a 20kg bar, go for a lighter bar.
You do not need smooth and fast sleeve rotation like in competition Eleiko bars, but some rotation may be beneficial. When performing curls, for example, a rotating sleeve will make the exercise less straining on your joints. This is because the rotation of the bar will allow for more freedom of movement in the working joints.
Unless you specifically need great sleeve rotation, don’t bother with it too much – most bars do have an adequate rotation for comfortable training. But if you do want smooth rotation, then look for a bar that has needle bearings in the sleeves, and the more bearings it has, the better.
PSI (pounds per square inch) indicates the breaking point of the barbell. Basically, it’s the amount of pressure that the bar will withstand without permanently bending.
Higher-end bars usually have a max PSI rating of between 190,000-210,000. If you have the budget, then 150,000-160,000 psi is a great place to start. There are many bars available that have much lower psi, and they can be perfectly okay for many people, but only if you will not be loading the bar heavy.
Manufacturers also provide numbers on the maximum load capacity of their bars in kilograms or pounds. Typically, hybrid bars have a weight capacity of around 300 kilograms (661.39 pounds), which is enough for most people.
For longevity though, the higher the load capacity, the better. Higher-end bars can support up to 1-1.5 tons, and while this is overkill for anyone, such bars can live for a very long time.
Some bars have really aggressive knurling, while others have very mild knurling that is easy on your hands. Which kind of knurling to choose depends on your preferences and your goals.
The thing to keep in mind here is that the more aggressive the knurling is, the more painful it may be for you to hold the bar. You’ll thus need to find a good balance of comfort and grip for yourself.
Finally, you may also want to get a bar with central knurling. Central knurling can be very beneficial in exercises like squats since it allows the bar to grip your clothes or body better.
Bars without knurling may work just fine, but for extra safety, strongly consider getting a bar that has central knurling.
Why not add a set of training barbells to your home gym? Here are our top picks for the best home gym barbells.
5 Best Barbells For A Home Gym
CAP’s Warrior Olympic bar’s specs are very close to those of a competition weightlifting bar, though they aren’t quite there. More importantly, you have the 28mm handgrip, 20kg weight, 2,200mm bar length, and a 4.75-inch center knurling that’s just a tad over the IWF specifications.
The 1,000 pounds of weight capacity in the CAP Warrior Olympic bar will be more than enough for pretty much anyone. The tensile strength of this bar’s steel is also claimed to be 230,000 psi, which implies excellent longevity.
Aside from durability, the Warrior bar should deliver adequate sleeve rotation for snatch or clean & jerk turnovers thanks to its 2 x 10 needle bearings and oiled bushings.
Remarkably, the Warrior barbell also has dual knurl marks on each side. While this isn’t what you’d see on a competition bar, the dual marks should allow you to adjust grip easier.
The knurling here is medium-depth as well and should thus provide a good balance of grip and comfort.
In the end, the CAP Warrior Olympic bar certainly is on the pricier end, but it should be more than enough for any recreational user.
- Sized almost exactly like a competition Olympic bar.
- Smooth sleeve rotation.
- Durable and strong.
- Dual knurl marks on each side.
- Medium-depth knurling.
- On the pricey side.
This Olympic bar by Body-Solid is a decent choice for those on a budget or if you don’t need that durable of a bar.
Supporting up to 700 pounds of weight, this bar is strong enough for most people. But if you are looking for a bar for a gym that’s frequently attended by stronger people, then Body-Solid’s bar may be inadequate.
The thicker handgrip may be a problem for some people, but the 30mm may not be noticeable to most. In fact, it’s also going to train your forearms better!
The knurling here is pretty fine, which should make this bar more comfortable to hold. But it will also compromise the strength of your grip, so you may want to use chalk or straps with this bar.
CAP’s Classic Olympic bar is fairly similar to the Body-Solid bar. With that said, it has got two big differences.
The first one is the weight. This bar weighs only 16 kilograms, which puts it closer to women’s competition weightlifting bars. Besides, with its lighter weight, it may be a better starting point for less fit buyers.
The second difference is the knurling. The Classic Olympic bar has medium-depth knurling that should be similar to the knurling of the Warrior bar. This bar’s knurling should thus provide a good balance between comfort and grip.
On the other hand, the Classic bar cannot compete with the Warrior bar since it’s much cheaper and weaker. The Classic bar has a weight capacity of 500 pounds, a tensile strength of just 63,800 psi, and its sleeves aren’t as smooth.
Besides, the Classic bar has different specs – its handgrip is 30mm thick, and it has shorter sleeves.
Overall, the Cap Classic bar should be a decent choice for lighter training. However, given its low tensile strength, we wouldn’t recommend it for snatches, clean & jerks, or other rapid movements.
- Sized fairly close to a comp bar.
- Medium-depth knurling for balanced grip & comfort.
- Lighter weight of 16 kg.
- Not too durable.
- Thicker 30mm grip.
An essential piece of home gym equipment, this barbell can handle up to 700 lbs of 2″ Olympic weight plates and can easily be used for deadlifts and bench presses.
With a high-quality chrome finish and a steel shaft that won’t bend or deform under stress, Crossfit barbells can sustain large weight for a long amount of time.
We’ve designed our barbells with an ergonomic diamond-shaped knurling grip so you’ll never have to worry about slipping. With a 1.2″ girth, these barbells are great for building upper and lower body strength.
In order to keep your weights in position throughout long periods of use and high exertion, this deadlift barbell has brass bushings that allow for smooth sleeve rotation to decrease wear.
Finally, we have Synergee’s Regional Olympic bar.
With a tensile strength of 190,000 psi and a weight capacity of 1,500 pounds, this bar will take quite the beating. Not only that, but thanks to its 5 x 2 needle bearings, this bar should deliver very decent sleeve rotation, though CAP’s Warrior will probably be better.
What’s also remarkable in this bar is that its specs are very close to those of a competition bar. Most importantly, you have 15/20kg weight options and a 28mm handgrip diameter.
Of course, there are some things that are different in this bar – like the dual knurl marks or the absence of center knurling in the 20kg bar – but other than that, this bar should feel pretty close to a competition-sized bar.
- Very durable.
- Available both in 15kg and 20kg.
- Smooth sleeve rotation.
- Very close to a competition bar’s specs.
- Balanced knurling.
- Dual knurl marks.
- Has no center knurl.
As you could’ve noticed, we have mostly focused on less expensive straight bars. That’s because we believe that for most people, these are the bars that would work best.
Before buying anything, make sure that you understand what you need. If you are intending to compete, then maybe you should look for something more serious and closer to what you will be competing with.
Don’t underestimate affordable bars as well – though they are far weaker than high-end bars, they will suffice for most people. Even a cheap bar will take quite the beating before breaking.
Also, if you are looking specifically for triceps bars, then we have a dedicated review post for that.