How to Choose the Right Barbell for Your Home Gym

best barbell home gym

Being able to workout in your own home is great. No driving, no crowds, no opening and closing times.

But home gym equipment can be expensive so you want to make sure you choose the right equipment for your needs. That’s where we come along.

Keep reading to learn which type of barbell is best for you.

Different Types of Barbells

Some of the most popular barbells types are:

Olympic Barbell

best barbell

Olympic barbells are relatively big barbells and are used to perform complex lifts like the clean and press or the snatch.

An Olympic barbell typically has a standard weight of 44lbs or 20 kg, which is usually distributed over a shaft of length of about 7 ft and a whippable diameter of 28mm. The latter is very important since it provides flexibility to the bar which helps to lift it.

The tensile rating on an Olympic barbell should not be lower than 15kpi.

Another important thing on an Olympic barbell is its spin since the movements of the bar can bend the wrists far more than is good for comfort.

Additionally, the knurling on the barbells should also be positioned correctly and be fairly light. Aggressive knurling can hurt your fingers so if you are buying an Olympic barbell to practice, you need to check whether the knurling is in the right place.

Powerlifting Barbell

Powerlifting barbells are used to perform lifts that stack on weight like a deadlift, bench press and back squat. These barbells weigh similarly to Olympic barbells but are usually on the shorter side with a length of 5.6 ft and a diameter of 28.5 to 29 mm.

The tensile rating on a powerlifting barbell should be 190kpi at least if you want it to have a high yield.

The whip on powerlifting barbell should be very low so that they provide you with optimum control.

Additionally, spin should also be minimal, particularly if you are using powerlifting barbell to perform exercises like the military press, bench press, and back squat. However, the spin should not be completely absent as it is still required to do exercises like he front squat which will need the bar to rotate a bit.

Powerlifting barbells have a high knurling position so that you can get a controlled and good grip. The best powerlifting barbells will have central knurling as well as they provide the best grips during squats.

Trap or Hexagonal Bars

trap or hexagonal bar

The trap or hexagonal bar is the bar that is used to perform the deadlift, which is one of the best lifts for working your traps with shoulder shrugs.

The trap bars are assembled into a hexagonal shape and are designed so that you can step into them and grip the bars by your side. This means your back will take less pressure during deadlifts and your legs muscles and glutes will be activated. Since your hands will be at your side rather than the front, hexagonal bars are great for shoulder shrugs.

These bars have the least amount of whip and zero spin. It should also feature a prominent knurling so that you can get a good gold.

The best trap bars will have two heights for grip, one for deadlifts and other for shoulder shrugs. You will also require a weight lifting that can accommodate your heaviest lift.

All-Purpose Barbell

The above barbell categories are specialists and they may not be suitable for everyone. If you want a mid-range equipment, all-purpose barbells are your best bet. These barbells are good investment for people who want to build their muscles and perfect their form.

Typically, all-purpose barbells have a tensile rating of around 175kpi and a 28.5 mm diameter is a good options as well as it will allow a decent amount of flex, but not so much that inhibits your powerlifting exercise.

The knurling and spin on all-purpose barbells are of middling variety. Do not get all-purpose barbells with aggressive knurling as they are not the best for lifting heavy weights. Choose a barbell with middling knurling.

You can also get bushing for a spin and do not need bearings that provide fractional difference.

EZ Curl Bars

training biceps

EZ curl bars are shorter, angled, zig-zag style bars. They are mainly used for bicep and tricep exercises. 

EZ bars have a curved shape since they allow for a more stable and ergonomic grip. The curved bars allow you to place your hands in the most comfortable position and lift the bar easily without risking injury to your wrists,

Curved barbells are usually smaller in size and are easy to store; hence they can be a great option for your home gym.

Home Gym Barbell Buying Considerations

How to Choose the Right Barbell for Your Home Gym 1

Today, there is an overwhelming amount of barbells you can buy. Due to the various specialization of weight training, each type of barbell can cost from less than $100 to over $1000. Check out our Best Budget Barbells for some affordable options.

A powerlifting barbell cannot offer the functions of an Olympic barbell and an Olympic barbell is unsuitable for only powerlifting.

Therefore, we chose only those barbells which can be used for general training at home. Here are some of the things that we need to look for:

Overall Construction

A good quality barbell does not have to cost you an arm and leg. There are plenty of barbells in the market that have solid construction which can offer you years of training without being overly pricey.

A barbell is intended to last you for several years so it is important that you get a barbell from a reliable and reputable manufacturer.

Tensile Strength

Tensile strength is one of the most important attributes of a barbell and is used to denote the strength and durability of the barbell. If you are a beginner lifter a tensile strength of 130,000psi may work well for you but for serious lifters a tensile strength of at least 190,000psi is recommended.

Tensile strength determines how much weight your bar can withstand before it fractures or break. Below, we will show how much tensile strength is suitable for all levels of weight lifters.

130,000Ppsi and more: 130,000 psi may be decent for beginners but it is worth your while to make your initial investment is something that can last longer.

150,000 to 180,000psi: This tensile strength is adequate for regular athletes or people who do moderately heavy lifting.

180,000+psi: This tensile strength is pretty high and is constructed for heavy-duty lifting. Barbells made from this quality of steel are expected to last for a very long time.

Yield Strength

large barbells

This attribute highlights the maximum weight that can be loaded onto a barbell before it bends or becomes deformed. The best barbells have load capacity of 1,000 pounds and even more.

Many companies do not list the yield strength of their barbells and you may have seen some barbells in the gym that are bentout of sorts. This is what happens when yield strength fails and you place too much load on a bar.

Therefore, if you are not very knowledgeable about barbells, it is a good idea to buy one from a company that lists its yield strength or load capacity. Also keep in mind that high tensile strength also coorelates to high yield strength.

Whip

The whip involves how much the bar will flex and yield without bending out of shape. For people who are beginner weight lifters, the whip is not that big a concern since they deal with lighter weights.

However, for serious athletes who start to lift heavier weights and participate in competition, the whip is very important as it allows for easier lifting without having to strain their wrists and back.

Some companies who create bars for specialized purposes like squatting, deadlifting, and weightlifting may list how much whip their bar has. Below is a general list of how much whip athletes of different levels should consider:

Recreational or novice lifter: Standard whip is OK. Even a no whip is fine for lighter weights.

Weightlifter: A bar with some whip is needed for training.

Powerlifter: This depends on the rules of your federation. Deadlifters will require a bar with a lot of lift; however, power bars can be stiffer.

Spin

Barbells come with sleeves or bushing system that allows rotational movement to prevent wear of the bar and easy lifting. The spin should be consistent and should not stop abruptly but slowly and gently.

For home gyms, you can get a bushing system for rotation due to its lower cost and its use in exercises like the squat and bench where a lot of spin is not needed.

Knurling

knurling on barbell

The knurling on a barbell is the rough texture that covers the sides and sometimes the center of the barbell. The purpose of a knurling is to provide the athlete with a secure and stable grip.

Another important purpose of knurling is to provide the athlete with the proper positioning on the barbell. If you look at a barbell, you will find a ring or two that can be useful for finding the right hand and body positioning.

Knurling should be medium and not aggressive so that it hurts your palm. When the palm is chalked, a medium knurl is preferred. Center knurls are good for powerlifting but not for other exercises like front squats and power clean as they can scratch the chin or back of the neck.

barbell knurling

Beginners: A standard knurl that is not too rough and rigid and is good for recreational athletes.

Intermediate/ Advanced: A moderate and more rigid knurling will benefit more advanced levels athletes. At this point, these athletes train in strength sports and they know what kind of support they will be getting with a bit more aggressive knurling.

Corrosion Resistant Coating

You want your barbell to last as long as possible which means you need to keep it free from rust. Here are some of the most common coating according to their effectiveness:

Black oxide: The bar is immersed in chemicals and finished off with a coat off oil. This coating is adequate but it requires a bit of maintenance.

Chrome: A slightly better coating is chrome, though it can easily chip off from the impact of the load. It also has a slippery feel and can loosen your grip. However, it offers superb rust protection and no maintenance.

Black/ Bright Zinc: The bar is dipped in zinc which gives it a dull silver color. Zinc has excellent corrosion resistant properties but the bar may lose its grip.

Manganese Phosphate: It has better corrosion resistant that black oxide and gives a smooth matte finish to the bar that improves grip. It also requires no maintenance.

Cerakote: This is a ceramic polymer coating that does not wear away. It also comes with a natural matte finish that helps with gripping the bar.

High Quality Stainless Steel: The best barbells are made of Japanese and European steel. Superior stainless steel bars do not rust and require no coating.


Home Gym Barbell FAQs

barbell exercises

Do I Need an Olympic Barbell?

If you are a beginner strength trainer and just starting to build a gym in your home, a standard barbell can work well for you. It is cheaper than an Olympic barbell and will get the job done nicely.

However, once you have trained enough that you can transition to heavier weights, your standard bar will not be enough.

If you start to add more and more weights, the bar will bend or will run out of room for additional plates. Also, since standard bars are typically shorter than Olympic bars, they may not fit your squat rack.

Additionally, beginner trainers may not require spin on their bars. But as they start to lift heavier lift, they will need spin to take the stress off their wrist and back.

When these things start to happen, you need to invest in an Olympic bar.

However, keep in mind that Olympic bars have two-inch thick shafts which means your standard plates will no longer fit. This means you will need to replace all your weights and this can result in a sizeable expense for you.

Therefore, it is much better for you to buy an Olympic barbell from the very beginning so you do not run into these issues.

How Much Does a Barbell Weigh?

Most barbells weigh 44 pounds. This is the standard weight for standard, Olympic and power lifting barbells. Of course, barbells can also be lighter as well as heavier. Heavier barbells are usually used in other heavy lifting niche like safety squat bars and deadlift bars.

Best Barbell Exercises

best barbell exercises

1. Barbell Back Squat

The barbell back squat is the king of lower body lifts. It helps build power and strength in your legs. 

  1. Set the barbell just below shoulder height on the rack. 
  2. Grip the barbell just outside shoulder-width. 
  3. Stand directly underneath the barbell and set your feet shoulder-width apart. 
  4. Pull your shoulder blades together then step underneath the barbell and rest it on your upper back. 
  5. Unrack the barbell and take three steps back to get into the starting position. 
  6. Take a deep breath in then engage your core and glutes. 
  7. Send your hips back and bend your knees to come into the squat position. 
  8. Your hips should be below your knees.
  9. Drive through your midfoot and push your hips forward to stand tall. 

2. Barbell Bench Press

The barbell bench press is an upper-body-focused lift helping you develop pushing power and strength in your chest. 

  1. Set the barbell approximately 2” below arm height at full extension. 
  2. Lay on the bench with your chin directly below the barbell. 
  3. Grip the barbell just outside shoulder-width. 
  4. Pull your shoulder blades together and engage your core.
  5. Drive your feet into the floor and squeeze your glutes.
  6. Lift the barbell off the rack and hold it over your chest.
  7. Bend your arms to lower the barbell to your chest.
  8. Pause for a second then push the barbell up to full extension. 

3. Barbell Deadlift

The deadlift involves lifting a weight from the ground to your hips. It’s a great exercise for building lower body strength and enforcing good posture. 

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart underneath the barbell. 
  2. Pull your shoulder blades together and engage your core and glutes. 
  3. Maintaining a neutral spine, push your hips back and bend the knees to grip the barbell. 
  4. Grip the bar with an overhand grip just outside shoulder-width.
  5. Your hips should be higher than your knees, and your back should remain flat. 
  6. Push through the floor to drive your hips forwards and extend your legs.
  7. At full extension pause briefly before slowly lowering back to the floor. 

4. Barbell Clean

The barbell clean involves the athlete moving the barbell from to floor to their shoulders in one continuous movement. It requires full-body strength and mobility as well as good technique.

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart underneath the barbell. 
  2. Pull your shoulder blades together and engage your core and glutes. 
  3. Maintaining a neutral spine, push your hips back and bend the knees to grip the barbell. 
  4. Grip the bar with a hook grip just outside shoulder-width.
  5. Your hips should be higher than your knees, and your back should remain flat. 
  6. Push through the floor to drive your hips forwards and extend your legs.
  7. After the bar has passed the knees, rapidly extend your hips.
  8. Extend onto your toes then shrug your shoulders to pull the bar up your torso. 
  9. Pull yourself under the barbell into a front squat position.
  10. Drive through your midfoot to return to standing.

5. Barbell Snatch

The barbell snatch is an Olympic lift whereby the athlete moves the barbell from to floor to overhead in one continuous movement. It requires full-body strength and mobility as well as good technique.

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart underneath the barbell.
  2. Pull your shoulder blades together and engage your core and glutes. 
  3. Maintaining a neutral spine, push your hips back and bend the knees to grip the barbell.
  4. Grip the bar with a wide hook grip.
  5. Your hips should be higher than your knees, and your back should remain flat. 
  6. Push through the floor to drive your hips forwards and extend your legs.
  7. After the bar has passed the knees, rapidly extend your hips.
  8. Extend onto your toes then shrug your shoulders to pull the bar up your torso. 
  9. Pull yourself under the barbell into an overhead squat position.
  10. Your arms should be fully extended and in line with your ears. 
  11. Drive through your midfoot to return to standing. 

6. Barbell Thruster

The thruster is a full-body exercise combining the front squat and overhead press. The thruster will also jack up your heart rate, making them a great cardio exercise too. 

  1. Set the barbell just below shoulder height on the rack. 
  2. Grip the barbell just outside shoulder-width. 
  3. Stand directly underneath the barbell and set your feet shoulder-width apart. 
  4. Pull your shoulder blades together then step underneath the barbell and rest it on the front of your shoulders. 
  5. Unrack the barbell and take three steps back to get into the starting position. 
  6. Take a deep breath in then engage your core and glutes. 
  7. Send your hips back and bend your knees to come into the squat position. 
  8. Your hips should be below your knees.
  9. Drive through your midfoot and push your hips forward to stand tall. 
  10. As you stand up, push the barbell overhead. 
  11. Pause briefly, then slowly lower back the shoulders.

7. Barbell Overhead Press 

The barbell overhead press is an upper-body focused lift helping you develop pushing power and strength in your shoulders. 

  1. Set the barbell just below shoulder height on the rack. 
  2. Grip the barbell just outside shoulder-width. 
  3. Stand directly underneath the barbell and set your feet shoulder-width apart. 
  4. Pull your shoulder blades together then step underneath the barbell and rest it on the front of your shoulders. 
  5. Unrack the barbell and take three steps back to get into the starting position. 
  6. Take a deep breath in then engage your core and glutes. 
  7. Push the barbell overhead to full extension. 
  8. Pause briefly, then slowly lower back the shoulders. 

WRAPPING UP

Every one of us has different weight goals and exercise preferences and we can find the perfect barbell for ourselves. However, before you run to a store and spend hundreds of dollars buying a barbell, some research is advised.

We hope that this guide will give you some insight on what are some of the good barbell in the market and what things you need to consider when buying them.

Happy lifting!

Leave a Reply

Home Gym Boss is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. We only recommend products we would use and all opinions expressed here are our own.