Building a home gym is one of the smartest moves you can make, not only for your health, but for your finances as well–the average gym goer spends $800 on their gym membership…every… single…year.
Coupled with covid-19 forcing people to stay indoors and away from gyms, it’s never been a better time to start working on setting up your ideal home gym.
And what does every great home gym need–a high-quality barbell.
Fundamental to any gym is the barbell. Unfortunately, not all barbells are the same.
The vast majority of people won’t understand the differences between barbells, but in this guide to the best barbells for your home gym, we’re going to look at the features of different types of bars and give you a low down on what to expect.
At the time of writing, I personally own nearly 50 barbells, bought for a range of uses. I’m going to pass on some barbell knowledge so you make the right choice when it comes to barbells for your home gym.
Below, you’ll find important details to look for when purchasing a barbell (I highly recommend reading it first), detailed reviews of the 4 best barbells money can buy, and answers to the most common barbell questions I’ve been asked over the years.
For those who want a quick overview, below is our comparison table:
Below, you’ll find barbells that are perfect for a home gym setup–something that you could use for weightlifting, bodybuilding, powerlifting and/or crossfit.
Bars will be assessed a similar set of criteria such as price, build quality, versatility and features and an opinion given on each one, including who it is best for.
I guarantee that after reading this article, you will find a barbell in your price range that is perfect for your home gym.
The Rogue Ohio bar in the stainless steel construction is my number 1 pick for home gym barbells. It’s not the cheapest bar I’ll be reviewing today, but my job here is to tell you the best bars, not the cheapest.
When comparing cost, construction, functionality, durability and versatility, for me it has got to be the Rogue Ohio in stainless steel.
The stainless steel version of the Ohio bar is the strongest of them all at 200K PSI. It’s the hardest-wearing in terms of oxidation, so it’ll last longer.
It’s also the perfect blend of whip and stiffness, which makes it suitable for both powerlifting, bodybuilding and weightlifting. It’s a true hybrid–it’s effectively multiple bars in one.
The knurling is suitable for both explosive lifts and higher rep work. The barbell is dual marked for both powerlifting and weightlifting.
With a lifetime warranty, an upper mid-range price point and true versatility, the Rogue Ohio is the perfect barbell for a home gym–and the reviews speak for themselves (676 reviews and 4.9 avg rating).
The Verdict: The Rogue Ohio Bar is perfect for those wanting the best quality bar at a decent price point. This one’s great for anyone, but I specifically recommend it for crossfitters or those who like to mix up their lifting approaches.
You’d be forgiven for thinking we’re some kind of Rogue fan club here–the top two spots have gone to their bars. In reality, we’re just giving credit where it’s due.
Rogue makes some fantastic barbells and sells them at great prices. The Rogue Bar is arguably their most famous and this one is their updated version, which is better still.
It’s a barbell synonymous with crossfit, and it is built to withstand the high rep weightlifting associated with the sport. Updates on the original include 190K PSI steel and composite bushings, which are self-lubricating and more able to withstand the high-rep nature of CrossFit. There are also customisable band options on the sleeves, but in truth these are cosmetic rather than functional.
Overall the Rogue 2.0 has taken an already fantastic bar and enhanced it further. It already has a huge worldwide fan club and the updates won’t do its reputation any harm at all.
It was only beaten into second place because it’s slightly behind Ohio in terms of durability and versatility–it’s a bar designed more for CrossFit rather than general use.
For the price though, you’ll really struggle to find a better value bar. Lifetime warranty as standard, and has solid reviews.
The Verdict: If you are crossfitter looking for a barbell at an affordable cost, this is the one you want.
When it comes to a combination of quality and price, the Rep Fitness Gladiator MX is a tough bar to beat. It’s cheaper than many of its competitors but easily matches them for features and build quality. It’s a simple, but stylish design that deserves a lot of respect.
It’s a strong bar at 230K PSI and stiffer than the Rogue Ohio, perhaps making it more of a bodybuilding/powerlifting bar. That being said, there is a little whip, making it versatile enough for most types of training.
It also boasts five needle bearings at each end, making it a high-spinning bar that helps boost its usability for weightlifting. This feature in particular is interesting because it’s usually found in bars at much higher price points.
The Gladiator may not be an obvious choice, but for the price, it’s a very, very good bar and is worthy of your consideration. If you’re looking for a bar that is high spinning yet retains its stiffness, this is the choice for you.
And we’re not the only ones who think so–it has nearly a perfect 5-star rating:
**Note: Five year warranty on general use of the bar.
Verdict: If you’re looking for an affordable bar, that doesn’t compromise on quality, I love this option from Rep Fitness. It has high-end features, solid reviews, and comes at an excellent price point.
If you’re on a tighter budget, but still want a good quality barbell, take a look at the Titan Fitness Atlas Bar. It’s the cheapest bar we’re reviewing here, but don’t let that put you off because it’s still a great bar with great versatility.
The bar has been tested to 220K PSI, so is a strong and stable construction.
Despite this, it retains enough whip to cope with the Olympic lifts, so ticks a number of boxes. Whilst it lacks the finesse and the precision engineering of the Rogue Bars, it’s still much better than most of the others on the market and comes in at a great budget price point for the quality.
The bar has a medium knurl, is dual marked for powerlifting and Olympic lifting–plus it’s finished in stainless steel to give it that long-lasting quality.
The spin is both fast and regular thanks to a unique combination of bushing and bearing, meaning it’ll out-spin bars at a far higher price point.
Despite the price–with 41+ reviews and a near perfect rating–don’t think of this as a cheap, poor quality option–it’s a brilliant bar, beaten into 4th only by excellent quality bars at higher price points.
**It comes with a year long warranty and free shipping. With a longer warranty, this could easily have been a joint third spot.
The Verdict: If you’re looking for a decent bar at a great price point, this is the one you want. The Atlas Bar provides more than enough quality for most home gyms at a price you can’t beat.
If I’ve just blown your mind with the revelation that there are different types of barbells, I feel it’s only fair that I explain what I mean. Here are the fundamental differences in the bars on the market.
For the avoidance of doubt, this guide relates to standard barbells–there are of course variations (Hex Bar, EZ Bar, Axel etc), but in this guide we’re talking about standard barbells.
Broadly speaking there are two sizes of barbell–the men’s 7.2’ which weighs 20kg (44lbs) and the women’s 6’6” which weighs 15kg (33lbs).
They’re also different thicknesses–the men’s bar is 27-28mm in diameter and the women’s bar is 25mm diameter. For both bars there is a 48-50mm (2 inch) sleeve where the bumper plates are loaded.
The men’s bar has knurling (see later) on the ends and (sometimes) in the center, whereas the women’s bar doesn’t have the centre knurling.
Bars are load tested and assigned a tensile strength, which will usually be recorded as PSI. For most lifters, you should avoid anything below 170K PSI and be shooting for 190K PSI and above. You can do this at most price points – even budget bars will usually post a 180K PSI rating.
If you’re particularly strong and looking for a bar that will take your powerlifting to a next level, I’d suggest you don’t look at anything below 200K PSI.
The different types of barbells have unique characteristics, one of which is the ‘whip’. This is how much flexibility the bar has – typically bars used for Olympic Weightlifting have more whip, whereas powerlifting bars are much stiffer. The type of lifting you do will help you to decide on how much whip you need.
See the video below and watch how the bar bends during the clean. Weightlifting bars allow this and if you’re using your bar for weightlifting you should be looking at a bar with a good degree of flexibility.
This is the ‘grip’ on the bar and there are different types. You can have coarse knurling, soft knurling, fine knurling, deep knurling – it’ll be called different things by different companies. The deeper and sharper the knurling, the better grip you can get on the bar, but the more it can hurt! If you’re all about your 1 rep maxes, this is important. If you’re more bothered about higher rep work and don’t want to wait for your soft hands to adapt to sharp knurling, buy a bar with softer, shallower knurling!
Knurling has to be cleaned regularly to dislodge chalk and grime that can be trapped in the grooves, so bear that in mind as well!
You’ll notice that some barbells are chrome, some are steel and others have a coated finish that makes them a different color. This is designed to protect the barbell and is something you have to consider depending on your training environment and your attitude to kit.
The purists in powerlifting circles like a raw steel bar, but the reality is unless you look after it well it’s going to rust pretty quickly when exposed to sweat and water. If you live by the coast, the salty air is likely to exaggerate this problem.
Some bars are finished in chrome, which can look good but chip away. Others are oxidised as protection and this seems to work well. Bear in mind, in elite Powerlifting competitions chrome shafts aren’t allowed, so if you’re buying a bar for comp prep bear this in mind. In reality though, all finishes are fine if looked after well. Stainless steel is the hardest-wearing of all.
I’ve put this last because it’s the final thing you should consider–how quickly and smoothly the sleeves rotate. If you’re performing the olympic lifts, you HAVE to have a smoothly-spinning bar.
The rotating sleeves help to offset the effects of the centrifugal force in the plates when you perform the clean or snatch, which reduces the impact forces on your joints and lessens injury risk.
The spinning will be determined by the quality of bushings or bearings used in the barbell’s construction. Bushings are single-piece rings that sit between the bar shaft and sleeves.
They are very smooth and allow the sleeves to rotate easily. They’re hard wearing and tend to be cheaper than bearings.
Bearings are in the form of rings or ball bearings, sitting between the shaft and sleeve. This technology generally allows for a faster, smoother spin but is less durable as a result, and more expensive. You’ll usually find this in the higher price points.
The choice is endless, so how do you go about picking the best barbell for your home gym? Here’s a quick and simple guide:
If you’re a powerlifter, you’ll want a stiff bar. Anything with too much whip will be a problem. You’re also not bothered about fast-spinning sleeves.
If you’re a weightlifter/crossfitter, you’ll need more whip and fast-spinning sleeves. If you do all of the above, you’ll need a mixture–but be prepared to pay for it.
If you live in a wet, coastal or cold area, you should probably opt for a stainless steel bar because it’s more corrosion-resistant. If you’re willing to look after the bar a little more you can get away with a different coating that might save you some money.
Whilst the temptation is to go for cheaper, there’s generally a reason the bars are cheap. You’ll get a great barbell for $220-$350 if you know what you’re looking for and thanks to this guide, you do!
The old adage says that if you buy cheap, you buy twice. I’ve recommended the Rogue Ohio here because it’s a fantastic quality barbell that can be used for any type of training, plus it’s built to last. You won’t be replacing this bar any time soon.
It’s the only bar you’ll likely ever need. For $350 it’s not cheap, but it’s an excellent item that offers you more versatility than any other bar on the market.
If you can’t afford the Ohio, and are looking for a quality, budget option, the Atlas barbell from Titan is your best bet.
The barbell is arguably the most important part of the gym–it’s what you spend the most time using so it’s a decision you want to get right. Use the information in this guide and choose wisely.