If you are just starting your home gym, one of the first things you need to purchase is a quality barbell. Naturally, the question will arise: How much is a barbell?
In reality, the price of a barbell depends on a number of things, such as its coating, grip, warranty, tensile strength, rotation system, and more. Combine all these factors with the large number of barbells on the market, and it can be very overwhelming to pick a barbell.
A quality multipurpose Olympic barbell will cost anywhere between $250 and $450.
In this guide, we will break down the cost of a barbell and give advice on what type of money you should expect to pay for a quality barbell for your home gym.
How Much Is A Barbell?
A quality multipurpose Olympic barbell will cost anywhere between $250 and $450. For most people, any bar in this range from a reputable brand will be more than enough for their needs. Higher-end barbells can easily cost over $700, but the added features will not make a difference to most home gym owners. Budget barbells can cost less than $200, but you will likely be making some sort of compromise at this price point.
How Much Should You Spend On A Barbell For Your Home Gym?
When it comes to building a home gym, I think that a barbell is one of those areas where you should not really try to save money. If you buy a cheaper bar, the compromises you will have to make will most likely be in the overall build quality and coating.
Should I Buy A Budget Barbell?
A poorly made, cheap bar with no oxidation resistance will eventually need replacing, no matter how much you care for it.
You also have to consider that, in your home gym, you will be touching and using your barbell in almost every session. To me, it would make sense to make this one of your better pieces of equipment considering the amount of use it will get.
Should I Buy A Premium Babrell?
It doesn’t make much sense to purchase a very expensive barbell either. Once you get into the premium price range ($600+), most of the features you are paying for will not make that big of a difference. Most of those barbells tend to be specially made for a specific purpose like powerlifting or weightlifting. Unless you are dedicated to one of these sports, it does not make sense to splash the cash on a competition-level bar.
Sure, those barbells are amazing in their own right. However, they will not perform any better than a quality bar you can get for less. At that point, you are really just paying for a luxury item as a status symbol.
Barbell Cost Factors
There are the main factors that influence barbell cost:
Type Of Barbell
The three main types of barbells are multipurpose bars, power bars, and Olympic weightlifting bars.
Multipurpose Barbells: These barbells tend to be the cheapest of the three options and what you will find in most home and commercial gyms. They can be used for essentially any lifting activity.
Powerlifting Barbells: Power bars tend to be more expensive, and thicker, use bushings, and have more aggressive knurling.
Olympic Weightlifting Barbells: Olympic bars tend to be more expensive, thinner, use bearings, and have a better whip.
You can find power bars and Olympic barbells for lower prices as well, but when the most expensive barbells are usually those that are built to competition standards for powerlifting or weightlifting.
The barbell finish refers to the coating (or lack thereof) that is placed on the barbell to protect it from rusting. These are the main finishes that you will find on a standard barbell:
Stainless Steel ($$$)
Black Oxide ($)
Bare Steel ($)
Generally, the finishes that are more resistant to oxidation will cost more. Stainless and cerakote are the most resistant finishes, so they tend to carry a premium. Likewise, cheaper finishes like black oxide and bare steel will be more vulnerable to oxidation.
You also have to keep in mind that the finish will impact how the barbell feels in your hands as well. Barbells that have no coating (like stainless steel or bare steel), will feel better since there is no additional material that shallows the depth of the knurling. Applied coatings like zinc or cerakote will tend to not have as good of a hand feel.
The finish or coating also applies to the sleeves as well. Oxidation on the sleeves doesn’t matter as much because they don’t get as dirty and don’t hold as much moisture and dirt. However, the finish still matters since the loading and removal of plates of weight plates can cause the sleeves to chip away. A good quality barbell will either have chrome or stainless steel sleeves.
The knurling on the bar is the pattern on the bar designed to increase friction to help grip. Knurling can vary in terms of pattern and depth. These are the main patterns:
Mountain: This pattern is essentially a bunch of small, pointed mountains. This is what you typically find in more aggressive knurling patterns and is what is used on most powerlifting barbells.
Hill: Hill knurling is a pattern of rounded or soft point mounds. You will see this most often on multi-purpose bars since the hill pattern can be used for higher reps/lighter weights with no pain. On budget bars, you will most commonly see hill knurling but it will likely lack depth and not assist that much with your grip.
Volcano: Volcano knurling is similar to mountain knurling, but it has the top point concaved in, creating four points of contact instead of one. Volcano knurling is generally considered the best form of knurling since it can assist with your grip without the pain of a pointed top digging into your skin. This type of knurling can be found on every type of barbell.
When it comes to knurling, knurlings that have proper depth and actually assist in your grip are going to cost more. The volcano pattern also tends to cost more because the manufacturing process is more expensive and because more people tend to prefer this option.
Whip refers to how much the bar bends and efficiently transfers force during more explosive lifting movements. As you can imagine, doing a clean or jerk is easier if you do not have an extremely rigid bar.
The whip itself is hard to quantify since there is no set standard for measuring it. However, the factors that influence weight are the steel used and the diameter of the bar. Thinner 28mm bars will have more whip than those with a thicker diameter
Getting a bar with a good whip comparable to that of competition Olympic weightlifting bars can be very expensive. Once you get into the higher levels of weightlifting, a good Olympic bar does actually make a diffrence.
Tensile strength refers to the amount of force required to literally break the bar. For most people, I think that this is a spec that if overrated since even the budget bars will be able to handle hundreds of pounds with little to no play.
However, the industry standard for a high-quality barbell is 190K PSI. Most of the barbells that we recommend meet this standard.
Once you get into powerlifting bars, those tend to have the higher tensile strength to create a more rigid bar.
If you are getting a quality barbell, the sleeves should spin independently from the shaft. This sleeve spin will occur either via bushings or bearings.
Bushings are the less expensive option and are found on the majority of power and multipurpose barbells. Bearings, on the other hand, are usually more complicated and cost more. They are usually found on Olympic weightlifting bars.
The benefit of bearings is that they create a faster and smoother spin that is often needed for the more dynamic Olympic lifting style.
Where It Was Made
Bars that are made in the United States or Canada will cost more than those that are imported overseas.
I would argue that some imported bars are similar in quality to those made in America. So it is up to decide whether supporting American manufacturing is worth the added cost.
What Features On A Barbell Are Worth It?
If you start shopping for barbells, you will every manufacturer advertise lots of features, but here are the ones that are actually worth it:
Stainless Steel Finish
In terms of bar finishes, stainless steel is the best by far. It is extremely corrosion-resistant and will have no impact on the feel of the bar. Sure, other finishes like cerakote can provide similar levels of corrosion resistance, but they will not have that same raw feel that you get with a stainless steel barbell.
If you get a stainless steel bar and do basic barbell maintenance every year or so, you will have a quality barbell that will literally last a lifetime.
Quality Volcano Knurling
There is a common misconception that if knurling hurts more, it is better or more effective. But that is just not true.
Quality knurling will assist in your grip without tearing through your hands. For this reason, I think spending the extra money to get a barbell with volcano knurling is worth it. The concave points mean that your hands have more points of contact, which results in more friction.
Since the force of the bar is spread out over more points, you will still get experience the grip benefits without hurting your hands. Since the pain is limited, you can effectively do high or low reps with no issues.
Solid Bushings In The Sleeve
For most home gym owners, I think that bars with bushings are the way to go. You will get some solid bar spin while also getting a rotation system that is cheaper and more durable.
If you do get a bushing bar, be sure to either get one that has bronze bushings or composite bushings. Both of these options are great and highly durable. The composite bushings, which were first made by American Barbell, are the best choice because they prevent metal from touching metal and last longer.
You should also look for bushings that are self-lubricating. This means that as the bar spins, the oil will be released to increase the lifespan and performance of the barbell.
I would stay away from brass or polymer bushings. These are usually seen in more budget bars and tend to deform and degrade over time.
Which Features On A Barbell Are Not Worth It?
Here are the features that tend to drive costs up but do not really do much. I would not recommend paying extra for these to the average home gym owner:
Bearings Instead Of Bushings
Bearings, especially needle bearings, can be significantly more expensive than barbells that use bushings. Premium bearings will indeed create a faster and smoother spin, but this is really needed or even optimal for most people. Unless you are a dedicated Olympic weightlifter, the bearings will be more of a hindrance than anything.
Since most people just do basic compound lifts, the excessive spin on the ends of the bar can cause it to feel unstable and even wobbly. The smooth, controlled spin of a bushing is better suited to more traditional styles of training.
Bearings also tend to be more complex since they have more moving parts. Any sort of maintenance or repair is going to be more expensive down the line as well.
Cerakote is a relatively new coating brought over from the firearm industry by American Barbell. I understand the appeal of cerakote. You can get all sorts of colors and designs while also getting a barbell that is highly corrosion-resistant.
For all of its merits, there are some downsides to cerakote as well. For one, the coating tends to chip away with use. So your initial color choice or design will not look as good over time. Also, since it is an applied coating, the feel of the bar will not be as good thanks to the shallow knurling depth.
Now, this would all be okay if it were not for the fact that cerakote is usually priced about the same as stainless steel. When given the options, I think the added durability and feel of the stainless steel make it the superior option by far.
Unless getting a special color is that important for you, just get the stainless steel option instead.
When it comes to choosing the barbell for your home gym, this is not a place to cheap out on. You can get a quality bar that lasts a lifetime for under $400, you just have to know what to look for. There are a few features, like stainless steel, that are actually worth it.
Do not feel pressured into spending a lot of money on a bar, most of the features you get above $400 will not make a big difference in your lifting experience.
Find The Best Barbell
After years of testing, we assembled a master list of the best barbells on the market for every home gym owner. Whether you are just starting out or looking to buy your tenth barbell, this guide will have you covered,
How much weight is on a barbell?
A standard barbell will weigh 20kh or 45lbs
Do the same standards apply to specialty bars?
For the most part, the same standards apply to specialty bars as well. Whether you are getting an EZ curl barbell or a trap bar, you still want to look at things like finish, build quality, etc.
Can I get a used barbell?
Of course. Finding a good barbell on the used market is a great option if you are trying to save money. Just look at the same factors we talked about here, watch out for rust, and be aware that the warranty will likely not transfer to you.
Are defective bars a good option?
Most barbell companies have sections where you can buy barbells that have some sort of cosmetic defect for a discount. It is a gamble, but most of these bars have minor flaws that will not matter for your training. If you can find the bar you want, this is a good weight to save money.
Should I get a bare steel bar?
Bare steel feels great in your hands. However, the oxidation resistance is just terrible. If you know that going in and can do your best to maintain it, then go ahead. However, a stainless steel bar will always be the holy grail.
What is the cheapest bar I could get?
If you really just want the cheapest bar that will still do well, the REP Fitness Sabre bar is a good option. We chose as our budget pick due to the decent build quality and low price.