Barbell Types And Choosing The Right Bar For Your Needs

Barbell Types Explained - Pros And Cons
Photo Credit: Garage Gym Products

If you’re new to the world of weightlifting and you’ve been researching barbell options, there’s a good chance you’ve come across several different types of bars. Each barbell type offers there own unique advantages and disadvantages. From a training bar to 1″ barbells, Olympic Bars, All-Purpose Bars, and Power Bars, let’s dive into what each bar offers and why you may be using the wrong bar for your specific needs.

1″ Barbell

Cap 1-Inch Barbell
Photo Credit: CAP

The 1″ Barbell is what you’ll often find as a cheaper option in a home gym setting.

These barbells can vary in their overall form factor which means there isn’t necessarily a standardized knurling pattern or an aggressiveness standard for that knurling. We’ve seen shafts covered in knurling and others with knurling only located towards both ends of the barbell shaft.

1″ barbells do not rely on the type of high-end bushing that helps all-purpose, Olympic, and powerlifting bars spin. For this reason we don’t recommend these bars due to a lack of assistance during heavier lifts.

A 1″ bar will also vary in the amount of whip that the bar provides. Typically, we are not overly worried about whip because these bars are not really meant for heavy lifts that rely on the additional help of a good barbell whip.

If you want to save your elbows and wrists, you’ll want a bar with some decent whip and spin.

With that being said, the bar is fine for deadlifting, bench presses, and other standard movements at lighter weights, typically at no more than 250-pounds.

As their name suggests, these bars also feature a smaller 1″ diameter (25.6mm) shaft. In comparison Oly, All-Purpose, and Power Bars range in diameter from 28mm to 29mm.

The bars, because they hold less weight, also tend to be shorter than higher-end bars. For example, this Cap 1″ barbell is just 60″ in length, which is compared to standard 82-88″ Oly, All-Purpose, and Power Bars. The smaller size and weaker composition also leads to a 1″ bar typically weighing in between just 14 to 20 pounds.

One of our biggest complaints with these bars is that they use a 1″ weight plate which isn’t compatible with the other barbells on our list. In comparison, higher-end bars will use weight plates that feature a collar opening of 50.6mm (~ 1.99-inches). We’re also not a fan of the non-standard “between collar” sizes which usually range from 36-inches to 52-inches.

The Technique Barbell

Valor Technique Barbell
Photo By: Valor Fitness

The technique barbell a lightweight option that’s best used for bicep curls, military presses, and other lower-weight Oly and powerlifting movements.

Technique bars typically weigh less than other barbells, coming in between 15-30 pounds.

Because the technique barbell is meant to prepare you for other bars, it features a width of around 28 to 28.5mm on average. This will allow you to grab a higher-end bar down the road and feel comfortable with your choice.

Training bars, despite weighing less than top-rated barbells, are still typically able to hold between 100 to 150 pounds. With that being said, the weight chosen is best left on the lower side to avoid permanent bending of the bar.

We personally love technique bars for testing out new maneuvers and for anyone who is new to lifting and testing the waters. Check out this $150 option from Valor Fitness to gain a better understanding of what these bars entail.

By the way, they are also great for rehabbing after injuries since they allow for a lower starting weight range.

If you’re curious as to why a technique bar is worth the investment, take this fact into consideration, it can easily take several years to fully master clean and jerks and other CrossFit type maneuvers. Starting with a lighter weight and working on technique will not only help you excel but can almost ensure that you don’t injure yourself. We even use this bar when we feel our technique slipping and want to work on corrections.

Olympic Barbell

Titan Blues City Olympic Barbell
Photo Credit: Titan Fitness

Olympic Barbells normally weigh in at 20KG or 45 pounds and feature a smaller 28mm grip. The diameter on the bars makes them specifically perfect for several types of Olympic lifts; the clean and jerk, push press, and the snatch.

With an olympic bar you are typically able to pull loads of at least 500 pounds without any permanent bending issues. We suggest not purchasing an Olympic bar that has less than a 190,000 PSI tensile strength.

One thing you’ll notice on most Oly bars is that the knurling marks are a couple inches farther out from center than the markings you’ll find on a power bar.

The Olympic Barbell is typically among the bars with the most amount of whip. Barbell whip provides higher displacement of power which is important when throwing a bar over your head and engaging in other dynamic movements.

Oly bars tend to feature high-end bushings or bearings that deliver excellent spin. Spin is specifically important for weight lifting because it reduces the inertia of weight plates when lifting. Higher and smoother rates of spin lead to smoother lifting experiences while reducing injury that is common in elbows and wrists.

Here’s a great example of an Olympic barbell from Titan Fitness.

Multi-Purpose (Dual-Marked) Bars

Rogue Fitness: The Ohio Bar in Red Cerakote Finish
Photo by: Rogue Fitness

The multi-purpose bar is the most commonly used barbell in our own garage gym testing facility. These bars are typically a middle-man between Olympic Bars and Power Bars.

We love the Rogue Ohio Bar and Rogue Bar 2.0 which both feature a 28.5mm diameter shaft, decent whip, and excellent spin, all for under $300.

Just like olympic bars we suggest a tensile strength of at least 190,000.

Multi-purpose bars are also known as dual-marked weightlifting bars because they feature two sets of markings on their knurling. The markings help set up for Olympic-type lifts and power lifts at lower weights.

The knurling on these bars tends to be of a medium-aggressive nature. You’ll have a solid hold on your bar but it won’t cut into your hands like a power barbell. If you are lifting heavy and slow this is a good bar. If you move up in weight class, you’ll want to check out our final barbell, the power bar.

Power Barbell

Rep Stainless Steel Power Bar V2
Photo Credit: Rep Fitness

If you’re lifting heavy weights with the bench press, squat, or deadlift, you’ll likely want to consider power bar.

The power bar features a more aggressive knurling, the type of knurling that will cut into your hands. The aggressive knurling is needed to provide a stronger grip at heavier weights.

A true power bar will always have a center knurling which isn’t common on many other bars.

The Power Bar also features a 29mm diameter shaft which added another level of stiffness to the bar. The bar needs the extra diameter so it can hold larger weight loads.

You won’t find the spin of an Oly bar or All-Purpose bar on power bars because spin isn’t as necessary. For this reason, you will typically find bushings within the collars since they don’t provide the highest spin available.

Power bars are sold as 20kg or 45-pound bars. While there are lower weighted all-purpose bars for women, the power bar stands as a singular bar for all weightlifters.

The Rep Fitness Stainless Steel Power Bar V2 is a great example for this type of barbell.

Because power bars are built to carry the heaviest of loads, we suggest at least a 200,000 PSI tensile strength.

Barbells are not one size fits all and you should take extra care when choosing the right bar for your needs. If you still have questions, hit us up using the contact button in the bottom corner of our website. We’re always happy to help!

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Written by James Kosur

James is a 20-year veteran of the digital media industry, an avid gym builder, and a dad to four kids, three dogs, and two cats. He's a DIYer who loves building stuff with his hands and a gamer who enjoys all facets of gaming.