The Best Multi-Purpose Barbells For Most People

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

A multi-purpose or “general purpose” barbell is exactly what the name sounds like, a barbell that can be used for various exercises and exercise-types in the gym.

Whether you want to deadlift, squat, clean, jerk, curl, snatch, perform Romanian deadlifts, or anything in-between, a multi-purpose barbell will help you reach your goals.

While you may require a Power Bar for heavier weights or a specialty bar for squats (especially with shoulder issues), these bars are a great starting point for most people.

When we examine the top-rated multi-purpose barbells we look for a few must-have features.

  • They must have decent knurling (Not to light or heavy).
  • The barbell needs knurl markings for consistent grip points.
  • A good whip at heavier weights is a big plus
  • Sleeves that offer a moderate to high spin.
  • A decent finish that will last in a garage gym setting.
  • A relatively good tensile strength of at least 190K.
  • Easy maintenance (preferably with snap rings but this is not always required).

Barbell Knurling

The knurling is a big factor when choosing this type of barbell for our home gym. We like a medium-knurl for several reasons. First, it allows us to maintain a fairly strong grip during lighter weighted deadlifts. Second, we don’t lose track of the bar during jerk presses, clean and snatches, and other movements that are not as static in nature.

The bar shaft knurling for multi-purpose barbells is also accompanied by dual knurl marks. These markings help us set up for the perfect lifts every time whether we’re focused on powerlifting, Olympic lifts, or Crossfit movements.

Whip And Spin Is Hugely Important

Whip is hugely important when it comes to this type of barbell. Experienced lifters incorporate the bounce from the bar’s whip to move the bar off the chest while the bend coming upward helps push the bar into the jerk position.

The bar’s whip also helps propel the weight upward, offering additional assistance throughout the entire movement.

While whip is important, it can actually hinder heavier deadlifts and other movements and that’s why we only recommend this type of barbell at lower weights. If you need to jump up to heavier lifts a powerlifting bar is the way to go.

Spin is also important and is aided by the bearings used with the bar. A higher rate of spin helps reduce the force produced by the inertia of weight plates. If your plates are providing a good amount of spin it can greatly reduce pain and injury to your wrists and elbows.

We have to note that when it comes to composite bushing versus bronze bushings we don’t have a big preference. We’ve gone back and forth on this issue with other experts and the different is negligible in our opinion. One thing we will say is that composite plastic bushings have been proven to deliver better performance over time than oil-impregnated bronze bushings.

Engineered composite plastic bushings have been proven to deliver a longer service life than oil-impregnated sintered bronze bearings

Multi-Purpose Barbell Finishes

The shaft and sleeves of barbells can be coated in various different finishes. Bare steel barbells are the hardest to maintain while stainless steel and cerakote finishes are considered high-end options that are the most likely to withstand the test of time.

While we routinely rate barbells with Cerakote and Stainless Steel finishes higher than other bars, that typically comes down to the fact that high-end bars are the most likely to utilize those finishes.

Multi-Purpose Barbell Tensile Strength

The tensile strength of a barbell is measured in PSIs or pounds per square inch. The stronger the tensile strength the less bend you’ll have in your bar at higher weights. A stronger bar also means less whip. Because these bars need to provide good spin and whip for various uses, we typically find a PSI of around 190,000 to be standard on the bars.

While there’s a standard PSI, keep in mind that cheaper bars may feature a lower tensile strength and therefore be able to support less weight on the bar.

Our multi-purpose barbell ratings shown above will continue to auto-adjust as we add more barbells and with help from our readers whose aggregated reviews auto-adjust our current ratings.

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.