Table of Contents
For 2020, we reassessed the barbells on the market including what we had on hand. Although there have been a lot of new options come to market, including Cerakote, Stainless Steel, as well as budget-friendly options, the Rogue Bar 2.0 is still the best value barbell for most people.
The Rogue Bar 2.0 is one of the most popular barbells in the world. Combining Rogue Fitness' attention to detail, outstanding customer service, and large manufacturing power, the Rogue Bar 2.0 can perform for nearly every movement or training style imaginable. Not too long ago a barbell featuring 190k PSI tensile strength steel, a bushing rotation system, and high-quality knurl with a lifetime warranty would have cost you nearly $1,000. Thankfully, due to the growth of home gym owners and the popularity of basic barbell training, there are now a seemingly endless amount of high-quality barbells for under $300. Although the Rogue Bar 2.0 is our current pick for the best Olympic Barbell for most people, there are many others worth considering.
If you'd rather not spend more than $200, although we'd suggest you do, the FringeSport Wonder Bar Olympic Barbell is a more than capable quality barbell from a company with an excellent reputation. The FringeSport Wonder Bar features 205k PSI tensile strength steel, a 28mm shaft, and a black zinc coating on both the shaft and sleeves.
Although we'll go into more detail on why The Rogue Bar 2.0 ranks above the Wonder Bar and others, the smaller 28mm shaft and black zinc coating on the sleeves are less than optimal for the majority of trainees. The Wonder Bar does feature a lifetime warranty and although we don't believe FringeSport is as capable of servicing warranties as Rogue Fitness, they are a company we trust. Put simply, for $200, the Wonder Bar from FringeSport is a good barbell.
The Ohio Bar and Rogue Bar 2.0 from Rogue Fitness are very similar bars. For this reason, we recommend the Rogue Bar 2.0 due to it's lower price point for what is essentially the same bar. However, if money is not a worry and you want a bar that will best withstand corrosion, we recommend the stainless steel version of The Ohio Bar from Rogue Fitness as a step above our top pick.
The majority of people do not need to spend $350 on a barbell and the benefits of stainless steel are not vastly superior to traditional barbell steel. This said, the corrosion resistance of stainless steel along with the superior knurling (due to no coating) are great to have if you're looking for a general purpose barbell and the increased cost is not an issue for you.
The Cap Barbell OB-86B is generally regarded as one of the best beginner barbells for under $200. Although the OB-86B lacks many of the features of our other picks such as a high quality knurl, minimum 190K PSI tensile strength steel, and lifetime warranties, for around $150 (it can often be had for less during sales), it's a pretty decent bar.
The Cap Barbell OB-86B features polished steel sleeves with a black oxide finished shaft. The knurling is a bit aggressive and the spin is mediocre, but it's what you'd expect for the price. Featuring nearly 500 Amazon Reviews with an overall rating of 4.5/5 stars, the OB-86B is a decent bar for personal use. We consider the OB-86B to be more in the beater bar category and if you don't want to damage your more expensive bars, this may be the perfect dedicated rack and landmine bar to supplement your barbell arsenal.
There are five physical characteristics of an Olympic Barbell that will cause distinctions between the wide array of bars available today. Those are:
The steel is the most important part of the bar and is more than just looks; it is the essence of the barbell. To determine the quality of steel used, two of the most telling specifications are the tensile strength and yield strength. Do not listen to anyone who tries to tell you that a bar is 1,000 pound test or 1,500 pound test. This is a made up fantasy designed to satisfy buyers limited amount of knowledge and is more often than not seen on very cheap bars.
Companies test the tensile and yield strength of the barbell steel through static and dynamic testing. To give a simple example, a static test would load an enormous amount of weight (upwards of a ton) on each side of the bar and then slowly take the weight off to see if the bar returns back to being straight. A dynamic test is much more telling and involves tracking how the bar bends when dropped with a certain amount of weight. There is much more variance in this sort of test than the static test between manufacturers.
All that being said, every bar will bend if handled improperly. I don't care if you're using a $1,000 Eleiko, if you drop it on a pin with 400 lbs, it's going to bend.
Every bar will bend if handled improperly. I don't care if you're using a $1,000 Eleiko, if you drop it on a pin with 400 lbs, it's going to bend.
The next characteristic of a bar is the knurling. Knurling is what allows your hands to grip to the bar, especially when combined with chalk. For most people, a medium knurling is best due to it being sticky enough to grip, yet smooth enough for comfort. Although there are great bars with more aggressive knurling, for the majority of training purposes, it's less than desired.
Spin is determined by the rotation system used in the barbell. There are two main types of rotation systems used in barbells today – a bushing system or a bearing system. Bearings will spin quicker overall, but they also cost more and will likely not stand up to abuse as well as bushings. For this reason, we recommend for the most people to purchase a barbell with a bushing system that either uses brass or nylon bushings. A bushing rotation system will provide a smoot and consistent spin that will require little maintenance and should last for many decades.
Whip is determined by the load on the bar, the materials used, the method of steel processing and the diameter of the shaft. For most people, some whip is desired for the occasional olympic lifts, but overall the bar should be relatively stiff. Due to this, the bars we recommend are going to be made of carbon steels and not molybdenum alloys.
Finally, the finish of the bar comes down to personal preference and the environment it will be used in. Although a raw steel bar is generally regarded as the best ‘feeling' barbell, it will oxidize quicker than if a finish was applied. For the price range we recommend, more often than not, the bar will feature a black oxide as it is middle of the road in terms of oxidation and is cheaper to apply than hard chrome.
To compile our list of barbells, we researched all of the major manufacturers as well as reaching out to industry experts and various forums such as r/homegym (quick plug: I'm a mod of this subreddit, so I suggest you subscribe.) In addition to this, we went to Garage Gym Reviews HQ to rank and test what we have on hand (around 20 bars currently.) After researching around 55 barbells worth your time and money, we narrowed it down to our top picks, all of which we acquired to test out in house.
There is an overwhelmingly large amount of barbells available for purchase today. Due to the various specializations of training, each category will have barbells that hit every price point from $100 all the way up to $1,000 plus. An Olympic Weightlifting Barbell cannot be compared to a Powerlifting Barbell or vice versa. Due to this, we stuck to barbells that were more situated toward general training. If you want to use these bars for Powerlifting, they're stiff enough to do so. If you want to use them for Olympic Weightlifting or CrossFit, go for it. The spin, knurl, and whip will work for the movements within those sports.
The bars we picked to test could all be considered great for general purpose training and at prices worth considering. Although there may be “better” bars at higher price points, the value proposition is not higher than the ones within this guide. Ultimately, after some deliberation, we narrowed down our specifications to the following list of features ordered in no particular order.
During testing, we performed all of the major barbell movements including squat, deadlift, bench, overhead press, clean and jerk, and snatch. We blind tested the feel of the knurling, observed the spin of the sleeves using a 25 lb bumper plate, weighed and measured the diameter of the shafts for accuracy, and tested the oxidation of the bars over 3 weeks while left in an often opened garage in the midwest. Finally, we asked for the opinion of others on what barbell they view to be the best value for the majority of trainees.
Of all the bars we tested, The Rogue Bar 2.0 had the best balance between quality and affordability. Every bar in this guide is a good value, but Rogue Fitness has been the innovator in this category for some time and the Rogue Bar 2.0 is a shining example of how great a barbell under $300 can be.
The Rogue Bar 2.0 was designed with the CrossFit Games in mind. In fact, the bar that has been most often seen and used in the CrossFit Games just so happens to be this exact bar. Whether you participate in a CrossFit style of training or not, it's hard to argue that CrossFit doesn't utilize a wide array of exercises, thus proving that the Rogue Bar 2.0 is great for general purpose training.
The first thing you notice when looking at the Rogue Bar 2.0 is the unique bands on the sleeves. First off, the bands have practically zero functionality in terms of protecting the bar. They are there for looks, and although unnecessary, they look pretty cool and can be interchanged with different colors. For gym owners, this is a great opportunity to produce your own bands and use your branding for a consistent look.
When you begin to look closer at the bar, you start to see how precise of an instrument it is; the knurling is a prime example of this. Rogue Fitness has invested more money in the tools designed to cut knurling than likely any company in the world. The reason for this is simple, Rogue is producing and selling more barbells than anyone else. In order to keep their reputation as an industry leader not only are they focusing on building new products, but also improving previous best sellers. The Rogue Bar 2.0 as you can see is the second iteration of Rogue's flagship general training bar. It is now made in the USA at Rogue's newest state of the art facility.
The knurling on the Rogue Bar 2.0 is exactly what you'd like out of a barbell that will be used in a jack of all trades manner. Aggressive enough to grip during max lifts, especially while using chalk, yet passive enough to prevent your hands from looking like they just went through a meat grinder. Rogue, at the request of many, has started to extend the knurling all the way to the sleeves of most all their barbells. The advantage of this for those with bad mobility or long arms is they can spread their hands out to the sleeves on movements like the snatch and still have grip.
The black zinc coating that covers the shaft of the Rogue 2.0 will continue to look great if oiled continually. If you're anything like me and don't enjoy doing much maintenance on your bars, then it will likely end up looking like the Rogue Ohio Bar I've been using for over 3 years.
All black zinc coating will fade over time, but it doesn't affect the performance of the bar. If you would like the bar to always look like the day it came, then we suggest choosing our upgrade pick, the Rogue SS Ohio Bar.
The sleeves of the Rogue 2.0 Bar are machined with the same attention to detail as the knurling. There is a slight ribbed pattern on the sleeves that provide both a great noise when plates are slid on as well as a grip. This allows the plates, whether bumpers or iron, to keep from sliding off during use (we also always recommend the use of collars.)
If you go through Rogue's barbell library, you'll likely see a very similar bar known as the Rogue Ohio Bar. This bar is essentially the same as the Rogue 2.0 except with different bushings. The Rogue Ohio Bar uses bronze while our top pick uses composite bushings. We were unable to notice any difference between the two in our testing in regards to spin both without and with load. We've also been unable to notice any differences in the long-term durability of composite vs. bronze. However, composite bushings are self lubricating and are used for much more important matters than lifting weights in your garage. Things like getting astronauts to space.
The spin of the bar is consistent and reliable; it does not spin like an Eleiko, but it's also about $700 less. I never had the thought while testing the Rogue 2.0 that "I wish this bar had more spin" and I don't think you will either.
One of the standout features of the Rogue 2.0 Bar that you hopefully won't ever have to use is the lifetime warranty. Rogue is known for their outstanding customer service, and if your bar should ever malfunction or take a turn that is less than straight, they will help you solve the problem.
If you want something more affordable and don't mind black zinc sleeves, we also like the FringeSport Wonder Bar. Unlike our top pick, the Wonder Bar comes with black zinc coated sleeves, a slightly smaller 28mm shaft listed at 205,000 PSI tensile strength, and bronze bushings. The Wonder Bar also features one of the most well done end caps out of any barbell we tested (this isn't a very high bar considering nearly most companies at this price point use stickers.) Overall, the Wonder Bar is a well-constructed bar from a company with a reputation for making good equipment at great prices.
Despite the low price and great features, the Wonder Bar from FringeSport does not beat the Rogue Bar 2.0 overall.
One of the standout features of the Wonder Bar is the tensile strength which is listed at 205,000 PSI. The fact that you can purchase a barbell for $200 with a tensile strength over 200,000 PSI reflects the current state of the barbell industry: an arms race to have the cheapest bar with the highest tensile strength. Let me remind you that a higher tensile strength does not equate to a "better" barbell. Although a bar with higher tensile strength will often be stronger, it's also often stiffer.
The Wonder Bar is rated as being "stiff" while the Rogue 2.0 is said to have a "good whip." This isn't definitive and most people will never experience whip that is advantageous due to not being strong enough, but based upon the PSI of the bars and the companies ratings, the Rogue likely a has better whip. No matter what, neither I nor anyone else has really been able to quantify whip, and until that time, perceived whip shouldn't play a huge factor in deciding what barbell to purchase.
One feature of the Wonder Bar that is a drawback compared to the Rogue 2.0 Bar is the black zinc coating on the sleeves. Although black zinc is a fine coating for the shaft of a bar, the sleeves experience much more abuse, and after only a few sessions you'll start to notice ugly marks on the sleeves.
One other reason we listed the Wonder Bar from FringeSport as a runner-up is due to the shaft diameter of 28mm. This is the standard shaft diameter for barbells used in Olympic Weightlifting, but for general training we believe this is too thin for most people. If you have small hands, you may like the 28mm shaft, but 28.5 seems to feel better for most applications outside of the classic lifts.
While we think most people will best off with our top pick, the Rogue Bar 2.0; if you're interested primarily in corrosion resistance and the feel of the knurling--and willing to pay significantly more for it--we recommend the Rogue Ohio Bar - Stainless Steel. The Rogue Ohio Bar was at one time the flagship barbell for Rogue Fitness. It was made in the USA and featured the best steel and components that Rogue offered at a great price. The Rogue Bar 2.0 has since taken pretty much everything the Ohio Bar has, sans bronze bushings, and is at a lower price.
The Rogue Ohio Bar - Stainless Steel barbell features one of the most coveted steels available--stainless steel. Stainless steel is an excellent choice for barbell steel due to its ability to resist corrosion while offering the feeling of a raw steel bar. It's honestly the best of both worlds, and if you don't mind paying extra, it's worth the extra cost.
The SS Ohio Bar features the same knurling and build quality as the Rogue Bar 2.0 along with the industries best warranty. Although the knurling is technically the same as the standard Ohio Bar and Rogue Bar 2.0, it will feel more aggressive due to their being no coating applied after the knurl is cut. If you've never used a raw steel bar, you're in for a treat. It's truly the best a barbell will feel, although you have to determine if the increased cost is worth it for a better feel and corrosion resistance.
If you want a decent barbell for a bargain price and are willing to sacrifice a higher tensile strength and overall quality, the Cap Barbell OB-86B is pretty remarkable for its low price and no-frills performance.
For many people, the Cap OB-86B is the ultimate beater bar. You can use it in just about any situation imaginable without much worry for damage. In fact, at Garage Gym Reviews HQ it's most often used in the rack and in a landmine. Although the knurling may get worn and the sleeves may get marked, it still continues to perform when we need it too.
The Cap OB-86B features a tensile strength of 130K PSI. This is by far the lowest tensile strength rating out of any of the barbells recommended, but it's priced accordingly. Also, although the tensile strength may look very low, for most reading this, it's more than adequate for getting the job done. The OB-86B also features a bushing spin system, however, instead of bronze or composite bushings, Cap has decided to use the thrifty, low-performance option-- steel bushings.
Steel bushings will require constant lubrication as they're not self-lubricating, and the spin will be pretty mediocre. This said, the spin will undoubtedly be better than some of the other bars in this price range that are pinned. The sleeve length is also shorter than other bars in this comparison, and you need to be wary of the damage incurred during shipment as Cap tends to use cheap, thin cardboard tubes to deliver their bars.
Although the bar does feature quite a few negatives, it certainly will still get the job done. The coating used is much better than the cheap chrome most bars at this price point employ, and the knurling is actually pretty great; slightly aggressive, but not overly so.
If you want a great beginner bar that in all reality will never need to be upgraded from, this is a great choice. Also, if you're looking for a second bar to keep your main bar from getting damaged during different exercises, then we recommend this based on the price.
Rogue Ohio Bar - Cerakote: Cerakote is an incredible coating for barbells. Not only does it look awesome thanks to the vibrant colors that can be applied, but it's very durable and resistant to oxidation that occurs so often in a garage gym. Despite this, although we have many bars coated in Cerakote, for most people, it's not necessary. If you like the colors and want the extra protection against rust, then by all means we recommend them, but most people are looking for the best bang for the buck, and these don't meet that standard as well as our other recommendations.
American Barbell Training Bar: This all-purpose barbell is a great performer. Although our first impressions of the bar were outstanding, it hasn't faired as well over time. The bar has developed surface rust and despite the bar employing composite bushings is one of the slowest spinning barbells we tested (our hypothesis is that too much grease is packed in the sleeve.) We're big fans of American Barbell, their innovation, and attention to detail, but the Training Bar and California Bar are too expensive for the features offered to make our top picks when compared. That said, we're always excited to see what they come out with next and be looking out for their power bar to make the top
Vulcan Strength Standard Bushing Barbell: Vulcan is producing some outstanding equipment, but the bar that we tested features a bright zinc finish that hasn't fared too well against the elements. It spins decently and isn't overpriced, but its lack of corrosion resistance kept it from being in our top picks.
FringeSport Hybrid Barbell: We're actually big fans of this bar. It's very similar to the Chan Bar from Rogue, although it's imported. For the price though, we prefer the Rogue Bar 2.0 and FringeSports more budget-friendly Wonder Bar.
FringeSport Bomba Barbell: Although FringeSport's lower-priced barbell made it into our top picks, the Bomba Barbell has similar features but with a higher price tag. It's a great bar, just not worth the extra cost in our opinion.
FringeSport Wonder Bar Stainless Steel Barbell: A stainless barbell for $300 is pretty impressive, however, we prefer the specs and knurling on the Rogue Ohio Bar SS.
FringeSport CeraColt Cerakote Olympic Barbell: A great bar at a great price, but still more expensive than our other picks.
Rogue Ohio Bar: The standard Ohio Bar is a great barbell, but not worth the extra cost over the Rogue Bar 2.0.
Rogue B&R Bar 2.0: The B&R 2.0 Bar from Rogue Fitness came very close to being in our top picks, but due to the slightly thicker shaft, cost, and more of a powerlifting focus it did not make it. That said, if you don't really desire whip, enjoy a thicker barbell, and don't mind providing extra maintenance to a raw steel bar, then the B&R 2.0 is a great choice.
Rogue Chan Bar: The Chan Bar by Rogue Fitness was another bar that barely made it off our top picks list. Featuring some innovative ideas like a light center knurl and an increased distance between the outer knurling, the Chan Bar is pretty unique. Unfortunately, Rogue no longer offers the bar in different finishes and charges extra for nothing that really costs them extra; the Chan Bar will have to remain an honorable mention (we still love you, Matt!)
Rogue Ohio Power Bar: The Rogue Ohio Bar is an outstanding barbell, especially if you focus on the big 3 (squat, deadlift, bench) but due to this guide being for the majority of people, the Ohio Power Bar will remain an honorable mention. However, it was chosen as our Top Pick for the Best Powerlifting Barbell that you can find here.
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