This is the best all-around bar for the price. It's a big step in quality above an economy bar, and it's a great choice if you want a good bar but have a hard time with a $300 price tag.
Every part of the bar is surprisingly well made. A grippy black oxide shaft, nice spin on the sleeves, and good flex characteristics to handle moderately heavy weight. You can drop it with bumpers or use it for bodybuilding exercises.
Can you find a stronger bar? Sure. But do you really need one? Try this one out and odds are you're going to be glad you did.
You can also just contact us and we'll figure out what you need.
Any of these 7ft bars can be called an “olympic” bar, as they have 2” diameter sleeves (actually 1 31/32”) to take olympic plates, but there is a difference between an Olympic Weightlifting Bar and a Powerlifting Bar.
Economy Bars – The cheap ones. Made in China. Not very strong. Good enough for beginner or casual lifting at home. They may bend or break if you drop them hard on the floor or rack. The easy way to tell if it’s a cheap bar is the sleeve is bolted on as shown at right. The allen bolt often loosens and can break or bend if the bar is dropped.
High Quality Bars – The below two categories are bars are made from higher tensile strength steel. The sleeves are secured with an external pin or internal snap ring (either is good) rather than the bolt of an economy bar that may come loose or break. They are often USA-made.
Powerlifting Bars – Most medium to high quality bars you’ll see. Also called "power bars," these are good choices for bodybuilding, powerlifting or general weight training for most other purposes. As far as powerlifting goes, the squat, deadlift and bench press are the competition lifts, and these bars tend to be pretty stiff to facilitate those three exercises. Some bars have a black oxide finish to be very grippy, but zinc is common too and still pretty grippy. The knurling is medium to deep. Center knurling is sometimes added to keep the bar from slipping during heavy squats. A 29mm shaft is the official powerlifting size. 28mm can be good, but the steel has to be very good to be that thin and still handle heavy squats. A thicker 30-32mm allows the bar to be made of a lesser steel and still hold up to heavy squats, and a thicker bar may even feel better on your shoulders, but these thicker bars are harder to hold onto for deadlifts. The finger guide marks are positioned narrower than for weightlifting lifts (see below). But some powerlifting bars have features that make them good for weightlifting, and they’re priced lower than weightlifting bars, so many CrossFit athletes are happy with these.
Weightlifting Bars – Weightlifting is the Olympic Games sport and also part of Crossfit. It involves two exercises, the snatch and the clean-and-jerk. These bars are made to be springy at high loads to facilitate explosiveness, prevent a high shock load for the lifter, and absorb the shock of being dropped. Most of the springiness only comes into play at very heavy weights. The tensile strength (PSI) is lower than powerlifting bars so that it remains springy. They have a 28mm or 28.5mm shaft, chrome or zinc finish, medium knurling, and no center knurling so that you don’t scratch your neck during cleans. The finger guide marks are set wider than powerlifting bars, and the knurling extends to the near the end of the shaft unlike some powerlifting bars. Competition level bars use needle bearings in the sleeves for ultra-smooth rotation, but bars with bushings are suitable for most people. Weightlifting bars can be used for powerlifting, but the spring at very heavy weights isn’t always desirable, particularly for squats.
Lightweight Technique Bars - These 5ft or 6ft weightlifting technique bars are the same length between the inside collars, or the part you grip, as the above bars. They are meant for learning exercises with a lower starting weight. They are weak and aren't meant to be dropped with bumpers.
To avoid confusion for people who are just skimming this article and aren’t aware that Weightlifting is a technical term, and considering the fact that some people also call Weightlifting bars "olympic bars" to differentiate them from powerlifting bars (even though I say above that you can call all of them olympic bars), much of this article will simply say whether a bar is good for doing cleans.
ATTRIBUTES OF A BAR
Grade - This is a rough classification and open to debate, but here's how we define it:
Home grade bars are the cheapest bars available and often come in 300lb weight sets. They are usually constructed with cheap bushings in the sleeves or nothing at all, resulting in a sleeve that rotates anywhere from roughly to sort of smoothly. Fine for bench pressing, even up to 300lbs or more. During some other heavy exercises they may permanently bend, especially if the bar is dropped hard enough. Not suitable for heavy squats due to the potentially high torque as the lifter bounces out of the hole, or doing cleans or snatches where the bar may be dropped.
Light Commercial grade bars are made with stronger steel than residential grade and receive more respect from serious lifters. The sleeves are constructed with nylon or brass bushings. They have more finish options such as black oxide and zinc for a better grip. These bars are fine for Crossfit affiliates, corporate gyms, colleges and high schools.
Commercial grade bars are made with strong steel, often US or Canadian steel that has strict quality standards. They are the only bars that should be used in a large commercial gym that may cater to some serious bodybuilders or powerlifters. The sleeves are made with nylon or brass bushings. Brass bushings are preferred. Bars with bearings are also available for serious olympic lifters who want them.
Finish - The finish applied to a bar makes a difference in the durability of a bar and how tacky/grippy it feels.
Chrome – Chrome plating looks nice and wears well from repeated banging on a rack. And it can take a while for chrome to start rusting. But there are downsides. The smoothness of chrome makes it kind of slippery, even over good knurling. That doesn't matter much for people into olympic lifting, as they want the bar to slide in their hands anyway, and York has been making very nice chrome bars forever. Chrome can sort of get a bad rep because most of the economy 300lb weight sets include a cheap chrome bar, and on really cheap bars the chrome plating can start chipping off. That shouldn't happen with a good bar, at least not until plenty of moisture gets under the chrome and starts eating away at the steel.
Black Oxide – This is a thin coating that feels almost like bare steel. It's thin enough that it doesn't fill in some of the depth of the knurling like chrome or zinc plating does. It also gives a better grip than slippery chrome. And it helps prevent rust (anti-corrosion), but the anti-corrosion properties of black oxide are activated by oil, so you have to oil it regularly. It scratches more easily than other finishes, so a bar used in a rack will immediately show signs of use from the metal-on-metal contact. It can also wear off simply from the abrasion of your hands and/or shoulders against it.
Bright or Black Zinc – Like black oxide, it provides a good grip and is anti-corrosion. Zinc plating has a certain thickness to it, so it does fill in the knurling a tad bit. A little pricier
Black Manganese Phosphate - Rare so far. Nearly as thin a coating as black oxide, and better corrosion resistance without requiring to be oiled.
Copper - Another rare one. Good corrosion resistance, and quite a unique look.
Stainless - Not a finish, but a type of steel. Stainless steel is easily the most resistant to rust, and you get a good grip on the steel bar without a slippery finish. If price isn't much of an issue and you want a very nice bar, you won't go wrong with stainless steel.
All finishes will eventually start rusting with exposure to enough moisture (sweat) and no preventive oiling. See Olympic Bar Maintenance.
Diameter – Not to be confused with the size of the sleeve where the weights go, which is always about 50mm (2") on a high quality bar. We're talking about the shaft that you grip. A shaft diameter of 28-28.5mm (1 1/16”) is perfect for pulling motions like cleans or deadlifts, especially to get a hook grip for cleans. 29mm (1 1/8”) or thicker is good for bench presses, and 30-32mm ( 1 1/4”) for squats. 28-29mm is a common size for a general purpose bar. A larger diameter also means less spring, so anything over 28mm diameter isn't as good for cleans. Women and people with smaller hands will want a smaller diameter bar, 25mm or 28mm.
PSI / Tensile Strength – The strength of the steel, measured in PSI, pounds per square inch. With a given bar diameter, this serves as a comparison of how much force can be applied before a bar breaks or bends permanently. The higher the number, the stronger it is. Another factor, yield strength, helps determine how much a bar can flex without suffering a permanent bend, but not all manufacturers have those numbers available, and some of them confuse the two terms, so we just give one number.
Static Test - The static test strength is what you see sometimes advertised as the “capacity” or "weight limit" of a bar, such as 1200lb, 1500lb, etc. What, you don't see this in the chart above? That's right, we removed them. They don't mean anything. The numbers are determined different ways by different manufacturers. It doesn’t mean it will hold up to anyone loading 1500lbs on it and dropping it badly (if they were theoretically even able to lift such a weight). It's a static rating. The manufacturer determines it by perhaps loading the bar to 1500 lbs and seeing if it has a permanent bend in a few hours, or using a machine to press on the center of the bar with 1500 lbs of force, or who knows. They all may do it differently. Remember that the dynamic force is much greater during heavy cleans or heavy squats due to the high torque from momentum reversal. And when a bar is dropped on a rack or the floor it can incur quite a shock load that is very difficult to estimate, depending on how evenly it ws dropped. So even though I know you're looking for this number to compare the strength of bars, don't fall for it. It's a number used by companies who are trying to mislead you. If you want to know the strength of the bar, take a look at the PSI and the diameter. The thicker it is and the denser it is, the stronger it is. If you want a relatively strong bar, get one that we rate as Commercial quality.
But how much weight can it take? - This is what you really want to know. We understand that. Think of it this way. Virtually any bar is likely to bend if you load it up for heavy squats and drop it violently on the safety bars of a power rack. A really high-end bar might take such a crash without bending, but most likely you got lucky, and I wouldn't put my money on it holding up to repeated drops this way. On the other hand, if you drop a high quality bar (with bumper plates) on the floor, or only set it down only sort of hard on a rack, it should not bend.
Spring – Also called whip or flex. This is highly desirable for cleans. You can roughly determine this from the PSI and bar diameter, but the carbon content of the steel also makes a difference, so there's no formula you can nail it down with. But generally speaking, a 28mm or 28.5mm bar between 120,000 and 170,000 PSI will have some good spring. A PSI under that range is pretty weak steel prone to bending permanently rather than flexing, and a PSI above that range may or may not start to get a little stiff. One exception is the 240,000 XMark bar, made with a steel that resists permanent bends but still has spring. At light weights when you're learning the movement, the shock absorption of the spring is only noticeable when you do a power clean and do a bad high-impact catch on your shoulders. For slow power lifts, the spring is noticeable when the bar is loaded maybe over 300 lbs. Powerlifting bars are usually thicker than 28mm, so they have less spring. But again an exception is the Texas Power Bar, which is 28.5mm but is pretty stiff.
Rotation - Bushings or bearings inside of the sleeves serve to reduce friction and make the sleeves spin freely. Bushings are the most common and are appropriate for the most majority of poeple and even professional powerlifters. Bearings allow for an even smoother and sensitive spin (it will start spinning easier), but they are more expensive and are usually only desired by elite olympic weightlifters. We don't recommend you get a bearing bar unless you know that's what you want or you're really curious. Bearings in the past tended to not last as many years as bushings, or they would need more frequent oiling to keep the spin smooth. Nowadays many are sealed in and shouldn't ever require extra oil. One consideration is if you slam the bar down into a vertical bar rack (used for storage), you may damage bearings, whereas bushings can take the impact.
Knurling - All bars have knurling over most of the length of the shaft. Some bars have a section of about six to nine inches of knurling in the center of the bar, while others are smooth in that area. Center knurling is primarily for heavy squats, to keep the bar from slipping down your back, but it's also useful for some other exercises. Center knurling is usually undesirable for cleans because it can scratch your neck during the catch if the knurling is too deep or your form isn't good. But it doesn't matter for snatches, and the IWF specifications for men's bars have center knurling, so that's why York's men's bars all have center knurling. There's also the issue of how deep the knurling is. Deep knurling is sometimes preferred for deadlifts due to the superior grip. For anything else a medium knurl is best. The Troy AOB-2000B Texas Power Bar is currently our only bar with very deep knurling.
General / Beginners
For bench pressing or deadlifting up to 500lbs or squatting up to 300lbs, you may be satisfied with an economy bar.
For a better quality bar, the CAP OB-86B is the best value for the money right now for the average person.
Women or some teenage boys who need a lower starting weight than 45 lbs would get good use out of the Troy GOB-300LZ 18 lb bar. or the much cheaper USA Sports GOB-72 30lb bar.
CrossFit / Olympic Weightlifting
Beginner Crossfitters will have the easiest time with a lightweight bar to learn good form with before progressing to a normal weight bar. The Troy GOB-300LZ is a good pick.
For male Crossfitters, the Rage Phoenix is popular. The knurling is soft enough for olympic lifts, it's strong enough for dropping with bumpers, it's strong/stiff enough for squats, flexible enough for olympic lifts, and the zinc finish doesn't get too slippery when wet. It also resists corrosion well without maintenance.
If you really want the best for olympic lifts, the Rage Titan is a top quality bearing bar.
Female Crossfitters can use the same bars as men, but they will usually prefer a 25mm bar instead for their smaller hands to get a hook grip. See the Rage Elevation Women's, or for a bearing bar see the Rage Titan Women's.
You want the strongest, stiffest, most durable bars you can get, with medium knurling and probably center knurling. They will keep most everyone happy and stay in good shape through many years of daily abuse. The Troy AOB-1500B is a great choice, as is the XMark CrowBar.
A specialty deadlift bar is 28-29mm, because thicker bars are slightly harder to grip securely for pulling movements, and grip is one of the first things to fail for many people doing deadlifts. Any finish but chrome is fine because chrome is slippery. The deadlift is one exercise where many lifters want deep knurling for a killer grip. Nothing rivals the Troy AOB-2000B Texas Power Bar's grip, but its knurling is so deep it may be uncomfortable. The Troy AOB-1500B is great too.
A specialty squat bar should be a strong, thick 32mm bar. A thick bar like that doesn't have any whip to it, so it doesn't get wobbly on you when you come out of the hole on a heavy squat. You also want center knurling to keep the bar from sliding off your back. Squats are what center knurling was designed for. The York 32112 (chrome) or 32120 (black oxide) are great choices.
A specialty bench press press bar is a stiff bar with a 30-32mm diameter for the best grip for pressing movements like this. A lot of bars would work just fine here. It doesn't even need to be a really strong bar, because most heavy lifter's bench press max is way below their squat and deadlift, and the bar isn't subjected to much torque during a bench press or being racked, and the thick 30-32mm diameter helps make up for weaker steel. But if you want an awesome bar, the above 32mm squat bars would work, and as far as 30mm bars, the York 32113 is a solid pick.