Whether you’re an avid gym-goer, or a home gym convert, you should always be looking for new, challenging ways to mix up your workouts and keep progress coming, which often means looking beyond what regular dumbbells and resistance bands can offer and towards the barbell rack.
Barbells are excellent at increasing strength and building muscle quickly by bringing in a whole catalogue of compound exercises that work almost every muscle in the body. Although barbells are relatively simple pieces of apparatus, there are actually more types than you can shake a long metal stick at. Here’s a breakdown of some of the better examples on the market today to help you decide which is the best barbell to buy to help you keep those gains coming.
Firstly, A Couple Of Things To Consider
When it comes to barbells, size actually does matter. The length and diameter varies on different types to suit the desired ‘whip’ (how much the barbell flexes when you lift it – if it has a high whip it will be flexible, a low whip indicates it’s more solid). Most barbells should have a diameter of between 28-29mm and you shouldn’t go any lower than this.
The length should ideally be between 5 feet (1.5 metres) and 7 feet (2.1 metres). Shorter bars will be more densely packed and less likely to bend, whilst longer bars provide more flex. If you’re looking to perform heavy bench presses for instance, then a shorter bar is generally more suitable.
These types of barbells allow you to really stack the weight on for moves such as the deadlift, back squat and bench press. Typically, they weigh around 20kg and are between five to six feet in length with roughly a 29mm diameter. The whip on these bars should be very low to allow you to control the weight you’re lifting and have good grip – a must if you’re lifting heavy. The grip, or ‘knurling’ as it’s often referred to, should be in the centre of the barbell to assist with squats.
Look for a moderate amount of ‘spin’ on these types of barbells (how much the section of the bar you hold whilst lifting rotates). A small amount of spin is preferred if you’re going to be doing moves such as back squats, military presses and the bench press, but you’ll want a little more for lifts such as front squats as the bar will need to rotate slightly when moving into position.
Olympic barbells are big pieces of apparatus, and for good reason as they’re used to perform difficult lifts like the clean and press, and the snatch. Typically, they are around 20kg and between six to seven feet long with a diameter of around 28mm which makes them more flexible than a powerlifting bar as a lifter can use this flexibility to help move the weight around.
They have a high degree of spin to help prevent too much bend in the wrists and the grip should be fairly light.
These are generally the go-to for most gym goers as they’re not so much focused on specific moves but more for anyone looking to build muscle and perfect their form. With all-purpose barbells you’ll be best looking for a diameter of around 28.5mm which will be enough to support a good amount of flex whilst also allowing you pretty much uninhibited powerlifting.
The grip and spin should be medium on these bars. You don’t require masses of grip as you won’t be shifting an Olympic amount of weight and you want a fair amount of spin as you’ll typically be performing a range of different squats and presses with it.
Trap or hexagonal
Trap, or hexagonal, bars are great for deadlifts as well as for working your traps with exercises like the shoulder shrug. The bar is made of a hexagonal frame that you step into so you are gripping it by your sides which means you’re placing less pressure on your back during deadlifting. Having your arms by your sides rather than in front of you will also pay dividends when it comes to perfecting the shoulder shrug.
These bars tend to have little whip and zero spin. They should offer good grip however as you’ll need to ensure a good hold. Look for two heights on trap bars – one for shrugs and the other for deadlifts and make sure the weight rating will be enough to support your heaviest lifts.
My Top Recommendations
Eleiko IPF Powerlifting Competition Bar
Eleiko is a world-leader in barbells, its bars having been used in numerous Olympic games and several world record attempts. Eleiko’s Performance Powerlifting Competition Bar is a notch above the rest with deep-carved knurling to ensure maximum grip, as well as a centre grip for squats meaning all your heavy lifts are catered for. With a 29mm diameter and 215KPI Swedish steel, it’s a dream to grab tightly and lift, feeling stiff and secure when squatting or deadlifting.
It’s not cheap however and is aimed at the serious weightlifters out there, so see it as an investment in your health and your key to unlocking some serious strength gains if powerlifting’s your thing.
CAP Barbell Solid Olympic Bar
The CAP barbell is made from solid cold rolled steel and finished with a black powder coating. It features a medium depth diamond knurling for a secure grip and has excellent spin to help protect the wrists. The bar is 72 inches in length with a 28 mm diameter and a two-inch sleeve diameter to accommodate Olympic weights. It’s a versatile and durable bar weighing approximately 12.7 kg (28 pounds) and comes with a 30-day manufacturers warranty.
CAP is one of the must trusted suppliers of sports equipment in the industry and you know you’re getting great quality with all of their products. Chances are if you’ve ever worked out in a commercial gym before, you’ve most likely used one of their products.
Jordan Premium Urethane Barbells
Six to seven feet bars are fine for the gym or if you have a large garage space to work out in, but if your home gym is pushed for space then it’s not easy to pull and push a long bar around.
For beginners, the Jordan Premium Urethane Barbells are straight, brushed, compact 110 cm steel bars which are perfect for any home gym set-up, but they’re tough. They’re fixed barbells so you don’t have the hassle of adding or removing weight plates and then looking for a place to store them, and they come in weights from 2kg up to 45kg. They’re perfect for explosive exercises such as power cleans, thrusters and curls and they have a good level of grip. They also come with a five-year warranty.
For anyone who wants a basic, but good quality, fixed barbell that offers a variety of options for your workouts then these are a great choice. They’re not the cheapest however at around £72 for a 10Kg bar.
CAP Barbell Olympic Trap Bar
This Olympic trap bar from CAP is a solid, great quality bar made of tubular steel with built in feet at the bottom to protect your floor and help balance the bar whilst loading the weight. With a loadable sleeve of 9.5 inches and a suggested max weight capacity of 500 pounds (220+Kg) you can really load up the weight with this bar. The grips are comfortable and placed neutrally with elevated sleeves which help reduce pressure on the back whilst lifting. It’s compact size is great for small home gyms where space is at a premium.
An Excellent Way to Increase Strength And Build Muscle
Whatever option you choose to go with, barbells are an excellent way to increase strength and build muscle through compound exercises, but also to add versatility when it comes to switching up isolated moves such as bicep curls and shoulder presses – opening up new and different way to target various muscles groups.
Before you decide on which type of barbell is right for you, take into account the space you have to work out in, what budget you’re realistically prepared to part with, and what your goals are – whether that’s to challenge for the next world record attempt in the Olympic snatch lift, or just as a way to spice up your gym routine and increase your overall strength and endurance. Whatever you decide, a barbell is one of the best investments you can make to any home gym.
Do you use a barbell in your home workouts? How has it impacted positively on your strength and muscle gains? Comment underneath and let me know!