Up until recently, adding even the best barbell to your home gym setup might have felt like an over-the-top decision. Not anymore! Thanks to the pandemic and subsequent lockdown(s), many people built their personal Church of Iron, where they worship nothing but gainnnnnnns by doing barbell workouts daily.
And that's no surprise, as barbells are incredibly versatile: you can perform a full-body workout using a single Olympic bar (and some bumper plates), even without adding a weights bench to the setup. Admittedly, barbells are more hassle to store and workout with than the best dumbbells or kettlebells; barbells are comparatively massive.
Wearing gym gloves during barbell lifts can help you avoid blisters, while the best workouts shoes can provide some stability, especially on hard floors. Ideally, you don't want to slip when trying to deadlift one and a half times your body weight.
Speaking of heavy lifts: as well as getting a decent barbell, you might want to peruse the best weight plate guide. The two go together like coffee and cream. Or barbells and weight plates. Also, here is a comparison between dumbbells and barbells: dumbbell vs barbell.
Best barbells to buy right now
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Best Olympic barbells
Deadlifts are the heaviest lifts anyone can do using a barbell: that's a fact. The current deadlift world record is 1,104.52 lbs (501 kg), set by none other than The Mountain himself, Hafthor Bjornsson. It's unlikely that this number will go up significantly or anytime soon.
With all this in mind, let's appreciate that the Mirafit M3 Hybrid 20kg Olympic Barbell has a tensile strength of 218,000 psi and is SGS tested to 1,500 lbs (680 kg). No one will lift that much, so the Mirafit M3 will probably be the first and the last barbell you'll ever need to buy.
This beautiful Olympic barbell is ideal for general gym work as well as both Olympic lifts and powerlifting. The M3 features a sprung steel bar, zinc coat finish, bronze bushings, eight-piece needle bearings, and a hybrid grip pattern featuring dual knurl marks (no centre knurling). It's also sleek, sexy and just reeks of quality – the Mirafit M3 Barbell will be the centrepiece of any home gym. Best of all, it's a bargain at this price point.
Read our full Mirafit M3 7ft 20kg Olympic Barbell review
Second place on the best barbell guide goes to the full-size Again Faster Evolution Barbell. This barbell has a slightly different approach to the Mirafit M3 mentioned above and uses softer knurling, making the barbell more suited for high-repetition functional lifting (e.g. CrossFit). The max load reflects this: the Evolution Barbell can only hold 300 kg's worth of weight plates.
And let's face it, most of us will never snatch more than 50 kilos, so that 300 kg max load is more than enough. The AF Evolution Bar has a 209,000 PSI tensile strength which is admirable. The fully knurled shaft provides a better grip during snatch movements, and the oil-impregnated bronze bushings durability and smooth surface contact with the shaft. Evolution Bars come with a bright zinc finish.
When it comes to squatting, the last thing you want is the barbell slipping off your shoulders. Of course you can use chalk, but that just creates a lot of mess. This is where MiraFit’s new Leviathan Squat Bar comes in, which has knurling across the whole bar, so it stays firmly gripped to your shoulders throughout your entire lift. It’s also 25 kg too, five kilograms heavier than your regular barbell, which is what is used in weightlifting competitions. And it’s longer (240 cm) with longer sleeves so you can stack more weight plates onto it.
On testing it at the gym, the knurling certainly felt grippy and definitely stayed on our back a lot better than the other barbells. It didn’t feel like a cheese grater digging into your skin though, which some can tend to feel like. We think this makes it a good squat bar for beginners looking to perfect big lifts. However, more advanced squatters, particularly powerlifters, may prefer something that catches onto the skin even more.
Its 32mm diameter wasn’t too thick or too thin; it was comfortable in our hands and when squatting down it felt more stable on our back when lifting heavy. MiraFit have also done an excellent job at creating a good-looking piece of kit with its polished chrome finish, so if your home gym has been completed to a high standard, then this barbell will fit in nicely. The price is also less than other squat bars on the market. All in all, it’s a very good bar indeed.
The Jordan Ultimate Olympic Bar has a tensile strength of 200,000 psi and was load-tested to 1,500 lbs (750 kg). Not like anyone is ever going to lift that much, but even if you stack 200 kg-worth of plates on it, it most definitely won't bend.
The Ultimate Olympic Bar is made to official weightlifting competition standards, weighs 20 kilos and has a standard Olympic bar length of 7-feet (220 cm). The un-knurled centre area makes the Ultimate Bar ideal for squats: when resting on the upper back, it won't rub the skin away at the back of the neck. This barbell has an 8-needle bearing for smooth rotation.
Working your way up the weight scale shouldn't be rushed. In fact, it can take years to perfect proper lifting technique, but this bar aims to speed up that process by replicating the larger bars Eleiko offers (retailer link) but reducing the overall weight and reducing the aggressiveness of the knurling to be kinder on the hands.
Available in either 5kg or 10kg weights, the bar is great for those just starting out, as it performs like the professional units found in commercial gyms, but it's much easier to lift and handle. Great for gradually increasing the weight over time.
Best curl bars
It has a smaller weight range than the Selecttech 1090i dumbbell, but at least for the price, you get two different handles: a straight bar and the curl bar. With these, you can perform a variety of mainly upper body (delts, triceps and biceps) exercises and attack the muscles from many different angles.
Just like other Selecttech models, such as the Bowflex Selecttech 1090 Dumbbell and Bowflex Selecttech 840 Kettlebell, choosing the right weight on the 2080 Barbell is as easy as turning the dial at the end of the bar. The weight range can be adjusted in 10 lbs (4.5 kg) increments, from 20 to 80 lbs (9-36 kg). You won't be deadlifting with the Selecttech 2080, but it really wasn't designed for Olympic lifts, more like toning the arms and the upper back.
The Bowflex SelectTech ST2080 Curl Bar Upgrade adds an extra 40 lbs (18 kg) to the Bowflex Selecttech 2080 Barbell: this will cost you around $150/£150 extra. There is also a stand for $200/£200 if you can't be bothered to lean down to pick the weight up.
Read our full Bowflex Selecttech 2080 Barbell and Curl Bar review
You won't be ashamed getting those guns out after you've been exercising with the Bodymax Pro OIympic E-Z curl bar. Perfect for working out your biceps and triceps, this bar's maximum load is 150 kg. If I ever see anyone curling 150 kg with an E-Z bar, I will surely be impressed. But if you are anything like a normal human being, you will most likely be doing this exercise with anything between 30-60 kg, and that amount can be easily handled by the Bodymax Pro OIympic E-Z curl bar.
It weighs around 8 kg and has a standard E-Z bar length of 47" (120 cm). To make the deal even sweeter, the Bodymax Pro OIympic E-Z curl bar comes with a pair of T-screw collars, too, so you don't have to purchase them separately. Not to mention Bodymax's great customer service, so even if you have an issue with the bar, they will sort it out ASAP.
Best shrug bars
Trap bars are famous for being huge and mysterious, them leaning against the wall in the gym most of the time. Then you see someone in the gym doing deadlifts with them, and you go: 'Of course!' You can use a trap bar for a lot of different exercises. They are probably not as versatile as a pair of dumbbells, but still, you can perform shoulder exercises and leg exercises with them, like shrugs and deadlifts.
The Mirafit Olympic shrug bar (retailer link) is made out of solid steel and weighs 27 kg as is. You can also load 300 kgs of plates on it, which is plenty, even for deadlifts. The handles are knurled and will provide a better grip, especially working with bigger weights. The Mirafit Olympic shrug bar uses standard Olympic weights (to be purchased separately), so if you already have a standard Olympic barbell, you can use the same weights with the Mirafit shrug bar.
The BLK BOX Open Hex Bar 2.0 is great for performing movements such as deadlifts, carries or lunges. As a matter of fact, you can't do carries with a standard barbell, and lunges are also tricky to perform using a closed shrug bar. This bar features two sets of knurled handles on either side of the bar at alternate heights. The narrower handles are 30mm in diameter and offer up a grip that is similar to a barbell and dumbbell, whereas the broader handles are 50mm in diameter and are great for improving grip and forearm strength.
The integrated loading jack raises the loadable barbell sleeves high enough to allow for easy loading and unloading of weight plates. No need to use that barbell trick from TikTok. The handsome textured matte black powder-coated frame and hardened chrome sleeves ensure durability and corrosion resistance.
How to choose the best barbell for you
Before you run to the nearest fitness store to buy the cheapest barbell, there are a few things you should consider.
A standard Olympic barbell is 7-feet long and weighs 20 kilos. A proper barbell should also have bearings, so when you lift it, the sleeves rotate and the knurled handles won't sand away your skin.
Another thing to keep an eye out is the maximum weight capacity and tensile strength. A barbell with a tensile strength of 130,000 psi won't be able to handle more than 200 kg of added weight without bending. Those videos on the internet you can see with bars bending on people's shoulders as they squat, they are all sub-par quality (not the people, the bars).
It is also worth noting that both the grip and collar size can vary between barbells, meaning not all weight plates will fit all barbells. Most Olympic plates and barbells use a 2-inch (50mm) diameter, while standard – or home gym – bars often feature a smaller, 1-inch (25 mm) diameter. This is typically because the disc itself is more compact.
Which is the best barbell for home gyms?
Nothing beats the tensile strength and maximum load of a 7-foot standard Olympic barbell, but admittedly, it might be cumbersome to move around and store these beasts at home, especially in apartments with a low ceiling.
If you must work out at home using a barbell – and according to our writer Matt K, it's a great idea – you might want to consider getting a shorter, 4- or 5-foot Olympic barbell or an adjustable one like the Bowflex SelectTech 2080. Standard Olympic barbells provide more opportunity to progress, while adjustable barbells are better from a space-saving point of view.
What does a barbell's tensile strength mean?
Tensile strength is the "maximum stress that a material can withstand while being stretched or pulled before breaking", according to Wikipedia. In the case of barbells, tensile strength is the force the barbell can handle before it bends or breaks.
You lift barbells in the middle, yet the weight plates sit at the ends of the bar, meaning that the middle of the bar is under a lot of tension when it's being lifted off the ground or the rack. Barbell tensile strength determines what the maximum force the barbell can withstand at its most vulnerable point, in the middle of the bar.
Since you really don't want to fiddle around with physics equations when buying a new barbell, so all you have to know is that the higher the number, the better. That said, there is no need to pay extra for a barbell that can hold 500 kg worth of plates when you can't lift more than 80 kg.