Finding the Right Barbell to Suit Your Training Goals

When shopping around for a barbell, your style of training will determine how you select the right one.

Yet, there are a variety of characteristics to look out for when considering a barbell that will cater to your needs.


Strength Barbells

  • Strength movements — this barbell doesn’t have a high whip rating and isn’t designed to be dumped continuously in dropping exercises. It’s best for powerlifting movements — squats, presses, and deadlifts. 
  • Knurling — the crosshatch pattern on the bar’s shaft that’s designed to increase or decrease friction between the barbell and a lifter’s hand should be ‘aggressive,’ — offering better grip.
  • Snap ring sleeve — sits between the bar and the sleeve and is fixed to the shaft of the barbell. Its role is to reduce the spin in plates. Unlike Olympic barbell lift variations, where spin is crucial for catch and pull positions, in powerlifting, less spin is more suitable.

Cross Training Barbells

  • Multi-function barbell — it’s capable of strength movements (powerlifting – squat, bench, and deadlift) and cross training (weightlifting and other dropping exercises). 
  • Barbell weight — men’s 20kg and women’s 15kg.
  • Knurling — should be somewhere in between aggressive and balanced. This provides a good balance for all types of lifts. For example, powerlifting requires aggressive knurling and weightlifting demands smoother knurling — due to the movements of the body around the bar. A versatile barbell bar should have a pattern depth in-between those two.
  • Sleeve bearings — permit smoother spinning movements (i.e. cleans and snatches).
  • Moderate whip — this level of barbell flex makes it ideal for explosive movements (weightlifting — snatch, and clean and jerk) and strength movements (powerlifting — squat, bench, and deadlift).

The spin ability is important — it reduces any rotational force as the bar is being pulled and caught in front rack and overhead positions. This is crucial for the wrist and shoulders, as it reduces the stress and impact on those joints. 


There are various types of barbells, and choosing the right one for your needs is a difficult process.

  1. Determine the type of training you’re doing. Strength, weightlifting, CrossFit, it’s important to know how you will be using your bar so you know what to look for.
  2. Shop by looking for features and characteristics specific to your type of training. For example, if you want to weightlift and cross train, you’ll be seeking a versatile bar with dual markings, decent whip and smooth knurling — avoid barbells with aggressive knurling and minimal whip.
  3. Decide your budget. A cheap barbell is fine when you’re starting out, but it may not go the distance. If you plan on sticking to training long term, you may outgrow an economy bar and advance beyond what this piece of equipment can provide for you. 

If you’re in for the long haul, consider barbells an investment — make sure you choose quality and be specific with your choice.


What if I Want To Do Both Strength and Crosstraining With My Barbell? 

Choose a versatile bar with dual markings and sleeves that spin freely. If you’re planning on doing explosive movements such as cleans and snatches, it’s smoother on your shoulders and wrists in catch positions. Unless you’re a strength (powerlifting) specialist, a versatile bar is the best option.

How Much Do Barbells Weigh?

Barbell weight tends to be gender-specific. A men’s bar weighs 20kg, a women’s barbell — 15kg, and training bars can range from 10kg and lighter. 

I’m New to Strength and Don’t Know Where To Start

If you’re new to strength training, start with a beginner barbell. They’re affordable and great for single home use. Once you advance and refine your technique, you may need to reevaluate and look for a higher quality, different style bar that suits your needs.

Should I Have Centre Knurling on My Barbell? 

The centre knurling is good for powerlifting movements such as back squats because it makes it easier to secure the barbell and keep it in position. For repetitive movements found in CrossFit WODs, it’s not ideal as it can scratch the chest and shoulders.

Why do Olympic Barbells Spin?

They reduce torque during power movements and cause less pressure on the wrist and elbow — lowering the potential for injury in catch positions.