If you’re short on time, feel free to jump straight to our top choice, which is the XMark Lumberjack barbell.
The barbell has long been a staple of any weightlifter’s strength training kit. It’s one of my favorites and, in my opinion, one of the most important pieces of equipment in my home gym. Amazingly versatile, barbells can be adapted for almost any strength training need. Squats, deadlifts, bench press… the list of exercises goes on! If your aim is to get strong fast, then nothing else comes close. Hopefully what you learn here can help you to choose the best barbell for your home gym.
Quick Comparison: Best Barbells
- Our Top Choice: XMark Lumberjack
- The Beast by CAP
- Body-Solid Tools
- Titan Fitness
- Sunny Health & Fitness STBB-60
Why Should I Buy a Barbell?
Whenever spending money on new equipment, I always ask myself, “How much will I actually use this in my workouts?” In the case of a barbell, the answer is a lot. For the purposes of building strength, I love doing compound exercises. These exercises are the barbell’s specialty. I find they give me great return for the amount of time and effort that they take. Most importantly, they’re fun and leave you feeling thoroughly satisfied every time you hit a new PB. So, what are some examples of things you can do with a brand-new, shiny barbell?
Working both your lower and upper body, squats are something I always do on leg day. To do these safely, and at a high weight, you’ll also want to invest in a squat rack. As you’d expect, squats directly target your quads, glutes and hamstrings, but the benefits don’t end there. They burn fat, increase flexibility and also help to build core strength.
Deadlifts are another example of an exercise that really works your whole body. Your legs, lower back and core will all be put through their paces here. Even your lats and forearms become engaged, which make it great for building overall strength. I like to think that deadlifts help to make my workout more efficient. They allow me to work several muscle groups together, rather than training them separately. Technique here is vital (no one likes getting injured) but when you get it right you’ll reap the rewards.
If you’re looking to develop your upper body, then look no further. This is the perfect compound lift for working your chest, triceps and shoulders. I think this is the exercise I look forward to most during my workouts. It’s also the one I found most rewarding when I first started working out at university. Often used as a benchmark for upper body strength, the bench press even helps to promote healthy bones. Lastly, if you’re in to pec-dancing (yes that’s a thing), hitting the bench can really take your routine to the next level. Just ask Terry Crews.
The main muscle group you’re hitting here is your back – both upper and mid depending on the technique used. Not only that, the movement of lifting the weight upwards is also supported by your biceps, shoulders and forearms. Your legs, core and lower back muscles also engage to help stabilize the movement and keep you balanced. My lower back has always been a troubled area for me, having injured it whilst playing football back in school. Personally, I’ve found the bent-over row has really helped strengthen this area and reduce the risk of further injury. If that wasn’t enough, regularly including this in your workout can also help to improve posture.
Need some more inspiration? Check out this video showing just how much you can achieve with a barbell.
How to Choose the Best Barbell for Your Home Gym
If you’ve never bought a barbell before, you may think that they’re all largely the same. It’s just a metal pole, right? In fact, barbells come in different types and sizes, and there are a few features worth being aware of. To keep it simple, I’ve broken down the things to consider below.
Types Of Barbell
There are a few more specialized bars out there (like Trap and Cambered), but for the purposes of this article, we’ll focus on the big three below. In general, all of these bars have a weight of 20kg (45lbs) for men, and 15kg (33lbs) for women.
- All-round barbell – If you’ve used a barbell before, it was most likely one of these. Ideal for gaining all-round strength and doing a range of exercises. Both the knurling (or grip) and spin are mid-range here, making it suitable for all of the exercises mentioned above.
- Powerlifting barbell – Specialised for lifting heavy weights, the powerlifting barbell has low whip (or flex) for more control. Best for the bench press, deadlift and back squat, these bars often have less spin. There is also high knurling, providing more grip for those heavy lifts.
- Olympic barbell -If exercises like the snatch and power clean are your thing, it’s worth considering an Olympic barbell. Extra whip and spin are a necessity here for performing these exercises with good form. Fine knurling is often a feature here too. As expected, these have a lower weight capacity than a powerlifting bar.
Size Of Barbell
The size of a barbell primarily affects one thing, the whip. This is usually determined by the type you go for.
- Length – The longer the bar, the higher the whip. Lengths vary widely but are often around 2.2m (7.2ft) for men and 2m (6.5ft) for women.
- Diameter – A smaller diameter will provide a higher whip. The gripping section of the bar is most commonly 28-29mm for men and 25mm for women. It is also worth checking the diameter of the outer sections, to ensure your weight plates will fit on nice and snug.
- Whip – How much the bar bends or ‘flexes’ during lifting. For example, the clean and press requires whip, the bench press does not.
- Spin – How much the bar rotates as you hold it. Whether this is needed largely depends on which exercises you will be performing. Olympic lifting requires lots of spin, whereas it is particularly undesirable in powerlifting. Bars with spin will be made with either bushings or bearings.
- Knurling – The amount of grip present on the bar. Heavy knurling can help you grip the bar, especially once your hands get sweaty. Too much, however, can be uncomfortable and irritate the skin on your palms. Some bars also include knurling in the center of the bar, to help keep it in position during squats.
- Tensile – Refers to how much weight the bar can handle before breaking. Ideally, you want a minimum of 165KPI here.
- Yield – Similar to ‘tensile’. Refers to how much weight the bar can handle before bending beyond repair.
- Rings and bolts – These are used to secure the weights you place on the end of the bar. Not much else to say here, but a vital piece of equipment!
Best Quality Barbell: XMark Lumberjack
This barbell is at the higher end of the price range, however, considering the quality it’s still great value. A smooth spin and moderate amount of whip makes this a versatile bar, that can adapt to both Olympic and Powerlifting routines. Superb knurling provides an excellent level of grip, without being too aggressive on the hands. Some users have reported rusting after several months, however, this cosmetic issue seems to be in the minority. High quality shaft coating and a weight capacity of 700lbs, mean this is a bar that will really last. If you’re looking for a high quality, all-round bar, this would be our top choice.
Weight: 44lbs / 20kg
- Great all-rounder suitable for all barbell exercises
- Outstanding knurling
- Smooth spin
- 700lb weight capacity
- Possibility of minor cosmetic rusting after a few months
Constructed from Japanese cold rolled steel, this bar is well balanced and durable. Sleeves with bushings provide a decent amount of spin. Medium depth diamond knurling, although on the heavier side, provides a secure grip. We feel this bar is a solid choice for any beginner choosing a barbell for their first home gym. This bar would have been in line for our ‘Best Quality Barbell’, if it wasn’t for one drawback. Several customers have complained of getting splinters from metal shavings, flaking from the bar. This is by no means universal, however, and we still think this is worth considering as a great addition to your home gym.
Weight: 44lbs / 20kg
- Bushings provide nice amount of spin
- Complaints of splinters from metal shavings
- Knurl is slightly on the rough side
Best Mid-Range Barbell: Body-Solid Tools
With a 600lb weight capacity, this is a solid barbell to add to your home gym. This construction means you’ll be able to lift (and drop!) this bar with heavy weights, without fear of it breaking. There is center knurling along the bar, which gives that extra bit of grip when performing squats. Some users have complained of inconsistent knurling between bars, some too fine and some too rough. Rusting is also something we came across in our research, although this is only a cosmetic issue. All in all, if you’re looking for a reliable bar without breaking the bank, then this may be the one for you.
Weight: 20kg / 44lbs
- 600lb weight capacity
- Knurling along the whole bar
- Mid-range price, very good value
- Knurling depth can be inconsistent
- Possibility of minor cosmetic rusting after a few weeks
Best 5-Foot Barbell: Titan Fitness
This 5-foot barbell is perfect if you’re building a home gym with limited space. The chrome finish looks great and shows it’s high quality. Brass bushings give the collars a good range of rotation for those more dynamic moves. Beware, due to it’s size, this bar won’t fit on standard squat racks. For those of you who prefer using a wide grip, you may also find the length limiting you slightly. If these things are something you’re worried about, go for a bigger bar. As expected, it weighs less than your usual 7-foot bar, coming in at 28lbs. This makes it more maneuverable when being used off the rack. Considering the very affordable price, the quality of bar you are getting here really is outstanding. As far as 5-footers go, you don’t get much better than this.
Weight: 12.7kg / 28lbs
- Chrome finish of high quality
- Brass bushings providing rotation
- Good size for a smaller room
- Generally cheaper than a 7-foot barbell
- We couldn’t find any!
Best Budget Barbell: Sunny Health & Fitness STBB-60
This choice is certainly on the lower end of the price scale. Weighing just 12lbs, this is the lightest bar in our selection. It has threaded sleeves, designed for use with the star-locked collars, which come included. If you’re lifting heavier weights on a regular basis, this bar probably isn’t for you. There’s no spin, and the diameter of the bar makes it incompatible with standard Olympic weights. It also only has a weight capacity of 250lbs. However, you can’t argue with the price, for what is a very well reviewed entry-level bar. If you’re a beginner, who’s looking to get started in weightlifting, this really is a bargain.
Weight: 5.5kg / 12lbs
- Affordable price
- Star-locked collars included
- Good for beginners
- Not suitable for heavy lifting
- No spin on collars
When building a home gym, you want the equipment you buy to fulfill as many purposes as possible. This is why the barbell, with it’s wide range of uses, is a perfect addition. As you can see, there are many things to consider when choosing the best barbell for a home gym. Length, weight, diameter, spin, whip and knurling can all play a part. And, of course, price! Overall, what barbell you go for depends on your own personal preference and needs. Some people will be happy with a cheaper bar for lighter lifting, particularly when starting out. More experienced weightlifters will want something sturdier, that can withstand consistent and heavy use. My personal recommendation is going for a good quality all-round barbell. This means it will be suitable for a whole range of exercises, and will last for years without the need for replacement. Therefore, if we had to choose just one barbell, it would be the XMark Lumberjack.