Straight Barbell Comparison Guide

Author: Aimee Heckel Published: 6/29/2022

A barbell is a barbell, right? Not exactly.

At first glance, all barbells look the same: long, silver, shiny. Throw some plates on the sides and lift. Simple.

But start playing around with the various barbells, and you’ll immediately notice huge variations. Some are longer, thinner, lighter. On some, the plates spin when you lift. Some hurt your hands a little bit more than others, and the knurling marks are in different places. The more you lift, the more you realize the importance of having the proper barbell for the exercise you want to tackle.

With so many different options, finding the perfect barbell can feel overwhelming – even for experienced lifters. So, here’s a quick and easy comparison of REP’s eight straight barbells and how to pick the best bar for you.

If you’re new to Olympic weightlifting: Technique Barbell

$129.99

Use: Olympic weightlifting technique training
Sleeves: Bushing
Knurl: Light/medium
Center Knurl: No
Markings: IPF and IWF
Weight Rating: 200lbs

The Technique Barbell is for (you guessed it) practicing your Oly technique. No PRs here; the max weight is just 200lbs. This bar is intended for training your form using light loads, making it great for beginners and children getting their start in lifting. The bar alone only weighs 15lbs (by comparison, a standard barbell weighs 45lbs) and is shorter too, at only 72”.

As a weightlifting bar, the Technique Barbell has light/medium knurling (not too much grip to be rough on your hands) and dual knurl markings both for powerlifting and weightlifting – so you could also use this to practice powerlifting lifts. It has no center knurling, ideal for high-volume training.

 This barbell features bushing sleeves, which do allow for some rotation (which you want with Olympic lifts), but not as fast and smooth as a ball or needle bearing. In that, a bushing sleeve is more efficient for slower movements.

Learn more about the Technique Barbell here.

If you’re experienced in weightlifting: Gladiator Olympic Barbell

$349.99

Use: Olympic weightlifting, mixed-use
Sleeves: Needle bearing
Knurl: Medium knurl
Center Knurl: The 20kg bar has a center knurl. The 15kg bar does not.
Markings: IWF
Weight Rating: 1,500lbs

The Gladiator is an excellent bar for weightlifters ready to throw around some real weight. It’s designed for weightlifting, although it also works for mixed-use training, like CrossFit. It has a needle-bearing sleeve for the best, smoothest spin; medium knurl for grip support for higher-rep training; and IWF markings so you know where to put your hands. It can handle 1,500lbs.

 The Gladiator comes in three different styles: 15kg, 20kg, or 20kg stainless steel. The non-stainless steel versions are covered in a hard chrome coating. The 20kg bars have center knurling, whereas the lighter bar does not. The lighter bar is also shorter (79.1”) than the 20kg, and it has a shorter sleeve length (12.6”) and smaller diameter (25mm).

The center knurl keeps the Gladiator consistent with IWF specifications. It can also help keep the bar in place on your back during squats.

Learn more about the Gladiator here.

If you’re new to powerlifting: Basic Barbell

$119.99

Use: Powerlifting
Sleeves: Bushing
Knurl: Medium
Center Knurl: Yes
Markings: General knurl markings
Weight Rating: 700lbs

New powerlifters and casual lifters, this bar’s for you. It’s got everything you need in an inexpensive, basic, 20kg power bar: medium knurling, center knurling to keep the bar in place during back squats, and a bushing sleeve with a bolt-on design to provide stability during your lifts. It’s great for lifters who want a quality bar but don’t need one with special features.

It features general knurl markings, although they’re not IPF specific for competitors. The 30mm diameter is thicker than a typical powerlifting barbell. The weight rating for the Basic Barbell tops out at 700lbs, so more experienced lifters will want to upgrade to a tougher bar. The chrome coating isn’t as high-end as stainless steel, but it will still help reduce rusting. As far as a budget bar, this one gets the job done well.

Learn more about the Basic Barbell here

If you’re experienced with powerlifting: Stainless Steel Power Bar

$429.99

Use: Powerlifting
Sleeves: Bushing
Knurl: Medium
Center Knurl: Yes
Markings: IPF knurl markings
Weight Rating: 1,500lbs

More experienced and competitive powerlifters will want the Stainless Steel Power Bar. The medium knurl will help with grip, but it’s not too aggressive to affect higher-rep training and frequent use. IPF markings let you train on a competition-style barbell, and a weight rating of 1,500lbs means it’s tough enough for even the world’s strongest deadlifter.

The bushing design features snap rings, perfect for slower, strength-centric lifts. A huge bonus of this bar is it is end-to-end stainless steel and comes with a lifetime warranty – so you’ll be able to grow with this bar for years and years without worrying about rust and wear.

Learn more about the Stainless Steel Power Bar here.

If you’re an experienced powerlifter who wants deep knurling for deadlifts: Deep Knurl Stainless Steel Power Bar EX

$449.99

Use: Powerlifting
Sleeves: Bushing
Knurl: Deep
Center Knurl: Yes 
Markings: IPF knurl markings
Weight Rating: 1,500lbs

REP doesn’t make a deadlift bar (yet!), but you don’t have to worry about this bar sliding out of your hands during your max deads. Its knurling is super deep and aggressive for max grip. As the most expensive powerlifting barbell, the Deep Knurl Stainless Steel Power Bar can do it all: It has the grip you want for deadlifts (cut 75% deeper than standard knurling) and a center knurl to prevent slipping during back squats. Plus, it’s fully stainless steel, on both the shaft and sleeves, the most rust-resistant option.

This bar also features IPF knurl markings so you can practice with precision for a competition. The bushing design is optimal for slower, strength-intensive lifts – of any strength. The weight rating is 1,500lbs.

Learn more about the Deep Knurl Stainless Steel Power Bar EX here.

If you want a basic mixed-use barbell: Sabre Barbell

$199.99

Use: Mixed-use
Sleeves: Ball bearing
Knurl: Medium
Center Knurl: Optional center knurling for the zinc 20kg bar
Markings: IPF and IWF
Weight Rating: 1,000lbs

Whether you do CrossFit, HIIT-style workouts, Olympic weightlifting, or powerlifting, this barbell is built for it all – and at an affordable price point, too. It’s got both IPF and IWF knurl markings. High-performance ball-bearing provide a smooth rotation. No-rib sleeves allow plates to slide on and off smoother.

The Sabre comes as both a 15kg (zinc finish, no center knurl) or 20kg (in zinc or black zinc). If you go with the 20kg zinc bar, you can choose center knurling or not. The black zinc option doesn’t have center knurling. The bar is built to handle 1,000lbs – so it’s the more basic choice for a mixed-use bar, but come on, a half a ton of weight isn’t exactly peanuts.

Learn more about the Sabre Barbell here.

If you want an upgraded, mixed-use barbell: Excalibur Barbell

$289

Use: Mixed-use
Sleeves: Hybrid
Knurl: Medium
Center Knurl: No
Markings: IPF/IWF
Weight Rating: 1,500lbs

For a little more money, the Excalibur reigns supreme – if you want a mixed-use barbell with no center knurl (your high reps will thank you). Also benefitting the higher reps: medium/deep knurling for your hands. Dual IPF and IWF knurl markings and unique hybrid bearing and bushing sleeves make this bar incredibly versatile.

With a little less spin than a pure bearing sleeve, the Excalibur is great for powerlifting exercises. Plus, the 29mm shaft diameter matches IPF standards. However, you can use the Excalibur for any barbell exercises: weightlifting, powerlifting, CrossFit, HIIT, you name it.

It can handle whatever you throw down, too, with the highest static rating of 1,500lbs. Choose a hard chrome coating or stainless steel for the 20kg bar. It also comes in a 15kg size. Another cool feature: Mild ribbing on the sleeves helps keep plates in place.

Learn more about the Excalibur here.

If you want an upgraded, mixed-use barbell that favors Olympic weightlifting: Gladiator MX

$359.99

Use: Olympic weightlifting, mixed-use
Sleeves: Needle bearing
Knurl: Medium knurl
Center Knurl: No
Markings: IWF
Weight Rating: 1,500lbs

Like the Gladiator, the Gladiator MX works for weightlifting and doubles up for mixed-use training. Both have needle-bearing sleeves; medium knurl; IWF markings; and are rated for 1,500lbs.

Here’s where the Gladiator MX differs. The Gladiator MX is slightly more expensive and only comes in 20kg. It is only available in a hard chrome coating. The MX has a lower tensile strength.

Whereas the Gladiator’s 20kg bars have center knurling, the MX’s 20kg has no center knurling. This is a bonus for high-volume training, snatches, and clean and jerks, when the bar rubs across your chest. However, a serious weightlifter may not like the MX and may find it more suitable for mixed-use. Compared with the Excalibur, the MX has a better spin and favors Olympic lifts, whereas the Excalibur is a mixed-use bar with a spin that favors powerlifting.

Learn more about the Gladiator MX here