You have spent time, money, and effort and finally, you think you are ready to take the next step in strength training. Maybe even participate in competitions.
If you want to develop serious raw strength, you cannot go wrong with powerlifting. Even the word “powerlifting” itself has a certain powerful ring to it.
Powerlifting is a pure strength sport that showcases your ability to lift the absolute maximum weight possible and like any other sport, it requires years of training before you can safely perform the basic lifts. Powerlifting is an advanced sport and not one you should take lightly, pardon the pun.
If you are just beginning your training towards powerlifting, you must dedicate time and effort towards building your strength and this could take about two to three years. That is quite a lot of time but any athlete will tell you that anything worth having is not going to be easy! Use those years to eat right, build strength and muscle, and prepare your body for the true challenge in strength that is powerlifting.
Now, if you have already built enough muscle and the strength to go with it and you are ready to take the next step in your strength training with powerlifting, we have prepared this guide for you so you can train with the best possible powerlifting bars in the market.
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- The Best Powerlifting Bars in The Market
- Olympic Weightlifting vs. Powerlifting
- Choosing the Best Powerlifting Bar
- And The Winner Is…
The Best Powerlifting Bars in The Market
You will probably notice that most weightlifting bars in the market are labeled as “Olympic” so you might be a bit discouraged when you go looking for one and find a sad scarcity of bars with the specifications you want.
We hear you! Earlier, we have tackled that there is very little difference between powerlifting and Olympic weightlifting so most bars actually double as both powerlifting bars and Olympic weightlifting bars. To make things easier for you, we rounded up the best bars out there for your money so you can take your pick out of these choices.
Just remember that you need the center knurling for powerlifting so the bar does not slip while you are doing back squats and the 32-inch space between ring markings. These markings are particularly important if you plan to enter in any powerlifting contests but otherwise, you’ll be just fine without them.
This bar is designed for practicing the weightlifting basics. It is made of aluminum, which makes it lighter than most bars. If you are new to weightlifting and would like to test the waters first then this bar is for you. However, if you are a seasoned powerlifter, you might want to overlook this bar.
The diameter of the grip is 28 millimeters wide and the bar itself is 6 inches long. It spins freely and is more of an Olympic weightlifting bar than a powerlifting one.
It is also quite durable and can be found in most gyms. However, it is too narrow for a standard power rack but it fits well on an Olympic squat rack.
- Great for beginners
- Made of aluminum, lighter
- Spins freely
- Will not fit on a standard power rack
The XMark Fitness VOODOO Olympic Bar has a heated alloy steel shaft with chrome sleeves and black manganese phosphate coating, which makes it extremely resistant to corrosion and abrasions. It has a tensile strength of 185,000 PSI and the diameter is a comfortable 28 millimeter.
The knurling is really aggressive so you get a good grip on this one. It has markings for both the International Weightlifting Federation and International Powerlifting Federation but no center knurling, so you can’t use this one for back squats.
Technically speaking, this is an Olympic bar but one you can use for practicing powerlifting maneuvers except for back squats due to the lack of center knurling.
- Good tensile strength of 185,000 PSI
- Aggressive knurling
- With IPF ring markings for correct hand placement
- No center knurling, cannot be used for back squats
- Actually, this is an Olympic bar but can be used for powerlifting training
This bar boasts that it can accommodate all three basic powerlifting moves—the deadlift, back squat, and bench press. Make sure that you get the OB-86PBCK model as the other models in this series have no center knurling!
The bar itself is made of steel with a black oxide finish. It measures 7 feet long with a diameter of 28 millimeters. The knurling is not too aggressive but provides a good enough grip. The center knurling, though, is more aggressive and has a higher coefficient of friction, which makes it great for back squats.
Unfortunately, the bar has a problem with settling in the neutral position prior to handling, which can affect your grip and possibly cause injury. Most users advise to let the bar roll into its neutral position before attempting to use it.
- Moderate knurling provides good grip
- With central knurling
- Diameter of 28 millimeters
- Black oxide finish
- Does not rotate to the neutral position immediately
- Black oxide finish wears off easily
- Some units bend easily
Technically, this is not a powerlifting bar but a specialty bar for deadlifts. The Okie Deadlift Bar has been used in many national and international competitions, so you do not need to worry if you plan to enter in deadlifting competitions anytime soon.
The diameter of the bar is a bit small at 27 millimeters. It has a coarse knurl, which will give you a great grip. Tensile strength is okay at 155,000 PSI and has the longest allowable length in a competition at 7 feet and 7 inches long. It is also quite durable and will last you many happy years of strength training.
- Can be used in national and international competitions
- Made specifically for deadlifting
- Deep, aggressive knurling
- No center knurl
- Less versatile, cannot be used for back squats
The Texas Power Bar is made by Buddy Capps welding, which is one of the most popular powerlifting bars for both competitions and training. It boasts a tensile strength of 185,000 PSI, which is pretty good. It is 84 inches long with a diameter of 28.5 millimeters. Its knurling can be described as medium to coarse but most importantly, it has the center knurling essential for powerlifting bars.
When buying this bar, make sure you check for its authenticity by checking the State of Texas outline etched on each end of the bar as well as the Buddy Capps logo.
- Can be used for powerlifting competitions
- Tensile strength of 185,000 PSI
- Coarse knurling for good grip
- Has center knurling
- Cheap copies are also available so always check for the authenticity when buying this model
Olympic Weightlifting vs. Powerlifting
Unlike Olympic weightlifting wherein the weightlifter lifts the maximum weight possible in a single rep, powerlifting is a pure strength sport more concerned about lifting the absolute maximum weight possible. In short, Olympic weightlifting is a display of tremendous explosive strength of the lifter while powerlifting is more concerned with pure lifting power.
Why are we telling you this? Because when you finally choose the bars to train with, you will have to take note of the subtle differences between a powerlifting bar and one for Olympic weightlifting to avoid buying the wrong bar for your specific needs. The differences between the two bars are quite subtle and may be missed if you do not know what to look out for.
Because powerlifting is more about pure lifting power compared to Olympic weightlifting which is more of an explosive display of strength, powerlifting bars do not need much whip action. It is for this reason that you will find that bars for powerlifting bars are much more rigid and stiffer than their Olympic weightlifting counterparts.
2. Grip Markings
This is pretty important and one of the biggest differences when you check a powerlifting bar to differentiate it from the Olympic weightlifting bar. The powerlifting bar has grip markings that are 32 inches apart, which is closer than the standard 36 inches distance in Olympic weightlifting bars. This is used to check legal hand positions for the bench press, which is one of the important lifts in powerlifting.
You might also notice that some Olympic weightlifting bars do not have a center knurling although IWF certified Olympic weightlifting bars still do. However, the center knurling is very important in powerlifting barbells to keep the bar from sliding down the back on heavy lifts while doing the back squat.
Another subtle difference you will want to take note is the more aggressive knurling found in powerlifting bars. In powerlifting, you need to have a more secure grip on the barbell and aggressive knurling will give you this.
4. Bushings Instead of Bearings
Powerlifting bars do not need sleeves to spin as freely as they do in Olympic weightlifting bars so you will usually find bushings on them instead of the more expensive bearings.
Choosing the Best Powerlifting Bar
You might note that barbells have tiny lines on the grip that cross each other from opposite directions to form tiny diamonds. This is called knurling and it will ensure you have a strong grip on your barbell and keep it from slipping.
In powerlifting bars, the knurling is more aggressive compared to Olympic weightlifting bars because you need to have a really solid grip on your bar. Make sure that your powerlifting bar also has the central knurling that is essential for keeping the bar from slipping down your back during heavy squats!
2. Ring Markings
These are usually a fourth of an inch wide, smooth marks in the knurling, which mark the position where you should place your hands. These are used to check the legal hand positions in powerlifting and one of the main differences between powerlifting and Olympic weightlifting bars.
Always check that your bar has ring markings spaced at 32 inches or 810 millimeters to make sure you are buying a powerlifting bar and not one for Olympic weightlifting!
Practicing with these markings also help with the consistency of your hand placement during training so do not just neglect them!
3. PSI or Tensile Strength
PSI stands for “pounds per square inch” and is a measurement of tensile strength or the amount of weight or force that can be applied to a bar with any given diameter before it breaks or bends permanently. This means that the higher the number of pounds it can accommodate per square inch, the stronger the steel is.
Powerlifting bars, unlike Olympic weightlifting bars, are much more rigid so go for bars that have a higher tensile strength. Tensile strengths of 150,000 to 175,000 PSI are generally considered okay but the best ones have higher tensile strengths clocking at more than 200,000 PSI.
The diameter we are referring to is the shaft that you will be gripping. Generally speaking, the larger the diameter, the stiffer the bar will be so it will not wobble as much during heavy squats. However, larger diameters are also notoriously difficult to grip and if you are new to powerlifting, they can be quite a bit of a challenge.
A shaft with a diameter of 28 to 29 millimeters should be good enough if you are just starting out. Shafts this wide provide a perfect balance of grip strength for pressing and pulling movements.
For the more accomplished powerlifters, you might want to take stock of these numbers:
- 28 to 28.5 millimeters (1 1/16 inches) for deadlifts
- 29 millimeters (1 1/8 inches) or thicker for bench presses
- 30 to 32 millimeters (1 ¼ inches) for squats
Ah! The finish! Some powerlifters like the look of a few scratches on a well-used bar and some would prefer a smoother visage.
The finish of your powerlifting bar will ultimately make a difference in its durability and how long you and your bar will enjoy each other’s company until rust parts you both. It will also enhance your grip on your bar so choose wisely and do not base your judgment on looks alone!
For the most part, a standard finish is okay but the market also advertises some of the most handsome finishes so familiarize yourself with these.
- Chrome: It looks nice enough and takes some time before it starts to show signs of rusting. It is also able to take in a bit of toughness and wears well enough from repeated banging on a rack. However, its smoothness will make the grips slippery even with aggressive knurling. Also, the use of chrome finishes in bars that come with economy weights gives it a bad reputation.
- Bright or Black Zinc: This finish gives you a good grip and resists corrosion wonderfully. It fills in the knurling slightly, just like chrome, so you will notice that it has a certain thickness to it. It also has the tendency to be noticeably scratched up the more you slide plates over it.
- Black Oxide: This finish will give you a better grip than chrome finishes and together with black zinc, get the most obvious scratches from sliding plates over it. In fact, it scratches so easily you can even leave marks just from the abrasion of your hands on it!The coating is so thin with this one that it feels almost like gripping bare steel and does not fill in the depth of knurling the way chrome or steel does. Also, you might want to oil it regularly as its resistance to rust is activated by oil.
- Stainless Steel: Technically, not a finish but a type of steel that is most resistant to rust. This material will also give you a pretty good grip even with perspiration so if you have sweaty hands, this might sweeten the deal for you.
- Bare Steel: This one feels much like stainless steel and gives a good, solid grip but is cheaper to make and easier to the pocket. It can attain a patina over time, which is really just a thin layer of inactive rust that prevents active rust from forming.Unfortunately, it will rust pretty quickly unless it is oiled regularly.
6. Static Test
You might think we saved the best criterion for last but sadly, no.
The static test is what is sometimes called as the “capacity” or “weight limit” or simply “test” of a bar on how much weight it can handle before it is ultimately deformed. It is determined by the manufacturers themselves using ways only they are pretty much aware of and are not really standardized.
The strength of a bar can be better assessed by its diameter and tensile strength. The static test is really more of marketing strategy, so don’t be fooled!
And The Winner Is…
With years of experience and a reputation to uphold, the folks of Buddy Capps Texas sure know their stuff when it comes to powerlifting. It has good enough knurling to give you a good grip, the essential central knurling for those back squats, and a good tensile strength of 185,000 PSI.
This powerlifting bar has also been used in many competitions, which should be testimony enough to its quality and compliance to competition rules!
Although you might be tempted to buy a cheaper bar or ones that are less versatile when you are starting out, it would be wiser to invest more if you want to advance your strength training through powerlifting and most especially if you want to enter in competitions. The right bar will certainly take you places. In addition to the powerlifting bars, you should use suitable safety gears during your training such as power rack, lifting straps, lifting belts, etc.
Are you willing to take the next step in your strength training and invest in a powerlifting bar? Did this article help you in your search for the best powerlifting bars? Do you have suggestions for powerlifting bars? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below and don’t forget to share this article with your family and friends to aid them in their journey to fitness, too!