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Health & Fitness

How to buy a barbell for your home gym

You have more options than you may think.

A barbell in front of a green background with a price tag attached near the middle. Credit: Reviewed / Getty Images / Simfo

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Strength training should be an important part of any well-rounded workout routine, for the health of your muscles, bones, and joints and your overall well being. And while you can easily start at home with bodyweight exercises, you’ll eventually progress to needing external load in the form of weights if you practice with consistency.

Sets of hand weights, especially adjustable dumbbells, are great for exercises like bicep curls and tricep kickbacks, but a barbell set with weight plates makes a great addition to any home gym. It can allow you to lift more weight during exercises like squats, deadlifts, and bent-over rows. But finding the right home barbell for your workout routine is more than just selecting a sleek-looking piece of metal: You need to buy one designed for your current fitness level and body part you’re looking to strengthen.

What is a barbell?

Even if you haven’t used one, you’ve probably seen them: Barbells are long, heavy metal rods you can use to perform squats (preferably from a squat rack), bench or chest presses, rows, deadlifts, shoulder presses, and more. They typically measure between 5 and 7 feet long and weigh between 30 and 55 pounds on their own, with the ability to add weight plates of varying loads to become very, very heavy.

Barbells are often made of steel coated with chrome-colored zinc, black zinc, or black oxide for a rust-free finish. Many feature areas of aggressive knurling to give you a better grip—a must if you lift with sweaty hands, though center knurling is optional, as it offers grip when the bar rests for back squats but can also be irritating to skin.

What are the benefits of using a barbell?

When you first start weight training, you’ll likely find that lightweight dumbbells and kettlebells are great tools to help you build strength and endurance. But as you advance, you’ll need to use heavier loads to keep challenging yourself and progressing.

“With a barbell, you have the benefit of lifting more weight than with a dumbbell or kettlebell,” says Jonathan Ibrahim, NASM-certified personal trainer and coach for Tempo. “You also develop a better understanding of maneuvering the bar around your body, which is called the ‘bar path.’ By deepening this understanding, you’ll build not only strength, but also movement timing and range of motion.”

What type of barbell should I buy?

A person holding a barbell ready to lift it up.
Credit: Reviewed / Getty Images / SolStock

Know which one is right for your muscles and training style.

While you may have experimented with an Olympic barbell, the gold standard at commercial gyms, that doesn’t mean it’s the one you should buy as your go-to. Luckily, there are plenty of types of barbells to choose from.

Standard barbells

Standard barbells weigh between 15 and 25 pounds, measure 5 to 6 feet long, and have a 1-inch diameter. If you’re looking for a basic barbell to use for a variety of exercises from bench pressing to squatting, a standard bar is a great option for beginners.

One popular option available on Amazon is the Sunny Health and Fitness standard bar. This 5-foot-long, 15-pound bar has 4.7 stars and more than 7,700 reviews on Amazon. Reviewers say this bar feels sturdy during workouts, with minimal flexing even as you approach the 250-pound weight capacity.

$38 at Amazon

Olympic barbells

Standard Olympic barbells weigh 20 kilograms (about 45 pounds) and measure 2.2 meters (or 7.2 feet) long. The outermost parts of the bar where you load the weight plates—called sleeves—rotate to aid in dynamic movements like cleans, jerks, and snatches. (This is also what makes them popular in CrossFit.)

Olympic bars are often girthier than standard bars—the standard is 1.1 inches in diameter along the length. Note: Some companies call their barbells “Olympic” (most likely because of the rotating sleeves), but are not the standardized size.

One well-reviewed regulation option available on Amazon for experienced lifters is the CAP barbell. This standard Olympic bar has 4.7 stars with nearly 4,000 reviews. Reviewers say they’re impressed with the quality of this barbell and say that it feels durable and long-lasting, a great addition to any home gym.

Starting at $220 at Amazon

“Women’s” Olympic barbells

The “women’s” version of Olympic barbells is designed for those with smaller frames. The standard weight is 15 kilograms (or about 33 pounds), the length is slightly shorter at 2 meters (or 6.5 feet), and the diameter is smaller at just under an inch. You may find them easier to grasp if you have a smaller frame or hands, and because they weigh less, they’re a great option for beginners who might find a 45-pound bar too heavy to lift comfortably on its own.

This 33-pound bar from Synergee has 4.7 stars and more than 550 reviews on Amazon. Reviewers say this bar is great for heavy lifting, with sleeves that rotate smoothly.

Starting at $200 at Amazon

Curl bars

Curl bars, aka EZ bars, have W-shaped contours where you grip them, to allow you to adjust your hand placement by 45 degrees inward or outward. This could make them more comfortable to hold as well as allow you to slightly alter which muscles you’re working during exercises such as curls and rows.

Curl bars are typically shorter than other barbells, measuring only 4 to 5 feet long and weighing 20 to 40 pounds. These more diminutive bars aren’t ideal for lifts like squats or deadlifts, but if you’re looking for a way to vary your bicep and tricep exercises, they’re worth a try.

The Holleyweb Olympic curl bar comes in multiple weights—15, 20, and 22 pounds—all of which can be plate-loaded, so you can choose whichever fits your abilities best. It has 4.7 stars with over 1,000 reviews on Amazon, and reviewers say this bar feels sturdy and its bearings rotate smoothly, making for a comfortable lift. Starting at $42 at Amazon

Trap bars

Trap bars, also called hex bars thanks to their hexagonal shape, allow you to center yourself with the weight you’re lifting, as opposed to placing the bar (and its load) either in front or behind you.

Though trap bars aren’t as versatile as standard or Olympic bars, they can lower the risk of injury and put less pressure on the back when lifting, making them a safer choice for beginners, according to Lexi Moreno, certified personal trainer and coach for fitness app Future. They’re typically used for deadlifts and squats, but can also be used for farmer carries or shoulder shrugs.

Trap bars can weigh anywhere from 25 to 70 pounds, though usually weigh between 40 and 55 pounds. They can range in length from 4.5 to 7 feet and are usually 20 to 30 inches wide, meaning they take up more floor space than a traditional barbell.

The CAP Barbell trap bar has multiple handle options to select from or combine: raised grips, where the handles are slightly higher than the sleeves, and flush grips, where the handles are in line with the sleeves. It weighs 46 pounds and is 55 inches long.

Its 2,300 Amazon reviewers give this bar an average of 4.7 stars and say all the handle options are comfortable to hold and make for a smooth range of motion throughout various exercises. Many also say they feel the bar’s construction is high quality, like it would hold up for years to come. $120 at Amazon

What are the different types of weight plates?

A person working out with a weight plate.
Credit: Reviewed / Getty Images / Kanawa_Studio

The plates by themselves can also be a good workout tool.

Once you decide on a barbell, you’ll want to consider the types of plates you can get. Iron plates and bumper plates are two common types available. Regardless of material, make sure you get plates with the same diameter as your bar’s sleeve thickness. That means for an Olympic bar with a 2-inch diameter, you’ll want plates with 2-inch openings for loading. You’ll also want to get a variety of loading options—5-, 10-, 15-, 25-, and 45-pound plates—so you can comfortably progress.

Iron plates

Cast iron plates are extremely durable and commonly available for home gyms. They may be less expensive than other materials, though are susceptible to rust in humid environments. Additionally, you risk damaging your floor if you drop them.

The WF Athletic Supply Olympic plates offer a great value and have earned an average of 4.7 stars from more than 2,200 reviews on Amazon. You can choose from 2.5-, 5-, 10-, 25-, 35-, and 45-pound plates that are sold as singles or in sets of two, four, or six. Starting at $17 at Amazon

Bumper plates

Bumper plates—also called rubber plates—are a great option for beginners and experienced lifters alike. Their rubber build won’t rust, and should you drop the weights, you don’t have to worry about damaging your floor. (Though they may eventually crack with too much manhandling.)

The Amgym bumper plates sets are a great, customizable option. Eight sets are available containing a variety of plates totaling 100 to 370 pounds, and you can also find pairs of 10-, 15-, 25-, 35-, 45-, or 55-pound plates. Reviewers say these hold up well over time and the variety of sets available makes it easy to find a combination that suits your workout needs. Starting at $200 at Amazon

Where can I buy barbells and plates online?

Barbells and weight plates are readily available online at retailers like Amazon, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and Rogue Fitness.

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Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.