The Best Powerlifting Barbell – The Ultimate Guide

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The Most Important Information

The best powerlifting barbell is a specialized barbell. It is specifically designed to facilitate three different lifts:

  • Squat
  • Bench Press
  • Deadlift

My opinion is if you’re a beginner, you should absolutely not purchase a powerlifting barbell. I also discourage you from buying any type of barbell until you’ve used one for a few months. If you’re an intermediate level athlete, I think you’ll be better off with a multi-purpose barbell which I break down for you in a separate article here.

If you’re an advanced level athlete who is a passionate powerlifter, feel free to jump straight to my recommendations directly below. However, if you want to understand the reasons behind my suggestions please continue reading.

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Federation Rules

There are two types of powerlifting federations:

  • Federations that don’t allow performance-enhancing drugs
  • Federations that allow performance-enhancing drugs

The international powerlifting federation (IPF) is the single largest drug-free powerlifting federation. Lifters that compete under the IPF are tested for performance-enhancing drugs. 

This article is for those of you who plan to compete (or continue competing) under the IPF.

The second type of federation does not test for performance-enhancing drugs. These make up the vast majority of the smaller powerlifting federations. 

The barbells in this article are not specifically recommended for those of you looking to compete, by my definition, under a type two federation.

Material

The IPF does not regulate a bar’s material. Various types of steel are the most common and recommended.

Strength

There are three ways to measure the strength of a barbell:

  • Tensile strength
  • Yield strength
  • Test strength

Tensile Strength

The tensile strength of a barbell, measured in pounds per square inch (psi), reflects how much weight can be placed on the bar before it snaps in half. As I’ve said before, if you’re at the point where you’re training with a specialized barbell, it’s time to get equipment that’s reliable. 

A powerlifting barbell should have a tensile strength greater than or equal to 200,000 psi.

Yield Strength

Yield strength, also measured in psi, reflects how much weight a barbell can handle before it bends permanently.

Note: While yield strength does matter, there isn’t much point in worrying about it. Manufacturers rarely make a barbell’s yield strength public knowledge. The other barbell attributes outlined in this article will be sufficient for determining a power bar’s overall quality. 

Test Strength (Test)

Test is also measured in psi. It just tells you how much weight a barbell was able to handle in factory test runs before it bent permanently or snapped in half. 

Test is unimportant because it does not reflect a barbell’s true quality. A single test cannot reflect how a barbell will perform in the long term.

Whip

Whip is a subjective measurement that reflects how stiff a barbell is. You’ll normally see terms like “good whip” or “no whip”. 

“No whip” means that the barbell will only bend a very small amount even when it’s loaded up with a lot of weight. This is what you need in a power bar. 

The IPF requires competition barbells to be “stiff”. 

Practice how you compete: Whatever bar you use to practice power lifts should be stiff too. 

Finish

IPF certified powerlifting barbells can have any finish. A barbell’s finish is one of the biggest contributors to the price tag. 

Here’s what makes a great finish:

  • Corrosion resistant
  • Thin
  • Customizable

A great finish will increase corrosion resistance, that said, no finish can resist the accumulation of debris in the knurling. Only regular barbell maintenance can eliminate debris. Since maintenance brings a barbell’s rust back down to zero, in some cases, it defeats the purpose of a high-end finish. 

For this reason, I would normally recommend that you stay away from high-end finishes. However, I know that those of you looking to purchase a powerlifting barbell are usually training very frequently. 

To reduce the frequency of maintenance I will be recommending higher end finishes on the shaft. 

Note: Only the shaft will ever come into contact with the metal frame of a rack. Companies will often use a higher quality material or finish for the barbell’s shaft than its sleeves.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is very expensive but does a good job resisting corrosion. Since stainless steel isn’t actually a finish it has a bare steel feel. You’ll still have to perform bi-weekly maintenance at the very least to keep your bar in the best shape.

Cerakote

Cerakote offers the best corrosion resistance. It isn’t the thinnest finish out there, but it is still pretty thin. In addition, it opens the door to paint jobs and other visual customizations.

IPF Certified Barbell Dimensions & Weight

DescriptionBar Dimensions & Weight
Total Weight20 kg / 44.09 lbs
Shaft or Grip Diameter28-29 mm / 1.1-1.14”
Loadable Sleeve Diameter50-52 mm / 1.97-2.05”
Shaft Length1310-1320 mm / 51.57-51.97”
Total LengthLess than or equal to 2200 mm / 86.61”

Note: You can consult the original source of the above table by downloading the technical rules in your language here.

A competition bar must weigh 44.09 pounds (20 kilograms). In my opinion, the actual weight of the bar you train with can vary. This isn’t Olympic lifting so you don’t need to refine your technique with the exact weight used in competitions. 

Note: All the other dimensions should be within the proper ranges.

The IPF allows 28-millimeter shaft diameters, however, you won’t see many of these out there. This is because thinner barbells have more whip.

 I recommend a 29-millimeter shaft diameter for powerlifting barbells. 

Knurl

IPF certified powerlifting barbells used in competitions must have aggressive knurling. Again, if you’re going to compete, you should be practicing with a barbell that’s as close to the real deal as possible. I strongly recommend you opt for an aggressive knurl. 

At the end of the day the knurl you train with is your choice entirely.

Knurl Marks

The IPF requires a single 5-millimeter long knurl mark to be machined 245 millimeters from the outer edge of the shaft.

Power bars should also have a 120-millimeter strip of knurling at the center of the shaft. This center knurl will grip your shirt which provides extra stability.

A power bar should have knuling in the areas marked with “xxx…”:

Spin

You should use bushings for a powerlifting barbell. Bushings won’t let the barbell rotate very much. Competition power bars will always have bushings so the power bars you train with should too.

Bolts, Punch Pins & Snap Rings

At each end of a barbell there are removable parts. These parts should:

  • Protect the interior of the sleeves from dust and debris
  • Allow easy access into the sleeves for maintenance
  • Keep the sleeves’ internal components in place

All of the end cap systems below do a pretty good job keeping everything in place. The main things to consider are how protective and user friendly they are.

Bolts

Due to gradual corrosion and the collection of debris, a bolt system will get stuck in place without regular maintenance. Bolts will require more upkeep. 

To remove a bolt, you’ll need a socket wrench or a large allen key.

Punch Pins

The system that makes up a punch pin will do a better job keeping debris out of a barbell’s sleeve than a bolt system. However, punch pins are just as susceptible to corrosion and tend to get jammed or become loose without regular maintenance. 

You’ll need a hammer and something small enough to push the punch pin out of it’s hole to remove it. 

Snap Rings

As I see it, the snap ring is the best option available. It completely seals off the sleeve from any dust or debris and it will take much longer to corrode. 

A snap ring is also the easiest to take on and off of a barbell. All you need is a set of pliers. 

Warranty

You’re paying a large sum of cash for a barbell. If the company doesn’t offer a 10-year warranty at the minimum, look somewhere else. Power bars in particular will ideally have a lifetime warranty.

Ckecklist

Recommendations

Eleiko Performance Powerlifting Bar

If you’ve been in a few competitions Eleiko might be a good brand for you. In my opinion, this level of quality is only useful for very advanced Olympic lifters and should by no means be your only Olympic barbell. I believe this should only be an addition to a pre-existing barbell collection. 

Advantages

To my knowledge, the craftsmanship of this bar is the best in existence with the sole exception of Eleiko’s powerlifting competition bar.

Drawbacks

The finish on the entire barbell, including the shaft, is galvanized. Which is mediocre for preventing rust. This barbell’s specs are within the IPF’s requirements, but it’s worth noting that this is not an IPF certified barbell. This is also a very expensive barbell.

Check out the details here.

Rogue Ohio Power Bar

Rogue’s Ohio bar is great for the advanced powerlifters.

Advantages

It has a Cerakote finish so maintenance can be done monthly as far as I’m concerned. Still adjust your maintenance schedule to accommodate for how often you train. There is a lifetime warranty on this barbell.

Drawbacks

This bar is sold at a fair price for what you’re getting. It isn’t IPF certified because of its 45-pound (20.41-kilogram) weight as opposed to an exact weight of 44.09 pounds (20 kilograms). You won’t see anything much cheaper out there unless you’re okay performing maintenance much more frequently.

Check out the details here.

Last Words

Normally I would give you guys several bars to look at. I was tempted to throw in the Texas Power Bar to my recommendations but their customer service and delivery have been terrible lately. I do feel that you’ll get better value from my other recommendations anyway.

I hope this helps! Please leave a comment if you feel like something was missed or if there’s a topic you’d like to see covered in the near future.

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