The barbell you buy will determine how your workouts feel – the best cheap barbells bring maximum comfort and performance, saving you the pain of bad workouts and a disgusting price!
The best cheap barbells on the market do everything the expensive ones do, but without costing you a ridiculous price.
If you’re building a home gym, you need a barbell, and these are some of the best options around to make the most of your hard-earned cash.
Standard vs Olympic Barbells: Why You Need 2 Inches
The Olympic barbell design is the standard for home gyms, because they’re high quality pieces of equipment, fit most plates out there, and are compatible with both bumper plates and iron weight plates.
Olympic barbells are also designed within a regulated and normal standard barbell design: 8 feet long, 2-inch diameter on the grip, and designed to flex and resist at high forces to keep them strong and healthy for longer than an inflexible, ‘standard barbell’.
These typically use a stainless steel shaft for better durability and weight capacity.Standard barbells is a term used for 1″ shafted barbells, but they come with a much wider set of designs and are typically lower quality.
A standard barbell is also not designed to work with the rubber weight plates required for Olympic weightlifting – and this makes them far less valuable for Weightlifting and CrossFit, which both use bumper plates for home gyms.
These both come in various types of quality, and Olympic barbells are not always Olympic weightlifting barbell designs – with it referring to dimensions, not intention (i.e. what you’re going to do with it).
Types of Barbell: Power bar, Weightlifting bar, or “Multipurpose budget barbell”?
There are some excellent multipurpose budget barbells on the market, or you can specialize based on your goals. The more specific you are to your own needs, the more value you’ll get from cheap barbells, especially.
Power bars are a good strength training barbell that you can use for powerlifting and other forms of basic barbell weight training. They’re relatively stiff, but offer excellent durability and build quality barbell design with less whip – and typically better quality for any price compared to a weightlifting bar.
Weightlifting bars are designed for the Olympic lifts. An Olympic barbell with a focus on good flex under weight, excellent spin in the cuffs, and great weight capacity. They also come with a center knurling to improve grip during the clean and jerk.
What makes the Best Cheap Barbells so Good?
The best budget barbells are high-quality at low price – they offer the key features with food design, but with economy of design or materials. Simply put: they don’t compromise on the build quality or design, to bring prices down.
As you might imagine, this is difficult to do – and it’s why a high quality cheap barbell is so rare. Olympic barbells have a lot of moving parts, they require high tensile strength, and they need to be rated for heavy weightlifting.
A weightlifting bar, even more so, is an all purpose piece of gym equipment that has to be useful for a decade or more under regular, heavy loading and the impact against plate rims, the floor, or the rack. This means durability and build quality are put to the test, even if you’re careful.
The overall design of a barbell – the way that the features are put together into a whole – is key. Better products are just good at what they d0 – and that means hitting the right build quality and features for cheap barbells.
This is key to get the most out of your barbell: weightlifting bar design needs to make Olympic lifting better. Power bars need to be well built for powerlifting.
When you’re bringing down the budget, smart design where all the features align characterizes the best budget barbells. It’s the high-level stuff that we see first in any product.
Build Quality and Materials
While chap barbells may be defined by a lower budget, you still want to get the best build quality and materials for your cheap barbells. They’re still key, and many great home gym equipment brands still use amazing bare steel, high tensile strength bars with a good weight capacity and excellent basic builds.
A loaded bar needs to be strong enough for a big weight capacity, and that means a good steel bar, with great cuffs, and a balance of flex and rigidity. Cheaper bars need extra attention here because the opposite is true: some cheap barbells scrimp on the materials, and it leads to a real issue.
The best affordable barbells are just good barbells. It’s about getting the best benefit and training experience, which starts with good materials.
Whether you’re looking for the best budget powerlifting barbell, or an Olympic barbell for your home gym, spin is important.
Power bars – like the rogue Ohio power bar – need less spin, since they’re designed for squat, bench press, and deadlift. Weightlifting bars, on the other hand, need more spin to account for how dynamic snatches and clean and jerks are.
You need a little spin no matter what, and more for olympic weightlifting. Both of these need to be smooth, with no “rattling” – and this comes from the bearings. Needle bearings are the best, with the smoothest and most durable spin, but ball bearings are more common on affordable barbells.
Check the spin – or at least the reviews and demos of the spin – for any barbell!
Flex and whip
How much do you want your barbell to flex when loaded?
The flex and whip refer to how much movement you see in the shaft of the barbell. This is one way that power bars distinguish themselves (with very little whip or flex) and Olympic weightlifting bars have much more.
Your standard multipurpose budget barbell will sit somewhere between the two. This can be a noticeable difference for the elite powerlifter – lifting weights that stress a rigid steel bar to flexing. Others – like the deadlift bars – do this on purpose to make lifting weights easier!
Cheap barbells will flex at lower weights, with options like the rep basic barbell and rogue echo bar starting to whip at 200kg+. This small amount of whip is usually fine, unless you’re incredibly strong, or you’re not familiar with whip.
In either case, take time to get used to it and make sure to buy a bar with whip that is suitable to your goals and weights.
Knurling, Center Knurling, and Grip
Knurling is the grip on a barbell – where grooves are cut into the bare steel to improve the friction against the hand. Weightlifting bars also have a center knurling, which grips at the skin to keep the barbell in contact with the body.
You also need to consider how sharp – or aggressive – this knurling is. This refers to how sharp the knurling is and how much friction it will produce against the skin. This refers to the grip-assistance a barbell provides, but also how much damage it can do to the skin of the hands.
Do you want aggressive knurling?
Most people do not want aggressive knurling – as grip development is an important part of normal strength training. Aggressive knurling is one way to get better grip on a barbell but should be saved for Olympic weightlifting where the dynamism challenges the grip.
These are great benefits for an Olympic barbell, but too much for most uses. It will typically be too much for regular powerlifting training, where it’s not required. Get a middle to aggressive knurling at most!
Do you need center knurling?
No – you don’t need a center knurling. It can be useful for Olympic weightlifting, but isn’t required, except for competition barbells. A center knurling can be a significant bonus for weightlifting, but does typically come at a premium on aggressive knurling bars!
Worth avoiding if it’s an extra cost, but a good addition to some cheap barbells!
Cuffs, sleeves, and the other barbell miscellany
The moving parts of a barbell – the cuffs or sleeves – are an important place to spend any extra cash. These are the areas that are most stressed through use, and are typically the first area to break through wear and tear.
High quality barbells use a stainless steel shaft with well designed and finished cuffs. These are the areas that contact the weight plates and see most damage. This is why the finish is important, and barbell manufacturers typically avoid bare steel – which can scuff.
The bearings in these cuffs also matter, where they maintain barbell integrity and prevent damage on the shaft-contacts. The internal build of these barbells really matter and the best value budget barbells spend big on moving parts to get the best results for the longest life.
Bearings: needle bearings or ball bearings?
Needle bearings are better than ball bearings, but also more expensive. Needle bearings produce a better spin, with a smoother action, and a longer life. Some products, like Eleiko weightlifting bars, even use self-lubricating needle bearings.
Look for bronze bushings and any hybrid designs that use both ball and needle bearings – it’s just a step towards premium barbell design. These are still a little more expensive, but are common on a high quality barbell at any price.
Best Budget Olympic Barbell Options
The best budget barbell options on the market split into 3 main categories:
- All-purpose budget barbell
- Best budget power bar
- Best budget barbell for Olympic lifting
So let’s look at our favorites and what to look for in each of these categories. We’ll see a few of the first, so let’s get started with one of the most popular cheap barbells on the market…
There are some excellent budget barbell options for your home gym. If you get the best products, you’ll have a fantastic commercial level experience – or better – in your home gym.
We love the Rogue ohio power bar and the Rep fitness Gladiator bar the best. The rogue Ohio power bar is the best choice for general strength training but the Rep fitness barbell is a powerful cheap Olympic barbell (as in, specifically for Olympic lifts).
If you want an all-purpose bar, then our recommendation is the Rogue Echo bar 2.0 – it’s just good at everything, at a good price.
These are the best because of the quality, the design, the features, and the lifespan they offer. These offer the best training for the longest time, provide the best value for money, and the best budget barbells on the market!