Being a giant large metal toothpick look, barbells are probably the simplest home gym equipment. But, you can't just buy the cheapest one that you come across. You have to choose something that helps you stay safe and perform your exercises comfortably.
If you have just started weightlifting, you can choose any of the best affordable Olympic barbells that we had reviewed in our earlier article.
But, if you have been training for a while or if you don't mind spending an extra $100 for a piece of equipment that is much more than just basic, this article is going to help you.
Here, we will brief you about the features that you need to look for while buying a weightlifting barbell. We will also provide you with a list of the 5 best-rated mid-range barbells suitable for intermediate-level trainers.
Let's begin our article by understanding the features that matter the most in a good quality barbell.
What to look for while buying a good quality barbell
It is determined by using two different measurements- yield strength and tensile strength
It indicates the amount of weight a barbell can handle before bending or deforming permanently. So, the higher the yield strength, the better the Barbell is.
It is the maximum load that a barbell can bear without breaking. It is measured in Pounds per square inch i.e. PSI. The more the tensile strength, the safer it is to use, especially if you are lifting heavy. But you don't really have to go with barbells with super-high tensile strength. 170,000 to 190,000 PSI is ideally suitable for most intermediate-level trainers. Tensile strength higher than this is required for advanced weightlifters and commercial use. Lower tensile strength is for beginners and casual use.
It indicates the amount of flexibility a barbell has.
Barbells meant for powerlifting are stiff i.e. they do not have much whip compared to the Olympic barbells. They are highly recommended for bench presses, squats, etc.
Olympic barbells have a high whip. This means when you lift them from the ground, the bar will flex from the middle of it, leaving the endplates on the ground, so you can get into a stronger position before taking the full load off. The whip also helps with snatch and jerks.
The rotation of the sleeves i.e. the spin can make a lot of difference to the comfort and safety you get from your weightlifting equipment. Barbells can either have bushings or bearings to make the shaft rotate freely when you lift them, so you don’t have to twist your wrists at uncomfortable angles.
Most Olympic barbells for beginners and intermediates have bushings because they are cheap and do their job well. Bearings are found in high-end models. The main difference between them is the smoothness with which they make the shaft spin.
Now, unless you are into competitive sports or an advanced trainer pumping more than 300lbs, it doesn’t matter whether your barbell has bearings or bushings. Just ensure that the sleeves rotate freely and smoothly. You will figure it out after trying it a few times.
If the rotation is not smooth enough, you could hurt your wrist severely, lose your balance, and injure yourself. So, do not fall for ridiculously cheap barbells like the Yalasga Olympic Barbell. Even if you barely lift 100lbs, do not compromise with your safety.
The crosshatch pattern you see on the shaft of the barbell is its knurling. Olympic barbells have less aggressive knurling than powerlifting barbells. Moreover, the Olympic barbells that aren’t meant for competitive sports, usually do not have central knurling. Powerlifters, however, need it for back squats, etc.
As obvious, the main purpose of knurling is to provide you a good grip and prevent grip-failure related accidents. Each manufacturer has its own style of knurling. But, in most cases, powerlifting barbells have more aggressive knurl marks.
Knurling is a very sensitive feature of a barbell. If its depth is less than required it will not provide you enough grip. If it is more than what is required, it will hurt you and might cause calluses. So, it is very important to choose the barbell that you can comfortably hold even when you are lifting heavy.
Now that you have learned enough about the features of the best olympic barbell for intermediate-level training, let's check out some of the top-rated products that we recommend.
Have a rusty barbell?
If you already own a good quality product but you are thinking of replacing it because it has rusted out, check out this article on how to quickly and easily remove the rust stains from barbells. After following the processes mentioned in the article, you may not feel the need for replacement.
But, if you do, check out the products listed below!
5 best mid-range olympic barbells for intermediate level trainers
|The Ohio Bar – Cerakote
|Maxxum Stainless Steel Power Bar By Titan Fitness
|Rep Gladiator WL Bearing Bar
|3 Needle bearings and 2 bushings per sleeve
|Synergee 45lb Rhino Power Bar Cerakote Finish
|The California Bar by American Barbell– cerakote edition
Rogue’s Ohio bar is one of the most popular all-purpose barbells unless you are into competitive sports. It comes with dual knurl marks, making it suitable for powerlifting and olympic lifting. This specific review is about the cerakote version, which provides excellent corrosion resistance and an unbelievable amount of smoothness in its spin.
- Diameter- 28.5MM
- Weight- 20kg
- Total length-86.75″
- Loadable sleeve length- 16.40″
- Available in multiple color combination options
- Tensile Strength: 190,000 PSI
- Has dual knurl marks, as mentioned above
- You can choose to have cerakote sleeves or chrome sleeves
- Rotation system is made of composite bushings
- Covered by Rogue’s lifetime warranty
Since it is an olympic weightlifting barbell, it doesn’t come with a central knurling.
What we love about the Ohio bar Cerakote finish barbell by Rogue Fitness
Appreciate the Cerakote finish in this mid-price range
Cerakote is a ceramic-based coating that can be sprayed on metal, polymer, plastic, or wood products. The coating does look cool indeed but its main function is to provide better protection against abrasion, wear and tear, corrosion, and chemical reactions.
Rogue Fitness is not the first company to start using cerakote coating on its products. But, it is definitely the first one to provide this premium quality finishing on its mid-range products.
If you live in a humid climate, this Rogue Fitness Cerakote finish barbell will provide 70 times longer than the Chrome and stainless steel ones.
Ohio barbells by Rogue Fitness are also available in black zinc finish and a few other finishes. But, we don’t mind spending $40-$50 more for this cerakote one.
Composite bushings is exceptionally good
Rogue fitness has always been a trendsetter. This time, it has started the trend of using composite bushings in the sleeves instead of the conventional bronze bushings. The main benefit of composite bushings is that they spin much better and smoother than the standard bushings found in lower-range products, including the regular Ohio bar.
So if you don't have budget issues, you must not hesitate to fork out some extra cash for this specialist Olympic barbell.
What we don’t like about it
The cerakote finish on the sleeves get scratched easily
Honestly, we pretty much expected this.
Barbells are extremely prone to scratches and dents. Their paint chips off too. And, you can't do much about it because sliding the weight plates in and out creates a significant amount of fiction that no barbell would be able to resist.
The main problem with Cerakote finishing getting scratched is that it makes the barbell look shabby. Steel sleeves won’t look as bad as the cerakote ones, so keep this in mind. Nevertheless, scratches just affect the aesthetic appearance, which should be OK.
Cerakote finish in the shaft reduces the depth of the knurling
Buyers have stated that the Ohio cerakote barbell has less aggressive knurling than the regular one. This is most likely because of the coating.
We haven’t used the regular Ohio barbell, so we won’t be able to comment much but the knurling on this one is perfect for us. We are, however, mentioning this here so you know what to expect from it.
Also please note that the cerakote finish actually makes the barbell feel less slick, so even if the knurling is a bit less, you will still find it grippy enough.
Our Rating: 4.7/5
We thought for a while and honestly, we couldn’t come up with anything that we truly dislike about it. Rogue Ohio Cerakote is the best olympic barbell for anyone who wants to upgrade their home gym with something that can help them train with more weight. The cerakote finish is a great addition because most of us keep our home gym equipment in garages or basements where humidity levels are high.
If you are looking for an Ohio alternative without the cerakote coating, Maxxum bar from Titan Fitness is worth trying. It is a fairly new product, so there are not many reviews from buyers. But, we have been using Titan Fitness products for a decade now, and one thing we can confidently say is that it provides the best value for money and always tries to stay in line with other competitive products.
It is also a multifunctional bar but it has more tensile strength than the Ohio one, which means it can be used by intermediate to advanced trainers. Plus, there is a central knurling, making it suitable for back squats and a few other weight training exercises.
Before we explain more about it, we would like to suggest that if you are training with heavy weights, make sure you wear good quality, grippy, and well-cushioned weightlifting shoes such as the ones that we have recommended in this article.
Also, now that you are making progress in your workouts, you should buy a weightlifting belt to further improve your performance. Here are some of the best weightlifting belts that we recommend.
- Diameter- 28 mm
- Weight- 20kg
- Total length- 86.75”
- Loadable sleeve length- 16.25”
- Has central knurl and single knurl mark for powerlifting
- Tensile strength- 230,000 PSI
- Weight-bearing capacity- 2000lbs
- Rotation system of made of bronze bushings
- The manufacturer claims that it is a low-maintenance bar and can be used outdoors as well.
- Warranty- 1-year
What we like about the Maxxum stainless steel power bar by Titan Fitness
Offers best value for money
We have been buying, using, and reviewing home gym equipment for so many years. One thing that we can confidently claim about Titan Fitness is that its products offer maximum value for money. They are mostly very basic and that's why we love them! This Maxxum barbell offers 230,000 tensile strength and has central knurling, which are hard to find in barbells less than $500.
Currently, it is sold for around $400 on its website and $450 on Amazon. Well, that's more expensive than the Rogue Ohio cerakote bar but do note Titan Fitness offers free shipping, whereas you will have to pay extra for getting Rogue’s products shipped to your location.
Love the central knurling
If you are into cross-training, you would obviously want a multi-functional bar and this is exactly where the Titan Fitness Maxxum beats the Ohio cerakote.
We are not into professional training. We just need a barbell that can be used to perform as many weightlifting exercises as possible, whether they are olympic or powerlifting exercises. The Maxxum barbell has knurling at all possible spots, so you will get a good grip no matter what type of exercise you are performing. Isn’t it great?
What we don’t like
Just 1-year warranty
The warranty a product carries reflects its quality and the amount of confidence the manufacturer has in it. Look at Rogue Fitness. Most of its products are backed by lifetime warranty, which means Rogue exactly understands what it is manufacturing. Unfortunately, Titan Fitness has ignored this aspect.
Don’t get us wrong, its products are durable and probably last a lifetime but Titan Fitness should claim that by offering a longer warranty period instead of the standard 1-year warranty that it has on almost all its products. Anyone would hesitate to buy a $400 product that comes with just 1-year warranty.
Rotation system could have been better
Well, the sleeves spin as they should but we were expecting something better at a $400 price point. The bronze bushing is very basic. Titan Fitness should have made extra effort to make it better like the Rogue Fitness did by using composite bushings. But, do note that this isn’t a deal-breaker because the bar works as expected.
Our Rating: 4.6/5
We recommend Titan Fitness Maxxum to people who are looking for the best Olympic barbell for cross-training. Its current price is higher than what we believe it should be. Maybe the prices have surged up due to excessive demand. We are keeping track of its price and we intend to buy it for around $350.
Please note: If you are planning to buy this product or any other product listed in this article, you should also think about buying a squat rack or squat stand so you can rack or unrack the loaded barbell safely. Titan T-2 Series Power Rack and the Hulkfit Half Rack are our favorites for intermediate-level trainers but REP PR-1100 Home Gym Power Rack is great too.
The Gladiator WL bearings bar by Rep fitness is available in 15kg and 20kg. The 15kg one is for women but if you aren’t into competitive sports, men can use that too. However, its shaft diameter is 25mm instead of 28mm, which could be a problem. Nevertheless, you can pay extra to get a 20kg barbell instead.
Just like Titan Fitness Maxxum bar reviewed above, this one too has a high tensile strength of 230,000 PSI, making it one of the best olympic barbells for intense workout sessions.
- Diameter- 28 mm for 20kg barbell and 25mm for 15 kg barbell
- Weight- available in 20kg and 15 kg
- Total length- 86.5 inches
- Loadable sleeve length- 16.25″
- Knurling-20kg bar has center knurling but 15 kg doesn’t
- Has hard chrome finish which provides better protection against rust than oxide finish
- Tensile strength- 230,000 PSI
- Weight-bearing capacity- 1500lbs
- Rotation system- 3 Needle bearings and 2 bushings per sleeve
- 5-year warranty
The manufacturer has stated that this Gladiator WL bar has ribbed sleeves to prevent the plates from sliding off. This, however, doesn’t mean that you can use it without proper barbell collars. Even if you are lifting less than 100lbs, do not use a loaded barbel without securing the weight plates. Here are some of the best barbell collars that you can buy in case you don’t have one.
What we like about the Rep Gladiator WL bearing bar
Only a few olympic barbells under $500 use bearings because they are expensive and require significant investment in terms of money and technology. Rep Fitness has taken a bold step by upgrading its mid-range barbells like this Gladiator with bearings rotation system.
The bearings make the rotation feel smooth instead of the ‘grindy’ feel you get when you use bushings. Some buyers have complained that bearings aren’t as free-flowing as the Elieko barbells. Well, that's because Elieko barbells are meant for competitive sports and cost more than $1000. Obviously, they will be much better than the Gladiator one. Nevertheless, the spin is perfect for those of us who have no intention of lifting anything beyond 400lbs.
See the image below where one buyer has stated that the spin is even better than Rogue Fitness barbells.
Unlike the Titan Fitness products, Rep Fitness has provided a 5-year warranty against all possible defects including bending, knurling issues, spinning issues, coating issues, etc. 5-year might sound less if you compare it to Rogue Fitness but if you use it within the weight limit and do not roughly drop a loaded barbell, it could last a lifetime.
What we don’t like
Knurling could have been sharper
It is passive i.e dull and spaced out more than the other olympic barbells meant for intermediate-level training.
The knurling isn’t bad but it doesn’t really give you that locked-in feel that you expect a bar to have, especially if you are lifting a decent amount of weight. Further, hard chrome is by nature a bit more slippery than oxide finish. So, passive knurling doesn’t feel great. The other barbells from Rep Fitness that we have tried do not have this issue.
The comfort of knurling is a subject thing. While some trainers love the ones that dig into your skin, others prefer shallower knurl marks. So, do not just go by our words. Try it out to get the first-hand experience.
Our Rating: 4.6/5
If you are into crossfit training and use heavy weights, then this bearing-based olympic barbell should be your first choice. But, keep in mind that the knurling might not be as you expected. Do not hesitate to try it out though.
If you have always wanted a cerakote finish, smooth, aesthetically appealing barbell like the Ohio one reviewed above but you don’t have the budget to buy the Rogue one, the Synergee Rhino bar is its perfect alternative. Since it is meant for powerlifting, it has less flex than olympic barbells but unless you are lifting a decently heavy weight, you won’t mind that.
The Rhino bar is one of the best barbells for crossfit training.
- Diameter- 29mm
- Weight- 45lbs
- Total length-86.36”
- Loadable sleeves- 16.4”
- Knurling- central knurling and powerlifting knurl marks. Uses volcano style knurlings marks to give you a solid grip
- Weight-bearing capacity- 1500lbs
- Tensile strength- 190,000 PSI
- Has a corrosion-resistant cerakote finish
- Rotation system includes bushings
- Warranty- Lifetime
What we like about the Synergee Rhino power bar
Here are the similarities between Rogue Ohio and Synergee Rhino barbells:
- Both have cerakote coated shaft and sleeves available in multiple colors
- Both have 190,000 PSI tensile strength
- Both have medium knurling marks coated with cerakote to provide better grip
But, the price difference is about $100. Plus, Synergee ships it for free whereas Rogue Fitness charges extra shipping prices.
So, if you don’t have a budget for Rogue Ohio, you can buy the Synergee Rhino barbell confidently.
Exceptional quality for the price
93% of buyers have rated it 4-stars and above. Many of them have claimed that it is almost impossible to beat the price of this barbell for home gyms. The material is solid and the coating is exceptionally well done. The whip is on the downside but that's what powerlifters need. Overall, it can beat all other barbells in its price range.
Buyers have also praised the promptness and sincerity of Synergee’s customer service team.
What we don’t like
Knurling isn’t that aggressive
No matter what the manufacturer claims about their volcano knurling pattern, buyers have stated that the knurling is rather passive and shallow. This could be because of the cerakote coating. Ohio also has the same problem. Buyers have stated that if you are going to lift beyond 300lbs, you will probably find the knurling insufficient and unreliable.
But, as we said above, knurling is a subjective thing, so try it before ruling it out from your list.
Thicker than olympic barbells
Standard olympic barbells are 28mm thick but this one has a thickness of 29mm. The 1mm difference will probably go unnoticed unless you have small hands. Because then, this extra thickness can make you uncomfortable when you lift heavy. Not a deal-breaker though.
Our Rating: 4.5/5
Rhino bar from Synergee is meant for powerlifting and has less whip and spin. We intentionally listed it here because a lot of us aren’t into serious olympic sports. But, if you are more inclined towards the olympic form of weight training, check out Synergee Fitness games barbell.
The California Bar by American Barbell– cerakote edition
It seems as if the cerakote finish has become a rage recently. Almost every manufacturer is upgrading their products with cerakote coating and American Barbell too has joined the bandwagon. It has upgraded its extremely popular California bar and, now, the upgraded version has become a top-seller product too! It costs more than the Ohio bar but you don’t have to pay for shipping, which means ultimately you will be paying less for it.
The features and quality of the California bar matches with other products listed here but let’s not just assume anything. Scroll below to read its thorough review.
- Diameter- 28mm
- Weight- available in 20kgs and 15 kgs weight
- Total length-86.75”
- Loadable sleeve length- 16 3/8″
- Tensile strength- 190,000 PSI
- Shaft has cerakote coating in multiple colors. Sleeves are coated with hard chrome
- Rotation system- composite bushings
- Knurling- dual marks
- Warranty- lifetime
What we like about the American Barbell California bar
We would have highly appreciated bearings at this price point but composite bushing isn’t bad. American Barbell is a reputable brand, so if it has used bushings in the rotation system of its California barbell, we are pretty sure that helps make it function as expected.
The composite bushings are of high-quality and provide an extreme level of smoothness to the spin. Just like bearings, this rotation system slows down gradually before coming to a total stop, so there are unexpected bumps in the speed and rotation. The spin is quite predictable.
As we said above, American Barbell is one of the few brands that you can trust, especially if you are looking for products that you can trust for lifting heavy weights. As per its website, it has its own CNC machine for casting Olympic bar parts and formulating the rubber coatings, etc.
It doesn't just outsource the parts and assemble them in its factory; it manufactures most of them. It knows what it is making, which is why American Barbell is offering a lifetime warranty on its California bar and numerous other products. Not many brands do that. Even some of the most expensive barbells come with hardly 5-year warranty.
What we don’t like about it
Knurling is shallow
As expected, numerous buyers have stated that the knurling should have been a bit more aggressive. You might have to use chalk to get a better, stronger grip.
Our Rating: 4.5/5
The California cerakote bar by American Barbell is one of the best olympic barbells that you can buy below $350. We love that it is available in a 15kg variety to cater to the increasing demand of women olympic barbells. But, do note that it has less whip than other products listed here. If you need more flex from your barbell, this one won’t be a good choice.
To compile this list of best Olympic barbells, we researched products from many renowned manufacturers and evaluated more than 25 products, so we can come up with options that best serve your purpose.
We are confident that you won’t have to look for anything beyond these products. But if you have already surpassed the level of intermediate training, make sure you check out our list of best high-end barbells.
If you are going to lift heavy, make sure you use good quality home gym floor mats to protect your floor as well as your equipment. The mats will provide adequate cushion to your equipment and shield them against any damage due to random dropping.