Best Olympic Weightlifting Barbell

Let’s look at who makes the best Olympic weightlifting barbell.

What’s an Olympic weightlifting barbell (also sometimes called an Oly bar)?

It’s a tough barbell used for lifting big weights.

But, more importantly it has the qualities you need for the Olympic lifts: the snatch, and clean and jerk.

What exactly does that mean? That’s what we’ll explain next.

First, let’s look at an example. Shown here is someone you might recognize (Rich Froning) using the Rogue Olympic WL Bar to perform a “snatch”.

Rich Froning using Rogue Olympic WL bar.
Rich Froning using the Rogue Olympic WL bar to perform a snatch – probably in a CrossFit competition.

The snatch is one of the two lifts used in Olympic competition – but I’m betting you already know all about that.

Here’s all the Olympic weightlifting barbells we are going to review in this article:

Rogue Olympic WL Bar The Rogue Olympic WL Bar is Rogue's basic bearing bar for the Olympic lifts. 28mm shaft diameter with a 20kg weight and no center knurl. Bright zinc coating. This bar will get the job done.
Rogue Olympic WL Bar with Cerakote Need more corrosion resistance than zinc? You can get the Olympic WL Bar with cerakote - a thin-film ceramic polymer coating. This bar is also significantly more durable because it has Rogue Work Hardening process applied to it.
Rogue Olympic WL Bar - Stainless Steel The Rogue Olympic WL Bar is also available in a stainless steel version - but it is more expensive. This bar offers great corrosion resistance with "bare metal" bar feel because there is no plating, no coating.
Rogue Olympic WL Bar - IWF Certified This version of the WL Bar is IWF certified - so you can use it in competition. This is a bright zinc version of the bar - but has an F-6R rating so it's very durable. IWF logo on the endcaps and shaft.
Rogue Olympic WL Bar - IWF Certified (Cerakote) This is another version of Rogue's Olympic WL Bar that is IWF Certified. This one has Cerakote on the shaft and the IWF Logo on the endcaps and shaft.

Features of the Best Olympic Weightlifting Barbells

These bars are big so they can hold a lot of weight, but they have important differences as compared to the barbells used for traditional powerlifting moves like the squat, deadlift, and bench press.

First of all, every bar here will be a bearing bar. That means the revolving sleeves (where the plates go) is supported by multiple needle bearings.

The Rogue Olympic WL bar features 10 sets of needle bearings (5 sets per sleeve) that produce a smooth, reliable spin across day-to-day use
High quality needle bearings ensure these sleeves will spin with minimum friction. This is why these bars are called “bearing” bars.

And that means the plates (on the sleeves) can spin for days…

Smooth, frictionless spin helps you hoist more weight overhead efficiently.

Regular barbells use bushings – which are tough, low-maintenance, and cheap. But they don’t spin like a bar with needle bearings – it’s no contest.

Key Takeaway: Bearing Bar vs Bushing Bar A bearing bar uses needle bearings to provide a lot of spin on the revolving sleeves. A bushing bar uses a simpler mechanism that lets the sleeves revolve, but it won’t spin like a bearing bar will. Bearing bars are more expensive.

Secondly, these bars are constructed with steel that provides for “whip”.

You know how the bar bends a bit when you load it up really heavy? Whip is the same principle, but when harnessed in the fast Olympic lifts this gives you better efficiency – and let’s you lift more.

Barbell whip allows the lifter to utilize the momentum of the weight to lift more.

“Whip” is accomplished via a combination of the steel the bar is made of – and the diameter.

Every bar here is going to have a 28mm shaft diameter (for a men’s barbell). That’s the right diameter for whip and grip.

A Men’s Olympic barbell weights in at 20kg (about 44 lbs.)

Here’s some more info about the general dimensions of such a bar (again this is the Rogue Olympic WL Bar).

The general dimensions of an Olympic weightlifting barbell

A Women’s Olympic barbell will be 25mm in diameter (which is easier to grip for those with smaller hands) – and it will be slightly shorter as well. As a consequence, a Women’s Olympic barbell only weighs 15kg (33 lbs.)

These barbells have to be tough – because they are going to be dropped from overhead a lot (with bumper plates.)

How do you finish an Olympic lift? You drop the bar – you don’t lower it under control (in most circumstances).

You also have to be skilled at bailing out from a failed lift – and with Oly lifting that means dropping the bar.

Therefore, the strength and durability of the bar needs to be far better than that of a powerlifting bar.

Lastly, most of these barbells will NOT have a center knurl.

In Olympic weightlifting competition the bar doesn’t spend any time on your back – but it does come in contact with your upper chest.

And in that case the center knurl is like taking a cheese grater to your skin – so most of these will not have a center knurl.

Let’s take a look at the bars that are available.

Rogue Olympic WL Barbell

We’ll start with Rogue’s basic bearing bar – the Olympic WL Bar.

20Kg, 28mm shaft diameter, no center knurl, needle bearings (5 per sleeve) – these are the basic features you need in a weightlifting barbell.

Rogue Olympic WL Bar - a bearing bar for Olympic weightlifting.

The shaft is made with 215K PSI tensile strength steel.

This bar has an “F2” rating on Rogue’s F-scale.

This is a measure of the durability of the bar. Rogue created this scale specifically to rate barbells based on their longevity when subjected to a lot of overhead drops.

The dimensions meet IWF (International Weightlifting Federation) standards – but this is not an IWF certified bar. This means you couldn’t use it in a competition.

This bar has a bright zinc coating on the shaft and sleeves. Zinc is “middle of the road” for oxidation (rust) resistance.

If you are in a humid location, like a garage gym or CrossFit box, you probably want a more robust finish.

That’s where Cerakote can help.

Cerakote is a thin-film ceramic polymer coating.

It was first developed by the firearms industry – where a tough, corrosion resistant coating is needed – but it can’t interfere with the moving parts of a firearm.

As it turns out, this is a great option for a barbell – because it can be applied to the whole bar including the knurl area where you need to grip the bar.

And therefore Rogue offers a Cerakote version of the Olympic WL Bar.

Rogue Olympic WL Bar with Cerakote shaft

As you can see, the shaft has black Cerakote. The sleeves are hard chrome – which is the optimum material for the sleeves.

(Cerakote on the sleeves tends to get worn off as plates are loaded and unloaded over the years.)

This bar has an F-6R rating on Rogue’s F-Scale.

Rogue has applied their proprietary Rogue Work Hardening process to the steel – to make it ultra-durable.

This would be a great bar for use in a commercial facility or CrossFit box – where it is going to get dropped all day – every day.

Lastly, this bar is also available in stainless steel.

Why would you want that?

Stainless steel is more expensive, but it is the most corrosion (rust) resistant bar steel you can get.

And it’s got a great “bare metal” feel to it – because there is no plating or coating on the bar.

Olympic Weightlifting Barbell in Stainless Steel - Rogue Olympic WL Bar

The Stainless Steel version of the bar has an F2 rating on the F-Scale.

Apparently Rogue’s work hardening process can’t be applied to stainless.

This is still enough durability for a home or garage gym.

IWF Certified Olympic WL Bar

Earlier we mentioned that these bars meet the general International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) size specs for competition barbells.

But only one of these bars is IWF certified.

The IWF Certified version of the Olympic WL bar is the one to get – if you are running a competition.

Rogue Olympic WL Bar - IWF Certified - Bright Zinc

This bar DOES have center knurl.

Why? Because IWF barbell specifications require a center knurl.

(They also require the blue identification markings on the end caps and shaft.)

Rogue Olympic WL Bar - IWF Certified

What is probably more important though – this bar has Rogue’s F-6R rating. It has the RWH process applied to it to ensure it is highly durable.

You can’t have a barbell failing during a competition!

There’s also an IWF certified WL Bar with Cerakote shaft.

(That’s another benefit of Cerakote – it let’s you do some cool things with colors, logos, designs, etc.)

Rogue Olympic WL Bar with Cerakote - IWF Certified

Per IWF specs, this version also has the blue logo on the shaft (and endcaps.)

Rogue Olympic WL Bar with Cerakote - IWF Certified

That Cerakote bar is also F-6R rated.

Do you need an IWF certified bar? Not unless you are using it in a competition. Otherwise, it’s a bit of an extravagance.

Best Olympic Weightlifting Barbell – In Summary

There are certain things we want in an Olympic weightlifting barbell:

  • Tough steel (200K – 210K PSI tensile strength steel) – able to take many overhead drops,
  • Bearings, not bushings
  • No center knurl (unless you need an IWF certified bar – which must have center knurl.)
  • 20 Kg weight for men or 15kg for women
  • 28 mm shaft diameter (men) / 25 mm shaft diameter (women) – to ensure the right amount of flex to the bar aka “whip”.

There are several manufacturers that produce excellent products, and we hope we’ve been able to give you some good insights.

If you interested in doing serious powerlifting alongside Oly lifting? Look for a good dual purpose bar – we run down the details in our Olympic Barbell guide.

Photo Credits

We are an affiliate of Rogue Fitness, American Barbell, and Rep Fitness. If you purchase equipment after clicking links in this article we receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. This helps us bring you great info about these products.

All Rogue Fitness product imagery is property of Rogue Fitness, and provided by Rogue Fitness.

We are also an American Barbell affiliate – the photos of American Barbell products are property of American Barbell.

We are also a Rep Fitness affiliate – the photos of Rep Fitness products are property of Rep Fitness.

Rogue athlete CJ Cumming squat cleans a lot of weight with a Rogue Oly barbell
Rogue athlete CJ Cumming squat cleans a lot of weight with a Rogue Oly barbell

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