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You’d be hard pressed to find a good gym that doesn’t also have a good deadlift bar.
Deadlift bars are a type of specialty barbell for deadlifting. They are longer and narrower than other barbells, which give deadlift bars more flexibility when coming off the platform. This is often referred to as the barbell’s “whip.” The knurling on deadlift bars is usually also more aggressive, which supports better grip when pulling heavy weights.
This combines to make deadlifting easier and safer for the lifter when using a deadlift bar. There’s lower risk of a grip error leading to injury, and the “whip” off the platform allows the lifter to more naturally move more weight without fighting a stiffer bar.
If you’re thinking about adding a deadlift bar to your gym, we put together some important things to consider, as well as links to some of the most popular bars on the market.
How to choose the right deadlift bar
When shopping for a deadlift bar, the best place to start is finding a bar with an ideal diameter.
Most barbells fall in the 27-32mm range. If the diameter is too wide for your hand, the barbell becomes difficult to grip and is likely to slip. On the other hand, if it’s too narrow, you’ll find it is difficult to grab the bar tightly, which can also lead to slippage.
For this reason, most lifters tend to prefer 27mm deadlift bars. Lifters with smaller hands often feel most comfortable lifting 25mm deadlift bars.
For those with larger hands, there are deadlift bars in the 30-32mm diameter range. However, because they are so wide, these bars often lack the characteristic “whip” of narrower deadlift bars.
Knurling is the diamond shaped ridges that are cut into the barbell. The knurling provides friction between the bar and your hands, which improves your grip.
If you’ve ever found yourself doing a high-rep deadlift set and felt your back rounding and the bar slipping out of your hands, it’s possible that with more aggressive knurling on your bar, you might have been able to maintain your grip and finish your lift.
Similar to barbell diameter, a lifter’s preferred knurl can vary based on their personal preference. Most lifters tend to opt for as aggressive of knurling as possible on deadlift and squat bars.
The feel of the knurl will also be impacted by the coating you choose.
Barbell shaft coatings
There are six main types of deadlift bar shaft coatings. Each has its own strengths and drawbacks, depending on where and how you plan to use the barbell. They are:
- Bare steel (no coating) – Lifters can feel all of the knurling on a bare steel bar, which provides maximum grip enhancement. The drawback is that bare steel bars are more vulnerable to rust and will need regular maintenance.
- Black oxide – Black oxide isn’t a true coating. Rather, it’s a chemical finish used to seal the steel. As a result, the knurling on a black oxide bar will feel similar to bare steel, but it will also need just as much maintenance as a no-coat bar.
- Chrome – Chrome requires some maintenance, but not as much as bare steel. One thing to be aware of: Chrome is often used to mask poor steel quality on some bars. Thick chrome coatings can mask cheap steel, and they’ll also degrade the knurling.
- Back zinc – This is a popular choice among budget-conscious lifters. Black zinc provides solid protection from rust and corrosion at a reasonable price. The compromise is that the knurling quality is a little below average, but not a dealbreaker for most lifters.
- Stainless steel – Stainless steel is a steel-chromium alloy that is fully resistant to oxidation, even when scratched. All this bar needs is regular cleaning with a nylon brush.
- Cerakote – Cerakote is a very thin, yet durable, barbell coating. Because of its thinness, cerakote offers very little reduction to the aggression on the knurling. This gives lifters a nice combination of grip and protection from corrosion.
Which barbell coating is right for you? It comes down to a combination of budget and the environmental conditions where you plan to use the bar.
For example, if you live in a region with high humidity, you can save some time on maintenance with a stainless steel or Cerakote bar. And on the flipside, if you don’t expect the bar to be exposed to any significant moisture, bare steel and black oxide are great options – as long as you don’t mind a little upkeep.
With barbell diameter, knurling and coating now covered, there’s one more thing to keep in mind when shopping for a new deadlift bar, and that is tensile strength.
Tensile strength is how much a barbell can hold before it begins to fracture. This number will usually range between 120,000 – 230,000 pounds per square inch (PSI), and most retailers will include these numbers on their product pages.
Higher tensile strength means greater durability. Here is what these numbers mean:
- Under 150,000 PSI – A good beginner’s bar, but this deadlift bar might need to be replaced sooner than a bar with higher tensile strength.
- 150,000 – 180,000 PSI – High quality deadlift bar suitable for most athletes.
- Over 180,000 PSI – Very high durability bar that you can expect to last for a long time.
What about hex bars / trap bars?
We’d be remiss to write a guide about deadlift bars without mentioning hex bars, which are also called trap bars. Hex bars are different from traditional deadlift bars in that they are formed in the shape of a hexagon instead of a straight bar.
The lifter stands in the center of the hex bar and lifts straight up. This is compared to traditional straight barbells, where the lifter must not only lift the bar up but also resist the bar pulling them forward. This force can put pressure on the lifter’s lower back and midsection.
Hex bar deadlifts can be a great choice for lifters who need to reduce pressure on their lumbar spine (rehabbing or training variations, for example), and they are fantastic for those who like to deadlift but would prefer less risk than straight bar deadlifts.
Best deadlift bars for 2022
As we mentioned above, the best barbell for you will depend on a few different factors: Your preferred barbell diameter, knurling, coating, budget and tensile strength choices.
That said, here are the most popular deadlift bars in use today.
Rogue Ohio Deadlift Bar
Rogue is well known for producing some of the best strength gear on the market, and its Ohio Deadlift Bar is a monster. The Ohio features a grip-friendly 27mm bar diameter and a 90.5-inch bar length for maximum whip off the platform.
Its tensile strength clocks 190,000 PSI, meaning that the Ohio will be with you for the long haul.
The knurl on the Ohio is slightly more aggressive than the Texas Deadlift Bar, listed below.
Check out more details on the Ohio Deadlift Bar at Rogue.
|Rogue Ohio Deadlift Bar – Gear Specs|
|Coating options||Bare steel, stainless steel, e-coat, black zinc, Cerakote|
|Tensile strength||190,000 PSI|
Texas Deadlift Bar
The Texas Deadlift Bar comes in at an impressive 92.5 inches in length. What else would you expect from the Great State of Texas?
Combined with a 27mm barbell diameter, this gives the Texas Deadlift Bar a little more whip than the Ohio. Its knurl is a little less aggressive than the Ohio, and again, at a 190,000 PSI tensile strength, this bad boy is built to last.
Check out more details on the Texas Deadlift Bar at Texas Power Bars.
|Texas Deadlift Bar – Gear Specs|
|Coating options||Bare steel, black zinc, chrome, Cerakote|
|Tensile strength||190,000 PSI|
Hex Bar: Rogue TB-2 Trap Bar
The TB-2 is the next generation of Rogue’s immensely popular TB-1 design. The TB-2 features versatile knurled handles, SCH 80 Olympic sleeves and a 25% reduction in weight compared to the original model.
This makes the TB-2 great for rehab work, technique drills, farmers carries or neutral grip bench pressing.
Check out more details on the TB-2 Trap Bar at Rogue.
|Rogue TB-2 Trap Bar – Gear Specs|
|Coating options||Black powder|
Deadlift bars are an investment, but by paying close attention to the factors like sleeve coating, length, knurl and barbell diameter, you can ensure that it’s an investment that will continue to pay dividends for years to come.
With our “best of” list above, you can’t go wrong with either the Ohio or Texas bars, and it all comes down to personal preference.
The Texas Deadlift Bar is made for big deadlifts, with its extra long length and high quality construction. The Ohio is a little shorter, but with an aggressive knurl and a wide variety of coating options, it’s a solid choice for many gyms.