Home Gym Buildout: Barbell & Bumper Plates

The barbell has no peer for building strength. If weight lifting isn’t a part of your home fitness routine, I would strongly encourage it. The power, speed, coordination, agility, accuracy, and balance that this single piece of equipment will develop and enhance your fitness more than you can imagine.

There are, however, a lot of different barbells on the market. Here are a few pointers before you make the purchase.

The Value of Barbells

A true weightlifting barbell can be used for just about any functional movement. Outside of the traditional squatting, pulling, and pressing movements, you can also use it in metcons in a number of creative ways.

Box step ups, walking lunges, farmer and yoke carries, etc. Your options include many of the traditional bodyweight movements, and then perform them weighted.

But attempting to enumerate the different movements you can perform with a barbell overshadows the effectiveness of five primary lifts: back squat, deadlift, press, snatch, and clean & jerk. These five movements alone can produce elite levels of fitness, and therefore, health.

If you aren’t doing these five movements at least weekly, you need to reevaluate your training program.

What Type of Barbell?

You should consider two things when buying a barbell: the circumference of the bar and the brand.

Generally speaking, you have a barbell for women and a barbell for men. The women’s barbell is 35-lbs and 25mm in circumference. This allows a smaller hand to more easily wrap around the barbell. A men’s barbell is traditionally 45-lbs and 28.5mm in circumference.

As far as the brand goes, buy your barbell from Rogue–this is their golden goose. That being said, they sell a lot of different barbells. My recommendation is to buy The Bella Bar if you are a female and The Ohio Bar if you are a male. There are a few reasons I recommend these two barbells over the others.

  • They both have a lifetime warranty. If they ever bend, which they won’t, Rogue will send you another one for free.
  • The knurling is standard (diamond-shape). “Knurling” is the part of the barbell etched in to provide grip. There are dozens of different types of knurling, all designed to give you more or less grip. Both of these barbells have standard knurling, which is what the vast majority of athletes want (too much tears up your hands on olympic lifts; not enough doesn’t help you on the deadlift).
  • There is no center knurling. If you plan to perform front squats, thrusters, or clean & jerks, you don’t want center knurling because it will tear up your neck/throat.
  • They have “dual knurl marks” which gives you additional options in consistently gripping the bar for snatches, cleans, and deadlifts.
  • For advanced lifters, these barbells provide the perfect amount of “whip”, or bend in the bar, when picking up maximum loads.

With all that being said, weightlifting plates would also need to be purchased with your barbell. Here’s what I recommend on that front:

The Value of Bumper Plates

When you’re shopping for weights to put on a barbell (“plates”), you have three options: iron, bumper, and competition plates.

Iron plates are the thinnest plate, making them the best option if you deadlift seriously heavy weight. Traditional bumper plates can only hold around 465-lbs before you run out of room on the barbell sleeve. So if you’re a competitive powerlifter or strongman, go with the iron plates.

Bumper plates* are the thickest option, but I believe are the most valuable for home-gym athletes. Bumper plates are designed to be dropped to the ground from overhead, unlike iron plates. Not only will bumper plates last you (almost) forever, but they’re also designed to protect the life of a barbell. If you plan to do any snatches or power cleans, you should choose bumper plates over the iron plates.

Competition plates are the hybrid option. They are a 1/2-inch bigger than the iron plate but a full 1-inch thinner than the spec bumper plate. These are also designed to withstand dropping weight from overhead. Additionally, each weight comes in different colors which makes it the best looking plate.

The only downside to competition bumper plates are that they are twice the price of a normal plate.

Takeaway

If you’re a girl, buy The Bella Barbell from Rogue Fitness. If you’re a guy, buy The Ohio Bar.

And for bumper plates, I would buy the spec bumper plates and you will never have to buy more. They’re made from recycled tires and can withstand just about anything.

For starters, you want roughly 335-lbs worth of plates. 335-lbs is just a nice number that includes a two pairs of 45’s, and a pair of 35’s, 25’s, 10’s, 5’s, and 2.5’s. Plus, you never want to run out of bumper plates (that’s a pet peeve for most gym goers).

Tyler

*If you buy your bumper plates from Rogue Fitness (which I recommend), you have three options: Hi-Temp, Spec, and HG. I recommend the mil-spec bumper plate. You also can’t go wrong with the HG plate, just don’t buy the Hi-Temp bumper plate! I explain why in this video.

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