T Nation

How Much Does Bar Type/Quality Matter?

Before my country closed down the gyms I was regular in a powerlifting gym. My lifts were climbing nicely but when it hit I had to switch to an unofficial very old school workplace gym. I mean the weights are rusty and clunky and self made partly by a welder so its not the fancy stuff. What I realised is this gym has this very crude bar(the only bar) Its more like an iron rod actaully. I immideately started lifting here when the other one closed so its not like I skipped time but man benching or deadlifting with this thing feels so much harder. (of course there is no sqautrack) With this thing doing 5x2 with the weigth I did 5x5 previously feels a lot harder. (the bar is not heavier btw) So my question would be. In your expereince how much does the bars type and quality matters in the amount of weight you can lift?

Collars matter.

If the bar doesn’t rotate well benching can become a problem, I’d prefer a straight axle bar over a semi spinning bench bar.

For deadlifts, same thing, it’s going to be harder because the lack of properly rotating collars leads to the bar trying to peel out of your hands ( straps or hook grip fixes this mostly ).

For squats, it really depends on your squat technique if you need a freely rotating collar or not ( think oly lifting back squats or front squats )

Bar quality doesn’t matter as long as the bar can tolerate enough forces to not bend, break, sheer, twist.

I’m a bar diva but rusted barbells have built plenty of champions.


I consider myself very technical. My lifts can be thrown off by different equipment. I actually bought a Texas deadlift bar, Texas power bar ( which feels bent to me now some how), comp dimension bench and a full set of calibrated plates. If your a beginner id say it won’t matter. The higher level your get the more you’ll see a difference in my opinion. What stands out is the way you say this. I think you’d be much better off with a trashy(cheap) legit bar than something that you’d describe in that way.

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Yeah the last few gyms all had grade A stuff so I was kind of spoiled. Especially the last one. Buying sports stuff is kind of limited or very expensive right now but thanks. At least it will feel excellent when i can touch a good bar again.

Yeah I checked it the rotation is pretty limited and of course there is absolutely no bend in this bar. I guess if nothing else those stableizing muscles will be at their best at the end of the quarantine.

Something I think is really understade is bar bounce / flex. Everyone talks about it on deadlifts but on the squats. When I swapped from normal to axle the lack of bouncy really through me. Knocked a few kg off my work outs.
More flex = more weight (to a point).

Are you saying you do axle bar squats?

You can get pretty strong even with a substandard bar



Yeap - and front squats.

Its an odd bar position. But it is a bar with weight.
Aldo saved me £250. A good bar is £250. I used a 50mm bit of stainless steel tube. Which was free.

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You put the j-cup holders on your rack so one j-cup is one or two holes higher than the other then put the barbell on it.

Then you start spinning the collar and dripping some 3-in-1 oil into collar that is on the lower j-cup, you place the oil into the groove where the collar and bar meet. Keep spinning until it frees up. Then let it sit for a minute or two. Then move the lower j-cup up a hole or two higher than the other j-cup. Repeat the oiling process on the other side of the barbell.

I’ve seen collars that basically stop rotating as soon as you stop spinning them start spinning like an Eleiko.

Try avoid getting oil on the knurling. I recommend having paper towel on hand. This is a $4 fix so worth the effort even if it is beyond help (well, you use about 20c worth of oil so technically a 20c fix)


This… I definitely agree that equipment quality can come into play with displaying your potential strength, but you should still be able to build and progress just the same as long as you don’t let it get to you mentally. It’s kind of like doing high bar squats most of the year, then switching to low bar to peak. Yes, you will use lower working weights than you would with low bar, but you’re still getting the stimulus needed to make progress. This is also coming from someone who lifts with concrete weights out of a wooden rack, so I definitely feel where you’re coming from.


I must admit - there are times I look at my set up and think - what am I doing. I use cut steel from a metal fab shop for plates, old lifting equipment from work for chains, I have a 2 inch stainless steel axle as a bar, I use some 12x12 inch timber for loaded carries and I’m going to make some farmers handles out of some 4x4 timber and steel tube.

BUT - its working. I’m bigger and stronger that last year and I spent 75% of my time working out at home.
Also when ever I feel like a hobo I watch some Rocky.