Finding the best CrossFit barbell is not very simple.
We are going to tackle a piece of equipment that every CrossFitter will use with great regularity- the barbell. We will talk about the characteristics and differences between barbells, rather than if you should use one or not.
Barbells used in CrossFit are typically Olympic Barbells, which are (for men) 2.2 meters or 7.2 ft long and weigh 44-45 pounds (depending on if the bar was made to KG spec or not). The outer ends are 2 inches in diameter, while the grip section is 28 millimeters or 1.1 inches in diameter, and 1.31 meters or 4.3 feet in length. “Women’s” bars are shorter- 2.01 meters or 6.6 feet long and weigh less- 15 kilograms. Most importantly, they have a smaller grip section diameter of 25 millimetres or 0.98 inches, which helps people with smaller hands (often but not always women) to grip the bar comfortably.
The cross-hatched cuts on a barbell are known as “knurling” and bars will have different patterns based upon their use case. Different bars will have “rings,” or unknurled areas in slightly different patterns to help lifters set up their hands on the grip section of the bar. More important is the presence or absence of a “center knurl”- a knurled area in the very center of the bar. Powerlifting bars traditionally have a center knurl to help the bar “stick” to lifter’s backs when they squat, which Olympic bars typically don’t because the knurl will tear up your throat and shoulders when front racked aggressively in a clean.
Finally, bars can be coated or finished slightly differently. Traditionally bars have been chromed or zinc coated, which allow for some durability and rust/corrosion resistance at a low price. Stainless steel bars have nothing that can peel or crack and are naturally more rust resistant, but are (much) more expensive. Recently manufacturers have been using Teflon, a finish often seen on expensive firearms, to good effect. Teflon allows for great corrosion resistance as long as the surface remains unbroken (usually from hard metal-on-metal contact). Further, Teflon is a baked on finish that takes color well, so bars can be made in cool colors and patterns with words or logos inscribed upon them.