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Deadlift Bar vs Stiff Bar: Difference, Benefits, Which is Better

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Deadlift Bar vs Stiff Bar – Introduction

Deadlift Bar vs Stiff Bar: Which is Better for Deadlifting + Why

To the uninitiated, one barbell looks much like the next.

After all, how different can one long piece of stainless steel be from another?

And they all have the same basic purpose – to carry the weight plates you want to lift.

In actuality, barbells come in a wide range of lengths, thicknesses, and degrees of stiffness.

As such, some barbells are designed for specific purposes and even specific exercises.

In this article, we take a look at deadlift bars vs stiff barbells so you can decide which one is best for your training.

Stiff Bar 101

Stiff bars, also known as power bars or multipurpose bars, are the type of barbell you’ll find in most gyms.

As their name implies, they’re stiffer than deadlift bars and are used for general strength training, including Olympic weightlifting.

Stiff bars can also be used for deadlifts, and unless you are lifting heavy weights, you probably won’t actually notice much difference.

The dimensions of an average stiff bar are:

  • Length – 86.5 inches
  • Thickness – 29 millimeters (1.14 inches)
  • Sleeve length – 16-17 inches
  • Distance between sleeves – 51.5 inches
  • Weight – 20.4 kg (45 lbs.)
  • High tensile strength – 205,000 psi

As well as being less flexible and a little shorter than deadlift bars, stiff bars also have different knurling.

Knurling is the textured pattern pressed into the bar to provide a better grip.

Stiff bars tend to have a knurled center section for squats, as well as knurled hand grips for presses, curls, etc.

However, that knurling is usually not very deep.

The knurled handgrips also tend to be quite long and far apart, making stiff bars more suitable for exercises like wide-grip bench presses, wide-grip rows, and snatches.

As you’d expect, stiff bars don’t bend much during use.

So, when deadlifting with a stiff bar, there is very little flex in the bar, and the weight will feel “dead” in your hands.

Deadlift Bar 101

As you’d probably guessed, deadlift bars are made for deadlifting.

Popular with powerlifters, deadlift bars are designed to help you lift more weight off the floor.

They’re standard equipment for most powerlifting competitions, and, as such, most powerlifting gyms have deadlift bars.

The dimensions of a standard deadlift bar are:

  • Overall length – 90.5 inches
  • Thickness – 27 millimeters (1.063 inches)
  • Sleeve length – 15.5 inches
  • Distance between sleeves – 56 inches
  • Weight – 44 lbs.
  • Tensile strength – 190,000 psi

In simple terms, deadlift bars are a little longer and more flexible than stiff bars.

Because of their thin flexible 27mm shaft, they flex at the start of the pull.

As such, a conventional deadlift done using a deadlift bar actually starts a little higher than with a stiff bar, which puts you in a better position to pull.

As the bar begins to move, it flexes (called barbell whip) again, which provides a little extra momentum to your lift.

However, it’s important to note that it still takes a lot of weight to get a deadlift bar to flex.

As such, you’ll need to be lifting well to enjoy this particular benefit.

Beginners won’t feel much difference between stiff bars and deadlift bars.

Deadlift bars also tend to have deeper knurled handgrips and are slightly thinner, making them easier to hold.

As any deadlifter knows, grip strength is critical for pulling big weights.

As lifting straps are not allowed in powerlifting competitions, anything that improves your grip on the bar can be very beneficial.

Speaking of knurling, deadlift bars don’t have a knurled section in the center, and the knurled handgrips aren’t usually very long.

That’s because deadlift bars aren’t designed for squats, and the last thing you want during deadlifts is a rough bar rubbing up and down your shins.

So, while a deadlift bar has the potential to increase your deadlift, it probably won’t increase it by much more than 3-5%.

Plus, you need to be able to deadlift heavy weights to get much flex out of a deadlift bar.

Otherwise, it’ll feel much the same as a regular stiff bar.

Stiff Bar

If your gym has deadlift bars and straight bars, you may be wondering which one is best to use.

Or, if you have a garage or home gym, you may be trying to decide between buying a stiff bar and a deadlift bar.

Consider these pros and cons, and then make your choice!

Pros:

  • Less flex means stiff bars are better for squats, bench presses, and Olympic lifts.
  • In fact, you can use a stiff bar for deadlifts, too.
  • Less aggressive knurling means stiff bars are easier on your hands and are less likely to rip up your skin.
  • The center knurling section in the middle of the bar is useful for back squats and will help stop the bar from sliding off your upper back.
  • Stiff bars are less specialized, so they’re more widely available and generally cheaper than deadlift bars.
  • Not all gyms have deadlift bars, so you may not even have access to one.
  • Stiff bars can be safely used in a squat or power rack.
  • Putting a flexible deadlift bar in a rack could damage it as it’ll be made to flex at the ends and not in the middle.

Cons:

  • A stiff bar may make weights feel a little heavier and make deadlifts slightly harder.
  • Stiff bars are thicker, so they may be more difficult to grip if you’ve got small hands or short fingers.
  • Shallower knurling may also affect your grip.

Deadlift bar

Pros:

  • The flex in the bar means you’ll be a little more upright as the weights leave the floor.
  • This puts you in a mechanically stronger position, which could help you lift more weight.
  • The secondary flex gives you a little extra momentum, which could also help you deadlift more weight.
  • The deeply knurled handgrips mean you are less likely to drop the bar.
  • The smaller diameter bar makes it easier to grip, especially for lifters with small hands.
  • Shorter sections of knurling mean that you’re less likely to scrape your shins during deadlifts.

Cons:

  • Deadlift bars are usually more expensive than stiff bars and are not as widely available.
  • Deep knurling can be rough on your hands.
  • Not designed to be used for other types of lifts, such as squats, bench presses, power cleans, and Olympic lifting, etc., so you’ll probably need a stiff bar as well.
  • Using a deadlift bar in a squat rack or power rack can damage it; however, you can still use a deadlift bar from blocks.

Deadlift Bar vs Stiff Bar Summary

Deadlift bars are designed for deadlifts.

They flex so much more than stiff bars so that, when using heavy loads, you are in a higher, stronger position as the weights leave the floor.

They’re also thinner and easier to grip.

Deadlift bars are used by advanced lifters in powerlifting competitions.

However, they’re not really suitable for other strength training exercises, and putting them in a squat or power rack will damage them.

Stiff bars are multipurpose bars that you can use for almost any exercise, including barbell deadlifts.

They’ve got central knurling which makes them ideal for squats, and because they’re stiffer, they’re safe to use in squat and power racks.

Cheaper and more common than deadlift bars, stiff bars are a little thicker, making them a little harder to grip.

Deadlift Bar vs. Stiff Bar: Which Should You Use?

While it’s interesting to compare the physical characteristics of deadlift and stiff bars, what matters most is what you’re going to use the bar for.

If you’re a general strength trainer, want a bar you can use for lots of different exercises, and have no intention of doing powerlifting competitions, you probably don’t need to use a deadlift bar.

In fact, unless you are already pretty strong, you won’t notice the bar flexing much, and it won’t do much for your deadlift performance.

Yes, deadlift bars are a little easier to grip, but that is a slight advantage for what could be quite a significant investment.

But, if you are a competitive powerlifter, it makes sense to train as you compete and use a deadlift bar for your workouts.

Deadlifting with a flexible deadlift bar slightly changes how you deadlift, and you need to get used to that during training.

However, not all powerlifting federations use deadlift bars, so you still need to be proficient with a stiff bar, just in case that’s what you’ll be using in competition.

You’ll also still need a stiff bar for squats and deadlifts.

Deadlift Bar vs Stiff Bar – Wrapping up

If money is no object, you’ve got the space for more than one barbell, or you are a competitive powerlifter, a specialist deadlift bar could make a valuable addition to your workout arsenal.

Flexible and grippy, deadlift bars can add 3-5% to your maximum effort lift thus improving your deadlift performance.

But, if you want a bar that you can use for big lifts such as squats, bench press, rows, power cleans, and overhead press, a stiff bar is your best option.

You can still do barbell deadlifts with a stiff bar, and unless you deadlift competitively, you probably won’t really appreciate the advantages and benefits of a specialist deadlift bar.

Ultimately, both types of barbells can help build muscle and get stronger, so use the one that best matches your training goals.

The average exerciser doesn’t really need a specialist deadlift bar and probably won’t even notice the difference between a deadlift bar and a stiff bar.

So, file deadlift bars under nice to have, but not essential!

What’s Next

There are many different types of barbells you can find in a gym.

There is the Olympic barbell,  which is 7 feet long and weighs 45lbs.

Typically the thickness or diameter of the bar can fluctuate depending on the manufacturer or style.

This type of barbell is a stiff bar and is used for Olympic weightlifting.

The trap bar is another type of barbell, which is shaped like a hexagon, which is why it is also commonly called a hex bar.

This barbell is used as an alternative to the conventional barbell deadlift as it places less stress on your back.

It is also popular for shrugs.

Plus, you also have specialty bars, such as the EZ curl bar and the Swiss bar.

The EZ curl bar is designed for exercises such as the bicep curl, while the Swiss bar is designed for exercises such as the bench press.

Knowing about the 12 Different Types of Barbells Explained can help you select the right one for workouts to suit your fitness goals.

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