Deadlift Bar vs Stiff Bar: Is There a Difference?

published by: Debbie Luna
Last Updated:
September 2, 2022

The majority of novice or intermediate weightlifters enter the gym and load weight plates onto a standard barbell, unaware that there are in fact multiple types of straight barbells - each with their own specific applications.

The deadlift bar is one amongst these, being produced as a specialist piece of weightlifting equipment meant for aiding in the performance of the conventional deadlift exercise.

The deadlift bar differs in terms of intended use, dimensions and flexibility to the stiff bar. As such, it is important for the lifter to understand this difference so as to ensure that they are optimizing their training program.

What is a Deadlift Bar?

The deadlift bar is a variation of the standard straight barbell with a greater length and several other characteristics that make it particularly well-suited to being used during the sumo or conventional deadlift exercise.

deadlift barbell
Note the lack of center knurling

It is most often seen in powerlifting gyms or in certain powerlifting sport leagues, wherein it acts as the standard equipment for any competition deadlift.

Why is the Deadlift Bar Used?

The deadlift bar is used simply because it allows the lifter to move more weight during the deadlift, as well as aids them in performing the exercise with proper form - thereby lowering the risk of injury and allowing greater training progress to occur.

Benefits of the Deadlift Bar

The deadlift bar presents several benefits that make it particularly useful for individuals executing a sumo or conventional deadlift.

The most significant of these is the high flexibility of the barbell, allowing the exerciser to lift a greater amount of weight and take a more mechanically advantageous position through each repetition.

barbell flex
Editorial Credit/Copyright: spotpoint74 - 123rf.com

This is only further improved upon by the more narrow diameter of the bar, of which is combined with rougher knurling so as to maximize the lifter’s grip around the deadlift bar.

Disadvantages of the Deadlift Bar

Unfortunately, every characteristic that makes the deadlift bar useful for performing the deadlift also makes it a poor tool for any other kind of exercise. This includes the squat, row, bench press or any other lift that normally involves a barbell, making the deadlift bar a one-trick pony so to speak.

In addition, differences in the diameter and texture of the bar may make it uncomfortable for individuals with large hands or those who have yet to develop the hand calluses needed to endure rougher bar knurling.

What is a Stiff Bar?

A stiff bar, otherwise known as the standard bar or Olympic standard barbell is the most common kind of barbell found in gyms and weightlifting competitions - usually standardized to a weight of 45 pounds or 20 kilograms while unloaded.

deadlift stiff bar
Note the center knurling

The stiff bar is considered to be the ideal barbell for general training usage, as it has no specific purpose other than acting as a source of resistance with which the exerciser will induce training stimulus through.

Why is the Stiff Bar Used?

The stiff bar is used because it is the most convenient and consistent barbell available, allowing the exerciser to perform practically any barbell-based exercise with little disadvantage involved.

Benefits of the Stiff Bar

In comparison to the standard deadlift bar, the stiff bar’s main benefits are in their wider diameter, somewhat shorter length and lack of flexibility - all of which create a more stable and easily-handled source of resistance.

This makes the stiff bar more applicable to a number of different weightlifting exercises instead of a single exercise, as is the case in the deadlift bar.

Disadvantages of the Stiff Bar

The stiff bar does not present any disadvantages within a general training context, although it is less suitable for use in the deadlift in comparison to the deadlift bar. 

center knurling

This is primarily due to knurling being present in the center of the bar, of which will rub against the exerciser’s shins - as well as the stiff bar being less flexible, forcing the exerciser to begin the deadlift at a lower position and thereby reducing the maximal weight potential.

stiff bar has minimal whip

Measurement Differences Between the Deadlift Bar and Stiff Bar

The deadlift bar and the stiff bar differ in terms of their individual measurements, with the deadlift bar being generally thinner in diameter and longer so as to account for the lifter’s grip strength and relative balance.

These differences in measurements can make quite a difference in terms of how many repetitions an exerciser can perform during the deadlift, or how stable the bar may be within their grip - requiring that the exerciser choose the appropriate bar for whatever lift they are performing.

Thickness

The stiff bar is standardized at 29 millimeters or just over an inch in diameter, whereas the deadlift bar is 27 millimeters or exactly an inch in terms of thickness.

Length

While the standard stiff bar is a total of 220 centimeters or 86 and a half inches, the deadlift bar is a lengthy 230 centimeters or a grand total of 90 inches - totaling at over 7 feet long.

Maximum Load Capacity of the Deadlift Bar and Stiff Bar

The “bendiness” or flexibility of the deadlift bar is actually a consequence of its thinner diameter, causing its raw tensile strength to be weaker in comparison to the stiff bar and thereby reducing the maximum amount of pressure or weight that may be applied to it.

Stiff bars are standardized so they do not break, even under extremely high weights - generally equating to a tensile strength of around 200,000 PSI, whereas the deadlift bar is somewhat weaker at 190,000 PSI.

You need not worry, however, as both the deadlift bar and the stiff bar are more than capable of withstanding hundreds of pounds of weight, and are unlikely to suddenly break without incredibly strong pressure being placed upon them.

Competitive and Training Applications of the Deadlift Bar and Stiff Bar

The deadlift bar was produced out of a sense of necessity, as the standard stiff bar is not quite optimized for usage in competition-level deadlifts. 

This has led to the two being used for entirely separate purposes within the context of powerlifting or similar weightlifting sports, as well as the athletic training needed for such competitions.

For Powerlifting or Deadlift-Specific Sports

In athletic training programs specifically for the sport of powerlifting, the deadlift bar is almost always used for proper deadlift training - regardless of what sort of training program or methodology is being employed.

This is due to the simple fact that the majority of powerlifting leagues or federations also use the deadlift bar during their powerlifting meets, making the athlete more familiar with the equipment they will be using during competition day.

Furthermore, the greater amount of weight lifted as a benefit of the deadlift bar will also help in making the athlete accustomed to such levels of resistance, training them both physiologically and psychologically.

However, deadlifting with a deadlift bar is not quite the same as doing so with a stiff bar, and there are a number of mechanical differences a lifter will have to learn and adapt to when switching from the stiff bar to the deadlift bar.

For General Weightlifting

Though the stiff bar may be used to deadlift with little issue, it is in the performance of other exercises that the stiff bar is comparatively useful. 

This is simply because it is not specialized for any one particular exercise and as such may be used regardless of what sort of lift is being performed.

Deadlift and Stiff Bar Usage in Powerlifting Federations

In the majority of powerlifting federations and leagues, the deadlift bar is used during competition deadlift repetitions, while the stiff bar or squat bar is used for all other competition lifts. 

This is not to say that all powerlifting groups and boards make use of the deadlift bar, simply that it is more commonly seen, especially in powerlifting meets that take place in the United States.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Ohio Deadlift Bar vs Texas Power Bar

The Ohio deadlift bar and the Texas power bar are two brands of deadlift bars that are best known for high levels of quality, though there is some difference between the two in terms of length and technical size.

While both the Ohio deadlift bar and the Texas power bar weigh the same (45 pounds or 20 kilograms) and share the same standardized diameter, the Ohio deadlift bar is approximately 2 inches shorter than the Texas power bar due to the Ohio deadlift bar possessing only 15 and a half inches of sleeve length instead of the standard 18 inches.

How Much More Can You Deadlift with Deadlift Bar vs Stiff Bar?

Exactly how much weight is added to a lifter’s maximal load deadlift with the deadlift bar can vary, but the majority of powerlifters will report that it can increase total weight lifted by approximately twenty pounds, with increasing amounts as the powerlifter becomes stronger.

Is a Deadlift Bar Cheating?

While the deadlift bar does indeed aid in lifting more weight, it is not “cheating” per se, as performing the deadlift with a deadlift bar requires serious effort and time to learn, much like any other variation of the deadlift exercise.

In Conclusion, Which is Better?

As one can ascertain from the information presented in this article, neither the deadlift bar nor the stiff bar are generally superior over the other - it is entirely a contextual matter as to which bar is more advantageous to use.

The deadlift bar is clearly far more useful for lifters performing the deadlift, whereas the stiff bar is otherwise more suitable for use in any exercise other than the deadlift itself.

As a final word, we would like to stress that though the stiff bar is perfectly usable for the deadlift, the opposite is not true and performing other lifts with a deadlift bar can be injurious or uncomfortable, especially at heavier loads where it may bend.

References

1. Malyszek KK, Harmon RA, Dunnick DD, Costa PB, Coburn JW, Brown LE. Comparison of Olympic and Hexagonal Barbells With Midthigh Pull, Deadlift, and Countermovement Jump. J Strength Cond Res. 2017 Jan;31(1):140-145. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000001485. PMID: 27191698.

2. Blatnik JA, Goodman CL, Capps CR, Awelewa OO, Triplett TN, Erickson TM, McBride JM. Effect of Load on Peak Power of the Bar, Body and System during the Deadlift. J Sports Sci Med. 2014 Sep 1;13(3):511-5. PMID: 25177175; PMCID: PMC4126285.

Debbie (Deb) started powerlifting and Olympic lifting in High School as part of her track team's programming; She continues to train in order to remain athletic. Inspire US allows Deb to share information related to training, lifting, biomechanics, and more.
Inspire US serves as an informational hub for people looking to start their fitness journey.
The information on this website has not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The information being shared is for educational purposes only. You must consult with a medical professional before acting on any content on this website.
Copyright © Inspire US 2022