Deadlift Bar vs Stiff Bar

By: Jeremy Fox, CNC, CPTPublished: December 6, 2023

If you’re interested in weightlifting, then you’re probably familiar with a deadlift bar. But you might not know all the ways it differs from a traditional barbell.

In this article, I provide a detailed comparison between the deadlift bar vs stiff bar so you can determine which is best for your training needs.

Deadlift Bar vs Stiff Bar

For those new to weightlifting, I’ll start with a basic introduction to the deadlift bar before getting into detailed specifications. Feel free to jump to the section you’re interested in using the table below.

What Is A Deadlift Bar?

A deadlift bar is a type of weightlifting barbell specifically designed for performing the deadlift exercise. Unlike regular bars, it has unique characteristics that make it more efficient at generating power off the floor and easier to grip.

Sometimes, trap bars or hex bars are also referred to as deadlift bars. These barbells have a hexagonal shape and are commonly used as an alternative for the deadlift exercise. However, this discussion will focus on the straight deadlift bars.

One of the most notable features of the deadlift bar is its flexibility, which allows it to bend more than traditional stiff bars. However, it’s important to note that it may not be ideal for every lift, so it’s crucial to understand the differences before purchasing one for your gym.

Deadlift Bar

Figure 1. An end view of the Ohio deadlift bar from Rogue Fitness.

Deadlift Bar vs Stiff Bar Differences

Next, I will guide you through the main design differences between the deadlift bar and the stiff bar. Additionally, I will provide more detailed information about their dimensions and physical attributes so that you can understand how these factors affect your lifting performance.

Table 1 shows a comparison of the design specifications for both bars.

Table 1. Deadlift Bar vs Stiff Bar Specs
  Deadlift Bar Stiff Bar
Weight 44lb (20kg) 45lb (20.4kg)
Diameter 27mm 29mm
Shaft Length 56″ 51.5″
Total Length 90.5″ 86.5″
Sleeve Length 15.5″ 16.25″
Center Knurl No Yes
Tensile Strength 190,000psi 205,000psi

On mobile, swipe left to view the entire table.

Deadlift Bar vs Stiff Bar Dimensions

Deadlift bars have several essential dimensions that one must consider when purchasing them. These dimensions include weight, diameter, shaft length, total length, and sleeve length.

Weight – Deadlift bars and universal Olympic weightlifting barbells both weigh 20kg or 44lbs, while conventional or power bars typically weigh 45 lbs.

Diameter – The deadlift bar has a thinner shaft, typically measuring 27 millimeters in diameter. This is relatively smaller than the 29-millimeter diameter of stiff bars. As I will explain later, the thinner shaft makes it easier to grip the bar firmly while pulling and enhances flexibility.

Shaft Length – Another critical difference between the deadlift and stiff bars is the distance between the sleeves. The shaft of the deadlift bar is approximately 4.5 inches longer than a standard bar’s. This longer shaft provides greater flexibility and more space for performing wide or snatch grips.

Best Deadlift Grip For Lifting Heavy Weights

Sleeve Length – Deadlift bars often come with shorter sleeves than regular bars. To be precise, the sleeves are about ¾” shorter. Although this reduces the number of plates you can add, it enhances the durability of the bar, which is vital when you repeatedly drop the bar on the floor while doing deadlifts.

Total Length – Overall, a deadlift bar is usually about 4 inches longer than a traditional bar, so it takes up more space.

Deadlift Bar vs Stiff Bar Dimensions

Figure 2. An illustration of the key dimensions of a deadlift bar vs stiff bar.

Deadlift Bar vs Stiff Bar Physical Attributes

Along with different weights and dimensions, there are two other attributes of deadlift bars of which you should be aware. These are the knurling and tensile strength.

Knurling is a pattern of intersecting lines that create diamond-shaped bumps on the surface of a bar. The purpose of knurling on a barbell is to provide enhanced grip.

Knurling –  On a deadlift bar, the knurling is deeper and the diamonds are more pronounced. This aggressive texture maximizes grip during heavy pulling movements. Additionally, deadlift bars are designed without center knurling, which can often get caught on clothing or legs during the deadlift.

Deadlift Bar vs Stiff Bar Knurling

Figure 3. A side-by-side comparison of knurling. This deadlift bar is bare steel and has chalk on it which gives it a weathered appearance. The knurling on this particular bar is very aggressive. Like a cheese grater on your hands.

Tensile strength is a physical property that determines how much stress a material can handle without deforming. Materials with high tensile strength tend to be stiff and brittle, while low tensile strength provides ductility and flexibility.

Tensile Strength – The deadlift bar has a tensile strength of 190ksi, making it more flexible than a stiff bar with 205ksi.

Deadlift Bar vs Stiff Bar Stress vs Strain

Figure 4. The stress/strain curve is used in materials science to illustrate the relationship between strength and flexibility. Image courtesy of Wikimedia.

Deadlift Bar vs Stiff Bar Performance

In weightlifting, the amount of flex or “whip” in the barbell can impact your mechanics and how much weight you can lift. The deadlift bar has a higher whip, which makes it easier to pull heavy loads from the floor.

The sticking point is the part of the lift where the plates leave the floor, and you feel the bar’s full weight. This is where most lifters tend to fail. However, the greater flex in the deadlift bar effectively raises the height of the sticking point and can help you lift more weight.

Based on some basic measurements, I estimate that the deadlift bar bends about 1 inch with a weight of 405 lbs, while the stiff bar only bends about 1/2 inch. The more weight you add, the more the deadlift bar will bend.

Deadlift Bar vs Stiff Bar Flex

Figure 5. An approximate measure of the amount of flex in a deadlift bar vs stiff bar when the plates are about to lift off the floor. The measurements are an estimate based on the known diameter of the bars. Both lifts are 405 lb.

Based on my experience, using a deadlift bar can make lifting 405 lbs feel 15-20 lbs lighter. This means you could potentially add 3-5% more weight to your deadlift. 

Gaining this advantage requires proper form and the ability to properly pull the “slack” out of the bar. As you get accustomed to using the bar, your deadlift strength should increase even more.

However, it’s important to note that if your weak point is the lockout at the top, using a deadlift bar won’t significantly improve your performance.

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Deadlift Bar vs Stiff Bar Video

In this split-screen video, I demonstrate what it looks like to deadlift 405 pounds with a deadlift bar and a stiff power bar. It shows how the properties of the deadlift bar result in more flex and a smoother lift.

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Is a Deadlift Bar Better Than a Stiff Bar?

The deadlift bar is an excellent choice if you’re aiming to maximize your strength and lifting capacity in the deadlift exercise. However, you may not notice a significant difference until you start lifting weights above 315 lbs, as that’s when the bar bend becomes noticeable. 

On the other hand, if you’re looking for a more versatile bar suitable for all types of lifts, a stiff or standard Olympic bar would be a better option. Stiffer bars offer greater versatility for various exercises.

Deadlift Bar Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Increases the height from the floor at which you feel the total weight.
  • It enables you to lift slightly more on the deadlift.
  • Smaller diameter and aggressive knurling improve grip.
  • There is no center knurling to snag on pants during the deadlift.

Cons

  • It is not ideal for squats, bench press, or Olympic lifts.

Stiff Bar Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Less flex is ideal for exercises like squats and presses.
  • Center knurling helps keep the bar in place during squats.
  • A thicker diameter is more comfortable on the bench press.

Cons

  • It is not ideal for maximizing deadlift strength.
Ohio Deadlift Bar vs Texas Deadlift Bar

Figure 6. Hafthor Bjornsson used a deadlift bar to set the world record by lifting 501kg (1,105lb) in 2020. Now that’s some serious bar bend!

Best Deadlift Bar

If you’re considering trying a deadlift bar, two popular brands are the Ohio deadlift bar by Rogue and the Texas deadlift bar by Buddy Capps. Both bars are named after the state in which they are manufactured. Creative, right?

In Table 2 below, you can find the specifications for these deadlift bars. The primary difference between them is their sleeve length and overall length.

Table 2. Ohio Deadlift Bar vs Texas Deadlift Bar Specs
  Ohio Deadlift Bar Texas Deadlift Bar
Weight 44lb (20kg) 44lb (20kg)
Diameter 27mm 27mm
Shaft Length 56″ 56″
Total Length 90.5″ 92.5″
Sleeve Length 15.5″ 18″
Center Knurl No No
Tensile Strength 190,000psi 190,000psi

On mobile, swipe left to view the entire table.

Ohio Deadlift Bar vs Texas Deadlift Bar

Figure 7. End views of the Ohio and Texas deadlift bars.

I personally use the Ohio deadlift bar in my gym, and it’s fantastic. However, several U.S. and international powerlifting organizations have chosen the Texas deadlift bar as their official bar.

Both bars are great options to have in your gym. But if you’d like to compare more brands, I’ve created the definitive deadlift buyer’s guide, click below to check it out.

Review: Top 5 Deadlift Bars Based on Quality & Cost

More Barbell Guides

Now that you’re familiar with the benefits of the deadlift bar, you might be interested in learning more about some of the other types of bars in your gym. So keep reading with these related barbell guides.

How Much Does A Hex Bar Weigh?

How Much Does A Smith Machine Bar Weigh?

Best Dumbbell Bar Sets For Building Your Ultimate Home Gym

Hex Bar vs Barbell Deadlift: Big Differences Muscle Gain

Guide to Olympic Bar vs Standard Bar Differences

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By |December 6, 2023|Workouts|0 Comments
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