Deadlift Bar vs Stiff Bar – What’s The Difference? 

A photo of a stiff bar with deadlift bar vs stiff bar text.

Whether you’re new to the fitness world or want to know more about the differences between the deadlift bar and stiff bar, it’s essential to understand the functionality of the gym equipment you’re using as it can affect technique, weight loads lifted, and progress! 

Stiff bars, also called power bars, are widely used in powerlifting competitions for bench presses, overhead presses, and squats. They have a specific design that pairs well with these exercises.

On the other hand, deadlift bars are also accepted by some federations for competitions as they are great for lifting heavier weights and are frequently used for the front squat because of the lack of center knurling that can chafe the skin. 

Deciding between the two can be difficult, but our article will help you better understand the design and function of these pieces of gym equipment so you can efficiently incorporate them into your gym routine! 

9 Differences: Deadlift Bar vs Stiff Bar

Determining which is better, the deadlift bar or stiff bar, can be quite the debate in the fitness world. Most lifters prefer the deadlift bar to perform the conventional and sumo deadlift, while others may choose the stiff bar to better train the bottom portion of the movement. 

The two barbells have many significant differences, so let’s dive into why one might be better than the other in certain situations! 

A man demonstrating the correct form for a deadlift.

One is Shorter & One is Longer

The deadlift bar and stiff bar come in different sizes. Typically, the deadlift bar ranges around 90 inches length-wise, while the stiff bar is sized at about 86 inches. 

The longer length of the deadlift bar makes it possible to pull more slack out of the bar than it was shorter, like the stiff bar. This is necessary for the lifter to create tension before lifting heavy weights to prepare the body for the incoming lift. 

Deadlift Bars Have No Center Knurling; Stiff Bars Do

One big difference between a deadlift barbell and a stiff bar is a design that either does or doesn’t have center knurling. 

Center knurling is an extra grip designed on the bar to maintain bar placement on the back during a back squat or on the chest for a front squat. More aggressive knurling is ideal for a stiff bar as it can prevent the bar from slipping off the body during a heavy lift for squats. 

To sum up, a stiff bar has center knurling for lifting weights for safety purposes to maintain bar positioning. A deadlift bar does not have a center knurling as it is not required for proper deadlift technique.  

Differences in Tensile Strength

The tensile strength of a barbell refers to how much pressure the steel bar can withstand before it breaks. For powerlifting bars and stiff barbells, the tensile strength is usually measured using pounds of force per square inch (PSI). 

A deadlift bar is thinner than a stiff bar, which results in a lower tensile strength. Now, the lower tensile strength of the barbell doesn’t translate to it being weaker than the stiff barbell. A lower tensile strength for a deadlift bar is ideal so that the barbell bends more to make it easier to lift the barbell higher before the weights leave the ground for the deadlift. 

For reference, stiff bars usually have around 195,000 – 205,000 PSI, while the deadlift bar has 165,000 – 190,000 PSI. 

Loadable Sleeves Differ

The sleeves of a barbell refer to the section of the barbell that weight plates are loaded onto. Tensile strength is correlated with the length of the loadable sleeve, as it limits how many weight plates and how much weight can be loaded onto the barbell to prevent the bar from breaking.

Deadlift bars typically range about 15 inches in loadable sleeve length, while a stiff bar runs about 16-17 inches. Professional lifters will accommodate the limitations of sleeve length by using thinner weight plates to lift heavier loads. 

Varying Shaft Sizes 

For reference, the shaft is the terminology used to describe the length of the barbell. 

The deadlift bar shaft is longer than the stiff bar. It measures about 56 inches long, while a stiff bar’s shaft is about 51 inches long. Compared to the stiff bar, the deadlift bar is also thinner to accommodate more bend in the bar when lifting heavier loads. 

Allowed in Different Competitions

Regarding weightlifting competitions, the stiff bar and deadlift bar are acceptable for different, specific competitive environments. 

The United States Powerlifting Association (USPA) is one example where only the deadlift bar is acceptable for hosted events. The International Powerlifting Federation (IPF) and the USA Powerlifting (USAPL) specifically allow the stiff bar in competitions. 

The functionality of the barbells, whether it be a standard deadlift bar, a power bar, or an Olympic bar, all have their unique functionalities that work well with certain lifts and not so well with others. For example, the power bar is not the safest for cleans because of the center knurling and the collars that don’t rotate very well to adjust to the lift. Restrictions are necessary to avoid any safety concerns or possible disputes at competitions. 

Stiff Bars are Not Ideal for Deadlifts

For the conventional and sumo deadlift, it is recommended to use a deadlift bar over stiffer bars. A deadlift requires more bar bend to lift the bar first before lifting the weight plates off the floor. The stiff bar has less bar bend, making lifting the weights off the ground more challenging.  

Lifters frequently use deadlifts to increase muscle strength, gains, and mass, whether for personal goals or upcoming competitions. Other outstanding benefits of deadlifts include increased vertical jump and strengthened rapid torque, adding efficiency in movements ranging from lifting, pulling, and pushing in the gym and the real world. There are many types of deadlifts besides the barbell deadlift that can be incorporated into the gym to obtain these awesome benefits, such as the trap bar deadlift, which promotes velocity, power, and heavier lifts

More Weight Pulled With the Deadlift Bar

As previously discussed, the design of the deadlift bar makes lifting heavy weights less challenging. The thinner shafts mean the deadlift barbell is easier to grip and maintain. The bar bend is also ideal so the lifter can pull the barbell first to gain traction before lifting the weights off the ground. 

Lifters with fitness goals of building strength and achieving greater PRs will choose the deadlift bar over the stiff bar because of the access to greater weight loads. 

Deadlift Bars & Safety Risks With Squats

Knurling is crucial in lifts, whether maintaining one’s grip or preventing the bar from slipping. Center knurling is explicitly designed to prevent slipping of the bar during a lift. 

The stiff bar is the optimal selection for a squat, and you’ll often find it on the squat rack waiting for a lifter to use it. In comparison, the deadlift bar is not. 

Deadlift bars do not have the particular center knurling design appropriate for the squat lift. The lack of this feature increases the risk of the bar slipping off the lifter’s back during the lift, raising potential dangerous safety concerns. 

Squats are one of the top three exercises in competitions. Its benefits are many, thanks to its full-body activation of the muscles, including the glutes and quadriceps. It also enhances athletic performance by strengthening prime movers for running, jumping, and lifting. 

How Much More Can You Lift With a Deadlift Bar Than a Stiff Bar?

Comparing the deadlift bar and stiff bar, you may wonder how much more you can lift with one over the other. No studies pinpoint an exact number or percentage of the estimated range difference in lifts between the two. 

Some lifters have reported that they can lift fifty pounds more with the deadlift bar over the stiff bar, with fitness experts estimating around 3-5% more weight lifted when using it. 

Deadlift Bar vs Stiff Bar: Pros and Cons

There are pros and cons to the deadlift bar compared to the stiff bar that you should know before deciding which will work best for you in your program. From differences in tensile strength to sleeve length, all of these contribute to the functionality of these barbell types. Let’s find out more about the pros and cons of each below! 

A man with a determined expression on his face is performing a deadlift with a barbell.

Deadlift Bar 

As the name suggests, the deadlift bar is commonly used for the deadlift exercise. Understanding why the deadlift barbell is ideal for this specific exercise and whether it can be used for other exercises can help you understand the meaning behind the design of the equipment. 

This equipment should not be used for a back or front squat as the lack of center knurling can result in the bar slipping off. This is a huge safety concern when lifting heavy loads, which explains why it is not recommended to use the deadlift bar in this manner. 

Deadlift Bar Pros & Cons
Deadlift Bar ProsDeadlift Bar Cons
Lift more weightMore whip which can cause instability
Better grip It is not ideal for isolating deadlift strength from the floor 
Ideal for deadliftsNot suited for squats 

Stiff Bar

The stiff bar has a similar but contrasting design to the deadlift bar. It is best suited for squats because its center knurling design prevents the bar from slipping off during the lift. 

In contrast, it is not ideal for deadlifts because the thickness of the bar makes maintaining one’s grip more difficult. Some lifters will use the stiff bar for the deadlift anyway to train the bottom of the deadlift in order to to improve and strengthen technique, as the deadlift bar’s bend can prevent the muscles being used in this lower portion of the movement. 

Stiff Bar Pros & Cons
Stiff Bar ProsStiff Bar Cons
Ideal for squats and bench press Can’t lift as heavy
Less whip helps to isolate the bottom of the deadlift for improved technique It is challenging to maintain grip due to the circumference of the bar
Shorter design is great for storage in home gymsCenter knurling design can cause scratches on exposed flesh 

When to Use a Deadlift Bar 

Most commonly used for the deadlift exercise, the deadlift bar has other appropriate uses. For example, some lifters prefer using the deadlift bar for front squats because the lack of center knurling prevents scratches to the skin. 

Pick the Deadlift Bar For:

  • Deadlifts (conventional deadlift, sumo deadlift)
  • Lifting heavier weights
  • Preparation for competitions that prioritize the deadlift bar
  • Front squats (to prevent scratches from the center knurling)

When to Use a Stiff Bar

The stiff bar has an ideal versatility as a piece of gym equipment. It is most frequently used for back squats due to its center knurling that prevents the bar from slipping off the back. The center knurling design works great for bench presses by providing a visual to center the bar for the lift. 

Pick the Stiff Bar For:

  • Bench presses
  • Overhead presses
  • Back squats 
  • Preparation for competitions that accept the stiff bar 
  • Training and strengthening the lower portion of the deadlift 

Stiff Bar Example

Rogue Ohio Power Bar – Best Brand

A close up photo of Rogue Ohio Power Bar

Overview

Rogue Ohio is one of the premier gym equipment brands in the world. The brand prioritizes only the highest quality design and materials for an outstanding product you won’t be disappointed adding to your home or commercial gym. 

A great example of Rogue Ohio’s prime products is the Rogue Ohio Power Bar, designed with high tensile strength, bronze bushings, and a snap ring design. The product’s center knurling is made with a deep and coarse pattern to prevent slipping without being too sharp or abrasive. 

Highlights

  • Bronze bushings
  • Snap ring design
  • 16.25” loadable sleeve length
  • 45 lbs
  • 205,000 PSI steel shaft
  • Single powerlifting knurl marks
  • Center knurling, with a deep and coarse pattern without being abrasive or sharp
  • High tensile strength with little to no whip or flex
  • 29mm shaft diameter 

Pricing

PRODUCTDESIGN OPTIONSPRICING
Rogue Ohio Power BarBlack Zinc, Stainless/Black, E-Coat, Cerakote With Finish Options of Cerakote Black With Black, Blue, Red, Or OD Green, Bare Steel, & Stainless Steel  $295 – $415

Bottom Line

The Rogue Ohio Power Bar is one of the best brands if you’re looking for a high-quality powerlifting bar. The brand is well-known in the fitness world for establishing high-quality gym equipment designs, like this stiff bar, available in various styles and colors. 

Deadlift Bar Example

Rogue Ohio Deadlift Bar – Top Brand

A close up photo of Rogue Ohio Deadlift Bar

Overview

The Rogue Ohio Deadlift Bar is another fantastic example of the brand’s commitment to quality products. Its design generates a higher amount of flex—perfect for deadlifts—and a thinner diameter to maintain one’s grip. Compared to the Rogue Ohio Power Bar, this deadlift bar has more aggressive and deeper knurl marks to maintain grip for the deadlift better, but it has no center knurls. 

Highlights

  • Generates a higher amount of flex for deadlifts
  • Features a 190,000 PSI shaft with a thin diameter of 27mm
  • Length of 90.50” that fits within most powerlifting federation standards
  • Easier to grip
  • Designed for increased flex or whip when pulling
  • Includes sleeves with a quality snap ring construction
  • There is no center knurl, but it has knurl marks for gripping

Pricing

PRODUCTDESIGN OPTIONSPRICING
Rogue Ohio Deadlift BarBlack Zinc, E-Coat, & Bare Steel $345 – $375

Bottom Line

The Rogue Ohio Deadlift Bar is a fantastic piece of gym equipment. This deadlift bar has a quality design and durable materials perfect for adding to your home gym for your workouts. 

Deadlift Bar vs Stiff Bar: Which Is Better?

The deadlift bar vs stiff bar debate has its controversies, especially since each is exclusively approved for different competitions by federations. The differences in tensile strength and sleeve length in the design of these pieces of gym equipment make them ideal for other exercises. 

The deadlift bar is best for deadlifts and front bar squats. The power bar is great for bench presses, overhead presses, and back squats. It can be used in the lower portion of the deadlift to strengthen the muscles in this portion of the movement. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Can You Use a Deadlift Bar in Competition? 

The deadlift bar can be used in some competitions, but it is only accepted by some powerlifting federations. For example, the deadlift bar is allowed in USDA competitions but not by IPF or USAPL. 

Is a Squat Bar a Stiff Bar?

Yes, a stiff bar is often classified as a squat bar due to its optimal design of center knurling to prevent the bar from slipping off the back. Sometimes, the deadlift bar is used for front squats to prevent scratches from the center knurling, though many individuals still use the stiff bar. 

Can You Pull Slack on a Stiff Bar? 

As its name suggests, the stiff bar is not exactly bendable. It does have some bend that can pull some slack out of the bar, but it is not much compared to the deadlift bar. This is another significant reason why the deadlift bar is used for deadlifts. The flex allows lifters to pull the slack out of the bar for the lift, making the lift less challenging.  

Kaelyn Buzzo | ISSA CPT & Nutrition Coach

Kaelyn Buzzo | ISSA CPT & Nutrition Coach

I am an ISSA-certified CPT and Nutrition Coach with a BA in Creative Writing and a Minor in Nutrition.

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