Is Bare Steel a Good Barbell Choice For Your Home Gym?

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When I bought my first barbell, I was surprised by a number of things. Price was a big one. So was the number of finishes available. Bare steel barbells were the least expensive, with Cerakote™ options being the priciest.

I already had sticker shock. I had no idea what a “good” barbell cost. Add to that what things like stainless steel or Cerakote™ added to the price of a barbell, and I quickly found myself trying to find ways to save on my barbell.

One of the most common ways to bring down the price of a barbell is to forgo any finish at all and stick with the bare steel that the bar is constructed of.

No fancy finish or high-end material would mean a much lower price. But was buying a bare steel barbell worth the money I was saving?

Are Bare Steel Barbells Worthwhile?

Bare steel barbells are the least corrosion-resistant of any barbell while also having what many consider to be the best possible feel & connection to the bar. Bare steel is the least expensive bar finish when all other features are equal, but it requires weekly care and maintenance to prevent rust.

Bare Steel Barbell

As with everything in life, you must consider tradeoffs when selecting your barbell finish. With bare steel, you will need to weigh two important benefits (price and feel) against one significant drawback (corrosion).

The Benefits of a Bare Steel Barbell

The first benefit and the one most people care about, is price. When looking at the same model barbell in bare steel compared to other finishes, bare steel is always much less expensive.

To give you an example of this, the Texas power bar (one of the most famous barbells ever made) comes in four finishes: 

  • Bare steel – $295.00
  • Black zinc – $305.00
  • Chrome – $320.00
  • Cerakote™ – $350.00

As you can see, there is almost a 20% price premium to get Cerakote™. While some people might not see $55 as a big difference, those of us working within budgets need every penny we can get!

Cerakote barbells
Cerakote looks cool, but it’s a lot more expensive!

The second benefit of a bare steel bar is feel. Your barbell is what connects you to the weights you are lifting. As strange as it might seem, putting a finish material (zinc, chrome, Cerakote™, etc.) between the bar material and your hand changes your connection to the weight.


There’s something about lifting with a bare steel (or stainless steel) bar that feels very different. The heavier you lift, the more you’ll notice this.

For me, there’s no comparison. That’s why my daily driver barbell is stainless steel.

The Drawbacks of a Bare Steel Barbell

Bare steel barbell fully rusted
This can happen very quickly with raw steel

The single biggest issue with bare steel barbells is that they rust. And they rust fast!!! Here in Illinois, in the summer, it gets pretty humid. In these conditions, I can see rust forming on a bare steel bar in about 10-14 days.

To keep your bare steel barbell from corroding, you’ll need to clean and maintain it weekly. In dryer climates, you can probably get away with every two weeks. Not sure how to do that or what’s involved? Check out my complete guide to barbell care and maintenance here!

You’ll also need to clean it between uses (check out my new favorite barbell brush here, which works amazingly well for this purpose!). Remove any and all chalk from your bar, and ensure no sweat is left on it. 

While that might not seem like much, I can tell you that most people will never do that. Sure, they might at first. But we all get lazy. The problem is that fixing your bar is a huge pain once your bar is rusted.

Another minor drawback of bare steel is that it’s not available on all bars, so your selection is small. Because bare steel is often seen as a budget option, a lot of nicer bars aren’t available in that finish.

Should You Buy a Bare Steel Bar?

Unless you have somehow landed on a barbell that only comes in bare steel, no. If you have the budget, a stainless steel barbell is a much better option. It will have the same feel as bare steel without drawbacks!

Yes, stainless steel is more expensive, but it’s also the most corrosion-resistant barbell material you can buy. It also has the same feel and connection to your bar that bare steel has.

Other than price, stainless steel is as good or better than raw steel in every way!

I do want to take a moment to acknowledge that some very well-known competitive lifters only use bare steel bars. When you are loading up 600+ lbs, every advantage helps, and the feel of a raw steel bar helps.

I also want to point out that those folks lift in gyms where the gym cleans the bars weekly. When they are at home, this is their primary hobby. That makes cleaning their bar something they are much more likely to do than the rest of us.

So, unless this is you, I’d advise against a bare steel option.


I am on a budget. What’s the best budget-friendly bare steel barbell I can buy?

The best option for this right now is the bare naked power bar by Bells of Steel. It’s got pretty aggressive knurling on it, but if you are okay with that, it’s a great option at a very reasonable price!

What kind of brush do you recommend to clean my barbell?

Hands down, the best barbell brush on the market today is the Barbell Rescue 360-degree barbell brush. It’s perfect for getting the chalk out of the knurling each lifting session. It also works great for more intense maintenance duties!

Will oil or another substance help prevent my barbell from rusting?

A small amount of oil is used to “seal” your bar after cleaning. While that won’t prevent rust on a bare steel bar, it may slow it by a small amount.

See here for a complete guide to cleaning and maintaining your barbells.

Photo of author


Tim Steward has been training at home since he got his first weight set from Sears in junior high. Over 30 years later, Tim has helped thousands of people build home and garage gyms that they love and use regularly. He also holds CPT and Nutritionist certifications with the ISSA and is an NCCPT nationally accredited trainer. When Tim is not training or writing about home gyms, you can find him at the dog park with his two Australian cattle dogs, Anny and Beans.

10 thoughts on “Is Bare Steel a Good Barbell Choice For Your Home Gym?”

  1. Bare steel is the best! It’s got the best feel and is the least expensive. Just keep it cleaned and oiled and you won’t have any problems at all!

    • I agree that the feel of a bare steel bar is awesome! The problem is that in some climates, you’d need to clean and oil it multiple times a week. Even a week or two of laziness and the bar is covered in rust. I applaud your discipline, but most of us will get lazy at some point. That’s why I recommend stainless so often. Almost no maintenance needed and no corrosion either!

  2. We got along with bare steel for many, many years before all the fancy barbell finishes came around. The reason bare steel is still around is that it’s still the best. Finish durability is a convenience, not a need. What you NEED is a bar that has grippy knurl and great feel. It’s what helps you lift better. All a finish does is ruin that and make your bar more expensive.

    • I totally see what you are saying, but I don’t fully agree. We got along fine with horses and buggies too. Just because something worked doesn’t mean there isn’t anything better. That said, I think it’s time people start being honest about buying certain finishes. They just want their bar to “look cool”. And that doesn’t do anything to make the bar work better. To your point, it can make things worse (see every Cerakote bar). I think the happy medium here is stainless steel. All the feel of bare steel but with the most corossion resistance available.

  3. Bare is all I can afford. I had to save up for months to buy my Texas Power Bar. Love the bar, hate the constant maintenance. Any ideas on how to make the maintenance part easier?

    • The single best thing you can do is brush it and wipe it down after each use. I recommend the Barbell Rescue brush for this (see my full review here). Just run it over your bar a few times and finish with a dry towel, and you’ll prevent a ton of corrosion from forming.

    • If I were ever to buy a bare steel bar (I wouldn’t, but if…), it would be the Texas power bar. I almost feel like it would be a crime to order that particular bar any other way!


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