Home Gym Product Scoring System

gear scoring system page header

There’s a lot about home gym gear that comes down to feel. Specs on a piece of paper can only tell us so much, and we have to actually use a piece of equipment for a meaningful length of time before we can review it. You can see our guidelines for that process here.

But feel isn’t everything. When spending hundreds (sometimes thousands) of dollars on gear, it’s also nice to know that it’s been objectively tested. This gives us an easy-to-understand and useful way to compare products without the personal bias of “feel” coming into play.

Here at GymCrafter, we’ve been working very hard to come up with a series of tests for each product category that tells us exactly how that product will perform in the areas that will actually matter to the end user.

We post each score as well as a complete explanation of that product’s testing on each individual product review right at the beginning of that review. Below, we outline exactly how each test is performed and scored.

*At this time, we’ve only developed accurate testing for barbells and benches. We are currently working on a system for bumper plates and adjustable dumbbells and will publish them as soon as they have been thoroughly tested for accuracy and usefulness.

GymCrafter.com Barbell Scoring System

Barbell specs don’t really mean a lot if they are hitting some relatively low minimum standards.

As an example, if we were to give 99% of home gym owners two barbells, one with an 800 lb static rating and one with a 1500 lb static rating, none of them could tell the difference.

That’s because 99% of home gym owners can’t lift anywhere close to 800 lbs, let alone 1500 lbs.

Do those measurements mean something technically? Yes.
Do they need to hit minimum acceptable levels for us to even test them? Yes.
Do they mean something in practice? Not usually.

We always take the manufacturer’s specs into account when reviewing barbells. But we feel there are much more important and meaningful ways to measure whether or not a barbell will be a good fit for your gym or not.

We measure and score barbells in four key areas. Each is worth a total of 25 points in our scoring system:


Sleeves: 25 pts. total
Radial play: 10 pts.
Lateral play: 10 pts.
Ribbed/Smooth: 5 pts.


Spin: 25 pts. total
Smoothness: 10 pts.
L/R consistency: 5 pts.
Bushing type: 10 pts.


Finish: 25 pts. total
Durability: 5 pts.
Application: 5 pts.
Corrosion resistance: 10 pts.
Feel: 5 pts.


Knurl: 25 pts. total
Grip: 10 pts.
Feel: 5 pts.
Terminations: 5 pts.
Consistency: 5 pts.

We look for three basic qualities in the sleeves of the barbells we test and review. The first two are key indicators of build quality and durability. The third goes towards your use of the bar.

Radial Play is how much the sleeve moves front to back.
Lateral Play is how much the sleeve moves left and right.

All sleeves will have some play in them, or they couldn’t spin. But the less play there is, the better the engineering tolerances the bar is built with. The better the tolerances, the higher the quality of the bar.

Minimal play means your bar will also be much quieter. We’ve all heard the rattle and clang of a poorly built bar hitting the floor. We don’t want that!

We measure both radial and lateral sleeve play with digital calipers. Here’s how we score:

Radial Play (10 pts.)
.0 mm10 pts.
.1 mm9 pts.
.2 mm8 pts.
.3 mm7 pts.
.4 mm5 pts.
.5 mm or more0 pts.
Lateral Play (10 pts)
0-1 mm10 pts.
1-1.2 mm9 pts.
1.2-1.3 mm8 pts.
1.3-1.4 mm6 pts.
1.4-1.5 mm5 pts.
1.5 mm or more0 pts.

Ribbed vs. Smooth is an all-or-nothing score. One isn’t better than the other, but they suit themselves to different bar types. Power bars, mixed-use bars, and specialty bars should all have smooth sleeves. Olympic lifting bars should have ribbed sleeves (this aids in plate stability during explosive lifts).

If a bar has the appropriate type of sleeve, it gets 5 pts. If not, it gets 0 pts.

With sleeve spin, we also look at three different characteristics. Sleeve spin is not only a really good indicator of build quality and manufacturing tolerances, but it’s critical to aid in the type of lifting you do.

At this time, we only review and recommend power bars for home and garage gyms. That’s the type of bar that should be purchased first and is the centerpiece of most home gyms. Olympic lifting bars should be used in a commercial setting with a coach or spotter present, so we do not include them on GymCrafter for those training at home, alone in their garage or basement.

That’s a long way of saying we only look at bars with bushings, not bearings, and our testing scores reflect that.

Bushing type is a set score determined by the type of bushing used.
Smoothness is how smoothly the sleeve spins and stops spinning.
L/R consistency tells us if both sleeves spin at the same rate with the same roll-off.

We test all three characteristics with the same test:

  1. Secure the bar to the J-hooks.
  2. Load a 35 lb. plate on both sides.
  3. Attach one end of an 18″ long string to the edge of the plate.
  4. Attach the other end of that string to a 10 lb plate.
  5. Allow the 10 lb plate to fall to the floor, which spins the 35 lb plate at the same rate every time.
  6. We start each bar with the max # of pts. in each category and take off points based on the following measurements.
Smoothness (10 pts.)
Inconsistent spin rate-2 pts.
Clear friction pts.-2 pts.
Clicking or other noise-2 pts.
Abrupt stop vs smooth roll-off-2 pts.
Doesn’t spin more than 2 revolutions-2 pts.
Bushing Type (10 pts.)
Bushing TypeScore
Composite10 pts.
Bronze9 pts.
Combination9 pts.
Brass5 pts.

Composite and bronze both self-lubricate, but composite can handle higher loads, so scores better.

Combination is when composite and bronze are used together.

L/R Consistency looks at how close one side is to the other in both the number of revolutions and smoothness. If they are within 1 revolution of each other on our test, they get 5 points. If it’s more than that, they get 0. If one side is noticeably different than the other, they get 0 points.

In our view, this is an excellent way to gauge quality control, manufacturing process quality, and engineering tolerances.

We look at 4 different areas of finish with respect to both what will last over time as well as what will prevent your bar from corroding.

Durability rates how long your bar will look like it did when it was new (ie, how fast will the finish wear off).
Corrosion resistance rates how resistant to corrosion the bar will be over time. This score is determined by the bar finish type.
Application is a rating of how well (or poorly) the finish is applied.
Feel indicates whether or not the finish will affect the feel of the knurl.

We look at unfinished bar material like bare or stainless steel as a finish of their own for the purposes of these tests. While the application score is based on observation, durability, and corrosion resistance scores are based on what we already know about those two qualities across all of today’s barbell finishes.

Corrosion Resistance (10 pts.)
Stainless Steel10 pts.
Cerakote8 pts.
Duracoat8 pts.
Hard Chrome7 pts.
E Coat7 pts.
Bright Zinc7 pts.
Bright Chrome5 pts.
Black Zinc5 pts.
Black Oxide2 pts.
Bare Steel0 pts.
Durability (5 pts.)
Stainless Steel5 pts.
Bare Steel5 pts.
Hard Chrome4 pts.
Cerakote4 pts.
Duracoat4 pts.
Bright Zinc4 pts.
Bright Chrome3 pts.
Black Zinc3 pts.
E Coat3 pts.
Black Oxide0 pts.
Feel (5 pts.)
Stainless Steel5 pts.
Bare Steel5 pts.
Black Oxide5 pts.
Duracoat5 pts.
Cerakote0 pts.
Hard Chrome0 pts.
Bright Chrome0 pts.
E Coat0 pts.
Bright Zinc0 pts.
Black Zinc2 pts.
Application (5 pts.)

Application is an all-or-nothing score. If there are any blemishes, sloppy application, splotches, or other imperfections in the finish, the bar scores a zero here. To us, the finish is either right or it’s not.

A perfect finish application = 5 pts., anything less than that gets a 0. Bare and stainless steel bars both get 5 pts. as no finish needs to be applied in those instances.

We look for 4 basic qualities in the knurling on the barbells we test and review. The 3 primary things these qualities indicate are bar comfort, grip, and quality.

Grip is the most important aspect of a barbell’s knurl, and we test that with a static 300 lb hold.
Feel is how comfortable the bar is to use. This is tested by observing hand condition after the above 225 lb static hold.
Terminations takes a look at how clean the knurl terminations are. There is no other knurl characteristic that clues you into bar quality more than this.
Consistency looks at how consistently the knurl is applied across the entire bar.

The big test here is our 225 lb static hold. We load the bar with 225 lbs and then deadlift and hold the bar. With this amount of weight, the less grip the bar has, the quicker it will start to slide out of the hand.

We use 225 lbs as that’s a light enough weight that we can hold the bar for some time before grip gives out. It’s also heavy enough to cause any grip issues.

Grip (10 pts.)
Measurement (seconds without slipping)Score
30+ seconds10 pts.
25 seconds9 pts.
20 seconds7 pts.
15 seconds5 pts.
< 15 seconds0 pts.
Feel (5 pts.)
Pain LevelScore
😐5 pts.
πŸ™4 pts.
πŸ˜–3 pts.
😭2 pts.
🀬1 pts.

The terminations score looks at how clean the knurl terminations are. This is a case where they either are or are not clean. Clean = 5 pts. and no = 0 pts.

The consistency score is also an all or nothing score. Either the knurl is consistently applied (depth and tips) and gets 5 pts. or it gets 0 pts. for any inconsistency at all.

GymCrafter.com Weight Bench Scoring System

Many weight bench specs don’t really mean a lot once they meet or exceed some relatively low minimum standards.

As an example, if we were to give 99% of home gym owners two weight benches, one with a 700 lb capacity and one with a 1,500 lb capacity, both made with 11-gauge steel, none of them could tell the difference.

That’s because 99.9% of home gym owners can’t lift anywhere close to the max weight capacity on most weight benches.

For the specs that do matter, no one has gone to the trouble to say why or how they matter.

We always take the manufacturer’s specs into account when reviewing benches. But we feel there are much more important and meaningful ways to measure whether or not a weight bench will be a good fit for your gym or not.

We measure and score benches in four key areas. Each is worth a total of 25 points in our scoring system:


Stability: 25 pts. total
Steel Gauge: 5 pts.
Rear Foot Width: 5 pts.
Height: 5 pts.
Tolerance: 5 pts.
Back Pad Width: 5 pts.


Convenience: 25 pts. total
Ease of adjustment: 10 pts.
Wheels & Handles: 10 pts.
Vertical Storage: 5 pts.


Adjustability: 25 pts. total
Back Adjustments: 10 pts.
Seat Adjustments: 5 pts.
Leg Rollers: 5 pts.
Zero Gap/Back Pad Length: 5 pts.


Aesthetics: 25 pts. total
Finish Quality: 10 pts.
Handles: 5 pts.
Branding: 5 pts.
Aesthetic Durability: 5 pts.

We look for 4 basic qualities when evaluating the stability of a bench. We know that if these 4 things are on point, the bench is very likely to be rock solid.

Steel Gauge rates the actual gauge steel used to build the bench.
Rear Foot Width measures the width of the foot at the head of the bench.
Height tells us height relative to a standard we know to be stable.
Tolerance is a catch-all category for any play found in any spot where the bench is bolted instead of welded together.
Back Pad Width indicates how close to the ideal width (12″-14″) the back pad is.

The single most important thing for a bench to have is stability. So, we developed some minimum standards based on our testing of well over 30 different adjustable weight benches.

If a bench meets or exceeds those standards, they get max points in that category. Any deviation from the standard loses points as indicated below.

Steel Gauge (5 pts.)
11+ gauge5 pts.
12 gauge3 pts.
14 gauge1 pts.
< 14 gauge0 pts.
Rear Foot Width (5 pts)
24″+5 pts.
20-24″4 pts.
18-20″2 pts.
<18″0 pts.
Height (5 pts)
17″5 pts.
+/- .5″4 pts.
+/- 1″2 pts.
+/- >1″0 pts.
Back Pad Width (5 pts)
12″-14″5 pts.
+/- .5″4 pts.
+/- 1″2 pts.
+/- >1″0 pts.
Tolerance (5 pts)

Tolerance refers to how much wiggle there is in the parts of the bench that are bolted together.

Typically, we look closely at the back pad while inclined as the key indicator here. This is an all-or-nothing category.

The bench either has good tolerances or it doesn’t, meaning a score of either 5 or 0 pts.

You’d be surprised at how many janky and hard-to-use adjustable benches there are. With the convenience score, we look at 3 key areas that make your bench easy to use.

Ease of Adjustment tells us how easy it is to change the bench’s positions.
Wheels and Handles rate how easy it is to move around.
Vertical Storage tells us if it can be stored vertically to save space.

We test all three characteristics with the same test

Ease Of Adjustment (10 pts.)
All ladder style adjustments10 pts.
Every pop pin-1 pt.
Every sticky pop-pin-2 pts.
Every adjuster that screws down-1 pt.
Every hard to reach adjustment-1 pt.
Wheels & Handles (10 pts.)
Bushing TypeScore
Wheels5 pts.
Front Handle5 pts.
Handles not knurled or rubberized?-3 pts.
Wheels not protected?-2 pts.
Lift more than 20Β° to move?-2 pts.

Vertical Storage is a yes or no. 5 pts. for yes and 0 pts. for no.

An adjustable bench should be… Adjustable! We look at the 4 key areas an adjustable weight bench should have and measure them against some minimum adjustability measurements.

Back Adjustments indicate how many positions the back pad can be adjusted to.
Seat Adjustments indicate how many positions the seat can be adjusted to.
Leg Rollers rates whether or not they are an option as well as ease of use.
Zero Gap/Back Pad Length measures whether or not the bench is long enough to bench press on comfortably.

We’ve developed some minimums in these categories. Scoring the minimum or better gets max points. Deviations from those minimums lose points.

Back Positions (10 pts.)
10+10 pts.
7-108 pts.
5-65 pts.
<50 pts.
Seat Positions (5 pts.)
4+5 pts.
33 pts.
<30 pts.
Leg Rollers (5 pts.)
Leg Rollers?+3 pts.
Removable?+2 pts.
Adjustable only?+1 pt.
Hard to Use?-2 pts.
Back Pad Length* (5 pts.)
Zero Gap?5 pts.
36″+5 pts.
+/- 1″-1 pt. each

*For back pad length, we are looking for a benching surface that is at least 36″ long. If that’s achieved with a zero gap bench that combines the length of the seat with the back, that gets full points. For benches with seat gaps, the back pad itself must be at least 36″ long. Every inch shorter loses one point.

We look at 4 basic components of bench aesthetics. Not only will those ratings tell you if the bench looks nice or not, but aesthetic touches are a very accurate indicator of overall build quality, attention to detail, and resale value.

Finish Quality is how well the finish is applied. Are there blemishes or mars? Is it smooth and even?
Seat and Back Pads looks at the build quality and grip of the seat pads and covering.
Finish Durability measures how well the finish and other aesthetic touches last over months of use.

Finish Quality (10 pts.)
Measurement (seconds without slipping)Score
No visible defects10 pts.
Minor hidden defects7 pts.
Minor visible defects5 pts.
Anything else0 pts.
Seat & Back Pads (10 pts.)
Pad QualitiesScore
Grippy | Don’t need bench wrap6 pts.
Durable?2 pts.
Firm, but not hard2 pts.

Finish Durability is an all-or-nothing score. If, after our 4-6 months of testing, the finish is still in great shape, the bench gets 5 pts. If not, it gets 0.