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29,Aug reviewed by Daniel Taylor
As a competitive powerlifter, having the right barbell is crucial to lifting big numbers and avoiding injury. One key but often overlooked element of any power bar is the knurling - those grippy diagonal grooves running along the bar. In this in-depth post, I'll explain what barbell knurling is, why it matters for powerlifting, and how to choose a bar with the right knurl for you.
What is Barbell Knurling?
Knurling refers to the angled gritty texture intentionally added onto the metal barbell shaft during manufacturing. The knurling is created by a machining process that cuts small ridges into the steel, forming a crosshatch pattern of diagonal lines running perpendicular to each other.
The primary purpose of knurling is simply to increase grip on the bar. Without knurling, your hands would easily slide along the smooth steel during deadlifts, squats, bench presses, and other lifts. This could lead to lost grip strength, wasted energy, and even serious injury. The tactile grip of the knurl gives your hands something to latch onto as you drive big weights up.
Knurling Styles and Aggressiveness
There are a few main knurling styles and factors that affect grip:
- Passive vs Aggressive - Passive is smooth, aggressive is sharper.
- Knurling Density - More rows of knurling increases grip.
- Knurling Depth - Deeper cuts are more tactile and aggressive.
- Center vs Dual Knurling - Centers are more passive, duals more aggressive.
Powerlifting bars need at least a moderate center knurl to keep the bar secured on your back during squats. More aggressive knurling increases grip, but can also tear up your hands during high-rep sets. Find the right balance for your preferences and training style.
Choosing the Right Knurl for You
When selecting a powerlifting bar, test the knurling first hand if possible. See how the bar feels in your hands during heavy rack holds, deadlifts, and back squats. The right knurling will be grippy without shredding your palms. Oily or sweaty hands may also need more aggressive knurling for sufficient grip.
Proper barbell knurling can make a big difference in your powerlifting performance and safety. Let me know if you have any other powerlifting equipment questions!