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Buying dumbbells and barbells

How to Shop for and Buy Good Barbells, Bumper Plates, etc…

Whether you’re designing your first home gym, upgrading an old rack, or simply looking to buy some new weight plates, knowing where to shop for the best deals is an important part of finding quality, affordable fitness equipment.

But knowing where to shop is only half the battle. How do you know which equipment is better suited to beginners, and which is more suitable for professional strength athletes?

In this guide we’ll give you a quick walkthrough of the best places to shop for new and used strength training equipment, including Dick’s Sporting Goods, Amazon, Ebay, as well as more specialist retailers, such as Rogue Fitness and Kettlebell King.

Buying new and used fitness equipment

Home gyms, dumbbells, barbells, and kettlebells can all be bought new or used

If you want to buy a barbell set, dumbbells, or kettlebells, you have a number of options open to you, including buying new, buying used, and even making your own.

But when it comes to weights, building your own isn’t something we would recommend. It’s a very time consuming process, and you can usually buy weight plates and bars relatively cheaply online.

Knowing where to shop for strength training equipment really depends on your personal fitness goals, how much you’re currently lifting, and how much you’re willing to spend.

CrossFit training
If you’re a CrossFitter, you’ll probably already be familiar with bumper plates, and if you train in a home gym, you’ll know how difficult it is to find a used set.

If buying new is your only option, you first have to decide how many you really need, as they’re often more expensive than conventional iron or rubber encased weight plates.

Some of the biggest names to look for when shopping for bumper plates include:

  • Valor Fitness
  • Body Solid
  • XMark Fitness
  • CAP Barbell
  • Rogue Fitness
  • Eleiko

Eleiko and Rogue Fitness tend to be slightly higher priced than the plates from Valor Fitness or XMark, but they’re still the equipment of choice for many professional strength athletes, gyms, and CrossFit boxes across the country.

However, these two brands aren’t usually featured on sites like Amazon, so it’s best to shop on the Rogue Fitness or Eleiko websites.

In CrossFit training you won’t generally be lifting as much as a powerlifter, especially in exercises such as deadlifts and squats. That’s why you don’t need to rush out and spend hundreds of dollars on one of the elite strength training barbells.

Because CrossFit is based around Olympic lifts, an Olympic bar (86 inches in length) could be your best bet.

However, something like the Rogue C-70 Bar from Rogue Fitness, with a length of 70″ is also a viable option. This is slightly shorter and used in CrossFit competitions as it allows athletes to be spaced closer together.

Powerlifting
If you’re planning on powerlifting competitively, the style of barbell you choose can be incredibly important, as well as the overall weight capacity.

Many of the barbells that accompany cheaper weights sets on Amazon are designed for general fitness, or someone that is just getting started with strength training. They’re a lot more affordable, but won’t handle regular training with heavy weights.

So what’s the difference between an Olympic barbell and a Powerlifting barbell?

Powerlifting bars generally have more aggressive knurling with wider markings to assist with grip, and are stiffer than Olympic bars so the end plates pick up off the ground quicker.

Some of the best powerlifting barbells:

To give you some idea of strength, the Eleiko PL Bar is rated to withstand loads up to 3300 lbs

If you’re planning on doing a lot of back squats, you might also want to consider investing in a bar that has center knurling, such as the Texas Squat Bar from Elite FTS. Center knurling isn’t found on all Olympic barbells, but helps keep the bar on the back during heavier squats.

General fitness
This is the type of strength equipment that’s designed for the majority of home gyms, and is available to buy through a wide range of retailers, including Amazon and Dick’s Sporting Goods.

You can even find large collections of used dumbbells, weight plates and kettlebells through sites such as Ebay and Craigslist, which are often considerably cheaper than buying the same weight new.

But whether you’re buying new or buying used, bumper plates or steel plates, it’s important to have a wide enough range to support your current strength level and future strength goals.

So where’s the best place to buy strength training equipment?

Buying from Craigslist and Ebay

Ebay can be a great place for deals on used dumbbells

If you’re looking for an inexpensive way to stock up on weight plates, barbells and kettlebells, Craigslist and Ebay are the best places to start.

There’s no shortage of people selling their old strength equipment, either because it’s no longer used, they’re moving house, or because they’ve redesigned their garage gym.

If you live in a big city there’s often hundreds of deals to choose from. The only downside is that you won’t always find someone willing to sell just the equipment you need.

For example, if you’re buying a new set of bumper plates, you can pick and choose the weight and quantity. But if you’re buying2 of the 45 lb plates from a Craigslist add that also contains a barbell and a couple of dumbbells, your only option may be to buy it as a package deal.

It really depends on the price and how much of this other equipment you can realistically use. A lot of the time it makes sense to buy the lot and you can always re-sell anything you don’t need.

Buying from Dick’s Sporting Goods

Dick's Sport Goods often has great offers on weight sets

This can be a great place to shop if you’re looking to buy a new weights set, as they often run deals on some of their most popular products, such as the Fitness Gear 300 lb Olympic Weight Set (600+ reviews).

Even if you plan on using a different barbell, this can often be the most cost effective way to buy weight plates in larger quantities.

We also found Dick’s to be cheaper than places like Walmart, especially with the Olympic Bumper Plate sets.

At time of writing, the Body Solid 260 lb Olympic Rubber Bumper Plate set was priced at $698 with Walmart, and just $519 at Dick’s. The same set was only fractionally more expensive at Amazon, where it was priced at $529.

Because the Dick’s set was on sale with a discount, this was the cheapest place to buy. But Amazon’s price was direct from Body Solid, so we really recommend checking both places to see which has the best deal.

Unfortunately they don’t stock many of the more specialist products, such as those from Eleiko, Rogue Fitness, or Elite FTS, and they have a smaller product range than Amazon. But they still stock many of the more popular home gyms, weight sets and Plyo Boxes, from big names like Body Solid, Marcy, Gold’s Gym, and Valor Fitness.

Buying from Amazon

Amazon has a wide range of new and used dumbbells, often with free shipping

Whether you’re thinking of buying a new home gym, weight set, bumper plate collection, or any other variation of strength equipment, Amazon is probably the best place to start.

Unless you need to buy specialist (more on that below), Amazon will usually have the biggest selection, with the lowest prices from multiple different companies, many of which offer free shipping.

Not only that, but for a lot of their larger equipment (ellipticals, treadmills, home gyms, etc.) they’ve also started offering you choices for home assembly services. This is something you can arrange and pay for at the same time you buy the equipment, allowing you to completely bypass the user manual and jump straight into your workouts.

However, as with any online retailer, Amazon deals don’t last forever, which is why it can still be worth shopping around for the best price.

A lot of their strength training equipment is also very high quality, with weights benches capable of supporting up to 1500 lbs, squat racks capable of holding the same, and a full range of dumbbells to 150 lbs+ to name a few examples.

Being one of the world’s largest online marketplaces also means this is where you can find the most reviews for a product, which can be incredibly useful for helping you make that final buying decision.

Buying from specialists

If you’re looking to specialize in a specific area of strength training – such as Powerlifting – you’ll often need to buy equipment that’s custom designed to support your style of training.

This could mean buying a barbell with a specific knurling pattern, finding a barbell with a higher weight capacity, or buying a kettlebell that weighs more than the ones you find on Amazon or Dick’s.

For this you need a specialist, which is why we’ve listed some of our personal favorites below:

  • Kettlebell Kings

    Kettlebell Kings are the official kettlebell of the biggest competitions in North America, including the California Open, NorCal Open, and the TX Open Championships. Prices are very affordable.

    Includes a variety of different Kettlebell types, including adjustable kettlebells, powder coated, cast iron, and steel. Weights range from 5 lbs through to 108 lbs, with sets, racks, belts, and apparel also available.

  • Rogue Fitness

    Official equipment supplier of the CrossFit Games, Rogue Fitness are specialists in Strength and Conditioning Equipment.

    Rogue probably have the widest selection of bumper plates and CrossFit equipment we’ve come across, with bumper plates from 5 lbs to 65 lbs, rigs, racks, shoes, and all manner of barbells, multi-grip bars and log bars.

  • Eleiko

    One of the biggest names in Olympic lifting, Eleiko is the leading provider of professional equipment for Strength and Conditioning, Weightlifting, Powerlifting and Professional Fitness.

    Eleiko stock everything you need to train professionally with Olympic lifts, from platforms and rigs, through to the bars, weight plates and collars.

    A typical Eleiko barbell can cost anywhere from $700 to $1000, but their 5kg and 10kg WL Technique bars are usually priced closer to $400.

  • Elite FTS

    If you’ve done any amount of research at all on powerlifting, EliteFTS is probably a name you’re already familiar with.

    Their blog is home to workout plans and advice from some of the most experienced strength coaches, athletes, powerlifters, and personal trainers in the industry, and featured in our top 10 strength blogs to follow in both 2015 and 2016.

    EliteFTS strength equipment includes a wide range of power racks, weights benches, selectorized cable machines, and plate loaded leverage machines.

    Their powerlifting collection also features a variety of belts, shoes, wraps and straps, while their Texas bars (Texas Power Bar, Texas Deadlift Bar, Texas Squat Bar) are a combination of affordability and extreme strength.

Because much of this equipment requires a more specialized manufacturing process or uses materials that are more difficult to acquire, it does tend to be more expensive. But if you’re looking for serious strength training equipment to support you when training for CrossFit, Powerlifting, and Olympic lifting competitions, this is really the best in the industry.