This is a very important factor that affects not only your satisfaction with the bar but your safety as well. The durability of the bar will be affected by a lot of things, but the very first thing you need to consider is the strength of the bar itself. You have two kinds of strength to think about – tensile and yield strength. Tensile strength refers to how much force is needed to pull the bar apart, not break it. Most Olympic bars have a pretty good tensile strength rating, ranging from 130k to 220k PSI (pounds per square inch). The yield strength describes how much weight a bar can withstand before it starts to permanently bend, or even worse, break. Of these two measurements, the tensile strength of a bar is the more reliable one. The manufacturers always have to test their bars for their tensile strength and they get a very accurate number, although a lot of manufacturers fail to mention the tensile strength of their bars in the first place. But the more tensile strength a bar has, the less whip it will have! This makes high tensile bars excellent for powerlifting, while weightlifters need a bar with lower tensile strength.
The coating on the bar also affects its life. Some bars have no coating at all and are just bare. These bars are the cheapest, and they will not last the distance, as they will chip and rust like crazy thanks to your sweat and other factors. Some bars have a black oxide coating. The knurling on these bars is gentle and feels great, and they stand up quite well against corrosion. These bars are also one of the cheaper ones. Some bars have manganese phosphate acting as their protection. This is a newer technology, and you might not see it so often. There’s still not much info about how it holds up over time, but the knurling here also feels great and it’s better protected against corrosion when compared to black oxide. Zinc is also better against corrosion than black oxide, but the knurling patterns vary here and may not feel so comfy to grasp. They are also slightly pricier than black oxide coated bars. Chrome is the priciest coating, but it sure does look awesome! It also provides excellent protection from rusting, but this finish chips off and flakes, leaving the bar exposed.
The bearings can affect the durability of the bar as well, besides affecting its spin. Even if the spin is something that you do not consider important, cheap bearings can fall apart fast and cause the sleeves of the bars to fall off! You can avoid this by not overloading the bar or dropping it down to the floor once you’re done. Bearings are little round balls or needles that go between the bar and its sleeves. But not every bearing was made the same way. Ball bearings deform fast and cannot withstand a lot of weight as they will bend and break. Needle bearings are a better choice. Bearings cost more than bushings do, and they are the best for quick lifts. Bearings do require maintenance, as you will need to oil them and keep them clean to allow them to do their job well. Bushings are rings that sit between the inner and outer sleeves of the bar. Bushings are cheaper than spins, and they do not give a lot of spins. Bushings are very hardy and require no maintenance at all. Bushings are great for Crossfit, for slow lifts, or if you’re on a budget.
And the last thing to look out for is the warranty of the bar. If your bar costs you less than 300 dollars, you don’t need to worry about the warranty all that much. This is because the bar will inevitably bend, and it will cost more to ship it back than to buy a new one altogether. If the bar has a lifetime warranty it promises durability and excellent quality. Mid-range barbells have warranties that cover 2-5 years. And remember that rarely any warranty will cover the bearings, so you will need to look out for those yourself!