What is a knurl on a barbell? 3 Types of Knurling.

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types of barbell knurling

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Today I'm going to talk about what is a knurl on a barbell, the different types of knurling, examples of knurls that I really like on barbells and why it's just so freaking nice for everybody that lifts the good old barbell. Let's do it.😀  
bullrock red turtle cerakote bar

I’ve actually got 3 barbell knurling types one from rogue’s barbell and from other companies, it’s not so much the material it’s like what it represents, and the feeling of holding a barbell that’s the thing.

That we all like & center around whether you like Powerlifting, Weightlifting, CrossFit, Bodybuilding. 

You name it there are a lot of arguments that happen but the thing that unites us all is the fact that we all use barbells in some capacity and that knurling those lines on the barbell is really what gives it some magic. 

So knurling varies between companies and varies between bars even in companies they all have different types of knurling it’s become a kind of science as much of it as it is in ART. 

What is a knurl on a barbell mean? 

Knurling on the ATE olympic bar india

Now for those unaware, knurling is simply that cross-hatch pattern that you see on a barbell. 

If you go into any gym, you’ll find some sort of knurling.

If you’re in a commercial gym oftentimes it’ll be worn down.

But if you go to a nice gym you’re going to find knurling in different types and there’ll be knurl marks that basically allow you to put your hands on there. 

The knurling is what provides that extra grip for your hand to stick into it and if you’re unaware and you haven’t trained a lot, you’ll be fine with probably just about any knurl. But as you train more often, you get into you’ll realize you LIKE a specific type of knurl.

Barbell Knurling Types?

types of knurling

There are three types of knurling that were popularised by the Kabuki Strength Founder Chris Duffin, he’s the first one to give names to these, and that makes sense. 😀

The three types of knurling are:  

  1. Hill  
  2. Mountain
  3. Volcano 

Those are three types of knurl and they’re all based upon how that knurling actually looks. 

#1 Hill knurling:
what is a knurl on a barbell
Hill type of knurling

The actual little pointy specks of the knurl is how it looks. The first one is hill knurl and in my opinion hill is really the worst type of knurl. A hill would look just like this rounded over like a point so there’s nothing sharp to really grasp onto. 

In fact, only really cheap bars have hill knurling or bars that are really worn down.

So if a bar’s been like used in a gym and it’s just been used and abused and not taken care of then you know it’s going to have that hill that’s on there because it’s just worn down. 

My Opinion on Hill Knurl.

I would say for most people you want to avoid a barbell with hill because the reason is there’s nothing really there that’s going to allow you to grip into and therefore it’s going to prevent the bar from really gripping your hand and it’s going to be a limiting factor in how much you can lift.

#2 Mountain knurling:
mountain knurling
Mountain type of knurling

Mountain knurl is like a sharp peak.

Now just like lots of things in training we often think ‘the more it hurts the more pain it causes the more hardcore it is the better it is’. But the reality is I think that’s not generally good in training. 

Yeah, we want some suffering and difficulty so we improve from it but unnecessarily causing pain is not a good thing in my opinion and that’s what a mountain knurl can often do the bars. 

My Opinion on Mountain Knurl. 

People come out and say that it is the sharpest bar ever. These are often the bars that I don’t like training which in reality I think most people don’t and those are mountain knurl type bars.

An example of that is the elite fts power bar which is just so freaking sharp it’s like literally they said like make the bar that hurts your hand the most.

Another example of that is like old texas power bars probably before buddy caps in addition to that the rogue aggro bar it’s got like a mountain peak. It’s just so sharp like literally when you touch it you’re like wow that’s a cool novelty but I don’t really want to use it. 

So hill knurl is not good, mountain knurl is better because it has something that you can hold on to but like it’s just not that great.

The best type of knurling that’s out there is a volcano kurl.

#3 Volcano Knurling:
Volcano knurl is a mountain with the top chopped off and so instead of having one peak it allows for four peaks and four peaks allow for more peaks per square inch which means more contact on your hand and because they're smaller peaks they don't dig in as sharp. 
Volcano type knurling
Volcano type knurling

There are more surface area peaks that your hand’s ability to grip onto and therefore if we’re just looking at what’s going to grip the best without ripping the most it’s going to be a volcano-type knurl. 

It doesn’t hurt when you grab it but it sticks on really well. It prevents it from digging into the epidermis of your skin or maybe digging in further from that.

For example, think of like a bed of nails you lay on a bed of nails because they’re so close together they don’t stab through.

If they’re farther out apart they’re more likely to actually do damage to your body in the same way like a mountain knurl there’s less points they’re sharper it’s more likely to cause damage to your hand and not feel good.

My Opinion on Volcano Knurl

Volcano knurl is a somewhat more modern style of knurl. The barbell that really popularised it and got it out into people’s hands and people loved it is the rogue ohio power  bar. 

It was one of the first ones that I think was really popular when people started really noticing and caring about knurling “wow that bar has great knurling”. It’s because of the volcano knurl and the way you think of a volcano knurl is. 



    There aren’t many reasons I’d really say, that you should buy a hill knurl barbell.

    For a training application would be somebody that’s just really sensitive on the grip. Somebody who really wants to improve their grip like they almost want a slick bar on a hill is going to be most close to that. 

    So if you’re like I just want to improve my grip training I don’t care about how much weight I can lift, I just want to know how much I can grip then a hill-type bar would work for that. But for most people, I’d probably move to some of the other ones. 

    On a mountain-type knurl, it’s just a straight peak, it digs right into your hand and feels very much like a deadlift bar.

    Ah, it hurts I understand a person wanting this who’s like a powerlifter, and just like I don’t care how much it hurts I just want it to be attached to my hand this knurl matters.

    I think the smarter thing that can be just as sharp it’s maybe not as hardcore is volcano knurl. Volcano knurl is really the best type of knurl for most applications that you’re using a barbell in. 

    If you’re doing Olympic weightlifting like you’re doing a max snatch, max cleaning jerk you want to just stick to your hands.

    The same thing for powerlifting, for deadlift, if you’re doing a pressing move like a bench normally it doesn’t matter as much so a hill knurl may be fine because it’s not going to dig into your hand as much.

FAQs About Barbell Knurling 

What are dual knurl marks on the barbell for?

Knurl marks are for taking the right grip for a lifter for doing specific exercises like squats, bench press, and snatches. Dual knurl marks only come in multipurpose barbells meaning it has IWF + IPF knurl marks and gives you a choice to take grip for 2 kinds of training.

What is knurled grip?

Knurled grip means a barbell has got knurling for maintaining friction between the hands and the bar to hold it better, tighter for a lifter so it won’t slip from the hands. Every barbell comes with knurling and has its types, but the good knurl bar gives a lifter enough security and reps. 

Do I want center knurling?

Center knurl is absent on multipurpose barbells because center knurls can be a bad thing for CrossFit lifters. Otherwise, center knurl serves the purpose for mainly squats exercise which doesn’t let the bar slip from your neck. 

How to reduce knurling on the barbell?

Don’t ruin the good bar. You can’t convert a hill knurl bar to a mountain knurl or mountain to volcano knurl yourself. This is a machining effect. Buy another barbell altogether.

How to save the neck from center knurl on the bar?

Wrap a black tape on the knurl, this will make the knurling ineffective. In case you don’t have a knurl in the center and you want a knurl, wrap an athletic tape that would work as a knurl but will be mild to not cause any tears and scratches. 

What is the distance between knurling on a barbell?

The 2 knurl marks on each corner of the barbell sit approximately 36 inches apart. This varies in IPF and IWF bars.

This is something we get questions on all the time like which barbell should I get, what knurling do you like?

We wanted this to be kind of a comprehensive overview of knurling and types of knurlingh. Let me know in the comments is there a barbell that you really like or a type of knurl you like?

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Rishabh Shrivastava

Hi, I'm Rishabh I take pride in making 'The Most Trusted Home Gym Equipment' blog for India. We are known for delivering unbiased and practical advice on fitness equipment for people with different age groups, sports, and budgets. If we recommend a product it's our trust in it, that it would serve you the best, or nothing.Please join our cause.🙌

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