9 Best Barbell Pads for Strength Training, According to Fitness Trainers

No shame in a little extra cushioning for hip thrusts (and beyond).

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9 Best Barbell Pads for Strength Training, According to Fitness Trainers

YOU'RE STEPPING into the gym, ready to unleash your inner beast and build that iron-clad strength. But hold up—do you need a barbell pad for your workout? It's time to get the lowdown on these babies and figure out when you might want to use them, and when you definitely don't.

If you're all about those hip thrusts, then barbell pads can be a total game-changer. According to D.J. Gibson, a fitness trainer in Harlem, New York, "The barbell pad will mainly be for the hip thrusting gym goer. It will help relieve discomfort and bruising on their upper thighs from the heavy load of the barbell during reps and sets of bridges and thrusts."

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Not only do the best barbell pads provide cushioning and comfort for thrusts and bridge variations, but they also offer some sweet versatility. You can even use them on hip thrust machines to supercharge your glute gains and get those buns of steel you've been dreaming of.

But hold your horses, fellas. When it comes to exercises like squats and lunges, where the barbell rests on your shoulders as you power back up, barbell pads might not be your best bet. Why? They actually limit the contact and feel you have for the bar, which can impact your ability to generate maximum force and push against that weight like an unstoppable force of nature. In these movements, you want that raw, unfiltered connection with the iron to unleash your true potential.

We've put in the work to test and evaluate a variety of products to bring you the best barbell pads for hip thrusting and more. We've rigorously examined factors like durability, performance, suitability for different fitness levels, comfort, and of course, price. To get a well-rounded perspective, we've consulted with our MH Advisory Board and top-notch trainers like Kurt Giovanni Ellis, Owner/Performance Coach of Beyond Numbers Performance, and D.J. Gibson himself, who provided valuable insights based on their expertise and experiences.

Not everyone needs a barbell pad, so we've included some versatile alternatives too. It's all about finding the right balance between comfort and functionality.

So, whether you're new to barbell pads or looking for a replacement to your old trusty pad, you'll want to keep scrolling to discover the 9 best barbell pads (and barbell pad-adjacent products) we discovered.

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If you're looking for a barbell pad to serve as a buffer between you and the bar while performing bench presses, check out a bench press block instead. Blocks assist in strengthening specific portions of the bench press movement, particularly the lockout phase.

Blocks limit your range of motion on the bench press, which can actually be beneficial in certain scenarios, explains Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S., MH Fitness Director.

"They can help protect your shoulders or allow you to work within a smaller, safer range of motion while still loading the bench press more aggressively."

This block is small enough to fit in your gym bag for chest days, and solid enough to support up to 800-pounds.

What do buyers say? "It has multiple grooves that you fit onto your olympic bar to vary the thickness/depth you want to press to. It works as intended, and is cheaper than some of the others, but does the exact same thing," says one Amazon reviewer.

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With its 6-layer foam design, we love the comfort this pad provides. It's versatile, too, working great for not only hip thrusts but under the knees for pain-free kneeling movements and underneath you for sit up variations.

It's made with a protective Cordura outer layer to enhance durability, and it's super easy to store. Plus, it's made in the USA.

What do buyers say? "Excellent padding. Durable. Inexpensive. I prefer it not connect to the bar, I have had them rotate and fall off, this obviously doesn’t do that," said one Amazon customer.

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This pad from Gymreapers is unique in that its made from 100% neoprene, a synthetic rubber. Which offers the same great cushioning you get from foam and foam/rubber variants, but with some added power to withstand wear and tear.

"This pad does it's job, and I've been able to do hip thrusts much more comfortably at home thanks to its cushiness," explains Brett Williams, NASM, MH Senior Fitness Editor.

We also love that it has a groove and a bit more support where the bar hits the hips. This also comes with straps to lock the pad in place on the bar, if you feel more comfortable that way.

What do buyers say? Out of more than 850 Amazon reviews, 94% buyers recommend the Gymreapers Barbell Squat Pad with at least a 4-star rating.

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MH Fitness Director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S, has used this in quite a few gyms. "It’s super-comfortable and easy to set up."

It slips right onto Olympic bars with a perfect fit, and, unlike most slip on options, does a great job at staying put. We love that it helps to distribute the weight you're pushing more evenly, and the extra-thick foam, which stands up well to heavy loads.

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"Not a traditional hip thrust pad, but this functions exceptionally well as one, giving you plenty of surface area for the bar to shift around and offering a ton of cushioning," explains Samuel.

It's expensive, yes, but we argue that it packs more versatility (and therefore, value) than traditional slip-on pads. It's a standout pad options for its proprietary foam construction, which is incredibly soft and able to remain stable even under a few hundred pounds of weight.

We love the surface area this standard size offers, but it also comes in a mini version with the same excellent 2.5-inch thickness.

What do buyers say? Rogue Fitness reviewers rated this product with an average 4.8-stars.

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This barbell pad from PRO Fitness is unique in that it offers a velcro strap closure, which we found keeps it from spinning and sliding on an Olympic barbell. The padding is solid (over 3.5-inches!), made from a long-lasting rubber foam composite that feels comfortable against the body.

We found that naturally, the material will exhibit some wear-and-tear with prolonged use. But the brand offers a lifetime warranty on the product, so you can trust you'll have a speedy replacement in the case you need it.

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This belt is another great hip thrusting alternative to standard slip-on pads. It's designed to hold dumbbells, kettlebells, or even plates, making it ideal for those who don't have access to an Olympic barbell setup. It's rated to support up to 400-pounds, so it's not just for lightweights, either.

For those who are used to (or just prefer) thrusting at the gym with a hip thrust machine, this belt offers a close simulation of that feeling. With slip-resistant padding and a generous surface area, we love the comfort and flexibility it offers.

What do buyers say? "Makes hip thrusts comfortable with the padding and the weights hold in place which is great. It’s very portable and I love that I can just do my sets without having to wait for a bar and a bench," says one buyer.

If you're looking for an affordable barbell pad to use for modest loads, the CAP Barbell Protective Pad is an excellent choice. We love its easy to secure loop and hook-style closure, which fits seamlessly onto any standard- or Olympic-sized barbell. Tough velcro ensures that the pad stays secure and in place throughout your workout.

Although it measures 3-inches in thickness, we found this pad didn't fully protect against the feeling of the barbell against the body when thrusting max and near-max loads. That being said, at only $10, it a good option for beginners and modest loads.

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One-inch thickness may sound skimpy for protecting against heavier loads, but the high-density foam employed in the Troy Commercial Grade Bar Pad gets the job done incredibly well. We love that despite its low-profile, it's one of the firmer options out there. Meaning excellent cushioning and protection from the bar while maintaining stability. Plus, its made with a neoprene cover, which we found feels better against the body than foam or nylon.

It fits all standard 1" and Olympic 2" bars, making it versatile and compatible with a wide range of equipment. We especially like the full-length Velcro closure, which helps to keep a secure and snug fit.

One downside: at 14" in length, it offers less surface area than some other pads out there. However, the density and durability of this pad makes up for it.

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At Men's Health, we take great pride in providing our readers with reliable and trustworthy product recommendations. We believe that our readers deserve the best, which is why we always make sure to conduct thorough research and testing in our in-house Fitness Lab before making any recommendations. Our fitness writers and editors are experts in their own right, using their informed opinions to select products and ensuring that our content is of the highest quality.

Our product recommendations are purely editorial, and while we may receive free products to test and review, we only recommend the products we are most impressed by. We never let retailers or public relations contacts dictate our content or product coverage, which is why you can trust us to provide you with reliable and unbiased product recommendations.

For the past year, we consulted with Men's Health's in-house certified trainers and fitness editors to identify the best barbell pads on the market. Across 3 editors and hundreds of workouts, we've spent countless hours testing barbell pads from top fitness brands firsthand.

Our extensive testing process involved a comprehensive evaluation of multiple factors, including durability, performance, suitability for different fitness levels, comfort, and value, to ensure that we recommend only the best. To gather diverse perspectives, we consulted with our MH Advisory Board and Strength in Diversity trainers, who provided valuable feedback on the top barbell pads based on their expertise and experiences.

On the hunt for a solid barbell pad? Here are a few key factors you gotta keep in mind:

Comfort: Look for a pad that's going to provide enough cushioning to actually protect you from the bar, even as you get stronger and stack up plates. You want some thick padding, but not so thick it compromises stability with the bar. Don't settle for a wimpy pad that leaves you sore and bruised.

Durability: You need a pad that can handle your intense workouts. Even if you're only using it for hip thrusts, cheaper options can show signs of wear and tear quickly. Check for heavy-duty materials and sturdy stitching that won't fall apart after a few sessions.

"Quality is key and many of these pads can deteriorate over time. Pads that are made from a high density, thick foam rubber material are usually a good choice," says Ellis.

Size and compatibility: Make sure the pad fits your bar, whether it's a standard or Olympic-sized one. Double-check the attachment mechanism too. You don't want a pad that slips and slides during your lifts.

Versatility: Some pads are not just for the barbell but can be used under your knees or back when doing other exercises, too. If you're into mixing up your workout routine, find a pad that can handle the variety.

Easy to use: Ain't nobody got time for complicated setups. Look for a pad that's a breeze to slide on and off the bar. And let's not forget cleaning. Make sure it's easy to wipe down and keep fresh, because hygiene matters, my friend.

So, you're wondering who should use a barbell pad, huh?

"Anyone can use a pad, if they’re looking for support during a particular lift. For many beginners, the bare bar can be uncomfortable, irritating and borderline painful," explains Ellis. "That discomfort can ultimately lead to that person not getting the most out of that particular movement because they’re hyper focused on the discomfort."

To get comfortable performing a movement without the support of a pas, Ellis recommends progressive exposure to the bare bar over a period of time.

"There's definitely a 'tough guy' stigma surrounding not using pads. It's worth pointing out that the most elite olympic and powerlifters do not use pads," explains Gibson.

You ideally do not want a barbell pad for squats, lunge, or any movements where the barbell is in the area of your shoulders and you’re working to power back to a standing position.

"In this instance, barbell pads are limiting the contact and feel you’ll have for the bar, and your ability to create force back into the bar in the most effective manner," says Samuel.

However, if you're all about those barbell hip thrusts to take your glute gains to the next level but find yourself struggling to fold up towels and mats to get through reps, a barbell pad can be a total game-changer.

Tough guy stigma aside, pads can help reduce discomfort and pressure on your hips, allowing you to focus on squeezing those glutes without the distraction of barbell-induced discomfort. (You can even use them in hip thrust machines.)

"In the case of hip thrusts, pads are a go-to, as the 'tough guy' excuse doesn't hold enough weight (literally) to make up for the damage the bar will do to the athletes thigh soft tissue and the quality of movement during the exercise," according to Gibson.

Talene Appleton is a fitness and food writer and editor, certified personal trainer (NASM-CPT), and former professional dancer based in New York City. Passionate about both exercise and cuisine, she merges her fitness, nutrition and culinary expertise with the goal of motivating others to embrace balanced healthy living. Her work has appeared in Men’s Health, General Surgery News, The Food Institute, The Nessie, and more.

Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S., is the fitness director of Men's Health and a certified trainer with more than 10 years of training experience. He's logged training time with NFL athletes and track athletes and his current training regimen includes weight training, HIIT conditioning, and yoga. Before joining Men's Health in 2017, he served as a sports columnist and tech columnist for the New York Daily News.  

A fitness trainer and Kettlebell & Mobility Specialist in Harlem, New York.

A fitness trainer and Owner/Performance Coach of Beyond Numbers Performance.

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9 Best Barbell Pads for Strength Training, According to Fitness Trainers

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