It’s pretty sad that whenever I see a new import barbell, with a little bit of searching I can find almost the exact same barbell sold by another brand. Such is the world we live in, not that I have anything against imports or cheap labor or anything, but I’ll say it a million times over, I’d rather buy U.S. made.
Once again, there are a ton of great bars out there that are imported. If anything, from a consumer standpoint, the more import bars hit the market, the more prices get driven down; it’s a win win for you and I. I guess it could be a double edged sword, the quality of American made bars could go down, but with companies like Wright Equipment, I highly doubt it. Wright has been supplying the fitness game for quite some time now, and lately has been coming out with some excellent and affordable “Made in the U.S.A” products. They carry U.S made olympic barbells for just about any budget: the Steel City Bruiser bar for entry level, the CF series bar that delivers mid range performance at a slightly higher than entry level price, and now the new & improved Pro Elite bearing barbell with absolutely killer specs at an unbeatable price. Did Wright skimp on anything to lower the quality of this bar to match the prices of it’s imported counterparts?
But of course you’re here for the long answer.
Having not tested the previous Pro Elite bar, but having had something very close in specifications to it, I didn’t exactly know what to expect. I’ve used a ton of quality barbells; most I like or I find something of them to like. Not many I totally hate, but I can usually find something that I dislike about all of them. There’s a LOT to like about the Pro Elite bar, first being that it’s made in the U.S.A.; there are plenty of other bars that are as well, but nothing comes close to the performance and quality per price of the Pro Elite. I usually save the value aspect for the end of the review, but I’ll just get it out of the way now. This bar costs $325 shipped. There are no U.S. made bearing barbells even remotely close to this price. You might be able to find a decent training barbell with bushings for around the same price, but nothing with bearings.
Speaking of the bearings, 8 total needle bearings, 4 per sleeve. To say that this bar is unbelievably fast is an understatement; I have not used anything as fast or as smooth as the Pro Elite. Top of the line barbell from other famous U.S. barbell maker that starts with an “R” included. Talk about wrist protection, you don’t have to bother letting go of the barbell to turn it over, just hang on and throw your elbows through and the bearings rotate the bar ever so swiftly into your rack position. I’m not even that heaviest of weightlifters, this is all with normal people weight. You’ll get a kick out of just cleaning the naked bar with how disgustingly easy you can rotate your elbows under. I’ve heard that bars that spin too much can be a detriment to high end lifting, but I couldn’t fathom how easy turning this bar over could be bad.
Most barbells nowadays are bear a zinc finish, or a hard chrome. I for one, am kind of tired of seeing the black shaft, bright sleeve look. I know it’s mainly just for looks, but the zinc has its purpose in protecting the bar against oxidation. If you really want a robust bar, chrome is always the way to go. With the Pro Elite, you get a nickel plating that is somewhere in between zinc and chrome. Not only does the nickel plating protect against corrosion, but it’s damn cool looking, giving the barbell almost a gold hue to it. Think the iPhone gold, and thats what the entire barbell is colored. Also, the finish on the bar isn’t of the polished sort, it’s more of a matte and catches nicely even when you’re sweaty. I’m interested to see how the nickel will get tarnished over time, that should provide an even more interesting looking barbell.
Being that the Pro Elite barbell is made in the U.S.A., you had to expect that it’s built like M1 Abrams tank. There is virtually no play in the sleeves at all, and the bar makes no rattle at all when dropped. The only noise you’ll get out of the bar is from the bearings when you spin the sleeves and even that is minor compared to other barbells. Knurling is like wine, or beer in my case; everyone has a preference. Mine mainly go based off my mood, but I typically prefer blondes, pinot noir, and light knurling. For me, the Pro Elite’s knurling is perfect. It’s nice and uniform, not super fine, more on the coarse side but doesn’t feel sloppy in your hands, and not cheese grater deep. Sadly, there’s only a single mark for weightlifting on the 28.5mm diameter shaft.
Rounding out the Pro Elite is the barbell’s 201k PSI tensile strength shaft. Studies say that anything over the 190k PSI won’t develop a permanent bend over time, but I’ve seen bars with 155k tensile strengths not bend from years and years of abuse. To put it simply, you’re not going to bend this bar unless you actually try to. Even with that high tensile, the Pro Elite has plenty of whip to satisfy even the most proficient lifters. I will say that it’s not the most dynamic bar that I’ve used, but it’s plenty fine for me and I’m sure if you were a higher level lifter, you could coax more out of this bar. Reviewing videos of myself deadlifting with the bar shows that under even a medium amount of load, the bar flexes a considerable amount. I’m sure if that bar was moving faster during weightlifting, you’d get a lot more out of it.
Not every barbell is perfect, and I told you that I can always find some things to nitpick at. In the case of the Pro Elite, the fact that it doesn’t have a powerlifting mark is on the minor gripe side, but the fact that the diameter of the bar isn’t 28mm gets me. If it was a weightlifting bar, it should be 28mm; but since it’s a mixed use bar at 28.5mm, it should have a powerlifting mark too. Like I said, totally nitpicking here and at the end of the day, these are very minor things that I can live with, especially given the performance and price of the Pro Elite. Oh, and the bearings are wickedly fast, but they’re not the smoothest. You’re probably not going to really notice since the bar is so fast, but hey, I have to try to find some negatives to the bar!
I haven’t yet found a bar that I’ve loved as much as the Wright Pro Elite as of yet. You just can’t beat the class leading performance it brings to the table at a fraction of the cost of other bars that have comparable specs. This is my favorite bar yet, and I wholeheartedly recommend it. If you’re looking for a barbell for weightlifting, mixed use, or functional fitness, look no further, this is the one! Even if $325 stretches your budget, it’s well worth it to get a quality, American made product that is just as excellent as the country it’s made in.