Back when I was looking into purchasing my first barbell, there weren’t as many choices as there are now, but one company that was fairly new at the time had one of my picks. It was between the Rogue Fitness Ohio Bar and the RepFitness Excalibur bar; I ended up going with the Ohio, but shortly after not being wowed by that bar, picked up the Excalibur to soothe my woes. Not that the Ohio bar is a bad barbell, but if you ask anyone that purchased it under the impression that it would have great spin, they’ll probably give you the same underwhelmed impressions that I had. On the contrary, the Excalibur had amazing spin for a bushing barbell, but even better whip! For a little under $300, it was one of the best deals at the time, it’s a shame that bar isn’t being sold anymore. You can still read my review of the bushing and bearing barbells.
I have no clue why they discontinued, maybe contracts ended with the company that made them, Gymway (who make a lot of other popular barbells as well). Since then, RepFitness hasn’t had a barbell that caught my attention until recently, with the Gladiator barbell. How could it not? It’s a 10 needle bearing barbell, with an insanely high tensile, hard chrome coating, and 28mm shaft for under $250! Sounds pretty good, right?!
The Gladiator is a beautifully constructed barbell. The shaft is a whopping 230k psi tensile with 210k yield, only second in strength to barbell formerly known as the Klokov bar, the XTraining Competition bar. While its easy to be wowed by such high numbers (because higher is always better right?), tensile and yield aren’t necessarily indicative of performance, but more on this when we get there. Each sleeve is held on without very much play side to side, so dropping the barbell with weight doesn’t produce any rattles. Added details include a machined groove for ID bands and ribbed sleeves. The diameter of the shaft is 28mm and has both IPF/IWF markings on it, which fitting the barbell’s mixed use intentions; though I would say this would be a better weightlifting training bar.
The knurling is a very well cut medium depth, with prominent start and stop points. I’ve gotten use to knurling like this so the depth doesn’t bother my hands much anymore and it provides excellent grip. For pure oly lifting, it’s just about perfect, but it can be a bit much for high rep workouts. Hard chrome is just a bit more slippery by nature, so I would recommend chalking up, at least until you leave some residue in the knurling. Rust prevention has yet to be determined, but any coating can rust, and chrome has the tendency to develop surface rust no matter what you do.
If you’re looking for a barbell that rotates well, this is it. The 10 needle bearing system of the Gladiator bar rotates the shaft excellent and I’ve never been at a loss of speed using this barbell. Moreover, the rotation feels smooth and not “grindy” like some bearing bars can be. Back to the high tensile/yield strength of the barbell – the Excalibur bar this is not, in terms of whip. While not being as stiff as the Klokov bar was, the Gladiator is a bit less dynamic that I would like to see from a training bar and oscillation falls in line with pretty much all multi-use barbells under $300. I’m not going to knock it for this though, since most bars around this price range feel the same and most people would not notice a difference in this area.
All things considered, for $230, the RepFitness Gladiator bar is probably the best barbell under $250. For a training bar around this price range, look no further. Even without the Excalibur like whip, the Gladiator performs like a bar double the price; take into consideration the bearing version of the Excalibur did almost cost double. The Gladiator is an import barbell, but you can’t even compare the build quality to 90% of what’s out there. Everything about this barbell is solid, from the sleeve rotation to the construction, but most importantly, the price!
Is it the perfect barbell? No, I’m still trying to find that one. Is it going to be perfect for people wanting a the best value to performance ratio barbell? Yep.
UPDATE: The bar has been increased in price since this review was done. It now retails for $289 on Amazon and $269 directly. Still a good deal, just not an amazing deal like it was.