About a month ago, I had the opportunity to tour the American Barbell facility in San Diego, CA. I felt like a kid in a candy shop, everything you could want for your home gym, right there within arms reach. The workers there take a lot of pride in the equipment they produce, especially the ones that specialize in putting together the barbells. Let me be the first to tell you that American Barbell is looking to change the game with some of the bars they’re coming out with, and I can’t wait for everyone to see. I don’t think this is kind of thing is open to the public, but I know they do have warehouse sales, so you might want to take advantage of those if you can; you can score some insane deals on b-stock product.
I want to thank American Barbell for having me over, and best of all, I didn’t walk away empty handed!
If there was anything I took away from that visit, it’s that American Barbell products are some of the most refined in the industry. Everything is manufactured to high standards and the ones that aren’t, don’t get sold to the general public, no matter how small the defect. I managed to pick up a new, but B-stock Performance Training Bar where the only defect on it was a slight, and I mean slight error to the knurl. Most people wouldn’t even notice it, I had to look really hard to find it. Even still, there is no way that this could affect the performance of the bar or this review.
The Performance Training Bar is the same one they used at the last OC Throwdown. It fits into their Olympic weightlifting category, but should still do fine for multipurpose use nonetheless. Like all current American Barbell bars, it uses a 28mm diameter, 190k PSI tensile strength shaft that is made in the USA. The Performance Training Bar uses composite bushings, but are much thicker than their more basic bars. It also has upgrades like recessed precision welded sleeves and a full coat of hard chrome throughout the bar. In their line-up, this would fall somewhere in the top-mid tier and would probably match up best with Rogue’s WL Training Bar or Vulcan’s Elite Bushing model.
Like all American Barbell bars, the performance is outstanding. Though the bar uses bushings for it’s rotation, they’re some of the smoothest I’ve ever used, with very light resistance that rivals bearing bars. You won’t get much free rotation out of them if you just spin the sleeve, but under load, you won’t ever have worry about a slow turn over – and that’s when it actually matters. The sleeves have very little play as well, leaving you with a very satisfying noise when dropped with weight.
All American Barbell bars seem to use the same light, but extremely fine cut knurl pattern. Be it weightlifting singles or high rep CrossFit WOD’s, it’s very comfortable to use and provides excellent grip for all but the sweatiest of hands. The hard chrome coating doesn’t provide as good a feel as the stainless models do, but a bit easier to hold on to than their zinc coated models, such as the California Bar. Chalk is going to be the easiest solution for your grip woes, but honestly, if you’re a fan of shark tooth knurling, you might not like American Barbell’s. How many people actually like getting their hands torn up though?
Where the Performance Training Bar absolutely shines is the amount of whip it has under moderate loads; most 190k, mid-range bars struggle in this area. It is true that it’s hard to use any oscillation, or even feel it, at beginner to intermediate weights, but it’s definitely still a factor. Stiff bars tend to hurt when you receive them, or even when they make contact. The Performance Training Bar feels very similar to it’s bigger brother, the SS Comp bar in this area. Movements feel very smooth, giving you one of the most fluid lifting experiences you could get with a mid-range training bar. You can really start to feel the bar react more dynamically around 100kg, and should only get better the heavier you lift. It even rivals some of my much more expensive bars, which I don’t even miss since getting the Performance Training Bar.
At $345, the Performance Training Bar’s closest competition comes in the form of the Rogue Training bar and the Vulcan Elite. I own the Rogue as well and it too is a fine training barbell; the spin is excellent, the whip is just slightly behind the American Barbell. The knurling is subjective, but personally I like the finer American Barbell knurl. Build quality is slightly in American Barbell’s favor, but both are great American made products. You can’t go wrong either way, but for me, I’d take the Performance Training Bar for it’s whip and knurl – but it’s really too close to call.
Most bearing bars in this price range are going to be pretty generic import ones. They might have sleeves that spin for days, but under real world lifting, you won’t even notice the difference between them and the smooth spinning American Barbell bushings. Not to mention most import barbell’s have sub-par build quality and uneven knurling.
For the money, the American Barbell Performance Training bar might be one of the best performance for dollar barbells. If you want a high performing barbell but don’t quite have the change to splurge on the SS Competition bar and don’t want to go the import route, the PT barbell offers up more than half it’s performance at less than half the cost.