I always start my reviews on FringeSport barbells with a foreword about how I think they’re one of the best companies in the fitness industry, which I’ll spare you all this time around since you already get the idea. Just recently, Fringe released a slew of new barbells; I just published a review on the new Fringe WL bar – it’s more of a dedicated Olympic weightlifting barbell than something you’d want to use for a WOD and overkill for more basic barbell movements. Typically, beginner lifters tend to stay away from both center knurling and more aggressive knurling and if that’s you, Fringe has their trusty Bomba bar. For those of you with callused up hands that need a little more meat to their knurling and are squatting heavy enough to warrant the need for center knurling so the barbell doesn’t slip off your back – there’s the Hybrid Barbell.
The Hybrid bar from Fringe is made for the more experienced lifter, looking for a more robust bar to do everything with. To be honest, a lot of the features are inspired by the very popular Matt Chan bar from Rogue. It’s not a 100% knock off though, the Hybrid bar takes things to the next level with a few tricks of it’s own.
Like all the bars from Fringe’s new range, the Hybrid bar hails from Taiwan; which is honestly probably it’s biggest distinction from the Chan bar. Also like the WL bar I just reviewed, it’s one of the most well put together bars I’ve lifted on. So much so that someone stopped to tell me that my barbell sounds really solid (uhhhh….thanks?). The sleeves are held on with the tightest of tolerances – no rattles, no sounds from the needle bearings, which are the biggest upgrade from the Rogue counterpart. Each sleeve sports 4 needle bearings that provide accurate, smooth, but not overly fast spin. To be honest, I didn’t even know that there were needle bearings in this bar until I just read the product description when writing this.
When I was a newbie lifter, I gravitated towards light knurling so I didn’t tear up my baby soft hands. They say the Hybrid bar is for people that have been lifting for over two years and I’m going to assume that it’s because the knurling fringes on the edge of what I’d personally consider aggressive. While well cut, the knurl is chunky, but has more rounded edges to keep it away from absolutely destroying your hands. Even after 7 years of lifting, I still don’t think my hands are ready. It may not be power bar deep, but it’s enough for you to think twice about what you’re doing (given the option) before you pick this bar up. A it doesn’t take more than a few reps with a hook grip to make your thumbs feel like they’ve been run over by a truck.
Center knurling is another feature that is typically not favored by beginners that would have the tendency to run the bar into their necks when cleaning. I’ve gotten to the point where I can appreciate a good cut of center knurling, which the Hybrid bar gets perfect. I’ve come across Oly bars that had more aggressive center knurling than grip knurling and some that had slight texturing on the bar that they’re trying to pass off as center knurling. The Hybrid bar’s cut is similar to the grip knurling as far as the pattern goes, but the depth is about 15% deep in comparison. The only instance where it got slightly uncomfortable was when bringing down the bar from heavy split jerks.
Another feature borrowed from the Chan bar is the shortening of the knurling from the center of the bar, which is done to keep you from scraping up your shins when you deadlift. The idea is great, but personally it makes the deadlift grip too wide for me to ever want to use this bar to go heavy on, though I can manage for the lighter weights found in WOD’s. If for some reason you like to have a wide grip when you deadlift, you’ll definitely appreciate the space. To give you an idea of how much lessened it is, it’s about a thumbs distance in from where normal knurling would start.
Like most multi-use or “CrossFit” bars, the Hybrid bar has a 28.5mm shaft that sports a pretty sturdy 216k PSI tensile strength, the same number found in the WL bar. The shaft is noticeably more stiff than it’s WL counterpart and even more so than the 190k Chan bar. Other niceties found on the Hybrid bar in comparison to the Chan bar is that it has a nice satin hard chrome coating on the shaft. The sleeves are a polished hard chrome and black manganese phosphate on the shoulders for a little bit of contrast and style.
If you’re looking for a multi-use barbell that’s a little more suited for the big three, but you also want to dabble in Oly lifting, this bar is for you. The way I would categorize the Hybrid bar is a little bit more towards the powerlifting spectrum, a little bit closer to Rogue’s B&R bar than the Chan bar in performance and use.
Let me explain…
While the Hybrid bar is definitely still a multi use barbell that works well for pretty much everything, where it performs best is for slower lifts. The shaft of the bar is fairly stiff compared to most multi-use barbells and despite having needle bearings, the sleeves don’t spin like crazy. When I first received the bar, I mainly used it for a multitude of WOD’s, but found it to not only be hard on your hands, but also a little rough coming off your thighs/hips for Oly movements. From there, I took it to the squat rack, which I almost never do with my nicer bars but felt inclined to with the Hybrid bar (hard chrome ftw). Lo and behold, the Hybrid bar became my favorite bar to squat with in my gym. The center knurling and the stiffer shaft keep the bar centered on your back; the combination makes for a really stable squatting experience.
Is it impossible to do Oly movements with the Hybrid bar? Absolutely not! On the plus side, the sleeves rotate extremely smooth and plenty fast enough to get yourself under a the barbell. For most WOD weights or beginner weightlifters, you’re not even going to notice the difference in oscillation anyways. Would this bar be my first choice to clean or snatch with? Of course not. Like mentioned before, it doesn’t take more than a few reps to get your thumbs numb from hook gripping. Pair that with the stiff 28.5mm diameter shaft and you’ll start to figure out why Oly with the Hybrid bar is less than ideal, but far from impossible or even all that bad.
The bane of the Hybrid bar? Heavy deadlifts. Sure, if you absolutely needed to deadlift, you could definitely do it with this barbell, but the stiffness of this bar makes weights feel a lot heavier that they should feel. Personally, I have a narrow deadlift grip so I have to move my hands much further out than I’m used to just so I can get the knurling; to be fair, I have this same issue with the Chan bar. Kind of backwards considering the reason why the knurling is shortened is to keep you from getting racing stripes up your shins.
Currently, the Hybrid bar is selling for $350, but is normally priced at $400. When you factor in shipping and tax from Rogue, it’s pretty much spot on with the Chan bar. What you’re getting over the Rogue offering is needle bearings, more aggressive knurling, and a better finish on the barbell. What you’re losing out on is a bar that’s got slightly better whip and is made in the USA. Technically you’re getting a lot more than your using…but that’s subjective…
Everything about the Hybrid bar is going to be subjective to the person buying it. I would recommend the Hybrid bar if you didn’t quite think the Chan bar had aggressive enough knurling, wanted more of a power bar that you could try Oly with, have a wide deadlift grip, and/or wanted something a little more scratch resistant – you’ll probably love the Hybrid bar. In my case, the Hybrid bar just didn’t work out – it’s a good barbell, just not for me.
- Extremely well built.
- Really good for the slow lifts.
- Good for everything.
- A bit stiff for Oly and deadlifts.
- Knurling can be a bit much for some people.
- Not amazing at anything.
- Fits kind of weird in the Fringe barbell library.
- $400 might be a bit much if that’s what it goes back to.