“FOR 1RMS, 10RMS, & EVERYTHING BETWEEN”
Back in 2014, the news of Again Faster releasing a barbell that had Dmitry Klokov’s name on it shook the entire barbell world. Not only was it backed by a freakishly strong Olympic Games medalist, but it loked amazing on paper and sold for a dirt cheap $320 (before shipping). Unfortunately, the barbell’s performance told a different story – while still not bad for the money, the bar was just too stiff to want to lift with and had all sorts of premature rusting issues. Still, the barbell struggled to stay in stock and the same barbell is still currently being sold under a generic “Competition” barbell name.
The rebranded Klokov Equipment launched a little earlier in 2017, this time under it’s own name and now having a couple different options of barbells, a Olympic bar and a Sport bar directed towards Crossfitters. Not to mention some sweet, classic looking bumper plates, among other things. Normally, I would be pretty excited to see a new barbell hit the market, but I kept myself from trying out any of their bars for a couple reasons. The first was because, in my opinion, they’re asking too much for an untested, import barbell of unknown origins. $700 puts the Klokov Olympic bar past Rogue’s prices and pretty much on par with Eleiko. The “Sport” barbell had originally launched at $635, which was ridiculous because you might as well just pay the extra for the Olympic bar. The other is that the finer details of the barbell, for the most part, look the exact same as the original bar. While this doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the same, I’ve been around enough imported barbells to know that a lot of the same barbells are just rebranded to sell under different brands. (See: Alibaba)
Not very long after the initial launch, the price of the Sport barbell was reduced to a more
sane competitive $399 price point. Paired with a $75 off coupon and they had me more willing to give the rebranded Klokov barbell a go, only hoping that I didn’t get stuck with just another cheap Chinese re-branded barbell.
If there was one thing that I could say about the new Klokov Equipment barbells, it’s that they’re presentation level far exceeds that of any other barbell I’ve ever purchased. Unlike most barbells that ship in a tube that either popped open by the time it gets to your place or is just a pain in the ass to open, the Klokov Sport bar comes in a nicely branded box that not only has foam cut perfectly to accommodate the barbell, but also even a pull tab to help you open the box without the need to use box cutters. Inside of the box, you’ll find your barbell inside of a bag, coated in oil to keep the barbell from rusting while it sits in a warehouse and a nice greeting/registration card that has your barbell’s unique serial number and final inspection date. Although it’s not advertised, the Sport barbell comes with Klokov’s signature and serial number laser etched into the shaft of the barbell. Classy.
Like the original model Klokov bar, the new ones come with a satin hard chrome finish, 10-needle bearings between steel bushings and grooves on the sleeve shoulders that now include color coded rubber bumpers to protect your bar from if it’s dropped without weight on it. The last detail will have you thinking: “Why hasn’t anyone else thought of this?”; it’s so simple and almost everyone is doing the ID band thing, but no ones thought to also use it to also safeguard your barbell. The sleeves themselves are held on tightly without really any play side to side, so the bar when dropped is silent other than the thud from the weights hitting the ground; no rattles here. Under the glued on “KE” end cap, you should find snap rings holding the bar on, should you ever need to pull the sleeves off – which I would advise against, since the bar comes with a 10-year warranty.
The knurling of the Sport barbell is knurled almost all the way to the sleeves this time, and while really well cut, is way more subdued compared the original Klokov bar. It’s like they chopped it down by more than half of it’s depth. I think the Sport’s knurling might be too soft, which should be good for high rep work as intended, but I’m almost positive most people purchasing this bar will keep it on a platform. The Sport model does however come with both IPF/IWF markings just in case you should want to bench press with it.
Finally, there’s the claim that all Klokov barbells go through an “Industry-leading 112 pass/fail quality assurance protocols including: dimensional & weight tolerances, material strength, straightness, finish, knurling, collar spin and construction for guaranteed durability and strength”.
All of which would just sound like a bunch of marketing fluff, but in the case of the Klokov bar, I actually believe given the presentation, details and build quality of the barbell. Just because a bar is imported, doesn’t automatically mean it’s low quality, just like if it’s Made in the USA, it doesn’t mean high quality. By no means does this barbell feel cheap or like it wasn’t at least worth $300+. The Sport bar is guaranteed within a weight tolerance of +100 g/-50g, which isn’t as impressive as the 20 g/-10g of the Olympic bar, but is going to be accurate enough for a training barbell. Using a bathroom scale, I weighed it in at 44.4kg, but my Uesaka Competition bar was the same so I’d say it’s pretty close.
All the fancy wording and insanely high specifications in the world wouldn’t mean a damn if at the end of the day, you didn’t want to lift with the bar, as we’ve come to know from past experience. The Klokov bar of old was just as well built, but was just not very pleasant to use because of how stiff it was; which was probably due to the 264k ultimate tensile strength. Nowadays I see tensile as just a number people to use to market a barbell, but in the case of the old Klokov bar, there was virtually no whip all the way up to 100kg and even at lower weights, the bar just plain hurt to create contact with. The Sport bar has a much lower, but still plenty high, minimum tensile of 215k. This thing feels like a wet noodle compared to the original barbell! Okay maybe not that soft, but the Sport bar is definitely much more pleasant to use! The whip on this barbell, while not Eleiko or Rogue WL bar status, is better or on par with similarly priced barbells and is good enough for a beginner/intermediate training barbell. There’s still plenty of room for improvement, but the Sport barbell responds very well and should suffice plenty of users. Even with my collection of bars, I could see myself grabbing at this bar time and again.
If you’re looking for a barbell that spins extremely well, look no further – I don’t think it gets much better than the Klokov Sport bar. I honestly don’t believe there could be any difference in rotation between the Sport or the Olympic bar since they both use 10 bearings total; but I won’t know until I try the other bar out. The KE Sport bar outclasses even most of my more expensive barbells in just how fast, smooth and accurately the shaft rotates. You don’t feel the bearings turn over at all and the sleeves don’t over rotate like they would in cheaper bearing bars. Who needs wrist wraps when you have bearings like this?
Now going back to the knurl, like I mentioned earlier, it might be just a touch too soft. I find myself needing to chalk my hands up a little more than I’d like, but I do appreciate not having my hands torn up after a long lifting session; it’s a double edged sword. With knurling, there is no right or wrong way to have it, everyone has their preferences just like anything else. The best way I could describe the KE Sport knurling is that it’s “comfortable”, which is probably better than “uncomfortable”. More people are actually probably going to like it rather than dislike it, I’m just being picky.
Personally, the only things I’m going to use this barbell for are Olympic weightlifting movements and maybe the Oly heavy WOD, because I just have other barbells for the slow stuff. I know not everyone has the luxury of having a barbell for every movement, so you can definitely squat, bench and deadlift with the KE Sport bar; being able to use it for everything is what it’s intended for afterall. If you ever get to thinking that maybe you made a mistake and you want a muli-use barbell, just think of it this way: professional Olympic athletes use straight up oly bars for all of the above just fine, you should be able to as well.
As much as I’ve been raving over the Klokov Sport bar, I still think that it might be a little still overpriced. It retails for $399, but I think that in order for this barbell to really be competitive, it would need to be around $360/max. At $400, it’s out of line with a lot of the other top intermediate training barbells, in which case I feel it’ll be easily overlooked for bigger names and US manufacturing. I’m not saying the bar doesn’t feel or perform like it’s a $400 bar, it’s just the level of competition is steep in the $300-$400 range. Nowadays even bars in the $200-300 range can be strikingly good. I can’t complain about the $325 that I purchased it for (with a coupon), so if you can get it for that price, it’s a no brainer.
The original Klokov bar by Again Faster left a sour taste in my mouth and almost made me not even bother with the newer models. I’m glad I did end up with the Klokov Equipment Sport bar afterall, because as much as I wanted to be right about the bars being the same, they aren’t. Instead, I ended up with a barbell that performs almost as well as some that cost double the price, except I’ll actually use this because it didn’t cost me a fortune. Awesome presentation aside, the Klokov Equipment Sport barbell is the real deal and I’m convinced by it’s performance. Hats off to Klokov and his team for creating a winner.
- Extremely well built and great packaging/branding.
- Bearings spin smoothly and fast.
- Sleeve bumpers are a really cool touch.
- Knurling on the Sport bar might be a tad too light for some.
- Price might still put some people off.
- Imported from unknown origins.
Probably not a brand you’d expect to pay $800+ for, but the performance of the Vulcan Strength Absolute Stainless Steel competition bar definitely reflects the price. The bar easily rivals my competition ready barbells. If you can get lucky enough to snag one off of their closeouts, you’re looking at the biggest steal in barbell history. Either way, the Vulcan Absolute is worth your attention if you’re looking for a competition ready training bar.
I think I’m having deja vu.
It’s like I’ve come across this bar before…
I’ve said this before, but with the influx of import barbells to the weightlifting/crossfit market, you tend to see a lot of the same bars, just rebranded. To be fair, a lot of the barbells that are domestically made are the same ones as well. Now that doesn’t necessarily make them bad, but it sucks for me more than anyone else because I end up with a bunch of duplicate barbells; though I don’t mind all that much when the bars are good. In this case, it’s the latter.
A bar that I tried way early on when I first started reviewing things was the X Training Equipment Elite Bearing bar, which at the time, was really rough and lacked polish. The spin and whip were great, price point decent, but the knurling was just too uneven. On a whim, I picked that bar up again because it went on sale and ended up loving it. Everything that plagued the initial run of the barbell was fixed and I ended up PR’ing my clean at 300; something I never got close to on any barbell that cost 3x the price. I never updated that review, but you can take this review as and update to that.
Like I said, a lot of bars I run into are just rebranded versions of others and in this case, the Christian’s Fitness Factory Keystone bar is the same thing as the X Training Equipment bar. Is that a bad thing? Absolutely not, but you’re better off just going for whichever one is cheaper at the moment.
Looking at the specifications of the bars, the CFF bar advertises a tensile of 205k PSI and a 166k PSI yield, whereas the XTE bar advertises their bar at 190k PSI with no yield listing. I know what you’re thinking, “If they’re the same bar, why is one tensile higher than the others?”, well when it comes down to it, you’re never going to be able to tell the difference. Anything over 190k PSI tensile is strong enough to take any kind of punishment and not bend (unless dropped directly on a point). I’m not saying CFF is lying about having a higher tensile, because they might, but it’s just not something you’re ever going to notice over the XTE bar.
Both bars feature a 28mm diameter shaft, 8 needle bearings (4 per sleeve), a light depth knurling and hard chrome coating. Everything about these bars is the same other than the “tensile”; if you put both bars side by side without end caps, you’d never be able to tell them apart. Once again, this isn’t a bad thing, the build quality of the bars is excellent with little play side to side in the sleeves and consistent knurling throughout. Any rattling you might get is just from the endcaps sliding around and not actually from the sleeves being loose.
$800 performance in a sub $300 bar.
Sounds pretty enticing right? Well, for the most part, it’s true. When it comes down to it, most people aren’t going to be able to tell the difference between either of these bars and an Eleiko bar as far as whip or spin is concerned. Obviously the Eleiko is probably going to be finished a little nicer with it’s polished chrome and it’s unique knurling, but for most people, the performance of the CFF/XTE bars will be absolutely stellar.
If you’re used to lifting on bushing bars, the spin alone of the CFF/XTE bars will make you a believer. Never will you have to worry about a slow turn over and having such fast, smooth bushings is like having wrist protection built into you barbell. The shaft rotates extremely well inside the sleeves which not only makes for a great weightlifting training bar, but also a great high rep CrossFit bar.
The bars are both pretty good as far as their whip goes; the oscillation is better than most and should be for most beginner to advanced lifters as well. Both bars don’t really get going until around 225lb/100kg, and like most 190k PSI bars it only gets better as you go up in weight. Best of all, the bar doesn’t wreck you when you make contact, which to me is one of the better indicators of the dynamic properties of a barbell, making for an overall smooth lifting experience.
Those of you looking for Eleiko knurling will be sorely disappointed. Personally, I like the lighter knurling of the CFF/XTE bars because I think they provide excellent grip without totally destroying your hands, but in no way are they close to the depth of an Eleiko bar. If I had to say the knurling resembled any, it would be closest to the Rogue WL training barbell, which in my opinion has one of the best, most well rounded knurl patterns out there.
The CFF bar retails for $262 and the XTE bar retails for $300 normally. Both are excellent values for the price, but the edge goes to the CFF bar for normally being $40 cheaper. That being said, at the time of this review, you can get the XTE bar for $200 on sale. For that price, there is no other comparable barbell making the XTE bar, the best barbell on the market for the price. I’m not sure how long that’s going to last, but I highly recommend you jump on it while you can. Even if that weren’t the case, the CFF bar’s normal price of $262 is one of the best deals without any kind of discounts (though if you own an affiliate, that price goes down to $222 shipped!).
Nowadays, the selection for barbells is greater than it’s ever been before. If you needed an excellent performing weightlifting training bar or general use WOD bar, it’s really hard (impossible) to beat the price to performance ratio of the CFF or XTE bars. The only people I wouldn’t recommend these bars to would be people that love aggressive knurling, or people looking for press/squat bars. You can’t go wrong either way, so just pick whichever is the better price at the time and go with that.