I’ve owned just about every iteration of the Rogue Fitness Ohio Bar. My first being the black oxide 1.1, and since then, a few more black zinc 1.1’s and 1.2’s; even the Operator bar and Echo bars can be counted as spin off versions of the Ohio. The only real drastic change in the Ohio bar since it was first conceived was the tensile strength going from 155k psi to the current 190k psi. Besides losing the option to get a chrome version of the bar, mainly everything everything stayed the same. Still, 3 years later the Ohio bar remains arguably the most popular barbell in the world. Partly because the name behind it, but mainly because it just works for just about everything and everyone. The latest version of the ever popular barbell brings some useful features but also a questionable “downgrade”, at a moderate premium in price.
The shaft largely remains the same, but now has a 195k psi tensile strength rating, probably due to being made from stainless steel. In the real world, that 5k increase really isn’t going to do a ton in the way of durability, but anything above 190k should be able to stand up to just about anything you can throw at it anyways. The stainless steel Ohio bar came to me extra dirty, but at least it wasn’t too greasy when it arrived. Stainless steel is unmatched in feel by any coating, as it’s basically like having a bare steel barbell. If you’ve never used either types of barbells before, they have a chalky feel to them, unlike zinc or chrome. Though the shaft is stainless, the sleeves are still coated with chrome. Rogue’s website says something about not using a steel wire brush to clean the SS Ohio bar because it can cause rusting. I’m going to assume this is the same reason they went with chrome sleeves instead so that bumper plate collars aren’t going to be rubbing and causing rust issues.
Since it is the Ohio bar, the shaft remains the 28.5mm multi-use bar standard diameter. Don’t expect this to ever change, but at least they’re going to be releasing stainless versions of multiple bars in their line-up, including a 28mm (Ohio?) training bar. Still, 28.5mm remains a popular pick because it can fit in with just about everything you’re planning to do. If you’re a dedicated weightlifter, get a 28mm bar, it makes a difference.
Arguably the best feature of the stainless steel shaft is the fact that it’s provides the knurling the exact feel the Rogue engineers designed it to have. With bars with coating, the knurling is cut, then the coating is laid on top of the bar, bastardizing the knurling to some degree. As always, Rogue knurling is the most uniform and well cut knurling on the market with a pattern designed to satisfy most people. I say this because I have plenty of friends that think Rogue’s knurling is too aggressive, but many would beg to differ. Personally I think it’s more towards the medium depth spectrum – after getting used to it, the knurling will be tolerable to use for high rep work but at the same time it’ll be grippy enough to use for powerlifting and weightlifting singles. Vary rarely do I ever feel the need to use excessive amounts of chalk. At this point, I love Rogue’s current knurling but there was definitely a break in time for my hands.
As with my first Ohio bar and those that followed it, the sleeve spin isn’t anything to write home about. When I first experienced this, it was a major letdown, but over time I’ve learned that free spinning a sleeve isn’t actually indicative of how well it will spin under load. Ohio bars have always had very smooth and consistent rotation with their bronze bushings and the SS Ohio is no different; you have nothing to worry about as long as the sleeves spin without seizing, . Rogue decided to go with the same composite bushings that they use in their Rogue Bar 2.0. Performance feels the same between bronze and composite bushings, but durability is questionable. Composite should actually cut down on friction between the bar and sleeve by reducing metal to metal contact, assuming the bushing itself lasts that long. In my Rogue Bar 2.0, one of the bushings has flattened out after so many drops, to the point where I have had to pull the excess of it off the bushing.
Even though spin between composite and bronze bushings is very similar, I think this change is a huge mistake. I can’t be the only one that sees the stainless steel version of the Ohio bar as a premium version of an already premium product, also with a premium price tag, so taking away a “premium” feature like bronze bushings is just ridiculous. Keep in mind this is exactly what separates the not so premium Rogue Bar 2.0 from the “premium” Ohio bar; even Echo bars have bronze bushings.
Performance remains largely unchanged from generation to generation of Ohio bars. That’s kind of what makes the Ohio bar what it is and why it’s popular. It’s a jack of all trades, master of none kind of barbell. The spin isn’t amazingly fast, the whip isn’t very dynamic and actually feels slightly stiffer than it’s original models. Still, the Ohio bar will handily do anything you ask of it, and that’s exactly what most people need/want. If you want a stiffer bar for squatting and pressing, get a power bar. If you want a whippier bar for olympic lifting, get a training bar. The Ohio bar is the perfect multi-use/CrossFit/functional fitness barbell.
So, why drop the extra cash on the stainless steel Ohio bar when you can get a normal one with bronze bushings for about $75 less? The main draw, and really the only reason you should buy the stainless bar, is it’s corrosion resistance. Unlike it’s counterparts that will eventually lose their protective coatings and rust, stainless steel will never have that problem because it doesn’t have a coating. Corrosion resistance is a spectrum and stainless is at the top, though it’s not completely immune to rusting – it will just take much, much more for it to start to oxidize. Being near Los Angeles this really isn’t an issue (no, we don’t all live by the beach). I spent the last couple weeks using the SS Ohio bar as my daily driver, not worrying about knocking the chalk out of it or wiping it down, and it looked as good as new when I did.
If you’re in the south, where humidity runs rampant a good chunk of the year, this bar is made for you. Garage gym enthusiasts might also want to look into the SS Ohio bar since their bars will be more exposed to the elements. Hell, this might be a good choice for you even if you’re just too lazy to maintain your barbells. If you don’t fall into any of these categories, you’re better off saving your money by purchasing the tried and true version of the Ohio bar.
I’ve been reviewing barbells for going on 3 years now. In those 3 years, I’ve seen a ton of junk, stuff that’s okay, bars that are good, but very rarely do I come across a mind blowing barbell. Most of the stuff that I’ve used is what I would consider mid-range; pretty much anything up to $300. That’s initially all I wanted to spend on my first barbell and that’s what seems to be the popular price point for many people as well. As time has passed, my willingness to spend a little bit more has gotten greater as my knowledge of barbells has.
Like all things in life, excellence comes at a cost.
That’s not saying you can’t get a great barbell for sub-$300, there are tons of picks I could give you in that price range; many people would be satisfied with any of those choices. Or you could be like me and buy barbell after barbell, searching for “the one”. Honestly, I still haven’t found it, but the American Barbell SS Bearing bar is pretty damn close to exactly what I’m looking for.
Let’s get this out of the way: The American Barbell SS bar is not cheap.
That being said, you can buy a Ford Fiesta to get from point A to point B. Slow (not the ST), not all that safe, and definitely not in style. Then you can spend a bit more to buy a Honda Accord; adequately fast, safe by most standards, and classically handsome. Or you can buy a BMW M5; fast as hell, filled with all the safety gadgets you can think of, and sexier than Kate Upton eating a melting popsicle on a hot Summer day (okay, maybe not).
Value is a matter of perspective, but you get what you pay for. I can’t tell you how much to spend on a bar, but my general rule of thumb is that you want to spend as much as you possibly can on your barbell. This is the piece of equipment that dictates your lifting experience; not bumpers, not a platform, not collars. What’s the point of spending $300, only to wish you spent $500 on something better? You might as well save you pennies up and do it right the first time; unless that is just totally unrealistic. The $795 dollar cost is higher than most people will initially be looking for in a barbell, but the peace of mind, quality, warranty and performance justifies the hefty price tag.
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk about how amazing the ABSS bar is!
The build quality and presentation of American Barbell’s creation is nothing short of incredible. Even the packaging is on the next level. Most barbells ship in a cardboard tube, but the ends usually aren’t secured with nothing more than tape, which leads to them being popped off and the ends being damaged during shipping. The ends of the container that hold the ABSS bar are riveted in and secured with screws; you literally have to cut the container open to get to your bar. Don’t worry though, because each sleeve of the barbell also comes with a styrofoam sleeve with plastic caps at each end to protect the ends of the bar. There is a fair amount of shipping oil that you’re going to have to strip off the bar before use; a little tedious to do but it’s better than rust.
Part of the magic (and why it costs a little more) that makes the ABSS bar, is that it is made from stainless steel. It’s very similar in feel to a bare steel bar, but you won’t have to worry about corrosion or scratches. No worries when cleaning the chalk out of the knurl with a steel bristle brush, which you should be doing regularly. Pair that with the insanely well cut and profiled knurling of the ABSS and you’ve got one of the best handling barbells in existence. While the ABSS has somewhat light knurling, it almost grips you back providing sure pulls through and through. For me, this is what knurling should be like; even if you like shark tooth knurling, there’s no way you couldn’t get a solid grip on the ABSS bar. I could probably count the amount of times I’ve had to chalk up on both of my hands.
Like most true 20kg weightlifting barbells, center knurl is present as what they tout as “ghost knurling”. True to it’s name, you’d never even know it was there. It’s almost too light, and I don’t say that much about center knurling. If you lift shirtless, you won’t have to worry about any kind of irritation on your collarbone. With a shirt on, you’ll be greeted by and oh so slight stick when it catches your shirt.
Since the ABSS bar is competition spec, so it is built to IWF standards. What this means is that all of the specifications: bar length, sleeve length, diameters, knurling and end caps match up to the standard. This is apparent most in the sleeve diameter. Though not ribbed as much as other barbells, the very strict tolerances lead to plates fitting almost perfectly making training without collars doable. Going even another step further, the sleeves are friction welded together at a recessed point on the sleeve to prevent any kind of stress failures. I’ve never felt a barbell as sturdy as the ABSS bar; when dropped, the ABSS is silent other than the sound from dropping or your plates. The “crack” of making contact with the barbell is like music to ones ears. If you give the bar a kick test, all you’ll be greeted with is the sound of the steel oscillating; there is virtually no play side to side or up and down in the sleeves.
I don’t pay a whole lot of attention to tensile strength nowadays. Like contrast ratio is for TV’s, tensile strength is usually just a number used to mess with consumers to make them think “bigger is better”. 190k is all you’ll ever need in a barbell. Metallurgy is the key to a bar’s amount of whip; but we’re not all scientists and no ones giving us the exact measurements on how each shaft is forged. Stainless steel is rarely used in barbells because of the cost and that it’s difficult to come up with the right composition to make the bar strong, but able to have elasticity. My general test for this other than lifting, is to just give the bar a couple bumps to where it would normally make contact; the more soft, and bouncy feeling the bar is, the better. During lifts, the point of contact feels smooth and springy. The ABSS is on par with all of the top shelf weightlifting bars I own and leagues better than your standard Rogue Bar. The max I’ve picked up was 265lb/120kg and even that is a bit light for whip to really be apparent, but this bar has enough for me to not worry about it. I just know that with all the lifting I’ve done with this bar, I’ve yet to get a bruise from it.
Sleeve spin is one of those things that easily entices people towards bars, but all you really need is something that spins consistently. Free spinning a sleeve and dropping under a bar with load are two different things. What people don’t get is that even most bushing bars are going to rotate enough for most people to get under; it’s not until the load gets heavier that they really start to suffer. The cheap bearings that entice most will also tend to rotate too much, which can also be detrimental to heavier lifts. American Barbell’s proprietary bearing system isn’t the fastest that I’ve come across, but in all of my lifts, not once did I feel a shortage of rotation nor was I unable to drop under the bar. You won’t realize how fast you’re dropping until you’ve caught the bar; the best way I can describe it is that it’s one of the most “fluid” experiences with a barbell you could ever have.
You must be tired of all the oogling I’ve done over the American Barbell SS Bearing Bar, but it’s all well deserved. Maybe it’s the money I spent on the bar, but this is quite possibly the best barbell I’ve ever lifted on. It’s hard for me to even want to use my Rogue EU bar, which I thought previously was the top of the spectrum of barbells. Forget the Eleiko Sport Training bar that I just bought, too.
Along with that premium price tag comes a premium product. There is nothing about this barbell that feels cheap or like corners have been cut in any way. The ABSS can stand toe to toe with the best bars out there and if you’re serious about weightlifting, deserves your attention. I can almost guarantee you will not have any kind of buyer’s remorse after spending some time with this bar. The American Barbell SS Bearing bar is worth all the blood, sweat, and tears that go into being able to purchase it.
You will not regret this purchase.
American Barbell just started their spring clearance. Lots of great deals here, but the standout deal is the black and chrome training bar for $200! Great chance to pick up a great and inexpensive barbell.
The Rogue Fitness name has always been synonymous with quality, American made products; but it’s never been synonymous with being all that inexpensive. If you’re local, you could save a little bit on shipping, but getting things out to California isn’t that cheap. Rogue never really has sales either besides on Black Friday and during the CF Games. Still, people still shell out the money for Rogue; having sales all the time would de-value the brand anyways. With the inclusion of the “Echo” line of products, their value line, you could still get quality gear at some pretty decent prices.
Up until now, Rogue never really had a sub-$200 barbell that was worth it. The Beater bar is junk, pinned sleeves and a 31mm 155k psi tensile shaft made it unsuitable for anything other than bench press and back squats. There was also the economy bar that they still have on closeout; it featured pinned sleeves that hardly rotate and a stiff 28.5mm 135k psi tensile shaft with no warranty. The next cheapest bar was the Rogue Bar; formerly $275 but brought down to $255 with the 2.0. The problem there was that you’d end up spending just about $300 anyways after tax and shipping, and by then you might as well be buying an Ohio bar. I consider anything around the $200 mark, a low priced bar and around $300 a mid priced bar. People would shell out the money for that Rogue Bar, but I know a lot of people couldn’t spend that money and would go elsewhere for a $200 barbell. I’m sure they weren’t losing a ton of market share because of that, but now they have an answer to that section in the Echo Bar, and it’s excellent.
The Echo bar is Rogue’s answer to all the sub-$200 barbell range. Import bars have been flooding the market, causing prices to drop, with the popularity of CrossFit and Olympic Weightlifting surging. Not that import bars are terrible, but some times you run into some quality control issues. I’ve actually had a bar (I won’t name the manufacturer), come to me with a sleeve warped; not due to being mishandled, but mis-manufacturered. With the Echo bar, you get a bar that uses USA manufactured steel, assembled right at Rogue’s plant in Ohio, all for just under $200 before shipping ($195). The big question is: How did they manage to get the price so low, using almost all of the same components from the Ohio bar? Well, lets see…
Quite possibly the biggest difference from the Ohio bar to the Echo bar is the new sleeve locking system that Rogue came up with. The shaft extends through the sleeve like normal, but is not held on with any kind of snap rings. There are no end-caps, just a shiny steel cap at the ends of the sleeves. The sleeves still rotate around this cap; my best guess is that the sleeve is inserted onto the shaft, then the caps are pressed on from the ends. I haven’t fully looked into getting the sleeves off, but just from looking at it, I know it would be a bitch and a half. Those sleeves are staying on unless something catastrophic happens and the sleeves don’t rotate anymore. Fortunately the shaft is the exact same one you’ll find on most of Rogue’s 190k psi barbells (Ohio, Castro, Rogue Bar, Operator, ect.). Still the same tensile strength, same whip characteristics and same quality knurling. Those that aren’t familiar with these traits: Expect a bar that really won’t bend under any kind of normal use, with whip okay for weightlifting but better suited for CrossFit/Powerlifting, 28.5mm in diameter, and a medium depth knurl. You’ll only get one flavor of coating with bright zinc, but it’s very nice and looks fancier than most bars you’ll come across with zinc coating. You only get a weightlifting mark; I’m sure if you equipped a box full of Echo bars, 90% of the people wouldn’t even bat an eyelash at this.
Tried and true are the bronze bushings Rogue uses on the Echo bar. Unbeknownst to some, even myself, Rogue stopped using sintered bushings after they started casting their own (Credit goes to John over at Garage-Gyms). This probably contributed a bit to the decrease in prices over their whole line, but I don’t know if it could have been that big of a difference in costs. It also seems that Rogue is using some kind of gel lubricant similar to what you’ll find on a Pendlay barbell. Spin is consistent, but like all Rogue barbells, not that fast or free. Still, plenty fine for most lifters. Dedicated weightlifters would probably be the most put off by this, but then again, you’d probably want bearings and a 28mm shaft if that was your sport.
It still makes me wonder if releasing the Echo bar was a good move by Rogue. Having a bar that competes with all of those cheaper barbells is good, but is also a bit cannibalistic towards their own brand. The Echo bar performs just like all of their bread and butter bars, for almost $75-100 cheaper. Sure, it only comes in a single finish and has a one year warranty, but I’ve also never seen a Rogue bar go awry. Even my generations old Castro bar is perfectly straight and spins like a dream. Overall, I think having the Echo bar is a good move on Rogue’s part, the people that want Rogue or Ohio bars will still shell the money out, but now the people that couldn’t afford those have a very solid offering and can still buy Rogue with the Echo bar.
Bottom line: If you’re looking for a CrossFit/Powerlifting/GPP barbell; look no further than the Rogue Fitness Echo bar.
As always, I would greatly appreciate you using my links to purchase your Rogue Fitness gear!