best barbells

Rogue Fitness Stainless Steel Ohio Bar Review

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Get your Rogue Fitness Stainless Steel Ohio Bar here!

Vulcan Standard 28mm Training Barbell 20kg

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Quite some time ago now, I blindly picked up a barbell from a company I didn’t know a whole lot about named Vulcan Strength. I admit, at the time I was much more of a noob about equipment than I am now. Honestly, I don’t even remember how I came about finding out about Vulcan in the first place, but I remember being dazzled by their “Standard” barbell. It was and still is, one of the few U.S. made barbells that isn’t Rogue, American Barbell or Diamond Pro. That alone gave it a certain allure, but the performance quickly made it one of my favorite and most recommended barbells.

If there was anything “wrong” with the Vulcan Standard; it was that the shaft was 28.5mm in diameter making it more of a “CrossFit” bar (I’m a crossfitter), and less of a training barbell. Which could be fine for you purposes depending on what you’re looking for.  I also think it’s kind of weird when 28.5mm bars only have a WL marking, but Vulcan must have read my review and not too long after the PL marking was added in; I guess the same could be said about 28mm bars with PL markings! The original 28.5mm Standard is still available, but you now also have the option to go with a true 28mm Training Bar under the same moniker.

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  • 28mm diameter shaft with nickel chrome coating and a single IWF marking.
  • 196k PSI tensile strength.
  • Medium depth knurling.
  • Oil impregnated bronze bushings with bright zinc sleeves.
  • Made in the U.S.A.
  • $345 with Free Shipping
  • Lifetime Warranty

Many of the specifications of the original Standard carry over to the training bar other than a very slight jump in tensile strength. This is not a bad thing as the original Standard was a great barbell due to many of these attributes. The same good ol’ American made build quality still stands as well; the Training bar is one of the most sturdy sounding bars when dropped. A more significant change is the difference in price, but more on that later on.

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As with the original Standard, rotation is aided by a set of bronze bushings per sleeve. Spinning the sleeve freely without weight surprisingly doesn’t produce as many rotations as the original Standard did. We all know by now that spinning the sleeves like that doesn’t mean much to the actual performance of the bar. On the contrary, the bronze bushings found in the Standard Training bar allow for buttery smooth rotations under any kind of load. Since the bushings are sintered, rotation should actually get better with use and last you quite some time before having to re-lubricate. If you wanted “wow” factor, you could opt for the bearing variant!

Out of the box, Vulcan uses a much thicker grease lubricant to protect the bar from it’s own tight tolerances. This reduces metal to metal contact, resulting in less wear over time and a “looser” barbell. Other manufacturers will use a thinner type lubricant to make the bar spin better out of the box, but not necessarily to safeguard the barbell.

Tensile strength has changed from the 194k psi tensile to a 196k psi tensile, which does mean that the metallurgy of the steel has been altered. It’s interesting to see that the thinner shaft has the higher strength between the two, but the hike in tensile strength doesn’t do anything to the dynamic properties of the barbell. Most barbells in this range usually have an adequate amount of whip for most people but should increase as the weights go up.  I found that the Training bar feels a lot like the Standard I remembered in this area. You start to feel the bar move around 100kg, but not enough to make a difference. YMMV if you’re a big boy/girl lifter!


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Vulcan’s nickel chrome coating is blingin’. Aesthetically, the Training bar is beautiful, but that’s probably not the reason you’re buying it. Chrome is great against chipping and scratching but remember, oxidation can still happen. Though I haven’t experienced any issues with this being from SoCal, you can expect this to happen in the most humid of environments. You can count on the shaft looking great for years to come if taken care of properly. I always recommend keeping a nylon brush near by to knock the chalk out of your knurling. The polished shaft is without center knurling but you shouldn’t have any issues with it slipping off your chest, as I felt it actually caught my sticky skin instead.

Vulcan is one of the only manufacturers to actually tout they have a medium depth knurling; I think companies stray away from this because they’re afraid that it might cost them some bar sales, but over the years I’ve notice a trend of people that actually want a more aggressive knurl pattern. I remember the original Standard not having a very aggressive knurl, which I personally liked, but the Training bar’s knurl is much more aggressive than it what it once was. Knurling is the most subjective thing when it comes to choosing a barbell; what I like, you might not, and vice versa. However, I actually find the Training bar’s knurling to be quite comfortable, even for reps. The pattern is a bit more fine, but also deeper and provides excellent grip even without having to chalk up. Fans of more aggressive knurling will revel at the touch of the Training bar’s knurling.

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The Standard Training bar will set you back a cool $66 more than the OG ($345 vs $279), which is a considerable amount more. If you’re a dedicated weightlifter, this is a no-brainer, you need that 28mm shaft! From a Crossfitter’s point of view, you might be just fine saving a little bit and going for the original Standard. You can sure as hell perform Oly movements just fine with the OG just as well as you can do WOD’s with the Training bar. They’re still both excellent and it mainly depends on your budget, but I would always opt for the 28mm barbell.

For the price, there are other great barbells, so I think it mainly comes down to what your preferences are with knurling.  There are no wrong answers in this range of barbells, but if you’re looking for a good ol’ American made 28mm training bar with a real medium depth knurling, is built like a tank and should last you for years to come, look no further than the Vulcan Standard. If theres anything I know about Vulcan, it’s that they have an insatiable need to put out the the best quality gear out there; you can shop with confidence.

Get your Vulcan Standard Training bar here!

RepFitness Gladiator Barbell Review

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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?!

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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.

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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.

Get your Gladiator Bar here!

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American Barbell SS Bearing Bar (Competition Spec) Review

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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.

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Top to bottom: Rogue EU, AB SS bar

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.

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Top to Bottom: Rogue EU, AB SS

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.


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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.

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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.

Get your American Barbell SS Bearing bar here!

 

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American Barbell Spring 2016 Sale!

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.

Go get your American Barbell!

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