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Klokov Equipment 20kg Sport Barbell Review

“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.

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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.

Construction/Build Quality:

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.

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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.

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Performance:

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?

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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.


Value/Conclusion:

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.

The Good:

  • Extremely well built and great packaging/branding.
  • Bearings spin smoothly and fast.
  • Sleeve bumpers are a really cool touch.

The Bad:

  • Knurling on the Sport bar might be a tad too light for some.

The Ugly:

  • Price might still put some people off.
  • Imported from unknown origins.

Get your Klokov Equipment Sport Barbell here!

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Vulcan Strength Absolute Stainless Steel Barbell Review

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.

Get your Vulcan Strength Absolute Barbell here!

Rogue Fitness Matt Chan Barbell (Boneyard Bar)

The Rogue Chan Bar – I finally got my hands on one of the most popular barbells that Rogue makes, that I haven’t reviewed yet. The bulk of the barbells Rogue puts out nowadays are just a variations of the Ohio bar with coating differences. For the most part, they all use the same 190k PSI tensile strength shaft, bronze bushings (though many are going composite), they’re 28.5mm in diameter, and they all have the same knurl pattern; though some might disagree on that last one. There are a few things remain the same with the Chan bar, but it also has the biggest differences from the Ohio, enough to make it my personal favorite Rogue “multi-use” barbell.

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Construction/Build Quality

Like all Rogue products, the Chan bar feels over-engineered. Almost no other equipment in the world have the polish that Rogue products do. As previously mentioned, the shaft is the typical Rogue 190k PSI tensile, 28.5mm diameter shaft forged right here in the US of A. With that, you get Rogue’s limited lifetime warranty against bending or breaking, which I honestly don’t think you’ll ever use; I’ve never heard of any of their bars bending. Hell, even my older Rogue bars that had imported shafts are all straight as arrows.

On the contrary to what the Rogue website says and what people think they know, the Chan bar has the same knurl pattern as all of Rogue’s 28.5mm barbells. To be fair, I think all of the other bars adopted the Chan bar’s knurling when they all switched over to the 190k PSI shafts. Personally, I think Rogue’s knurling is more on the medium side of things; it’s definitely not as deep and coarse like a power bar but it can for sure give you some hot spots on your hands. You don’t need a ton of chalk to get a sure grip and it’s still probably the most well rounded knurling I’ve used for everything you’d possibly want to use this bar for.

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The sleeves are typical Rogue sleeves, one inch shoulder with 16.5″ of loadable space. The surface of the sleeves have a very fine machining to help keep plates on, but I would still make sure to use clips when loading. Each sleeve has two cast bronze bushings, not sintered Oilite bushings, but ones that are made in house. Spin is smooth and there isn’t a ton of play when you try to move the sleeve side to side, giving you a nice solid thud when the bar is dropped.

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Performance

Because Rogue uses the same shaft in all of their multi-use barbells, if you’ve used one of them, you’ve used them all. Don’t take this as a bad thing though, Rogue barbells are the most reliably performing bars on the market. They don’t excel in one area, but they’re very good all around. If you just want to squat, bench or dead, you’ll probably want to look into a power bar. If you want to improve your oly, maybe check out their training bars. If you want to do all of those things, get an Ohio bar variant. The 190k PSI shaft has good enough whip to satisfy most weightlifters, without being overly dynamic for the slow lifts such as your press or squat. Spin, once again is smooth and more than fast enough for oly, but not over the top for presses. Some might hate that I use the term “CrossFit barbell”, but Rogue’s multi-use bars are the quintessential CrossFit barbells.

Practical features are what differentiates the Chan bar from it’s brothers. This bar has a smaller clean grip knurl area and passive center knurling. The purpose of cutting the clean grip knurling short is so that when you pull, your shins are free of any knurling, potentially saving you from racing stripes up your shins. It also makes for quicker setups, assuming you use the same width grip that Matt Chan uses; which most of us probably do. The only instance this was a little bit of a problem for me was for my deadlift grip, which is typically right at the start of the knurling. I’d take adjusting my grip a little bit over tearing my shins up any day though.

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Center knurling is a taboo subject in the CrossFit world, but when done correctly, I’d almost always want a bar that has it. The Chan bar has some of the best execution of center knurl that I’ve come across; it’s not even a quarter of the depth of the grip knurling, more like a light texturing to the middle of the bar. It’s light enough to not tear up your collar bone, but substantial enough to give you added stick to your chest or back when cleaning or squatting. Don’t be scared of center knurling folks, it can be a good thing.

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Value/Conclusion

The Chan bar only comes in one flavor at the moment, black zinc shaft with black zinc sleeves and retails for $295. At one point they had a satin chrome version that retailed for $350, but I’m not sure we’ll ever see that come back. Sure, you can get the Ohio bar for about $10 less, but personally I’d pay the difference for the thoughtful grip knurling and center knurling, not to mention the awesome end cap. You can get this bar for a real steal if you’re patient enough to keep checking out Rogue’s boneyard section. I picked up my Chan bar for $195+$15 shipping and tax leaving me at about roughly $230 out the door. You’d be hard pressed to find any defects (I couldn’t), but sometimes you might not end up with coating in some areas. As long as the shaft is zinc, I wouldn’t worry too much about the sleeves being bare steel. In that case, I think this is one of the best deals in barbells at the moment.

I wish I didn’t wait so long to get a Chan bar, it actually could have been my first barbell ever if I wasn’t scared of the center knurling. The adjustments to the knurling and addition of center knurl make it, in my opinion, the best of the Ohio bar clones and the best “CrossFit” bar that Rogue makes. Remember with any barbell you get from Rogue, you can’t go wrong.

Get your Rogue Matt Chan Bar here!

Christian’s Fitness Factory Keystone Bar & X Training Equipment Elite Bearing Bar Review

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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.

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Construction:

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.

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Performance:

$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.

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Value/Conclusion:

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.

Get your X Training Elite Bearing Barbell Here!

Get your Christian’s Fitness Factory Keystone Bar here!

Strencor American Lifter Barbell Review

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Strencor is a new fitness brand trying to make their name with a signature barbell made for Jared Fleming called the American Lifter barbell. The marketplace over the past few years has gotten saturated with tons of generic barbells, and not just limited to imports. Even USA made barbells typically come from the same places. Nowadays, I can usually tell when I look at the specifications, knurl, or even sleeves, but every so often a bar comes along that makes me second guess myself.

Not that the specs for the American Lifter Bar were bad, the product page was just a little all over the place. From experience with certain manufacturers, I know that there aren’t many USA made 28mm barbells with needle bearings because of sourcing the bearings; seeing those two things together was a little odd. The specs on this bar are a jumbled mess when you compare it to what their advertising on Instagram says. Maybe that’s what they were going for, because it piqued my interest and made me want to try out the bar for myself.

Construction/Build Quality:

Seeing “made in the USA” to me, means that there has to be a certain level of craftsmanship that must be upheld for whatever product it is. While not quite at the same level of polish as a Rogue barbell (not many things are), the American Lifter bar almost holds its own. The first thing I did upon receiving the AL bar was measure the diameter of the shaft and sure enough it was actually 28.5mm in diameter. I was really hoping that I was going to be wrong, but experience proved me right. The bar is also advertised at a 185k PSI yield strength; when asked why they went with a yield number over tensile, the response was: it’s a more relevant measure for the actual use of the bar. Honestly, in my experience, tensile strength doesn’t mean a thing in the real world.

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The sleeves on this bar resemble a bar made in 2012; the shoulders are still really wide compared to what you’ll currently find out there. Aesthetically it’s weird to look at since I’m used to seeing thinner shoulders, I don’t need to put rubber bands on them but it does decrease the loadable area of the sleeve. On a positive note, there isn’t much play side to side so there isn’t a ton of noise when you drop the bar. On the flipside, the sleeves are held on using a coiled clip as opposed to normal C-clips, making it much more difficult to maintain the bar.

For the most part, the knurling is well cut and uniform until you get to the areas around the IPF/IWF markings, where it protrudes a little bit. It never really bugged me and overall, I thought the knurling was great. I would rate it as a medium/light knurling thats comfortable to hold for reps and deep enough for weightlifting singles.

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Performance:

Numbers don’t mean jack, if the bar isn’t fun to use, but I think the American Lifter bar has a ton of character to it and is currently my daily driver! Even though it’s not a 28.5mm shaft, I can still perform oly lifts just fine with it. I’m mainly doing CrossFit anyways and the AL bar makes for an excellent WOD bar. Strencor went with the bigger diameter for this limited run because currently Jared is doing more CrossFit type training this year as he recovers from his ACL surgery. Compared to other 28.5mm bars out there, the AL bar blows them away in terms of “whip”/oscillation, which totally took me by surprise and is what makes the bar a lot of fun to use. It’s hard to put “whip” into words, but the best way I can describe this bar is that it’s “springy”.

When I first got the bar, I thought I had been lied to about the needle bearings. I couldn’t rest until Scott from Strencor showed me pictures of the actual bearings they use, which are larger than normal and are designed for durability rather than overall spin. Forewarning: the sleeves on the AL bar hardly rotate right out of the box and need a lot of breaking in. You can however, speed up the process by spraying some kind of lubricant into the sleeves. Even after doing that, the sleeves never really got going a ton, but they spin just fine for the weights most people are going to be lifting. I never noticed any kind of stickiness or slow turn over when working out with the AL bar. Still, the sleeves rotate about the same as an average bushing barbell, not something you’d expect from needle bearing.

For future bars: keep the whip, maybe add some light lubricant or more bearings to the sleeves, and hopefully get it down to 28mm and you’ll have a winner on your hands.

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Value/Conclusion:

While the barbell isn’t really all that expensive at $274, shipping can be; to get this bar to California, it costs a whopping $45. When you compare that to most people’s free shipping, the price overall isn’t quite comparable. You can use code “Fleming” for 10% off your order, but even after the coupon, it costed me a little under $300. If you live on the east coast, shipping is only $15, making the AL barbell a pretty good deal after the coupon.

I think the American Lifter bar is in an odd spot. Most people interested in this bar are going to be because of Jared Fleming’s name and Olympic Lifting legacy; I know I was. As a Crossfitter, it’s not the end of the world that the bar is 28.5mm in diameter, but that’s a deal breaker for all Olympic weightlifters, at least the ones I know. If this bar was “insert well known CrossFit athlete’s name here” bar, we wouldn’t even be talking about the fact that it’s 28.5mm. Another point is the price, which gives the bar a ton of stiff competition, especially when you can get the “big” name’s barbells at the same price or cheaper. Even 28mm import bearing bars for much less would entice the weightlifting crowd. “Made in the USA” is a big deal for me, but it’s not a deal breaker either.

I really do like the American Lifter bar, it really is a ton of fun to use as a general use WOD bar, but that’s pretty much what it is. Don’t expect true Oly bar performance out of it (like I did), or you’re going to be disappointed. Strencor is still a new brand and I’m sure they have a bright future ahead of them. Be on the look out for some competition ready stuff coming soon!

www.strencor.com