crossfit barbell

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!

Rogue Fitness Training Bar Review

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This review has been a long time coming. I’ve always wanted one ever since I saw this bar at the Games in 2014, but I never wanted to shell out the money they were charging for it. Why you ask? I just thought it was overpriced compared to other import bearing barbells that I thought would be better barbells. Comparably speaking, at the time the Pendlay HD could be had for much less and was a very similarly spec’d barbell. So why did I even want this bar? The amount of free spin in the sleeves was incredible; I couldn’t believe it was a bushing barbell. A part of me concluded that since it was the display model at the games, they had just pumped the sleeves up with oil, so it was kind of a risky buy since just about every Rogue bar doesn’t have the greatest rotation. Luckily, that’s not the case, and the Rogue Fitness Training bar is one of the greatest bars that they make, if not the greatest.

From a specification standpoint, the Training bar doesn’t really stand out; it’s pretty much like every other Rogue barbell, or like most popular barbells for that matter. With the Training bar, you get a 190k psi tensile strength 28mm shaft, bronze bushings, light knurling with a single IWF marking and the choice between either bright or black zinc coating. So on paper, it looks like that premium over a typical Rogue bar just nabs you a 28mm shaft. It’s very easy for the Training bar to get lost in the crowd this way, but the specs are only half the story. I wish there was a place that you could go to try these bars before you purchased them! If that were the case, you’d see more people with this bar. (Any SoCal natives are welcome to come to my gym, CrossFit 805 and check some of my collection out.)

Unlike the 190k 28.5mm shaft thats used on the Ohio bar (Rogue bar, operator, Castro…), the training bar uses the exact same shaft as the NA weightlifting bar. Since that’s the case, the whip is much more substantial than you’ll find on a typical multi-purpose Rogue bar. The Ohio bar, while still an awesome bar, feels like a powerlifting bar compared to the Training bar. You’ll notice things start to get going around 200lbs, but from there it only picks up and gets better.  It’s true that at these weights, whip isn’t necessarily going to have the same impact that it does at advanced weights, but you can definitely feel the bar oscillate during cleans and jerks.

Another thing reminiscent of Rogue’s higher end weightlifting barbell is the knurling pattern. Once again, the same exact style you’ll find on both of the bearing barbells. In my opinion, one of the best patterns on any barbell, but those who prefer aggressive knurling might not be thrilled at it because it falls into the shallow category. I’ve never found it to not have enough grip, so I wouldn’t worry about it too much, sweaty folk.

By far the most intriguing aspect of the Training bar is how well the bar rotates while using bronze bushings, much like you’d find in most of Rogue’s bars. Anyone that has ever owned a Rogue bar will tell you that though they’re fairly smooth, there’s always something left to be desired with how fast the sleeves spin. The Training bar is the exception – these sleeves spin like mad. When put up against my higher end Rogue WL bars, the Training bar out-spun my EU bar and was just slightly behind the NA bar. The only question this leaves me with is: “Why the hell don’t all Rogue bar’s spin like this?!”
I get it, spinning a sleeve and pulling under a clean are two very different things, but the real world performance is just as stunning as watching the sleeves spin. Having a bar that spins this smooth and fast really makes you doubt just how important bearing bars are for beginner to intermediate weights. The necessity to have bearings becomes more apparent when you’re trying to get under 400lbs, but for sub-300lb lifts, any smooth bushings that don’t get stuck should be fine.

Just FYI, I scored this bar from Rogue Fitness’ boneyard bar section for $245 before shipping and tax. One of the reasons I pulled the trigger on this bar is because it had center knurling on it, which I highly recommend if you’re in the market for a brand new barbell; they only offer it on the Chan, WL and EU bars. The Training bar came to me in new condition, with very, very minimal blemishes. This barbell for that price is an outstanding value and a no brainer if it pops up again. Most people will be paying the full $330 MSRP, and like previously mentioned, it looks like  you’re not getting much more than a standard Ohio bar. You’re just going to have to take my word for it when I say that for the money, the Training bar is probably the best bar that Rogue Fitness sells at the moment. Unless you’re not training the Olympic lifts, this bar is the one to get for weightlifting and even WOD’s.

I’m happy that I didn’t pull the trigger sooner on this bar because it was such a great deal, but I probably wouldn’t regret it if I had spent the full price on this bar either. For this price, you can either get a cheap-ish feeling import bearing bar or a high quality U.S. made Training bar. Personally, I would choose the latter.

You can get your Rogue Fitness Training Bar here!

American Barbell Performance Training Bar Review

 

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About a month ago, I had the opportunity to tour the American Barbell facility in San Diego, CA. I felt like a kid in a candy shop, everything you could want for your home gym, right there within arms reach. The workers there take a lot of pride in the equipment they produce, especially the ones that specialize in putting together the barbells. Let me be the first to tell you that American Barbell is looking to change the game with some of the bars they’re coming out with, and I can’t wait for everyone to see. I don’t think this is kind of thing is open to the public, but I know they do have warehouse sales, so you might want to take advantage of those if you can; you can score some insane deals on b-stock product.

I want to thank American Barbell for having me over, and best of all, I didn’t walk away empty handed!

If there was anything I took away from that visit, it’s that American Barbell products are some of the most refined in the industry. Everything is manufactured to high standards and the ones that aren’t, don’t get sold to the general public, no matter how small the defect. I managed to pick up a new, but B-stock Performance Training Bar where the only defect on it was a slight, and I mean slight error to the knurl. Most people wouldn’t even notice it, I had to look really hard to find it. Even still, there is no way that this could affect the performance of the bar or this review.

The Performance Training Bar is the same one they used at the last OC Throwdown. It fits into their Olympic weightlifting category, but should still do fine for multipurpose use nonetheless.  Like all current American Barbell bars, it uses a 28mm diameter, 190k PSI tensile strength shaft that is made in the USA. The Performance Training Bar uses composite bushings, but are much thicker than their more basic bars. It also has upgrades like recessed precision welded sleeves and a full coat of hard chrome throughout the bar. In their line-up, this would fall somewhere in the top-mid tier and would probably match up best with Rogue’s WL Training Bar or Vulcan’s Elite Bushing model.

Like all American Barbell bars, the performance is outstanding. Though the bar uses bushings for it’s rotation, they’re some of the smoothest I’ve ever used, with very light resistance that rivals bearing bars. You won’t get much free rotation out of them if you just spin the sleeve, but under load, you won’t ever have worry about a slow turn over – and that’s when it actually matters. The sleeves have very little play as well, leaving you with a very satisfying noise when dropped with weight.

All American Barbell bars seem to use the same light, but extremely fine cut knurl pattern. Be it weightlifting singles or high rep CrossFit WOD’s, it’s very comfortable to use and provides excellent grip for all but the sweatiest of hands. The hard chrome coating doesn’t provide as good a feel as the stainless models do, but a bit easier to hold on to than their zinc coated models, such as the California Bar. Chalk is going to be the easiest solution for your grip woes, but honestly, if you’re a fan of shark tooth knurling, you might not like American Barbell’s. How many people actually like getting their hands torn up though?

Where the Performance Training Bar absolutely shines is the amount of whip it has under moderate loads; most 190k, mid-range bars struggle in this area. It is true that it’s hard to use any oscillation, or even feel it, at beginner to intermediate weights, but it’s definitely still a factor. Stiff bars tend to hurt when you receive them, or even when they make contact. The Performance Training Bar feels very similar to it’s bigger brother, the SS Comp bar in this area. Movements feel very smooth, giving you one of the most fluid lifting experiences you could get with a mid-range training bar. You can really start to feel the bar react more dynamically around 100kg, and should only get better the heavier you lift. It even rivals some of my much more expensive bars, which I don’t even miss since getting the Performance Training Bar.

At $345, the Performance Training Bar’s closest competition comes in the form of the Rogue Training bar and the Vulcan Elite. I own the Rogue as well and it too is a fine training barbell; the spin is excellent, the whip is just slightly behind the American Barbell. The knurling is subjective, but personally I like the finer American Barbell knurl. Build quality is slightly in American Barbell’s favor, but both are great American made products. You can’t go wrong either way, but for me, I’d take the Performance Training Bar for it’s whip and knurl – but it’s really too close to call.

Most bearing bars in this price range are going to be pretty generic import ones. They might have sleeves that spin for days, but under real world lifting, you won’t even notice the difference between them and the smooth spinning American Barbell bushings. Not to mention most import barbell’s have sub-par build quality and uneven knurling.

For the money, the American Barbell Performance Training bar might be one of the best performance for dollar barbells. If you want a high performing barbell but don’t quite have the change to splurge on the SS Competition bar and don’t want to go the import route, the PT barbell offers up more than half it’s performance at less than half the cost.

Get your American Barbell Performance Training bar here!

Pure-Strength 20kg Barbell Review

Man, this review has been a looooong time coming.  I’ve had this thing for a while now, decided not use it and then after I opened my affiliate, decided that it would be best to just have it there as another WOD bar; it wasn’t because there was anything wrong with the barbell or that I didn’t like it. In fact, it’s very similar to the Vulcan Standard, which I really liked.

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When you go through so many barbells, you can kind of get an idea of who’s actually behind making the bars (I could be wrong of course). So, when a different looking barbell comes up, it piques your interest; that’s exactly what attracted me to the Pure-Strength barbell. As stated before, the only bar that resembled the design was the Vulcan Standard, but a few things were off.  First, the Pure-Strength bar had dual markings; the Vulcan does now but didn’t at the time. Second, the Vulcan only came in bright zinc and still does.  Third, the tensile is slightly different, but that’s negligible. All a bunch of little things, but curiosity still go the best of me, so I bit. Anyways, let’s talk about the Pure-Strength bar…

The thing that caught my eye the most was the rounded edges that the sleeves have.  No other bars besides the Pure-Strength and Vulcan bar have these.  It actually gives the bright zinc sleeves both a very polished look, no pun intended. Both are still paired with an exposed bronze oil-lite bushing unlike the cast ones now found on Rogue’s bars. Spin isn’t the greatest, but it’s smooth and adequate for most lifters. There’s not a whole lot of play in the sleeves, so the bar makes a very pleasant “thud” when dropped with weights.

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The knurling on the Pure-Strength bar can be either it’s best or worst feature; users will either love or hate it’s light depth. Personally, I don’t mind light knurling and if I need a little more grip, I just chalk up. While the knurling is light in depth, it’s pattern is well cut and doesn’t feel choppy in your hands.  The start and stop points could be a little bit more refined though.  Like most bars nowadays, the knurl extends all the way to right before the sleeve attaches to the bar.  It isn’t just myself that is a fan of the knurl, this is one of the most sought after bars by members at my gym. Oddly enough, the 28.5mm diameter shaft feels slightly thicker than other bars that should have the same diameter (I thought the same of the Standard).

Like most popular bars on the market, the Pure-Strength barbell has a tensile strength of 190k psi. This is a multi purpose barbell that’s acceptable for all types lifting; excellent for functional fitness purposes. Don’t expect whip like a dedicated Oly bar, but it’s not awful either. It’ll suffice most heavier lifters and if you’re not going over 225lbs, you probably wouldn’t notice a difference here anyways.  It’s whip is right on par with other popular barbells with similar tensile strength and doesn’t really kick in until past the 200’s. If you need proof that this bar performs well, check out this video of ZA Anderson hitting #260 on “the big clean complex”.

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So in a sea of Rogue Fitness barbells, why would you want to go for the Pure-Strength barbell? Asides from quickly gaining a ton of popularity from being the gear supplier for a ton of high profile events (East Coast Championship), Pure-Strength actually produces really nice rigs and squat racks as well. Granted, it’s kind of iffy buying anything from anyone besides Rogue, as we’ve seen recently with Pendlay and Again Faster. Pure-Strength is still gathering steam and doesn’t look like they’re going anywhere soon. Not to mention, the Pure-Strength bar will only set you back $270 shipped (to CA), as opposed to the $320 of it’s closest Rogue competitor, the Ohio bar (or the Vulcan Standard at $279).

If you wanted a solid alternative to Rogue, that has less aggressive knurling, you’ll probably want to check out the Pure-Strength barbell.

Grab your Pure-Strength barbell here!

 

 

Review: ToExtreme Fitness 20kg Bull Bar

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Most bars I review are very sought after barbells, that I would classify as mid-range bars that fit into the around $300 category.  Why is this? Simply because there aren’t really a whole lot of bars that cost less than $200. Especially stuff that I would want to spend my own money on to review.  That being said, I do feel like there is a whole untapped market of people looking for bars that don’t cost more than a couple bills.  Not the crap that you could go to Big 5 for either; actual barbells suitable for mixed purpose lifting that could even handle affiliate use. A few come to mind, but with shipping and tax things usually end up past $200.  A smaller company called ToExtreme Fitness is looking to change that up with their “Bull Bar”. Major bonus points for the fact that it’s also 100% made in the USA.

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First thing’s first, the Bull Bar is not intended to be a Rogue Bar replacement, nor does it even try to compete as such. There’s a reason the Rogue Bar costs almost 50% more, because it is indeed a better barbell. As is every other bar in that same price range. You want something sub-$200, well  you’re going to have to sacrifice a few things. Namely, tensile strength. While a low tensile strength isn’t optimal for putting extremely heavy weight on a bar and picking it up, that’s not always the case with every bar.  I’ve seen 200k psi tensile bars bend, 190k psi tensile bars bend, but 155k psi bars remain perfectly straight for years. The Bull Bar’s tensile is 135k psi, which should be good up to about 1200lbs. Fine for most lifters I know, and definitely good enough for a general use bar for affiliates. Not usually disclosed by many manufacturers is the yield strength of the bar, which is 100k psi.  Once again, not an astounding number, but should be fine for most people. In my experience, these numbers are more for show, than go, because the Bull Bar goes just fine for me.


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The Bull Bar performs just about the same to me as other $250 bushing barbells. Bronze self lubricating bushings help with the rotation of the sleeves, which only improve over time. The sleeves spin just as well as any other bushing barbell, which isn’t amazing but once again, good enough for most people; I always end up having to re-grease my barbells anyways with lithium grease. Rotation however is smooth and there isn’t a whole lot of play between the shaft and sleeves making it a pretty solid sounding barbell when dropped. That 135k psi shaft measures a normal multi-use bar diameter of 28.5mm with a somewhat light knurling. Though the knurl is light, it’s machined very well and provides a very comfortable grip for high-rep work. Personally, I prefer a lighter depth knurling anyways, so it’s perfect in my hands.  Dynamic, the Bull Bar is not, but neither are most bars even up to $250 and definitely none under $200. To be honest, the whip feels pretty on par with the Rogue Bar 2.0 to me.

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ToExtreme Fitness sells the Bull Bar in either 20kg or 15kg variants for $189 and $169 shipped. There aren’t many bars that stay under the $200 mark after shipping and tax, so the value here is tremendous.  Though the Bull Bar has slightly lower specs than most, it doesn’t try to cheapen itself any more by having a thicker shaft or being outsourced to somewhere else in the world. As I said before, there most definitely are better bars that you can buy out there, but if you could afford those bars you’d probably be reading my reviews on them. To put it simply, if you’re not cleaning more than 300, squatting more than 400, or deadlifting more than 500…you wouldn’t need anything more than the Bull Bar.

Get your Bull Bar here!