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.
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.
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
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
If you happened to read my review on the Diamond Pro Crumb style bumpers, you’d know that I think pretty highly of this brand so far. I’ve gone through a ton of bars, some I liked, some were so-so, and some were great. I base my reviews on barbells mainly on two factors: price versus performance. With the amount of choices of barbells on the market today, these are really all you can go by. Specifications are fun to look at but they’re just that, specifications; no amount of numbers or words will be able to trump how a barbell feels in the hand. A lot of barbells touch in at around the $200 price point, give and take shipping/tax. I consider this price to be on the low to midrange barbell spectrum; while if you went up about $75 you’d be in the mid/high category and $50 less would put you in the low end category. The Diamond Pro 20kg Barbell retails for $189, not including tax or shipping from Mike’s Fitness Equipment, which just hits the lower end of the midrange barbell price spectrum; but does it perform like a low/midrange bar?
The Diamond Pro comes in all kinds of flavors when it comes to colors: black zinc/bright zinc, all black zinc, and all bright zinc. The star of the show here is the knurling, it’s not too aggressive and it’s not really light either, perfect for anything you can throw at it making it an all around great WOD bar. It’s very similar to Rogue’s knurl, though Rogue is a little more refined. Under load the bar whips great, though I’m not the best Oly lifter. Call me crazy but I actually feel like I’m better with something of this tensile (165k) than even my Rogue WL bar (190k). I’ve used this bar from both Oly and power lifting and never found myself worrying about what bar I’m using. Sure, there are better performing and more specialized bars out there, but you’re going to need to pay for them or sacrifice things. The Diamond Pro is just a solid performer in all facets of fitness.
Something similar yet different are the sleeves. While they spin great due to their bronze bushings (check out the spin here), they also now feature a machined groove so you can put a rubber band in the shoulder of the sleeve for identification purposes. You’d be surprised how many people get the 20kg and 15kg bars at my affiliate mixed up so this is a great feature. I see this becoming a trend as more manufacturers catch on. Not only that, but the shoulders are also knocked down to 1″ so there’s more loadable area on the sleeve. The only thing that I can gripe about here is that there’s an excessive amount of play in the sleeve. You probably wouldn’t notice much under normal use, until you dropped the barbell. It rattles like crazy, but once again, just as much the other barbells near this price point. Probably wouldn’t be my first choice to use for a late night workout but should be fine in the affiliate setting. Although the barbell is kind of loud, anyone that’s ever worked out in an affiliate is already going to be used to noisy barbells anyways. Take a listen to it here.
You can get the Diamond Pro barbell from Mike’s Fitness Equipment for $189 plus tax and shipping. For a barbell that performs as well as the Diamond Pro does, this is a steal. You could spend up to $300 for a barbell and get the same performance you’re getting here. Diamond Pro has a 3 year warranty on their barbell and also manufactures out of Decatur, AL so you know that money is staying within the U.S. All of the contact I’ve had with Diamond Pro has been nothing but positive experiences. Disclaimer, they provided all the equipment to me, but everything I’ve said comes directly from me.
I really enjoy using this barbell. By that I mean I don’t have to worry about what I’m doing when I use it other than the task at hand. If you need a great performing barbell but you’re not looking to break the bank, the Diamond Pro IWF 20kg bar needs to be on that list. Not to mention it also comes in 15kg as well! Hopefully soon I’ll get my hands on that bearing bar!