romaleos 3

Nike Metcon 3 Review

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***Click here for the Nike Metcon 3 DSX Flyknit Review***

It seems like just yesterday I received a beautiful package from Nike containing the now antique, the Metcon 1. Since it’s original release, the Metcon has been the biggest thing that’s hit functional fitness since Brooke Wells. For good reason, it is Nike after all.  People were over using their Free’s and begging for Nike to put out a true shoe designed ground up for functional fitness. It wasn’t even that Reebok put out a bad shoe, the Nano’s are quite possibly one of the best designed shoe lines in the history of footwear. To be honest, the only issue that anyone really had with them is that they just weren’t Nike’s.

The original Metcon’s were a great first effort offering amazing stability and response, but they weren’t without their issues. Many suffered from durability issues, heel slippage, and squeaky insoles. All of that wasn’t enough to dissuade anyone, especially me, from stocking up on many of the awesome colorways. Then along came the Metcon 2’s – more like a 1.2 model, meant to address many of the issues that the original shoe had, but in reality, it had failed in doing so. I say failure in the most liberal way because the Metcon 2’s shot Nike from not even being a player in the functional fitness world, to numero uno. In all actuality, the Metcon 2 was a failure because it really didn’t fix the issues that plagued the Metcon 1. Heel slip though lessened, was still there. The overall durability was no better than the last, and that damned squeaky insole was only put off for a little while. Still, they were awesome performing shoes that had the look, and most of all, had the swoosh.

Two years later and were now coming upon the release of the much anticipated Metcon 3. When it was originally leaked, many people weren’t keen to the futuristic look Nike decided to take with the latest model, but it didn’t take long for them to warm up to it. Besides the Romaleos 3, these shoes have definitely been my most requested review of the year, as the previous versions were before it. So what exactly have we been holding our breath for? Was it worth the wait? Is it worth upgrading over the previous models?

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Looks/Construction:

If you were to take a quick glance at someones feet wearing the Metcon 3’s, you probably wouldn’t notice they were a different shoe than the two before it. Granted, the 3’s look the most different than the previous models, they still definitely have the Metcon appearance. Though the upper looks a little different, the lines of the shoe generally remain in the same spots but synergize a bit better due to the redesigned material. While it may look like the 3’s have a knit type material for the upper, the feel is very reminiscent of the thermal wrap found on the 2’s, just to a lesser degree. What it makes for, is a much more sock like feel and pliable upper. The ballistic nylon that was once only found in the toebox is seemingly fused with the thermal wrap and extends all the way from the font to the back of the shoe, slightly reinforced in areas like at the toe and where the rope would make contact. Flywire lacing system makes it’s return and as always provides a nice fit when tightened adequately.

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Durability issues of the Metcon 2’s were mainly due to the upper being so rigid. Most of the time you would see the instep part of the upper starting to crack after multiple rope climbs, or even the thermal wrap coming unglued from the mesh. Since the 3’s have the mesh and thermal wrap fused together, it’s a lot lighter and flexible feeling. This should alleviate issues with the cracking, but only time will tell.  The insole also resembles the original model’s insoles, but now features redesigned flex groove and is ever so slightly thinner. About that squeaky heel, as we know from experience, the 1’s squeaked right away, while the 2’s had to develop it. The bottom of the insole is now a little more tacky feeling, but I have a feeling that over time as moisture builds up in your shoe, it will wear the bottom of the insole out. Maybe it will or maybe it won’t squeak, that’s another thing I’ll have to report back with in a few.

Gone is the hexagonal tread pattern of the outsole and in place is a triangular webbed pattern that is much more pronounced. The material that the outsole was made of remains the same despite the change in tread pattern, but now offers more flexibility. Overall the shape is more narrow than the previous models, most notably in the midfoot, but not so much that I would say the shoe is narrow; it’s still very much a wide training shoe.  The height of the midsole stack also seems to be a little bit shorter, giving you a closer to the ground feel. At the rear of the shoe you’ll find the return of a more well disguised TPU heel clip that’s now matte in texture. New to the 3’s are the TPU heel “cups” found externally on the sides of the rear that help stabilize your foot laterally.

Build quality is mainly what you’d expect from a Nike shoe. The Metcon 3’s are very well put together and feel suited to take on just about anything you can throw at it. Interestingly enough, my blackout models have quite a bit of oversprayed glue, which isn’t a huge deal, but does detract from the sleekness of the shoe a tad. I’m sure this has to do with the previous model’s laces not staying tied, but the laces that come with the Metcon 3 are just plain cheap feeling. I’d gladly take the ones of old and just tighten them up a bit more.

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Fit:

If you’re coming from any of the previous iterations, just go ahead and size the 3’s the same unless you were on the extremely tight side. Remember that the 3’s are slightly more narrow, though the length of the shoe remains the exact same. People with Morton’s toe shouldn’t have to worry about having to size up either, as the shape of the Metcon’s toe box accommodates your second toe well.  Here’s a sizing chart of what I wear, so you can kind of get an idea of how you should size your Metcon 3’s:

  • Metcon 1/2/3 – 9.5
  • Nano – 10
  • Inov-8 – 10
  • Chucks –  9
  • Speed TR – 9
  • Nike Free – 10
  • Romaleos – 9

Another variance that I’ve noticed between my two pairs of shoes is that the blackout’s fit a little more snug and have less heel slip than my grey/volts. If you’re at the store buying them, you might want to try on a few pairs before pulling the trigger on them.

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Performance:

In my opinion, the Metcon 2’s (and originals), though technically designed for all facets of fitness, were the best training shoe for pure lifting. I’ve hit numerous PR’s with both models, including a 515lb sumo deadlift and very narrowly missing a 225lb snatch, so I will usually grab my Nike when I know I need to lift big. What made them excellent lifting shoes also made them a little hard on the feet when it came to plyometric movements. Honestly, it’s a give and take with training shoes; you just can’t have it all. If you want better power delivery, you’re usually sacrificing flexibility, and vice versa. The key is to find the balance between the two, and I think Nike has come the closest out of any training shoe with the Metcon 3.

Squatting is the foundation of everything we do, so if I can’t squat in a shoe, I really have no use for that shoe.  The Metcon 2’s were arguably my favorite squatting shoe of all time. Sure, they are not the most minimal or shoe closest to the ground, but they are plenty flat, stable, and offer excellent energy rebound. I’ve been doing a lot of squatting in Olympic weightlifting shoes lately with the Legacy and Position’s, but I don’t miss them one bit because squatting in the M3’s feels just as good, if not better. As a functional fitnesser, my mantra is to always be able to use what’s available at the time; you’re not always going to have time to change into oly shoes after all. The M3’s manage to keep up with the best oly shoes, but also outshines the previous models because of the TPU heel counters. Lateral stability is far greater than it was in the M2’s and you never get a feeling of spilling out of the sides of your shoe.

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Once again, historically Metcon’s have been my favorite shoes to do Olympic lifts in. Nano 6.0’s had a really impressive showing earlier this year, easily becoming my favorite training shoe because they were so responsive; that is, until I tried the Metcon 3’s out. Power delivery is excellent and the sloping outsole makes for a shoe that translates power well throughout the entire pull when weightlifting. Honestly, the way I would call it between the two shoes is a draw, they’re both equally just as good as the other with the Nano’s having a slightly more minimal platform with better ground feel and the M3’s guiding your feet better with an insole with greater energy return. It just comes down to preference as it’s just too close to call here, but stability would have to go to Nano’s for having a flatter base, but interestingly enough, rowing in the Metcon 3’s feels better due to the shape of the outsole. Compared to the Metcon 2, you lose out a little bit in forward stability, but gain in lateral and heel stability. The reduction in weight and width in the toe area doesn’t really hurt the overall stability much. Also, the drop remains the same as it’s always been as the original models and the 2’s at 4mm.

According to my scale the M3’s come in the lightest at 11.15 oz, followed by the M2’s at 11.57 oz, and the Nano 6.0’s barely being the heaviest at 11.61 oz. My Nano’s are a men’s size 10 and my Metcon’s are both size 9.5.

Since the upper is much more flexible and the redesigned outsole pattern allows for greater flex than it’s previous counterparts, moving around in the M3’s is much more comfortable; an area that the Metcon’s were notoriously bad at. Typically with repetitive jumping movements, my plantar fascia region will develop a burning sensation, but that hasn’t been the case with the M3’s. Speaking of which, all of the jumping movements feel extremely natural in the Metcon 3’s, making more than half of what we do as fitness-ers much easier. That’s in part due to the redesigned outsole having a more pronounced slope up from the midfoot to the toe and the the flexibility being heightened. Since it’s been cold and rainy outside I haven’t done a ton of running, but agility drills felt excellent due to the toe shape and flexibility. I’d imagine that running still will not be the Metcon 3’s strong suit since the outsole is still fairly ridid, but that’s what the DSX Flyknits are for! Beware, the previous models were pretty forgiving if you had the tendency to lean forward on your toes, but the M3’s are not quite as much due to the new shape.

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I never really understood the need to have the TPU heel clip for handstand push-ups. Other than doing strict handstand push-ups, your feet should almost never drag up the wall. With the Metcon 2’s, I never really noticed the heel clip ever sliding and if anything it would actually stutter up the wall. Doing handstand push-ups in the M3’s felt a little better since the material of the TPU is less tacky, but I never noticed any kind of enhanced smoothness with my kipping. Another area I noticed the M3’s lacking in are sadly, rope climbs. I’ll usually baby my new shoes, but since I know I’m going to get a ton of inquiries about this, I just went for it. It was embarrassing how many times I lost my footing trying to coach rope climbs. Spanish wrap or j-hook, it didn’t matter, the rope slid right through my feet almost every time. I didn’t think the M3’s would falter so hard in this area since the outsole reaches up quite a bit more. I’ll keep trying, maybe the outsole needs a bit of wear before it starts to grab the rope better.

Value:

So why spend double, when you can get a fully functional pair of Metcon 2’s or Nano 6.0’s for almost half the price? Mainly social & brand recognition. That’s not to say the Metcon 3’s are a bad pair of shoes, they’re actually excellent training shoes and definitely one of my favorite picks. The previously aforementioned are still some of the best training shoes of all time and you’re currently able to pick them up for about half the price of Metcon 3’s. Why wouldn’t you want to go with that? It comes down to appearance, sometimes fit, social proof, or because one doesn’t have a swoosh on the side. I will admit that Metcon’s are easily the better looking shoe, and always have been, though the Nano 6.0’s aren’t an ugly pair of shoes.

In my opinion, the Metcon 3’s are an excellent pair of shoes, but they don’t do anything drastically different that what’s already out there. Unless your pair of Metcon 2’s, or even 1’s, were falling apart, you don’t necessarily need to upgrade your shoes. The enhancements are fairly incremental, and the overall feel isn’t that much different than the previous iterations. If for some reason you don’t like the way Nano’s fit your feet (the m3’s are narrower), then you might want to look into some Nike’s. Any way you cut it, the Nike Metcon 3’s  are still some of the finest training shoes on the market, and quite possibly the only true competition for the Reebok Nano’s. If you certainly must have the Metcon 3’s or you’re in dire need of an upgrade, the latest version of Nike’s Metcon are the most well rounded iteration of the shoe yet and you definitely will not be disappointed with them.

You can currently purchase the Nike Metcon 3’s on Amazon.com or Zappos.com, but the actual launch date is January 6th for the normal model and 2nd for the DSX Flyknit.

Now what about those DSX Flyknit’s…

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Position USA Blue Suede Shoes 2.1 Review

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It seems like just yesterday I was writing the review for one of my favorite pairs of WL shoes of the year, the Position USA Blue Suede Shoes. I loved them, they worked well for me and I really had no issues lifting in them except that the pair I got was a bit too big for me. Most of all, they were arguably the coolest pair of weightlifting shoes on the market. Just as I put out that review, Position announced the Blue Suede Shoe 2.1, a version of their shoe that was slightly updated. Enhancements included a slightly higher heel, a more fitted feel, and a Vibram outsole. Being a big fan of the 2.0’s, I was skeptical about just how much better they could make their shoe. There has been a ton of requests for this review and it’s taken me 6 months to get my hands on a pair, but they’re finally here, so let’s get started.

Looks/Construction/Fit:

Despite the changes, the main points that distinguish the Blue Suedes are still here: suede-leather upper construction, hand carved wood heel, and the sexy blue color scheme. To the untrained eye, you wouldn’t even be able to visibly tell the difference between the two former and latter. The entire shoe remains the same in appearance with the only major changes being on the medial strap and the heel being stained a darker color. I have absolutely no issues with this, the looks were probably the main selling point of the original shoes and they still remain one of the strongest points of the Blue Suedes. The inclusion of a darker stained heel makes for an even classier look. For those looking for a not so “out there” color scheme, Position is releasing their “Redford” and “Eastwood” models in January.

From the wood heels being carved and stained to the uppers being sewn together, each pair is hand crafted and takes over a day’s work of labor to finish. Since the Blue Suedes are made in smaller batches versus your commercially mass produced shoes, there’s a story behind each one.  You’ll notice this in how not often certain sizes are in stock, but unfortunately also in the construction of the shoe, maybe the person that was making my shoes was just having a bad day. There are hot spots inside of the shoe where the metatarsal joints are, both on top and under the insole. On top it comes from where the tongue meets the toe box area, and on bottom it feels like its from the upper being stitched under the insole.  I usually have issues with my right foot rubbing in this area since I have a bunion, but with the P2.1’s it’s in the left shoe.  Oddly enough the majority of the fit issues are in my left shoe, though the right shoe suffers the same to some degree.

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Other issues include the logo already fraying and becoming un-stitched from the tongue, the loop for the medial strap not staying in place only on the right shoe, and the straps and laces being much longer than they need to be. The most alarming issue is that it feels like the heels are coming loose. I noticed this straight away when going to remove my left shoe, which once again is worse than my right shoe. You could alleviate this issue by not pulling your shoes off by the heels (totally normal to do though), but this shouldn’t be happening; I’ve never run into an issue like this with any of my lifters and I don’t remember it happening with the P2.0’s. It doesn’t feel like the heels are going to fall off anytime soon, but that’s not a good sign for lasting durability.

Like all Olympic lifting shoes, you’re going to want to make sure you size down half from your normal training shoes. While the P2.1’s have a slightly narrower fit than the P2.0s, I wouldn’t say that it’s enough to warrant going half a size up. The suede they use is fairly supple and should stretch a little bit over time. When I tried these on at the CrossFit Games I was worried they’d be too snug, but the pair that I have fits well, aside from the hot spots. Make sure you lace up tightly because you might get a bit of heel lift otherwise.

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Performance:

Fit and construction issues aside, the P2.1’s remain one of my preferred pairs of lifting shoes. Picking weight up has never been as fun as it is in the Position’s. Having just reviewed the Legacy Lifters, anything feels like a feather compared to them (20.03oz). According to my scale, the Positions weigh in at 16.37oz, only slightly higher than the leading shoes in weightlifting, the Nike Romaleos and Adidas AdiPowers. Moving your feet isn’t an issue, and the forefoot flexibility is actually much better than the popular picks probably because of the supple suede.

The greatest change to the P2.1’s is the decision to go from a .85″ heel to a 1″ effective heel; the majority of the weightlifting shoes fall into the 3/4″ category, .85″ included. The only other shoe I’ve tested with as high a heel was the Adidas Leistung’s, in which I wasn’t a huge fan of for cleaning because I felt the tendency to catch forward in them. Something about the way the heel to toe drop is more gradual in the P2.1’s makes me not have this issue to the same degree as the Adidas shoes. Cleans always feel more forward in shoes with a heel but front squats felt as right they do in other Olympic lifting shoes. I typically receive snatches in a very upright torso position to compensate for my shoddy thoracic mobility, and the P2.1’s one inch heel increases my ability to do so, which helps me out big time. Heel height is subjective and very debatable, but I haven’t had any issues with the 1″ heel of the P2.1’s. Typically, I would recommend a higher heel for those with longer femurs and/or crappy ankle dorsiflexion.

 


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Since the heel is also elevated more than normal Oly shoes, I have an easier time keeping my toes down throughout my extension; rocking back to my heels is a bad habit I have. Jumping feels natural and since the shoes are so responsive, I can move my feet with ease. The Vibram rubber outsole is extremely dense and paired with the wooden heel, should give you perfect power delivery with every lift. I was very excited to hear that one of the upgrades was the Vibram outsole, but there’s no pattern to it so the grip isn’t a huge upgrade over previous P2.0 – bummer. The insoles are also pretty anemic, as they are on most oly shoes, but at least they’re removable so you can swap them out with any orthotics.

While weightlifting is a joy in the P2.1’s, I recommend that’s what you stick to in the Blue Suedes. Just to test, I did a WOD which consisted of heavy power cleans and ring dips. While the shoes performed excellent during the ring dips, I had issues quickly setting myself into a low enough position to rep out the power cleans, so I ended up using my back for a lot of them. That and while the shoes are flexible, they aren’t flexible enough to be doing WOD’s in, so the plantar fascia burn was real.  Stick to weightlifting and squats where you can set yourself up better, in the P2.1’s.

Did I mention the P2.1’s make the absolute most bad ass sound when you stomp?!

 


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Value:

At $190, the P2.1’s fall in line with pretty much every pair of good weightlifting shoes out there. You really have to ask yourself if the style is for you, and if you would benefit from a 1″ heel. With a bit of practice, the 1″ heel could definitely be your ally; just look at the Chinese weightlifting team. Even if blue isn’t your color, you now have the option to go with a black/red or white/black color scheme. I’ve asked what other differences there were between the shoes and it’s just the color and some materials used, otherwise they’re all the same.

You could always opt for a mass produced technologically advanced lifting shoe like everyone else, but Position USA created the Blue Suede Shoes for those that march to the beat of their own drum. With that in mind, they’ve created something that actually feels special to wear, though I’m not getting rid of my Legacy’s anytime soon. Construction shortcomings aside, the Blue Suede Shoes are still one of my favorite pairs to lift in, because there’s just an undeniable badassery you attain from having them on.

http://positionusa.com

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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!