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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!

American Barbell Cerakote California Bar Review

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Over the years, I’ve used a plethora of barbells. Some have been “cheap” to mid-range, but lately I’ve been getting into more expensive top end barbells. You come to expect a certain quality from bars that are costing you over $500 and you never ever need to worry about them not being great in performance. Obviously this isn’t the case with lower end bars, but you learn to really appreciate the ones that are exceptional and don’t cost an arm and a leg.

The original American Barbell California Bar was one of the best deals in fitness, originally retailing for a mere $250. At that time though, I hadn’t had much experience with higher end barbells, but I still knew the California Bar was one of the best bars I’d ever used. I don’t usually hold on to bars much longer after I review them, but it’s two years later and I just recently unloaded my precious California bar. Only because I got the new, upgraded Cerakote California Bar, otherwise it would have been in my collection forever. Honestly, the new one is pretty much the same in performance as the old one, it just looks a hell of a lot more bad ass.

Build Quality/Materials:

I got to see magic in the making when I toured American Barbell’s facility in San Diego. Crates of sleeves, shafts, bushings just waiting to be assembled into fully functioning barbells, but the thing that impressed me the most were the people behind the barbells. I forgot his name, but the guy I talked to knew the ins and outs of everything and most importantly, actually gave a crap about what he was assembling.

American Barbell always has some of the most solid feeling barbells on the market. Every single one that I’ve used from them have been exceptional, rivaling the best in the business. When dropped, you don’t get the same kind of rattles you’d find on import bars and even some domestically made bars. There’s little to no play in the way the sleeve fits on the shaft and the end caps actually fit.

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Like I said, this is pretty much the same barbell overall, but there are some new enhancements to it, along with the coating. The shaft is still the 28mm diameter, 190k psi tensile strength one that you’ll find on just about every American Barbell bar. Unlike the earlier model, the updated has sleeves with a recessed weld to ensure plates sit flush with the shoulder and also looks awesome. Unlike the shaft, the sleeves remain hard chrome and will chip if you use metal plates. The California bar still comes with composite bushings, as with all of American Barbell’s bushing barbells, but they’re now quite thicker than before and more so than others on the market. Though light in depth, the knurling is perfectly cut with definite start and stop points with both IPF and IWF markings. Since it’s so fine, I had trouble spotting where the markings were without my glasses on!

The real star of the show here is what American Barbell decided they wanted to coating to be on their new barbells: Cerakote. For those of you not familiar, Cerakote is a ceramic coating usually applied to firearms as a protective finish. It’s chalky in feel and supposed to last 70 times longer than stainless steel or chrome, obviously this is not something that I’ve tested myself, but check out how Cerakote performs in this video. What I can tell you, is that in the month that I used the barbell as my go-to bar for everything, I never once wiped it down. When I finally took just a nylon bristle brush to it, there were no signs of surface rust and and the chalk completely came off without any difficulty.

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Performance: 

Even without the fancy make-up, the character of the California bar makes it a real winner. What other barbells in the mid-range usually fail in getting right is the oscillation of the bar, or whip. Not saying that they aren’t adequate for most usage, they just never feel as good as American Barbell’s bars. When the California Bar comes off your hips, it feels smooth and fluid, not jarring like other mid-range 190k psi bars. I don’t “bang the bar” but I try to make as solid contact as possible with every lift, still no bruises on my legs or hips.

Spin isn’t hyper speed like some of the cheaper bearing barbells, but it’s butter smooth and you’ll never have to worry about it hitching up on you. This is probably the most misconceived areas of a barbell so trust me when I say, spin doesn’t matter, as long as the shaft isn’t completely stuck. Even with it’s “slow” sleeves, I managed to set a new snatch PR at 225 (two wheels!) and clean to my maxes with relative ease. Something that I couldn’t do before with my more expensive bars like my Eleiko Training or AB SS competition bearing bar

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The real subjective area is the depth of the knurl. Pattern-wise, it’s the same as all of the other American Barbell bars, but feels even lighter due to the Cerakote finish. Those of you that have extremely sweaty hands or like shark tooth knurling might want to look the other way because the California Bar is on the light side. On the other hand, the Cerakote finish is chalky by nature and I have personally never had any kind of issue with grip, with or without chalking up for weightlifting singles or WOD’s alike.

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Value:

At $335, the Cerakote California Bar is priced in line with other brand’s, durable, multi-function barbells. The edge that it has is that it’s 28mm in diameter, so it will function much better in the way of weightlifting or even deadlifts. The price cements it firmly into the mid-range barbell line, but I think all of the features it comes with justifies the price tag. Most garage-gym folks aren’t going to buy a ton of barbells, and most importantly want one that’s going to survive the elements, so you’re better off buying something with a durable finish and a lifetime warranty.

All things considered, the American Barbell Cerakote California bar is probably my favorite barbell right now. Sure, it’s not my Uesaka, but it costs less than half of what that bar costs and to me, performs just as good. More mid-range barbells should be this good, but again then I’d be a hell of a lot more broke.

Get your American Barbell California Bar here!

**If you enjoyed this review, please use my links when shopping for your new barbell. It helps me out a ton in getting new equipment to review and doesn’t cost you a thing!**

American Barbell SS Bearing Bar (Competition Spec) Review

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I’ve been reviewing barbells for going on 3 years now. In those 3 years, I’ve seen a ton of junk, stuff that’s okay, bars that are good, but very rarely do I come across a mind blowing barbell. Most of the stuff that I’ve used is what I would consider mid-range; pretty much anything up to $300. That’s initially all I wanted to spend on my first barbell and that’s what seems to be the popular price point for many people as well. As time has passed, my willingness to spend a little bit more has gotten greater as my knowledge of barbells has.

Like all things in life, excellence comes at a cost.

That’s not saying you can’t get a great barbell for sub-$300, there are tons of picks I could give you in that price range; many people would be satisfied with any of those choices. Or you could be like me and buy barbell after barbell, searching for “the one”. Honestly, I still haven’t found it, but the American Barbell SS Bearing bar is pretty damn close to exactly what I’m looking for.

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Top to bottom: Rogue EU, AB SS bar
Let’s get this out of the way: The American Barbell SS bar is not cheap. 

That being said, you can buy a Ford Fiesta to get from point A to point B. Slow (not the ST), not all that safe, and definitely not in style. Then you can spend a bit more to buy a Honda Accord; adequately fast, safe by most standards, and classically handsome. Or you can buy a BMW M5; fast as hell, filled with all the safety gadgets you can think of, and sexier than Kate Upton eating a melting popsicle on a hot Summer day (okay, maybe not).

Value is a matter of perspective, but you get what you pay for. I can’t tell you how much to spend on a bar, but my general rule of thumb is that you want to spend as much as you possibly can on your barbell. This is the piece of equipment that dictates your lifting experience; not bumpers, not a platform, not collars. What’s the point of spending $300, only to wish you spent $500 on something better? You might as well save you pennies up and do it right the first time; unless that is just totally unrealistic. The $795 dollar cost is higher than most people will initially be looking for in a barbell, but the peace of mind, quality, warranty and performance justifies the hefty price tag.

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Top to Bottom: Rogue EU, AB SS
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk about how amazing the ABSS bar is!

The build quality and presentation of American Barbell’s creation is nothing short of incredible. Even the packaging is on the next level. Most barbells ship in a cardboard tube, but the ends usually aren’t secured with nothing more than tape, which leads to them being popped off and the ends being damaged during shipping. The ends of the container that hold the ABSS bar are riveted in and secured with screws; you literally have to cut the container open to get to your bar. Don’t worry though, because each sleeve of the barbell also comes with a styrofoam sleeve with plastic caps at each end to protect the ends of the bar. There is a fair amount of shipping oil that you’re going to have to strip off the bar before use; a little tedious to do but it’s better than rust.

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Part of the magic (and why it costs a little more) that makes the ABSS bar, is that it is made from stainless steel. It’s very similar in feel to a bare steel bar, but you won’t have to worry about corrosion or scratches.  No worries when cleaning the chalk out of the knurl with a steel bristle brush, which you should be doing regularly. Pair that with the insanely well cut and profiled knurling of the ABSS and you’ve got one of the best handling barbells in existence. While the ABSS has somewhat light knurling, it almost grips you back providing sure pulls through and through. For me, this is what knurling should be like; even if you like shark tooth knurling, there’s no way you couldn’t get a solid grip on the ABSS bar. I could probably count the amount of times I’ve had to chalk up on both of my hands.

Like most true 20kg weightlifting barbells, center knurl is present as what they tout as “ghost knurling”. True to it’s name, you’d never even know it was there. It’s almost too light, and I don’t say that much about center knurling. If you lift shirtless, you won’t have to worry about any kind of irritation on your collarbone. With a shirt on, you’ll be greeted by and oh so slight stick when it catches your shirt.

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Since the ABSS bar is competition spec, so it is built to IWF standards. What this means is that all of the specifications: bar length, sleeve length, diameters, knurling and end caps match up to the standard. This is apparent most in the sleeve diameter. Though not ribbed as much as other barbells, the very strict tolerances lead to plates fitting almost perfectly making training without collars doable. Going even another step further, the sleeves are friction welded together at a recessed point on the sleeve to prevent any kind of stress failures. I’ve never felt a barbell as sturdy as the ABSS bar; when dropped, the ABSS is silent other than the sound from dropping or your plates. The “crack” of making contact with the barbell is like music to ones ears. If you give the bar a kick test, all you’ll be greeted with is the sound of the steel oscillating; there is virtually no play side to side or up and down in the sleeves.

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I don’t pay a whole lot of attention to tensile strength nowadays. Like contrast ratio is for TV’s, tensile strength is usually just a number used to mess with consumers to make them think “bigger is better”. 190k is all you’ll ever need in a barbell.  Metallurgy is the key to a bar’s amount of whip; but we’re not all scientists and no ones giving us the exact measurements on how each shaft is forged. Stainless steel is rarely used in barbells because of the cost and that it’s difficult to come up with the right composition to make the bar strong, but able to have elasticity. My general test for this other than lifting, is to just give the bar a couple bumps to where it would normally make contact; the more soft, and bouncy feeling the bar is, the better. During lifts, the point of contact feels smooth and springy. The ABSS is on par with all of the top shelf weightlifting bars I own and leagues better than your standard Rogue Bar. The max I’ve picked up was 265lb/120kg and even that is a bit light for whip to really be apparent, but this bar has enough for me to not worry about it.  I just know that with all the lifting I’ve done with this bar, I’ve yet to get a bruise from it.


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Sleeve spin is one of those things that easily entices people towards bars, but all you really need is something that spins consistently. Free spinning a sleeve and dropping under a bar with load are two different things. What people don’t get is that even most bushing bars are going to rotate enough for most people to get under; it’s not until the load gets heavier that they really start to suffer. The cheap bearings that entice most will also tend to rotate too much, which can also be detrimental to heavier lifts. American Barbell’s proprietary bearing system isn’t the fastest that I’ve come across, but in all of my lifts, not once did I feel a shortage of rotation nor was I unable to drop under the bar. You won’t realize how fast you’re dropping until you’ve caught the bar; the best way I can describe it is that it’s one of the most “fluid” experiences with a barbell you could ever have.

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You must be tired of all the oogling I’ve done over the American Barbell SS Bearing Bar, but it’s all well deserved. Maybe it’s the money I spent on the bar, but this is quite possibly the best barbell I’ve ever lifted on. It’s hard for me to even want to use my Rogue EU bar, which I thought previously was the top of the spectrum of barbells. Forget the Eleiko Sport Training bar that I just bought, too. 

Along with that premium price tag comes a premium product. There is nothing about this barbell that feels cheap or like corners have been cut in any way.  The ABSS can stand toe to toe with the best bars out there and if you’re serious about weightlifting, deserves your attention. I can almost guarantee you will not have any kind of buyer’s remorse after spending some time with this bar. The American Barbell SS Bearing bar is worth all the blood, sweat, and tears that go into being able to purchase it.

You will not regret this purchase.

Get your American Barbell SS Bearing bar here!

 

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