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Vulcan Strength Gymnastics Grips Review

If you head to Amazon and search “CrossFit Grips”, you’ll be bombarded with a TON of brands that are usually just all the same ones with different branding on them. The problem about the sport of fitness growing is that everyone wants a piece of pie and it just over saturates the market. Another problem is that it confuses the shopper and leaves you with a sub-par item.

Vulcan Strength’s supplier for gymnastics grips is a company that specializes in gymnastics equipment, Bailie. Their grips are also made in the United States, so you can rest assured they’re not a cheap import rebrand and they’ve been used in serious gymnastics competitions (read: Olympics). Vulcan is a company I’ve worked with for a long time and if there’s anything I know about them, it’s that they don’t stock junk.

Right out of the box, you’re going to notice that the leather on these grips is extremely stiff while thickness is pretty much on par with any other gymnastics grips. The break in process is not for the faint of heart, the edges of the grips are pretty sharp initially and it takes a few workouts for that to go away. Instructions per Vulcan’s website say that you should roll the grips around before you use them, which I did and made the grips much more pliable.

Another difference between the Vulcan grips is that they taper in the middle of the grip, which is actually pretty nice as it sheds some of the bulkiness away of having grips on, though I think the top of the grip could be slightly narrower. I still would not use these grips for any kind of barbell movement because they’re just a bit stiff. Fortunately it’s really easy to just take them off and flip them over when you head to the barbell. The velcro strap isn’t too out of the ordinary and has enough to go over a set of wrist wraps.

Once you get past the strenuous break-in process, the Vulcan grips provide some of the best holding power to be found on any set of grips. Put a light dusting of chalk on your hands and these things keep you locked down to the bar, coated, bare steel or even wood gymnastics rings. I usually have issues with too much leather bunching up in the middle of my palm with grips for ring muscle ups, but since these taper, that isn’t an issue I’ve had with the Vulcan grips.

The best thing about the Vulcan grips is that they’re also one of the best deals when it comes to grips. You don’t have to sacrifice performance for price because a pair of grips will only set you back a cool $20 shipped; which is pretty much in line with the junk you’re going to find on Amazon. They’re a bitch and a half to break in, but the performance for the price is unbeatable and based on that alone, I recommend the Vulcan grips.

Get your Vulcan Gymnastics Grips here!

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Strencor American Lifter Barbell Review

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

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

Construction/Build Quality:

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

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

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

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Performance:

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

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

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

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Value/Conclusion:

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

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

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

www.strencor.com

Vulcan Standard 28mm Training Barbell 20kg

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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.

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  • 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
  • Lifetime Warranty

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.

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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!


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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.

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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.

Get your Vulcan Standard 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!

$300 CrossFit Barbell Buyer’s Guide

In this not so short video, I go over a few barbells that you should look into when shopping for your first barbell. All of these are under $300 (not including shipping/tax), which is a great price range to get a nice barbell, and perform excellent in their own rights. Some are better for weightlifting, some are mixed use, but all are great barbells that you could use for CrossFit in either the garage gym or affiliate atmosphere.