After what felt like an eternity, the aggressive Rep Fitness PowerSpeed bar has arrived!
If you got a taste of the Rep stainless steel power bar (review here), you know what I’m talking about. That bar, which released in 2017 offers more of a medium cut. That is, it’s not very aggressive.
It’s a really nice bar, no doubt, but it left some people wanting more…
Understanding that much of the powerlifting population likes aggressive knurling, Rep Fitness went to the drawing board and designed a new bar.
This bar is not only more aggressive but it also offers a unique twist on the knurling that few bars have.
Unlike most bars which have a knurl that extends all the way (or very close) to the inside collar, the PowerSpeed bar is purposely cut short.
The perceived benefit is twofold: It allows for easier adjustment on the rack and it prevents your j-cups from getting damaged from a deep knurl.
In this review, I’ll break this bar down, compare it to some other popular options, and discuss these unique qualities in detail.
- Rep Fitness PowerSpeed Bar Overview
- Pros and Cons
- Full Rating
The Rep Fitness PowerSpeed Bar is rated based on the Garage Gym Lab Universal Barbell Score. Read more about the ‘UBS’ here.
The PowerSpeed bar from Rep Fitness conceptually is a very interesting bar. The shorter knurling is a nice touch that feels innovative – something that is becoming more common with Rep.
The execution of the bar, in my opinion, is quite good. I love the knurl pattern, I think the bar performs as expected, and I think the functionality of the shorter knurl is actually pretty effective. The potential downsides of a shorter knurl seem somewhat trivial to me, as they will only impact a very small portion of lifters. More on that later.
Before diving deeper, let’s have a look at the overall specs of the bar:
Bar Weight: 20kg
Shaft Diameter: 29mm
Center Knurl: Yes – Same Pattern
Knurl Marks: Powerlifting
Shaft Coating: Manganese Phosphate or Hard Chrome
Tensile Strength: 215,000 PSI
Yield Strength: 205,000 PSI
Bar Length: 86.5″
Distance Between Collar Faces: 51.5″
Loadable Sleeve Length: 16.35″
Sleeve Coating: Hard Chrome
Bushing/Bearing: Bronze Bushing
This long-awaited knurl has been widely anticipated for its aggressive pattern. Compared to the stainless steel power bar, it delivers in a big way. It’s considerably more aggressive – something that is sure to excite a lot of people. In fact, I’d say it’s overall more aggressive than the Rogue Ohio Power Bar, the same-priced Fringe Sport Power Bar, and several others. I’d put it a notch below the Vulcan Absolute Power Bar v2 in terms of aggression, but it actually provides a very similar feel. The Vulcan APB v2, mind you, has one of my all-time favorite knurls.
As you can see from the close-up shot below, this PowerSpeed bar has a deeply cut, mountainous knurl that is somewhat blunted at the top. The high number of contact points work to not only create a strong grip, but also to take away some of the bite. My theory, as was once explained to me, is that having more contact points is much like laying on a bed of nails vs. just a few nails. This is true because your body doesn’t exert enough pressure on any single nail to puncture the skin. The overall force is more evenly distributed.
When you look at something like the Rogue Ohio Power Bar, you have a knurl that is deeply volcanoed with a wider point profile. I believe this is why many, including myself, find that knurl to be more “scratchy” than others. What was once my favorite knurl, the Rogue OPB has fallen behind some others. Of course, this is completely subjective, and I do still believe the OPB has a very good pattern overall, but I like this PowerSpeed knurl quite a bit more.
In this image, you can see a comparison between the PowerSpeed Bar, the SS Rep Fitness Poewr Bar, the Rogue OPB, and the Vulcan Absolute v2.
As mentioned, the main difference between the PowerSpeed bar and virtually every other bar on the market is the fact that it has a shortened knurl. Rather than extending to the inside collar, the knurl is actually cut 5.5 inches short on each side.
“Wtf, bro… I need knurl everywhere!”
Calm down, dude – it actually makes a lot of sense.
By shortening the knurl, the Rep Fitness PowerSpeed bar accomplishes two things:
- It makes for quick adjustments/centering of the bar when racked.
- It saves your j-cups from unnecessary damage caused by deep knurling.
But, does it work?
In my opinion, yes.
There is no denying that a smooth surface is easier to slide across another smooth surface than it is a rough surface over the same. I’m not a physicist, but I feel like this is where one would say something along the lines of “that’s just physics, baby.”
If only LL Cool J was a physicist.
Now, do I think this makes a monumental difference that completely alters my life’s path? Not really, but I do think it does what it’s intended to do.
It makes it easier to move the bar.
As for the j-cups, similar to the physics argument above, there is simply no denying that a smooth surface will leave UHMW largely unscathed. The same cannot be said about a knurled surface.
Now, do I think this is going to make such a difference that I’ll never use a fully knurled bar again on my rack? No, but it does what it’s intended to do.
It prevents j-cup damage.
Yeah, you can install a new layer of UHMW on your cups, and it may take a long time to get to that point, but there is something to be said about never having to do that.
My point is simple: Rep Fitness’ claims with this shortened knurl are substantiated. The PowerSpeed bar does what it says it will do, and quite effectively I might add.
For the record, I really appreciate Rep Fitness listening to their customers and adding this feature. It was a direct request by multiple equipment junkies, and it actually follows two notable bars made by Iron Grip and Hammer Strength, which also offer this shortened knurl.
The PowerSpeed bar is currently being offered in hard chrome and manganese phosphate. Stainless Steel is likely to come sometime in 2019, but nothing is imminent. I personally went with manganese phosphate because A.) I’ve never used a manganese phosphate bar, and; B.) Hard chrome isn’t my personal favorite.
What I’ve come to learn about manganese phosphate is that it’s a conversion coating applied through immersion. It, therefore, provides a better overall feel to a hard chrome shaft, as it’s not a plated finish. The manganese phosphate actually reminds me of the feeling of a black oxide shaft, which may be why I compare it so favorably to the Vulcan Absolute v2. The other benefit of manganese phosphate is that it provides nice resistance to oxidation. Hard chrome also has oxidation fighting qualities, but I think the overall qualities of the manganese phosphate make it a better option.
The shaft itself measures in at 29mm, which is ideal (and common) for a power bar. The tensile strength is 215k, which is in-line or higher than most other power bars. I don’t really pay much attention to tensile strength, to be honest. A legitimate power bar these days is going to provide 99% of the population everything they need in that department. I do like how Rep Fitness made the 205k yield strength of this bar public knowledge, as most companies don’t offer up this information.
The difference, in case you’re wondering, is that tensile strength is the point at which a barbell will break or fracture, and yield strength is the point at which a bar is permanently deformed (i.e. it won’t return to perfect straightness). Yield strength is the better measure, but unfortunately, most companies aren’t transparent with that number.
The center knurl measures 4.75“ in length, and it offers the same pattern as the rest of the shaft. The knurl termination points (start/stops) on the PowerSpeed bar are great. I don’t notice any areas of concern despite the bar technically having two extra edges with the shortened knurl not extending to the collar. This is all, of course, meaningless when it comes to performance, but it’s fun to look at.
Outside of American Barbell sleeves, the stainless steel power bar from Rep Fitness has the best sleeves I’ve ever seen.
So. Damn. Beautiful.
The sleeves on the PowerSpeed bar can’t really compare to those on the SS bar since one is stainless steel and the other hard chrome. One common complaint on the SS bar was there was some sleeve slop (lateral movement) in the sleeve itself. I can attest to that, as I noted in my review of that bar. While not egregious, it was there. The PowerSpeed bar has zero sleeve slop in any direction. Rep Fitness has seemingly completely resolved that issue, which I’m delighted to see.
The sleeves on this bar, like American Barbell and like the SS power bar from Rep, have a smooth finish. This is personally a major plus for me.
I strongly dislike grooved sleeves.
I loathe the noise they make and I don’t really buy into the mantra that they keep plates on better than smooth. Even if they do, which would be pretty minimal, I use collars anyway. It’s simply a non-issue, and because of that, in my personal opinion, there is no benefit to having grooved sleeves over smooth ones.
The sleeves themselves are operated on a bronze bushing system. This is pretty much par for the power bar course, as it provides a slow and consistent spin that is ideal for the squat, bench, and deadlift.
They’re also 1.96″ in diameter, which is standard among bars. Lastly, the loadable sleeve length is 16.35″. This too is largely consistent (slightly longer) with the majority of other power bar offerings, and it equates to a load of just over 600 lbs with competition bumpers and a collar. You can certainly load more on the bar with calibrated discs or other thinner plates.
As it relates to performance, I’m a fan of this bar overall. I’ve already mentioned the performance of the stated claims from the shortened knurl, but let’s see how it performs when it comes to actual lifting.
Squats – I dig this bar on squats, especially low bar squats. The aggressive knurl sets in tightly on the back. It feels good and it’s rock solid in placement. Because I consider myself to be somewhere in the middle of the mobility spectrum, the shorter knurl has no effect on me.
In fact, only for those ultra-wide-grip squatters would this potentially be an issue…
Or would it…?
Grip isn’t really a limiting factor on the squat, as the bar and all the force is pushing into the base of the hand. I’ve personally never wished that a knurl was more or less aggressive on squats for my hands. On the center piece, sure, but it’s never been a thought for me with my hands.
That’s a personal thing of course, and again, it’s not really an issue for me since I don’t squat with a wide grip. When I asked Blaine Sumner, a strong-as-hell, wide-grip powerlifter what he thought about not having a knurl for his hands, he had this to say:
“No, I don’t think it would affect squatting with hands on smooth. If anything it would be more mental grabbing a bar with no knurl.”
When I asked certified S&C specialist, Bret Contreras, he agreed that, in his opinion, squatting with hands on smooth steel would not have a meaningful impact.
I’m sure there are other wide-grip squatters who would physically prefer knurl for their hands, however.
In fact, when I asked record-holder Big Ray Williams, he said exactly that.
Ultimately this is just something you have to consider for yourself. If you squat with an ultra-wide grip, do you see the lack of knurl impacting your performance? If so, this bar will likely not fit your squatting needs.
Bench – This bar excels at the bench press, which is a bit contradictory based on things I’ve said in the past. Normally I don’t like an aggressively knurled bar for bench press, but the benefit of the shortened knurl makes up for that personally. To me, it makes this bar very nice to bench with. I’m sure there are some skeptics with the shortened knurl. You may be saying to yourself, “but I bench wide grip.” To ease your mind, consider this:
The IPF stipulates that you cannot have a grip wider than 81cm (~32 inches). That is, the space between each forefinger cannot exceed that number. This bar measures 51.5″ between collars. If you shave off the 11 total inches of smooth shaft due to the shortened knurl, you’re left with a total length of knurled area of 40.5″. This is MORE than enough room to bench pursuant to IPF rules. In fact, it leaves you 8.5″ of additional room if you want to flip the bird to the IPF and bench even wider. Moreover still, there is enough knurled room that there is only ~1.5″ of smooth area to even grip before the j-cup begins to interfere. To me, the shortened knurl appears to have virtually no adverse impact on the bench press.
Deadlift – It’s well documented at this point… I love aggressive bars on deadlifts, and the PowerSpeed bar fits the bill nicely. It’s aggressive in all the right ways. I’m comfortable pulling with moderate volume and I wouldn’t hesitate to grab this bar when attempting a heavy single or double. Hell, I’d even grab it for a PR attempt. It’s a great bar for general deadlift purposes, in my opinion.
Yes, if you’re looking to pull with a snatch grip, you will need to contend with the smooth part. But, to me, this is trivial. The population of powerlifters that are even pulling with a snatch grip is already extremely low. Take that population that is pulling with a snatch grip, and you’ll find that the frequency in which they’re doing so is likely also extremely low. Take that further still to the number of powerlifters pulling with a snatch grip with low frequency… and the percentage of those pulling without straps is also extremely low. Not to mention they’re probably using a bar with a 28.5mm or thinner shaft. All that to say, the smooth part of this bar is going to affect such a minuscule amount of deadlifters that it probably wasn’t even a thought in Rep’s collective mind during the design process.
All-in-all, I think this bar performs very well as an all-around power bar. The potential downsides affect a very small population of lifters. That being said, they’re still something to consider when making a purchase decision.
In general, the PowerSpeed bar is a nice looking bar. It doesn’t have mass sex appeal like some others, but it’s solid. If I saw this on a barbell dating app, I’d swipe right.
I wasn’t totally sold on how the manganese phosphate would look, but I actually like it. It’s a greenish brown color that I’m sure will patina some over time. Overall, it’s a cool color that’s definitely unlike anything else I have on my bar rack. The knurl termination points, as mentioned, are very clean – this certainly contributes to the overall look.
The smooth sleeves look nice in hard chrome, but I’m really spoiled with the SS sleeves on the other Rep Fitness power bar. So they’re not quite the same, but they’re nice looking nonetheless. The end caps, which I think have a classic look about them, definitely leave something to be desired. I’m not a fan at all with the sticker application. It’s going to peel, which will eventually take away from the overall look. I hope they go back to the end caps they used for the SS power bar.
Despite the end cap issue, I think the bar looks good overall. Again, not a 10, but definitely swipe right worthy, especially with the personality of the knurl. Beauty isn’t everything, you know?
- This bar has an impressively aggressive knurl that provides a nice balance between lifts.
- The shorter knurl is a unique offering that lives up to the claims regarding easier moving and j-cup protection.
- The overall specs of the bar are excellent for a power bar.
- Overall construction is very good. It’s tight, it’s accurate, and it operates smoothly.
- Smooth sleeves for the win!
- The weight is spot on, coming in at 20.0 kg on the nose.
- The manganese phosphate option provides excellent grip and it has good rust fighting qualities.
- Aesthetically, the bar looks nice. It’s not my absolute favorite, but I like it overall.
- With a price tag under $300, it represents a strong value.
- The end caps are a disappointment. I really hope they go back to the end caps on the SS power bar.
- For a limited group of people, the smooth outer shaft could potentially pose issues.
Overall, I think Rep Fitness did really well with this bar. It satisfies the aggressive market and it’s equipped with a unique knurl configuration. By shortening the knurl 5.5″ on each side, the bar is indeed easier to move and it does help protect the j-cups.
When you boil it all down, I think you can follow this simple flow:
- Do you like a medium cut power bar? If so, give consideration to the less expensive stainless steel power bar from Rep Fitness.
- Do you like an aggressive cut power bar, and do you see the benefits of these unique qualities outweighing the rare-case cons it may create? If so, I’d recommend you give this bar a strong look, along with the likes of the Vulcan APB v2, Rogue OPB, etc…
In closing, I really dig the PowerSpeed bar. I think it meets a big need and I absolutely think it has a place in the greater power bar market.
Other gear used in this review:
– Rep Fitness Equalizer Plates
If you want to read more about power bars or powerlifting equipment in general, check out my ultimate guide to building a powerlifting home gym.
If you want to read about the Universal Barbell Score, check it out here.
If you have any questions about this bar or power bars in general, please leave a comment below. Likewise, if you own the Rep Fitness PowerSpeed Bar and you want to chime in with your own thoughts, please do so!
As always, I appreciate any feedback.
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The bar is loaded,