Stainless steel bars are becoming an increasingly popular option among lifters due to their superb oxidation resistance and overall feel.
There are a few equipment manufacturers who have either already introduced stainless bars or are in the process of introducing stainless bars for mass production. These include American Barbell, Rogue Fitness, Vulcan Strength, York, Ivanko, etc…
As a company known to stay current with emerging trends in the equipment space, Rep Fitness first introduced their stainless steel power bar in early 2017. Unfortunately due to some issues with the heat treatment of the bars, the weight capacity was limited to only 400 lbs. As such, Rep Fitness heavily discounted the bars and decided to go back to the drawing board to refine their bar and release a new version.
In December 2017, the company unveiled their second version of the bar with a much improved spec profile. While the bar itself is completely functional and awesome, the knurl marks were slightly offset by 3″ in total. Rather than tossing the first batch, the company decided to again discount the bar in advance of releasing the same bar in early 2018 with correct knurl mark measurements.
This decision also gives them an opportunity to listen to the feedback of users in order to make any last minute adjustments. I’m one of the those early users, and I’m excited to share my in-depth thoughts on this bar.
So with that said, let’s get into it. Before diving into the review of the bar, I think it’s important to see the benefits of stainless steel as an option over other traditional finishes like chrome, zinc, etc…
Stainless Steel vs. the Field
When it comes to selecting a barbell, the coating (or lack thereof) is a very important factor to consider. Depending on your budget, lifting conditions, aesthetic preferences, etc… you have options that will be more suitable for your specific needs.
Below is a list of benefits that stainless steel offers over other finish types:
- Corrosion Resistance – Arguably the biggest benefit of stainless steel is its ability to fight off rust and limit oxidation. If you train in a humid environment like I do in my North Carolina garage, oxidation is a very real thing. If you look at it on a linear spectrum, bare/raw steel is the most susceptible to rust and stainless steel is the most resistant to rust. In fact, stainless steel is extremely effective at fending off oxidation. Because of this, and because of the growing garage gym population, stainless has become a very popular choice.
- Touch & Feel – One of the biggest disadvantages of applied coatings on a barbell is that they detract from the feel of the knurling. Said another way, a bare steel bar offers the most natural feel among any other type of shaft. If that natural feel is something important to you, raw steel and stainless steel are by far your best options.
- Aesthetics – The beauty of stainless steel is that it looks incredible out of the box and it stays that way for a very long time. With other finishes, rust will eventually creep in and perhaps create an unfavorable look depending on your style. In my opinion it’s not quite as cool as cerakote, which allows you to apply colors, but it’s the best if you like that traditional steel look. I certainly do.
Now that we’ve covered some high level stainless steel benefits, let’s get into the review already!
Rep Fitness Stainless Steel Power Bar
To preface, I think Rep Fitness did an excellent job with this bar. It looks great, feels really nice, performs well, and it has an unbelievable price tag.
The other stainless steel options that I mentioned above have price tags that are higher than Rep Fitness- substantially so in some cases.
As you’ll read in my review, when you consider all the salient specs and price tag, this bar has amazing value. I think it belongs on anyone’s short list when considering a power bar, and especially a stainless steel version.
Bar Weight: 20kg
Shaft Diameter: 29MM
Knurl: Medium & Sandpaper-like
Center Knurl: Yes – same pattern
Knurl Marks: Powerlifting
Shaft Coating: Stainless steel
Tensile Strength: 205,000 PSI
Bar Length: 86.75″
Distance Between Collar Faces: 51.5″
Loadable Sleeve Length: 16.35″
Sleeve Coating: Stainless Steel
The knurling on this bar is less aggressive than others on the market such as the Rogue Ohio Power Bar (review here), Vulcan Absolute Power Bar (review here) etc… I would consider it a medium knurl that has a sandpaper-like feel to it. It’s not sharp, yet it has a bite to it when you set your grip. The tops are diamond patterned and flat. In other words, you won’t put this bar down and then look at your hands to see if you’re bleeding uncontrollably after tearing a callus. It’s just not that type of knurl… and that’s perfectly fine to me.
That said, I do prefer a more aggressive knurl on deadlifts. As such, I don’t really see myself using this bar in that manner unless I’m hitting some high volume sets where I’m concerned about my hands. Mind you, this is personal preference. I simply like a sharper knurl when doing them. Using chalk, I haven’t had an issue with hand slippage thus far on my deadlifts, but I’ve definitely had to chalk up sooner.
I really like this bar with squats. Although I do think it helps to an extent, I don’t necessarily love a sharp center knurl on squats. To me, this bar offers a fantastic knurl for squats in that it’s comfortable, but still highly effective at sticking to the back. I’ve trained with it both on high bar and low bar squats, and I think it’s really good for both, but especially high bar. To me, it was noticeably more comfortable in that position when compared to the Rogue OPB’s of the world. I also much prefer using this bar for front squats over any other aggressively knurled barbell.
This is my go-to bench bar at the moment when I’m doing straight-bar bench work. Yes, the knurl ring mark is a slight issue, but it’s easily circumvented with a minor hand adjustment. With bench, I’ve never really found a ton of benefit with using an aggressive knurl. Maybe this is because I have poverty bench numbers (shame), but I like to think it’s because grip isn’t a limiting factor on the lift. That said, this less aggressive knurl feels great.
The bar has a tensile strength of 205,000 PSI, which firmly places it among some of the strongest shafts available on the market. The 29mm shaft is right in the powerlifting wheelhouse of 28mm-29mm, which aids in creating a rigid barbell. As you would expect with a stiff powerlifting bar, there is no whip. Furthermore, any kind of flexion would be minor and limited to high weight loads.
The center knurl is approximately 4.75″ in width and it’s the same knurl pattern as the rest of the bar. As I mentioned above, I can really appreciate a less aggressive center knurl when performing front and high bar squats. There are some bars out there, like the Rogue B&R bar that, in my opinion, smartly change the center knurl pattern to accommodate for the potential discomfort. With the Rep Fitness bar; however, there really isn’t a need. While there may be a trade-off in terms of deadlift grip, the bar has other attributes that I find beneficial over competing bars.
The knurl termination points are beautifully done. They’re very clean with clear and concise end marks. I’m very impressed with how Rep Fitness did this – it’s a clear indication that they are focused on the details. Speaking of knurl marks, as I mentioned at the beginning of this review, this particular batch has knurl rings that are distanced 3″ wider than IPF specs.
If you’re going to buy this barbell (i.e. v2), keep in mind that you’ll be getting one with the wider knurl marks. This will be corrected in the first quarter of 2018 according to Rep Fitness, but it will also come with a higher price tag, likely in the amount of $299 (vs. $199 currently).
For what it’s worth, I think a $100 discount is a heck of a deal. For me, the knurl issue isn’t a major problem. It does require a bench adjustment, but for squats and deadlifts, I don’t find it problematic whatsoever.
Regardless, the shaft itself feels great in the hands, and I think you’ll agree whether you purchase v2 or the imminent v3.
The sleeves on this bar are oh-so-silky-smooth, and I love it! I personally prefer smooth sleeves over grooved sleeves because I don’t think the marginal benefit of grooved sleeves outweighs the rather annoying “zzziiiiiipppppppp” noise. In case you’re wondering, the perceived benefit of grooved sleeves is that they assist in keeping the plates in place better when not using a collar. I tend to agree, but I don’t think it dramatically helps and I typically use collars anyway.
I’ll take quieter sleeves for $100, Alex.
Unlike some other stainless power bars on the market, the Rep Fitness bar has stainless sleeves also. The Rogue OPB, for instance, has hard chrome sleeves with its stainless shaft. While they will introduce a stainless sleeve version, the price will surely increase well above that of the Rep bar.
The sleeves are operated by a bushing system and the spin is consistent (and minimal as expected). While a lot of spin isn’t an important aspect of a powerlifting bar, a smooth spin is still nice to have. The sleeves are affixed to the shaft with a dual snap ring design, which I think this is a really nice touch vs the single snap ring that most others employ.
The loadable sleeve length on the bar is 16.35″, which is just a bit longer than some other competing bars. I can load well over 600 lbs on the bar using my competition bumpers including a collar. Depending on what plates you’re using, you can load much more than that even. The bar is strength rated at 1,500 lbs, so you’re good with whatever you want to load on there. The diameter of the sleeves is 1.96″ as one would expect with this type of barbell.
One critique that I do have with the sleeves is that they have a little more end play than some of the other bars I’ve used. By end play I mean there is a little more lateral movement with the sleeves themselves. While my sleeves have slightly more movement than my Rogue Ohio Power Bar (review here), some others I have hard from have movement of around 1/8″. Do I think this will impact performance? No, and if it were to, it would be minimal. Trust me, the sleeves aren’t going anywhere with the double snap rings.
This is simply a beautiful barbell. The surfaces are nearly flawless. I have gone over the entire bar with a fine toothed comb, and I just cannot find a material issue of any consequence. No blemishes, no scratches, nothing. I realize this can sometimes be luck of the draw, but the fact it’s nearly perfect tells me others are likely to be of similar quality.
The color of the steel is really nice. I love the look of stainless steel in general, but I think Rep Fitness really hit it out of the park with this steel. It has a beautiful light gray finish, but depending on how the light hits it, you may actually see a more gun metal look. It’s very cool.
I mentioned the knurl termination points earlier as being really nice on this bar. I think this really adds to the overall aesthetic profile. When I compare it to my Rogue OPB, the Rep Fitness bar has noticeably better knurl ends. No, it’s not going to affect performance, but it just looks awesome! I’m such a nerd with these types of things. If you’re reading this, you may be too. #Nerdsunite.
Lastly, I’m a fan of the end cap design. Unlike some other end caps that have a flat profile with a matte finish (also very cool), the Rep bar has more of a rounded cap with a glossier finish that actually refracts some light. Plus I think Rep Fitness has a really nice looking logo.
Rep Fitness Stainless Steel Power Bar – Pros and Cons
- The best quality of this bar is that it’s stainless steel. If you train in a humid environment or you generally care about oxidation over time, stainless steel cannot be beaten. Additionally, stainless gives you the most natural feel possible alongside its raw steel counterpart.
- The sleeves are smooth, which I prefer over grooved. They’re also stainless steel, which is unlike some other stainless power bar options.
- The value of this bar is resoundingly awesome. $199 (for v2)? Are you kidding me? $299 for the upcoming v3? Are you still kidding me? These prices are awesome when compared to other stainless power bars on the market, almost all of which are at or above $400.
- Aesthetically, the bar looks awesome. It has a virtually flawless finish. Rep clearly understands the notion “the devil is in the details.”
- The knurling (also a con below) is on the less aggressive side, which I actually quite like for squats and bench.
- The specs are generally very good and the strength rating indicates you won’t have an issue loading any amount of weight on the bar.
- I’ll likely stick to more aggressively knurled bars for deadlifting. I found myself needing chalk sooner using this bar than with some others.
- IF… I repeat, IF… you’re buying the v2, the knurl mark distance may be an issue for you. I personally don’t find it to be of major consequence, but if you’re training exclusively with this bar for a competition, it may be a concern. The discounted price may help, however. The knurl marks will be corrected in v3 in early 2018.
If you’re in the market for a quality power bar that offers tremendous value and supreme oxidation resistance, the Rep Fitness Stainless Steel Power Bar should 100% be on your short list of choices. The price is far less than the competition, yet the quality is still outstanding. If you have a more aggressive power bar, perhaps not in stainless steel, this could be a great addition to your arsenal, as it gives you a higher end finish and a new knurl option.
I personally will have the Rep Fitness bar in my permanent rotation depending on the lift and my programming. It’s just a really nice barbell that I expect will last a very long time.
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 have any questions on this bar or power bars in general, please leave a comment below. Likewise, if you own this bar and you want to chime in on your own thoughts, please do so!
As always, I appreciate any feedback.If you found this review useful, please feel free to share it on social media!
The bar is loaded,