You've seen it, right?
Chris Duffin gnawing away at a competing power bar…
Not literally, as in Chris himself, but rather his ever-so-awesome Kabuki Strength power bar.
In case you missed it, you can catch the video below, but the cliff notes are a follows:
- Chris puts the Kabuki power bar on the lathe.
- Chris turns on the lathe.
- Chris firmly presses a competing power bar onto the spinning Kabuki power bar.
- Chris removes the competing power bar, showing how its knurling was completely eaten away by the kabuki power bar.
- Chris pans to the Kabuki power bar, which remains relatively unscathed outside of some minor cleaning.
- Chris reverses the role to demonstrate the same outcome when the competing bar is on the lathe.
- The end.
It's a pretty damn cool… mmmmm… scratch that… SAVAGE experiment if I say so myself.
It's one that's helped propel the Kabuki Strength power bar into being one of the coolest, strongest, and downright sexiest bars on the market.
In this review, I'm going to break down everything you need to know about this bar, what makes it different, how it stacks up to other power bars, and if it's worth the price tag.
Let's dig in.
- Kabuki Strength Power Bar Overview
- Barbell Anatomy
- Finish Types
- Is it Worth It?
- Pros & Cons
- Full Rating
The Kabuki Strength Power Bar is rated based on the Garage Gym Lab Universal Barbell Score. Read more about the ‘UBS' here.
There are a lot of things I really like about this bar. Its construction quality is clearly top-notch, it's aesthetically beautiful, it performs very well, and its durability is unmatched.
It's also expensive.
Let's face it – this is a very niche bar.
Chris knows that, Chris owns that, and I for one appreciate that.
In other words, this bar isn't going to be taking any material amount of market share away from the likes of Rogue Fitness. The manufacturing process is different and the price alone puts this bar in a different class compared to the Rogue Ohio Power Bars of the world.
But its unique qualities combine to make it a true work of powerlifting art. And I'm not talking about some peaceful Bob Ross landscape…
I'm talking a hardcore, workhorse canvas that draws you in and makes you wonder how such a savage piece can be so beautiful.
Deep, right? Maybe I can be an art critic if this whole equipment thing doesn't work out.
Totally kidding, let's look at the specs of this beast:
Bar Weight: 20kg
Shaft Diameter: 29mm
Knurl: Aggressive Knurl
Center Knurl: Yes – Same Pattern with Center Rings
Knurl Marks: Powerlifting
Shaft Coating: Electroless Nickel, Zinc, or Black Oxide
Tensile Strength: 258,000 PSI
Bar Length: 86.5″
Distance Between Collar Faces: 51.5″
Loadable Sleeve Length: 16.35″
Sleeve Coating: Electroless Nickel, Zinc, or Black Oxide
Made in: USA
I feel it's important to touch on this for this specific review because the Kabuki Strength bar has largely become so popular due to its tensile strength and savage testing.
There is a popular misconception that tensile strength is a measure of the bar's ability to resist flex under load. This is incorrect. That is actually measured by the modulus of elasticity, or Young's Modulus.
The amount of flex a bar undergoes is largely consistent across all steel and steel alloys (assuming consistent specs). So the variables that determine this are the diameter of the bar itself along with the distance between the actual weight. So any 29mm power bar spec'd the same is going to flex very similarly assuming a consistent weight.
Where you start to see some differences in bars is actually with the oscillation of the bar itself (i.e. the spring-like movement of the bar). This is determined not only by the type of alloy used, but also the process by which said allow is heated during the production process. As a crude formula, the higher the tensile strength and the harder the material is (Rockwell hardness), the less oscillation a bar will experience under load. The Kabuki power bar has a 258,000 PSI tensile strength and a 51 HRC (Rockwell hardness), both of which are very high.
Now, generally speaking, the higher the tensile strength, the more weight will be required to deform the bar (AKA yield strength). Tensile strength is actually calculated in part through the Rockwell hardness, which is simply a measure of a material's ability to resist penetration. Kabuki Strength uses a diamond point to measure this.
This is where it gets really interesting. This is where you really start to understand what the Kabuki power bar is going to provide. In their testing, Kabuki Strength found that in using the same drop-test experiment across three different bars, the Kabuki bar experienced 3 times less deformation than the average of the other two, which were 190,000 and 205,000 PSI tensile strength, respectively. It's also important to note that the 190k bar had more deformation than the 205k bar, which demonstrates a quantifiable correlation between tensile strength and deformation.
Furthermore, the high HRC of the Kabuki bar means that the knurling is extremely resistant to material change. In their testing of the knurl-on-knurl savagery shown above, they found the 190k bar and the 205k bar experienced complete knurl flattening in 5 seconds and 7 seconds, respectively. After over 5 minutes (i.e. 300 seconds+), the Kabuki bar's knurling still hadn't flattened. In fact, it still looked pretty damn good all things considered.
Here's the bottom line, because that was a lot of information: The Kabuki Strength power bar is going to last significantly longer than the overwhelming majority of other power bars. Consider that most other power bars are at or under 205k PSI and the Kabuki bar is at 258k. I'm not going to tell you that the tensile strength alone is a critically important factor for most users, but when you add all these factors together, it's not hard to see that the Kabuki bar is primed for a long, beautiful, high-performing life.
The knurling on this bar is without a doubt one of my favorite patterns on any of the power bars I've used (which is a lot). It's aggressive, but I personally find it to be more subdued than I was originally expecting when I first ordered the bar.
Aggressively subdued. Is that an oxymoron? I'm running with it either way.
The knurling has a lot of touch points, which is great for generating more surface area in the hand. Although many people think this knurl actually has a volcano pattern, meaning the tops are cut and pitted, the knurl is actually quite mountainous. That's not a bad thing at all, however, as the knurl still isn't overly aggressive. This can most likely be attributed to the fact that the points-per-square inch ratio is so high. This, therefore, more evenly distributes the pressure, and takes away some of the bite.
Generally speaking, I'm a big fan of this knurl. It's aggressive enough that I know it's there, it provides an excellent grip, and it's comfortable enough to use on each of the squat, bench, and deadlift.
The shaft on the Kabuki Strength power bar measures 29mm, which is consistent with IPF standards and the vast majority of powerlifting bars out there. The biggest difference in the shaft of the Kabuki bar is, of course, the tensile strength. Measuring up to 258,000 PSI, it really blows the competition out of the water. The Vulcan Strength Absolute Stainless Steel Power Bar is the closest I've seen at ~240,000 PSI, but the majority of others are below 205,000. The Rogue Ohio Power Bar, for example, is 200k-205k depending on which steel you pick.
The center knurl on this bar offers a unique double-ring that's quite useful when lining up a squat. The pattern itself is the same as the rest of the bar, and I find it to be very comfortable overall. Interestingly enough, when I lower myself from the bar after squatting, I feel my shirt actually pulling away from my back as it sticks to the knurl just slightly. I don't noticeably get this with most other bars, and I think this is a real testament to the ‘stickiness' of the knurl. I actually really like it – it's oddly satisfying.
As I do with all bar reviews, let's talk the completely unnecessary and absolutely picky knurl termination points. The Kabuki bar does offer clean start-stops on every section except the center knurl rings. I'm sure some of it has to do with just how small the width of the rings is, but I feel they could be cleaned up a little.
Since we are talking about unnecessary things, the powerlifting marks are wider than most other bars (0.27mm vs 0.21mm). Now, 99% of people probably won't have a problem with this, but if you have thin pinkies, you may find yourself wanting a little more of the knurl vs the smooth part.
Let's start with the collar. It's thin, which I really like. It's wider than the KG version of the Rogue Ohio Power Bar but thinner than every other bar I've used. One drawback to the KG Rogue OPB is that some people complained that the first plate would sometimes hit the upright when racking the bar. I haven't had that experience at all with the Kabuki bar. While the impact will be marginal, the thinner collar means the load factor will be slightly closer to the middle of the bar, thereby reducing flex. It also looks cooler in my opinion.
The sleeves themselves are coated with the same coating as the rest of the bar. I have the electroless nickel bar so my sleeves are… (suspenseful music)…electroless nickel. The sleeves are grooved, which, if you've read any of my other reviews, is not my favorite. I prefer smooth sleeves because of the noise a grooved sleeve makes when loading/unloading the bar. Real talk, the Kabuki sleeves are pretty loud, but this may not be an issue for you. If it is, I've found that a slight lift on the plate, along with a slower push/pull reduces the noise, but not enough to compete with a smooth sleeve.
The sleeves operate via an oil-impregnated bronze bushing system, which promotes a slow and steady spin. After spinning these sleeves, I haven't noticed any hitches in motion; the spin is free and it comes to a gradual stop. Sleeve slop is practically non-existent. I noticed very little movement along the shaft vertically or laterally. Not only does this limit rattling noise, but it also creates a better lifting experience altogether from a performance perspective.
The loadable sleeve length is 16.35″, which is consistent with most other power bars. As I always note, this means I can load over 600 lbs of my comp bumpers with room for a collar. If you have a thinner profile plate, like a calibrated plate, you can load much more than that onto the bar. The sleeve diameter is 1.96″ (also consistent) and they are affixed to the bar with a thick snap ring.
Since this bar arrived about a month ago, I haven't used another barbell. I wanted to put this one through several sessions on all the lifts. Having used it now numerous times, I can confidently say it performs outstandingly well on every lift, making it a true all-purpose power bar.
- Squats – I'm a big fan of this bar on all squat variations, but especially back squats. I'll be using it a lot going forward. When used in a low bar positioning, it felt rock solid without any semblance of slippage. On high bar squats, which I predominately train with these days, it's very comfortable… remember, ‘aggressively subdued.' I found the center ring to be very useful in lining up, but it's not required by any means. Front squats also felt good, but I won't be personally using this bar going forward on that lift.
- Bench – Just awesome. Again, the knurl pattern to me is great on bench. It's enough to feel the bite, but yet it's really comfortable in the hands. I typically don't like aggressively knurled bars on bench press, but this one I do. It will be in the regular rotation for me on upper days, but I do wish the knurl ring wasn't as wide.
- Deadlift – 100% going in the rotation. I get a great grip on the bar that holds well without carving up my hands. Of all my bars, this one, along with the Vulcan Absolute 2.0 and the Rogue OPB, is my favorite power bar to deadlift with. I expect that to be my regular rotation for now when I'm not reviewing other bars.
The Kabuki Strength power bar is currently offered in 3 different finish types at 3 different price levels:
- Black Oxide – The black oxide version will offer the least amount of corrosion resistance, but it will likely also offer the best overall feel. As a conversion coating, black oxide actually mimics the feeling of a bare steel or a stainless steel shaft. The biggest drawback is that it will be prone to rust over time, especially if you train in a humid environment. Hitting it with some 3-in-1 oil and a brush regularly will help mitigate the effects of oxidation. The black oxide bar is priced at $649.
- Zinc – The zinc version is the most economically priced, coming in at $599. This bar has a zinc coating that varies in hue from bluish to brownish. Over time it will develop more of a gunmetal patina, which looks pretty sweet. I own the Kabuki Shoulderok (review here) in zinc, and it looks great. The corrosion resistance on the zinc bar will be better than the black oxide, but it's still smart to maintain with a brush and oil if you're training in a humid space.
- Electroless Nickel – This is the version that I own, and it's their premium finish priced at $669. The finish here has a mirror-like polish to it, and it just looks cool. As far as corrosion resistance, this will be the best option. There have actually been studies that show a superior resistance to rust than even stainless steel. The coating is substantially harder than zinc, which means that it will last much longer (years) before wearing through. For only $20 more over the black oxide, I think it would be a no-brainer to pick this version.
When you pay a premium price, you expect a premium, high-end look to go along with your premium, high-end performance. The Kabuki Strength power bar did not disappoint in the aesthetics department. Quite the contrary actually, as it's definitely one of the best looking bars that I now own.
Starting with the finish, the electroless nickel is a really unique plating that produces a very cool look. As mentioned above, the shaft has a mirror effect that just pops when compared to some other bars. I can almost look myself in the eyes when I'm getting ready for a squat and pump myself up.
No, I don't do that… but it's cool to know that I can…
The knurl termination points are very well executed with exception to the center knurl rings. I think they can be cleaned up a bit to be more consistent with the rest of the bar. Unless you're closely inspecting it, however, the dual center ring is actually a great looking feature. I don't have any areas of double-tracked knurling or any other concerns with the knurl profile. Considering how hard the shaft is (HEY NOW….), I'm especially impressed with the tooling.
The sleeves look great. While it's true I'm not a huge fan from an auditory perspective, the grooved sleeves are aesthetically beautiful. Finished in the same electroless nickel plating, they really stand out among the rest. The thin profile of the collar is just icing on the cake for me.
Lastly, the end caps. After the initial end cap issue on the first release, Kabuki Strength came back and hit it out of the park. Oh, and they also sent replacements to all those who bought the first batch. Tip of the cap. The new end cap is completely unique and I'm a huge fan overall. The mirror-like metal is stamped with the Kabuki Strength Logo with a minimalist approach to the typeface. It's subtle, yet it makes a statement.
Let me work it, I put my thang down flip it and reverse it…
…Missy Elliot, anyone?
Anywhoo, is this bar worth the $599+ price tag?
At the risk of sounding like a cop out, I think it depends. I do believe this bar overall is in the next tier up when you compare it to the Rogue OPB, Vulcan Absolute v2, etc… but does that equate to a ~$300 price jump?
Maybe, maybe not.
I think this bar is worth it if you have the budget to support it, you're an established and passionate lifter, and you're looking for a premium bar.
If you're just getting started in powerlifting, I think you're better served picking a lower price-point power bar to get going. You can always upgrade later.
Make no mistake, this bar is 100% a daily driver and it's going to last ages. I expect the resale value on this bar to be very strong as well.
- This is the hardest power bar currently on the market. Where some power bars have knurling that will wear down over time at touch points, the Kabuki knurl was made to withstand the test of time.
- The knurling on this bar is ‘aggressively subdued.' I for one love that because I like an aggressive knurl, but I don't like an overly sharp pattern.
- The overall construction quality is top-tier, exactly what you would expect with a premium-priced bar.
- The bar is spec'd to satisfy all powerlifting fed guidelines, including our IPF overlords.
- The weight is highly accurate coming in at 20.05 kg.
- I like the fact you can select from three different finish options at three different price points.
- Aesthetically, the bar looks awesome. The mirror-like finish is so fresh and clean. The end caps are badass and unique. It's definitely one of my favorite looking bars.
- The bar is expensive. Starting at $599, it's in another bracket compared to most power bars. But that's by design – it's a niche bar. This is a premium offering, plain and simple.
- Depending on the finish and your lifting environment, regular maintenance may be required. For instance, the black oxide bar in a humid environment will need frequent oiling to limit the effects of oxidation.
I'm very impressed with the Kabuki Strength power bar. It has one of the most impressive knurl patterns I've used to date. It's aggressive without the sharpness that something like a Vulcan Elite power bar would offer. I'm going to personally be using it on each of the big 3 lifts regularly in my training.
The strength/hardness of the bar has been tested and well documented at this point. I have no doubt this bar will last a very long time. Its quality is evident from the moment it's taken out of the box. The packaging, by the way, was very good. The tube arrived in excellent condition from Oregon to North Carolina and the bar was packed tightly and neatly.
It's true – this bar is expensive. Considering the materials, the cost to produce, the overall construction quality, and the lengthy life expectancy though, I can understand the price point. You're paying a premium price for a premium product.
If you're interested in picking up the Kabuki Strength Power Bar, I'm happy to share a 5% coupon code for Garage Gym Lab readers. Enter the code below at checkout, click purchase, and let the gains begin!
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 Kabuki Strength Power Bar and you want to chime in with 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,