You can officially add Vulcan to the stainless steel power bar club, joining companies like American Barbell, Rogue Fitness, Ivanko, and Rep Fitness, among others.
And boy did they enter with a bang.
Their recent release of the stainless steel power bar attracted quite a lot of attention, and rightfully so. This bar has some unique qualities that the majority of other bars don't offer… some qualities that are… well… pretty awesome.
To make one thing clear right up front, this is a premium offering. It's not a cheap bar, but it's without a doubt one of the best power bars I've personally handled.
As they say, “you get what you pay for.”
What you're getting here is a completely stainless bar (shaft, sleeves, and even bushings) with a downright gnarly knurl. And I mean that in a good way. Physically it's the most beautiful bar that I have – the flawless stainless finish with the beveled ends makes for a truly art-worthy bar.
If you're in the market for a premium powerlifting bar, this stainless bar from Vulcan is a very strong contender.
Let's find out why.
- Stainless Steel Benefits
- Absolute Power Bar Overview
- Pros & Cons
- Full Rating
The Vulcan Strength Stainless Steel Power Bar is rated based on the Garage Gym Lab Universal Barbell Score. Read more about the ‘UBS' here.
Before jumping headfirst into the review, it's important to understand the benefits of stainless steel over other finish types like chrome, zinc, bare steel, etc…
There are three primary benefits to stainless steel: corrosion resistance, touch/feel, and aesthetics (subjective).
- Corrosion Resistance – This is certainly one of the biggest benefits of stainless steel, and it's one of the reasons stainless has become such a popular option with barbells. On the spectrum of finishes, stainless is at the top when it comes to fighting oxidation. If you train in a garage or in a humid environment, stainless is going to offer your bar the best protection from rust. You may be saying, but what about Cerakote!? Yes, it's true – Cerakote is also great for fighting oxidation, but Cerakote can also be scratched or removed, as it's an applied finish. If that happens, the bar is susceptible to rust. Stainless is different, and while it's not completely absolved from rust penetration over time, it's damn good at limiting it.
- Touch/Feel – Stainless steel bars, bare steel bars, and to a lesser extent, black oxide bars, are going to offer you the best feel. That's because other coatings actually interfere with the knurl depth, as they fill in some of the space. Because stainless has no application, it gives you a completely raw knurl.
- Aesthetics – If you like the look of steel, stainless is really hard to beat. Where other bars will either rust or patina over time, stainless largely remains the same. Cerakote is arguably cooler based on preference on colors, etc…, but if you appreciate raw steel, stainless is the jam!
Now, the downside to stainless is cost. It costs more to produce and it costs more to the consumer. If you value the benefits above, that additional cost is probably worth it. Otherwise, you'll find better monetary value elsewhere.
With all that said, let's check this bar out in all of its amazing glory.
Vulcan did an amazing job with this bar. It's gorgeous, it's aggressive, and it performs brilliantly. What else could you ask for?
A low price tag? Then you may want to look at another option.
In terms of quality, this bar is made to compete closer to the Ivanko OBXS than it is to the Rogue Ohio Power Bar, American Barbell Elite Power Bar, etc… That's not to say the OPB and Elite bars aren't great because they absolutely are, but I do think this Vulcan bar is better.
As you'll read in the review, this bar is a standout in the stainless arena. When you consider its unique qualities, you'll have a better understanding of why it's priced where it is.
Bar Weight: 20kg
Shaft Diameter: 29MM
Center Knurl: Yes – same pattern
Knurl Marks: Powerlifting
Shaft Coating: Stainless steel
Tensile Strength: +240,000 PSI
Bar Length: 86.5″
Distance Between Collar Faces: 51.5″
Loadable Sleeve Length: 16.25″
Sleeve Coating: Stainless Steel
Bushing/Bearing: Stainless Steel Bushing
The knurling on the Vulcan Stainless Steel Power Bar is insanely impressive. Make no qualms about it, this pattern is deep and very aggressive. It's fairly sharp, but significantly less so than the Vulcan Elite Power Bar. Compared to the popular Rogue Ohio Power Bar (review here), it's noticeably more aggressive. You can tell just by looking at the pattern. The Vulcan bar is deeper, steeper, and it offers a lot more touch points than the OPB. Compared to the Vulcan Absolute Power Bar (review here), it's also deeper, steeper, and more aggressive, despite offering a pattern with a similar points-per-square-inch ratio.
I personally love an aggressive knurl on deadlifts, particularly when attempting a PR or hitting some low volume heavy sets. This bar fits that mold extremely well. It's not going to be slipping out of your hands very often, if ever. Nope, the only way it's falling is if you give into its mean attitude by just dropping the bar… or if your grip strength sucks. I haven't even had to use chalk with the bar – my grip feels that secure. I won't be attempting anything with volume; however, as I do find it to be a bit abrasive that way. Singles, doubles, and triples… anything more and I'm using something a little less aggressive.
Squats with this bad boy are no joke. The bar is going to set into your back very well, allowing for an extremely secure position. This is particularly evident with low bar squats. High bar squats and front squats are not going to see a lot of this bar from me personally. I prefer a less aggressive knurl on those lifts. Like deadlifts though, if I'm attempting a PR or some low volume heavy sets, I wouldn't hesitate to grab this bar on low bar squats.
As a matter of personal preference, I like a more medium knurl on bench. I likely won't be using this one as a primary bar on bench. That said, it performs extremely well on the lift. If you like some extra grip on bench, you're definitely going to get it here.
Overall, the Vulcan bar gets a very high mark from me on knurling. It's one of the best I've ever felt. If you're not accustomed to an aggressive knurl, you're going to go through an adjustment period. If; however, you know you like an aggressive knurl, you'll be hard-pressed to find a better one, in my opinion.
The bar offers a tensile strength that exceeds 240,000 PSI, making it one of the strongest shafts in the entire powerlifting market. The Kabuki Strength New Generation Power Bar is currently the only one I've seen that claims a higher value. The shaft diameter measures 29mm like most other power bars, and it's extremely rigid as a result. The shaft on this bar is so hard that it requires the knurling tool bit to be changed during manufacturing on every bar (as in they need more than 1 bit for every bar). For every 10 stainless power bars that Vulcan makes, 1-2 never leave the factory because they're that committed to shaft consistency.
The center knurl offers the same pattern as the outer knurl and it measures 5″ in width. This is actually a little wider than most power bars, so if you're looking for more coverage, you'll like this size. I'm a bit mixed on whether or not I would prefer this bar to have a less aggressive center knurl as Vulcan did on their Absolute Power Bar. On one hand, I really appreciate the fact that this bar offers one of the most grippy knurls I've ever felt. On the other hand, the less aggressive centerpiece on the APB has really grown on me. Regardless, I'm very happy with it. I guess this is why owning multiple bars is the way to go!
The knurl termination points are some of the best and most unique I've ever seen. Where most bars terminate with a line extending out onto the shaft, the Vulcan Stainless Power Bar actually finishes with those lines sitting vertically flush (except for inner edge of knurl ring). This gives it a very clean look that I really, really dig.
The bars on this sleeve are absolutely gorgeous. They are grooved, where I normally prefer smooth, but in this case I'm cool with it. The zip noise isn't very offensive and the looks more than make up for it.
By the way, grooved vs. smooth is a lot like crunchy vs creamy peanut butter. Which do you prefer?
The Vulcan Stainless Power Bar offers stainless sleeves, which a nice touch that most others do not employ. The Rogue OPB and American Barbell Elite, for instance, both have hard chrome sleeves on their stainless bars. A big argument for chrome is that you're not touching the sleeves as much as the shaft, thereby limiting the transmission of rust-prone oils. I don't disagree, but stainless is still a better option overall, and I think it looks better too.
The sleeves spin via a bushing system that is uniquely also stainless steel. Typically power bars have a bronze or composite bushing system, so this is definitely a one-of-a-kind offering from Vulcan. Does it make a difference? I can't really tell much of a difference in motion, but aesthetically it looks really nice and durability/longevity could potentially be enhanced. The sleeves are affixed to the shaft with a double snap ring design, which I think this is a really nice touch vs the single snap ring that many others use.
The loadable sleeve length on the bar is 16.25″, which is consistent with other bars. Depending on the types of plates you're using, you'll be able to load a significant amount of weight onto the bar. I can load well over 600 lbs on the bar using my competition bumpers, including a collar. Calibrated discs and other thinner-profile plates will allow for much more than this, however. Lastly, the diameter of the sleeves is 1.96″, which is consistent with traditional barbells.
I wrote it above and I'll write it again… this is the most beautiful bar I have. The finish is perfect. The mirror-like finish on the smooth parts of the shaft is very cool, and it's absolutely flawless. The deep knurl casts some awesome shadows. Depending on how the light hits it, it makes for a fantastic look.
The knurl termination points, as mentioned above, are extremely well done. The uniqueness of the start/stops is something I haven't seen on other bars. I hope other manufacturers start doing this because it creates a very polished shaft. It doesn't affect performance at all, but I wouldn't mind seeing Vulcan employ these same termination points to the inner line of the knurl rings. The rings are still very clean, mind you, just in the traditional manner as described above.
The beveled ends of the sleeves are AMAZING. I can't say enough how much I love this. The rounded edges soften the look, which I find creative and just downright beautiful. The end cap design is also awesome. It's one of my favorites of all my bars. I love the “eagle rising” logo that Vulcan has and the color scheme is really nice on this bar.
Vulcan gets a 10/10 on aesthetics. They hit a walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the 9th in game 7.
- Stainless steel is one of the best options if you care about fighting off rust and/or you want the most natural & raw feel.
- The knurling on this bar is incredibly well done. It's very aggressive, which could also be a con depending on your preference. If you like aggressive, this one is hard to beat.
- The sleeves are stainless steel, which is something several other popular options do not offer.
- The stainless steel bushings are a nice touch and the spin is limited, yet consistent – exactly what you want with a power bar.
- Aesthetically, the bar is in a class of its own. Everything from the finish to the beveled ends to the end caps themselves… it's just beautifully made.
- The specs are great, headlined by a very strong 240k+ PSI tensile strength shaft.
- The knurling may be too aggressive for some depending on preference.
- The bar is on the expensive side, priced at $549.99. This is largely due to the increasing costs of materials as well as the costs associated with tooling the bar. It's certainly a premium product. You get what you pay for.
This bar is simply outstanding. If you're in the market for a high-end power bar, I strongly encourage you to check this bar out when it's re-released to the market in late Spring/early Summer 2018.
This bar offers a great combination of performance and aesthetics. The knurling is made to help you hit massive PRs with its aggressive pattern. The stainless steel is going to give you maximal rust prevention and it's going to provide you an incredible feel that only bare steel (and maybe black oxide) can match.
Don't sleep on Vulcan Strength, folks. They are making awesome equipment, and this bar is one that's going to help them stand out even further.
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 Vulcan Stainless Steel 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,