So you think you’re ready for it.
That unyielding piece of steel that refuses to bend no matter how much you pile on it.
That silent spin from quality bushings.
That deep bite from a perfectly aggressive knurl—coarse enough to bite into your palms and keep your bar from slipping but not too much that it feels like you are heaving a cheese grater in your hands.
Add to that a nice stainless steel finish that is quite adept at keeping oxidation at bay while feeling so good in your hands and you will have the perfect power bar in your hands.
The American Barbell has been producing quality bars for a long time. They are amongst the most trusted brands by seasoned weightlifters who will no longer settle for service bars that come with their weights or the ones in the gym.
If you are ready to step up to this level, then you might have already heard of them and their power bar.
However, power bars—especially those that come with stainless steel or hard chrome finishes—don’t exactly come cheap so you probably want to make sure this one is worth the cash you will be shelling out for it.
So… Is this the one?
Let me walk you through this American Barbell power bar review so you will have an idea of what it is, why it is so popular with the powerlifting crowd, and if it’s the perfect fit for you.
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Choosing the Perfect Power Bar
Before I take you through a rundown of the qualities of the American Barbell power bar, you should first know the basic things to look out for when searching for the perfect power bar.
At this point, if you are already looking for a dedicated power bar, you might already have an idea that not just any bar is going to cut it.
If not, these are the things you should look out for when searching for a decent power bar.
1. The Steel
Power bars, unlike their Olympic counterparts, are rigid pieces of steel. They tend to run thicker at around 29 mm and have zero whip.
This is because power bars are designed for the Big Three maneuvers of powerlifting—the deadlift, the squat, and the bench press. The whip in a bar is pretty useless in these exercises and it is more important that a bar be as rigid as possible.
This means that power bars also have higher tensile strengths. A good power bar should have a tensile strength of at least 180,000 PSI.
2. The Finish
The finish on a bar affects not only how long your bar will last before the rust sets in and eats it all up, it also plays a role in your grip.
Grip is pretty important in powerlifting because the Big Three maneuvers will require greater weights than Olympic weightlifting.
Raw steel feels the best in your hands and is one of the cheapest finishes for power bars. However, it has the least protection against oxidation. This means that you will have to devote some time towards maintenance if you want your power bar to last for a long, long time.
Stainless steel on the other hand, will require very minimal maintenance as it can withstand oxidation like nobody’s business. It also feels great in your hands, comparable to raw steel. However, it is one of the priciest finishes and can jack up the price of a power bar.
3. The Knurl
Power bars have a deeper, more aggressive knurl to help keep the bar from slipping off your hands or in case of the squats, your shoulders.
Also, they have the standard International Powerlifting Federation or IPF markings and a central knurl. If not, they should have dual IPF and IWF markings.
These markings serve as a guide for the proper hand placement in powerlifting while the central knurl provides the necessary bite and friction to keep your power bar from slipping off your shoulders during squats.
4. The Bushings
Power bars are always bushing bars.
This is because they don’t need the kind of spin that Olympic weightlifting bars require.
These bushings are either made of steel or brass and provide a nice consistent spin.
The American Barbell Power Bar Review
For this review, the subject will be the American Barbell Power Bar with product code OB20-CH-IPF.
I understand that there is a stainless steel Elite variant and a Grizzly Power Bar, which are quite different, so I want to be clear on that.
1. Technical Specs
Now, you can go over to the American Barbell website to check out the specs but if you’re too lazy to do so, here are the technical specs or the basic anatomy of the American Barbell power bar.
- Weighs 20 kg
- Has a tensile strength of 190,000 PSI
- 29 mm diameter
- Has IPF markings and center knurl
- Finished in hard chrome
- Sleeves also finished in hard chrome
- Bushing bar
2. The Steel
First off, the tensile strength of this bar is just about decent. Most of the good power bars barely sit at 180,000 PSI. At 190,000 PSI, it is already good enough but if you are a pro, it could be better.
You will be wanting it to be higher.
Nonetheless, it is a pretty rigid and unyielding piece of steel. Even with 300 lbs. piled on it, it showed no signs of whipping or yielding and that’s what’s important.
There are other bars that will claim to have around the same tensile strength but are so whippy they’ll make you cry.
Trust me, you wouldn’t want a whippy bar while you’re squatting or doing bench presses.
The Verdict: Pretty rigid power bar but tensile strength could be a bit higher.
3. The Finish
Now, hard chrome finishes are usually found in higher-end bars.
Its ability to resist oxidation is on par with stainless steel, so it will need little to no maintenance, unlike raw steel bars. These bars are guaranteed to last for a long, long time.
The downside is that hard chrome is pretty slippery as far as gripping the bar goes.
The Verdict: Hard chrome will make this bar pretty low-maintenance but it is more slippery compared to raw or stainless steel.
4. The Knurl
Okay, I have to admit that at first glance, the knurl on this one has me backtracking because it did not look like much.
Not what I was expecting for a power bar, at least.
However, it exceeded my expectations because despite its looks, it can stick to your hands like it’s never going to leave!
This made me happy for two reasons:
- It had excellent grip in spite of the less aggressive knurling and hard chrome finish
- It was comfortable enough to not peel the skin off my palms during bench presses
There is also the required center knurl for squats. Like the knurling for the hands, it had the right amount of bite on the shoulders—enough to stay put through the squats but not so aggressive that it will flay the skin off your shoulders.
The Verdict: More calloused palms might not find the knurling enough but it is surprisingly good and comfortable enough. Those with smoother hands will like it better than other power bars with shark’s teeth for knurling.
5. The Bushings
Yes, the American Barbell power bar is a bushing bar just as a genuine power bar should be.
I’m not kidding—there are bars that claim to be power bars but have a bearing system instead. That’s just wrong. Bearings belong in an Olympic bar and have no place in a power bar.
The bushings in this power bar provide a nice, consistent, and quiet spin. Spin is not as important in a power bar compared to an Oly bar. You’ll be very happy to know that American Barbell produces some of the best bushings in the industry and their power bar benefits from their expertise.
The Verdict: Topnotch bushings finished in hard chrome that give a nice, reliable spin.
The Bottom Line
American Barbell is well-known in the weightlifting industry and it’s good to know they’ve still got their mojo when it comes to making quality power bars.
The American Barbell power bar is a pretty good choice for those who are looking to start a home gym or those who are ready to move on from the whippy bars in the local gym.
It has a pretty decent tensile strength of 190,000 PSI but not as much as the recent crop of power bars in the market. In spite of that, it has very minimal whip and can take on heavy loads without yielding a hair.
The hard chrome finish pretty much guarantees that you won’t have to spend time on maintenance and get to perfecting your lifting game instead. However, hard chrome is not exactly the best finish when it comes to feel and grip.
A stainless steel finish would have been preferable but it would have jacked the price of the bar up. If you want, you can take a look at the American Barbell Elite Power Bar. It’s a stainless steel power bar but that is a review for another time.
The knurling might not be as aggressive as other power bars but I found it perfectly on point. It had just enough coarseness to bite into my skin so that the bar doesn’t slip off the hands or the shoulders but it was not coarse enough to feel like a cheese grater on my palms.
My final verdict on the American Barbell power bar is that it is a great choice for those who are moving on from wimpy bars and taking on the Big Three, while on a budget. The more seasoned pros might like to pass this up and go for a higher-end bar—preferably with a higher tensile strength, a stainless steel finish, and coarser knurling.