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Equipment Outfitting a serious gym. Vendors & suppliers. Devices & equipment

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Old 09-27-2009, 03:09 PM   #1
Robert Britt Freund
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Some Thoughts on Bars

I am a bar fanatic. I personally own many more bars than I could possibly justify from a "requirement" point of view. I either own or have used a huge number of the mid and high-end bars currently available. I thought that my own personal experience (and a mini-review) might be useful, given some of the recent posts I have seen regarding bars.

To be clear, I do not manufacture or sell bars, and I have no vested interest in any company that does provide bars. I am not trying to sell anything. I am on the faculty and am an Assistant Dean at a major university (Business School) and my professional life has nothing to do with fitness. However, I love to lift and two of my three degrees (my BS and MS, but not my PhD) are in engineering and I am fascinated by the simple elegance of a great bar.

To start with, here is the list of bars that I currently personally own:

1x Eleiko Certified Men's Competition Powerlifting Bar
1x Men's and 1x Women's Werk-San Certified Competition Olympic Lifting Bar
2x Burgener and Rippetoe Men's Bars
1x Men's and 1x Women's Rogue Bars
1x Black Iron Strength Fat Bar with Rotating Collars
1x 1500 lb Mega Shrug/Trap Bar
1x 1500 lb Mega Safety Squat Bar

I currently have the new Pendlay HD NexGen Bearing Bar on order, as well as another (as yet unannounced) very high-end Olympic lifting bar.

I have used many more in a variety of clubs. However, I mostly train at home since I have an absurd home gym (I love it, but it is SO over the top that I am a bit embarrassed to have people see it). I guess we all go overboard on our hobbies, and since I am 47 years old and have had a successful career, I went WAY overboard on my home gym

In any event, I wanted to share my thoughts on these bars (for whatever it is worth).

I am quite pleased with the Rogue bars for general outdoor use. I have to travel a lot to give seminars and talks and, as long as I can driver rather than fly, I load up my Tahoe with my Rogue bar and 400+ pounds of Rogue Hi-Temp plates and lift at the hotel. I get some strange looks, but what the heck - I get in my workouts and have fun at the same time. I also take my kids to the high school track at least once a week and we do variations on Dan John's "Litvinof" workouts with the Rogue bars and the Rogue Hi-Temp bumper plates. The Rogue bar has great knurling and the bronze bushing spin is pretty decent, so it works fine as a general purpose bar. The slightly oversized diameter (28.4 mm vs O-lift standard of 28 mm) is noticeable during the O-lifts, but not overly annoying. The bar is moderately flexible, okay for both slow lifts and fast lifts (although I wouldn't want to go for a 1RM clean & jerk or a really heavy deadlift or squat on it). All in all, a solid bar. I would say that it is not really a pretty bar (the black oxide finish can be a bit uneven and the sleeves are pretty ordinary looking) but it works well for all my standard lifts (slow lifts - bench, press, squat, deadlift; fast lifts - variations on cleans, jerks, and snatches). It is specifically my "outdoor" bar and I don't mind banging it up a bit as I lug it around. It doesn't have that "look of beauty" that some of my other bars do, but it is solid. If you can only justify one bar for all lifts then, by all means, get the Rogue bar. It is MUCH MUCH better than the $150 Chinese specials and it only costs $245.

Now, if you have a bit more discretionary income (or don't mind blowing money on your hobby), then I personally would suggest getting TWO bars - one "slow lift" bar and one "fast lift" bar. At the very top end, I have the Eleiko bar for the slow lifts and the Werk-San bar for the fast lifts. These are both BEAUTIFUL bars and look like works of art. Of course, the price is commensurate - $1000 for the Eleiko bar and $900 for the Werk-San. The Eleiko is absolutely top of the line. 29mm diameter, with chromed sleeves and raw bar (no coating). The knurling is aggressive but not cheese grater and there is simply nothing better feeling than raw steel. I clean the bar after each use with a wire brush and WD-40 and it looks as good as the day I got it. It is simply the best bar I have ever used for heavy, slow lifts. It is stiff as a rock and doesn't flex at all. It uses super heavy-duty sintered bronze bushings that spin almost as well as needle bearings but has just enough friction to avoid counter-rotation (perfect). For the fast lifts, I use my Werk-San bar. It is completely to IWF specs (28mm, light center knurling) with great flex, perfect spin (German needle bearings are the best), and decent knurling. It is a chromed bar/sleeves which looks nice but doesn't feel quite as good as either the Rogue bar or the Eleiko bar - a bit slippery. However, with judicious application of chalk, it works great. The bearings are wonderful and it is a joy to lift with. Perfect for indoor use and going for those 1RM lifts. I clean this bar after each use with a brass brush (to avoid scratching the chrome) and a light coating of WD-40 that I wipe clean afterwards. If I am going heavy, these are the bars I use rather than the Rogue. I have the calibrated Eleiko powerlifting plates and the calibrated Werk-San bumper plates that I use indoors, with these bars.

However, I have been using the B&R bar lately and am really impressed. This $300 bar is ALMOST on a par with the Eleiko for the slow lifts. It is 29mm in diameter, with sintered bronze bushings. It is a raw bar (no coating) like the Eleiko, and the knurling is simply the best feel of any bar I have ever used. The steel is 200,000 psi yield (same specs as the Eleiko) and equally stiff. The bushings are not quite as nice as the Eleiko, but PLENTY good for any slow lift (and, really, any fast lift) you could possible imagine - and super heavy duty. I LOVE this bar and I would have said it was a $700 bar, not a $300 bar based on its performance. Now, to be fair, there are some nitpicks. I don't really like the way the sleeves are attached. They are not held on with snap-rings like the other bars I have. The end cap does not rotate and there is a "hump" you have to push the plates over when loading and unloading. It is not a big deal, but a moderate hassle at times - just enough to make you say "why didn't they use snap-rings?" The finish is nicer than the Rogue bars but not up to the Eleiko or Werksan levels. They used to be shipped in plastic wrap (no cardboard tube) and were a little beat up when they got to me. I threw a fit about the shipping (lots of email to Rogue and to York) and, as a result, Bill and Ahmik at Rogue managed to convince York to change the packaging. I also don't agree that the B&R bar is a great "fast lift" bar. It is too stiff to be a primary O-lift bar, but it is literally PERFECT for the slow lifts. Some of you may think that since Bergener is a great O-lifting coach, this must be an O-lifting bar. I would beg to differ. In fact, I would say that it is the PERFECT bar for Rippetoe's Starting Strength program - mostly slow lifts (squat, deadlift, bench, press) and then the power clean. The bar would be plenty good for the power clean and wonderful for the other lifts. However, regardless of these nits, this bar is FANTASTIC and I simply can't understand how it can sell for $300 - given that the Eleiko bar is $1000. You DO have to maintain the bar (since it is raw steel, even the sleeves), but that is as simple as wire brush + WD-40 once per week. I have seen some pictures on this board that seem to show the B&R bar a bit rusted. I can't understand how that could happen unless there was no attempt to keep it clean. My bars look as good as new (actually, better than new, since I worked out some of the dings and scratches from the crappy shipping package).

I should be getting the new Pendaly bar and the unannounced O-lifting bar soon. If they are up to snuff with the Werk-San bar (and from speaking with Glenn and looking at the specs of both bars in some detail, it surely seems like they will be), then we are looking at a revolution in the marketplace.

My "old standard" top of the line pair = Eleiko for slow lifts and Werk-San for fast lifts = $1900

A "revolutionary new standard" almost top of the line pair = B&R for slow lifts and Pendlay HD NexGen Bearing bar (or possibly the other bar I am testing) = $300 + $450 = $750

This is much less than HALF the price and almost the same peformance.

Well, that is enough for now. Let me know what you think or if you have any questions. I love this stuff and would enjoy chatting with anyone interested.

As soon as I get the other two bars and have a chance to really run them through their paces, I will post an update. Let's hope that they live up to their promise and we can get US-made bars that rival the best in the world and at much less than half the price...

All the best,
brittf
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Old 09-27-2009, 03:37 PM   #2
Tim Robinson
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Re: Some Thoughts on Bars

Excellent post, thanks. My B&R bar should be here early next week, and I am looking forward to getting it.
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Old 09-27-2009, 04:10 PM   #3
Mark Cheney
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Re: Some Thoughts on Bars

This is a quality first post. to the forum.

What's your feeling on 28 mm diameter versus 29 mm? Personal preference?
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Old 09-27-2009, 04:19 PM   #4
Jae Chung
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Re: Some Thoughts on Bars

Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Very informative and well written.
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Old 09-27-2009, 04:21 PM   #5
Andrew Makely
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Re: Some Thoughts on Bars

Let us know what you think of the new bars. I love this "hobby" as well and am kind of gearhead with my equipment as well, but want to get the best bang for my buck when ordering equipment for sure. Thanks!
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Old 09-27-2009, 11:24 PM   #6
John S Park
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Re: Some Thoughts on Bars

great review. i love my b&r bar. I'm interested to hearing what you think about the nexgen and the other one
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Old 09-28-2009, 05:52 AM   #7
Joe Fortenberry
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Re: Some Thoughts on Bars

great review(s), give me some food for thought before I begin my home gym "assembly"

how bout you post some pics of your over the top home gym, i'm definitely a gear head as well...
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Old 09-28-2009, 06:31 AM   #8
Andrew Makely
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Re: Some Thoughts on Bars

By the way, don't be embarrased about your gym. It gives the rest of us something to strive for with our own. Let's see it!
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Old 09-28-2009, 06:35 AM   #9
John Klessinger
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Re: Some Thoughts on Bars

Couple of questions on olympic bars-

I am a high school weight training teacher. I inherited (so to speak) a lot of equipment that is older and not in the best condition. however, most of it is very functional. after reading this post on bars, I am curious what is the best way to maintain barbells? What are some things I can do to the barbells to work better for oly lifts? I am not overly familiar with "slow lift" bars and "fast" lift bars. I am assuming these are standard oly bars that were donated or purchased in the 80's and 90's. Any suggestions? WD-40? Some kind of cleaner? ..............etc.
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Old 09-28-2009, 08:07 AM   #10
Robert Britt Freund
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Re: Some Thoughts on Bars

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tim Robinson View Post
Excellent post, thanks. My B&R bar should be here early next week, and I am looking forward to getting it.
Tim, I hope you enjoy your B&R bar. As I said in my long post, it is an excellent bar for Rippetoe's Starting Strength type workouts. It might beat you up a bit if you are going to do mostly variations on the fast lifts (200,000 psi yield strength + 29mm diameter = stiff) but the sleeves spin nicely and it is a very pretty bar.

I would strongly recommend going to Home Depot and getting a steel wire brush and a can of WD-40. When the bar arrives, spray WD-40 over its entire length, get to work with the wire brush, wipe everything down well with a cloth that doesn't shed (the knurling will tear up low-density cloth), and then reapply a light coating (spreading it evenly with the cloth). Do this once a week or, better yet, each day after you use it. It will last a lifetime and will get a beautiful patina (not rust, but a slight discoloration from oxidation) over time.

Enjoy,
brittf
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