The Rep Fitness PowerSpeed Bar is a unique take on a powerlifting barbell that stops the knurling short to allow for “rapid re-centering” of the bar in a rack. Although overall, it's a good barbell, spec wise, we did not find the shortened knurling to be of a big benefit at heavier weights and there were other minor qualms we had with the bar listed in further detail in our review.
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The Rep Fitness PowerSpeed Bar showed up alongside another bar we plan to review from Rep Fitness, the Excalibur Bar.
Rep Fitness has started using boxes for their bars and to be honest, I'm not a fan. Both boxes were torn up with the collars a bit scratched. I suggest adding more padding to the box, or just using the tubes. It may be more expensive, but it's worth it and will lead to fewer returns on Rep's end.
Thankfully, the PowerSpeed Bar came out of the box in pretty good shape all things considered.
Rep Fitness PowerSpeed Bar Review
The Rep Fitness PowerSpeed Bar is one of the most unique Olympic Barbells to be released in recent memory. Having used a large number of barbells and specialty bars (my Wife jokes that I'm a hoarder…”, I've seen a lot of different ideas come and go. Thick bars, thin bars, bars with a ton of knurl marks, bent bars, square bars, circular bars, bars with spotted knurling, plated bars, and a million other combinations have all come across my squat rack.
And all of this innovation is for a good reason. The barbell is a staple in every gym worth its salt in the world. And typically not just one barbell, but ten, twenty, thirty, or more. With so many barbells being bought and used, and the general build staying relatively unchanged for half a century, there's definitely room for innovation.
So, before I get into my opinions on the PowerSpeed bar, I want to commend Rep Fitness on pushing the envelope. I love seeing innovation in our industry as I think it's lagged behind for so long and we're just now, finally seeing companies really compete through creativity and innovation. Rep Fitness has been coming out with some awesome equipment lately, and at affordable prices. They're at a great price point for most people to get bit by the garage gym bug.
With this said, after using the PowerSpeed Bar for quite a few sessions (I'm currently squatting every day and it's been used for every one of those reps) I'm not completely sold on the bars competitive “advantage” over other bars.
Before I get too far into the review, here are the basic specs for the PowerSpeed Bar:
- 20 kg, 215k tensile, 205k yield, 2000 lb rated
- 29mm, IPF markings
- Very deep, aggressive knurl
- Smooth sleeves with zero side-to-side sleeve slop movement, hard chrome finish
- Bronze bushings with smooth, silent sleeve rotation
- Choice of hard chrome or manganese phosphate shaft coating
To break all of that down, the PowerSpeed Bar weighs in at the standard 20 Kilogram weight which is the widely regarded standard for power bars.
The steel used for the shaft is STRONG. At 215K PSI Tensile Strength and a 29MM diameter, I knew this bar would be stiff and it is. Not the greatest for deadlifts, but feels great for benching and most importantly for squatting. Although most people could get away with a much lower tensile strength, it's nice having the piece of mind that a 215K PSI rated bar provides.
The 29MM diameter shaft has pretty much become the standard for power bars, and for a bar that's used for squatting, the thicker the better (to a certain point.)
The PowerSpeed Bar utilizes bronze bushings, that, again, are the standard for most barbells, and especially power bars. Bronze bushings are extremely reliable and affordable. Although many bars have started to use composite bushings, bronze is still a reliable choice that will be around as long as you plan to use the bar. If you do pick up this bar, wait a couple of weeks to judge the spin as bronze bushings typically take a bit to get broken in.
Also, in relation to the bushings, this bars tolerances are TIGHT. There's hardly any side to side movement of the sleeves, a very good thing.
The bar comes with the option of either hard chrome plating or a manganese phosphate shaft coating. Having never owned a bar that used manganese phosphate, I decided to pick that option so I could see how it performs over the long run. The manganese phosphate feels similar to Cerakote's chalky feeling and so far I'm a fan. it's not the prettiest coating, kind of a like a dull brown, but if it stops corrosion it's a coating we could recommend.
The knurling is one of the best features on this bar. Power bars are designed in large part for low rep, high weight movements. Therefore, I want something that isn't going to slip out of my hands or off the back of my shirt. Rep Fitness nailed it with this knurling. It's deep and aggressive, similar to a Texas Power Bar and will likely be loved by many.
I've noticed a trend towards more passive knurling on power bars lately, but I prefer something that digs in. If you want something passive, go with the American Barbell Mammoth Bar, not this one.
Now that we've gone through all of the basic specs, let's talk about what separates this bar from just about every other power bar out there, the shortened knurling. Nearly every “mid to high-end” barbell currently on the market features knurling that extends all the way to the sleeves. In fact, for a while, one of the biggest differences between cheap bars and expensive bars was how far the knurling extended to the sleeves.
Something to understand regarding knurling a bar is that it can be pretty expensive. The tooling needed to knurl a bar has to be replaced often to maintain a consistent knurl on a bar, so the less a bar is knurled, the cheaper it is for the company.
With this said, Rep Fitness wasn't trying to cut corners in giving the bar a shorter knurl, they were simply trying to bring something unique to the market…and unique it is.
The shortened knurl (5.5″ is left smooth one each end of the bar,) in theory, should allow the bar to be slid on the j-cups easier for centering the bar. It really is a great idea, however, in use, we didn't notice a big enough difference between the PowerSpeed Bar and other bars that are fully knurled. Weighted or empty, there wasn't a vast difference.
Now, if the PowerSpeed Bar was knurled ALL the way to the sleeves with their ultra-aggressive knurling, there would be some differences, but still not MAJOR. I can say this because we tested the Kabuki Strength Next Gen Bar and the Rogue Ohio Power Bar against it. This said, one of the big benefits Rep claims for not having knurling on the end is that it will prevent the bar from chewing up the UHMW Plastic on j-cups. Although I like where their heads are at, UHMW is easily replaceable and I have yet to wear all the way through the plastic on any of my j-cups, and I think many would agree.
Centering a bar on the rack is definitely a challenge, but this isn't the way to fix it, in my opinion. The way to fix the issue is at the j-cups. Creating j-cups that have rollers like other companies have done is the best solution from my vantage point.
By shortening the knurl on the bar, you're preventing it from being effectively used by a large population of powerlifters. Many powerlifters lack the mobility to grip the bar where the knurling is currently available on the PowerSpeed Bar, and because of that, they would have to squat with their hands on the part of the bar that is slick.
Also, shortening the knurling would make it difficult for people who perform snatch grip deadlifts and wide grip bench.
But, all of this said, the PowerSpeed Bar is essentially a squat bar. Although Rep Fitness doesn't say this in their marketing or site, that's what it is. However, a dedicated squat bar might as well be as stiff and thick as possible. The Texas Squat Bar is 55 LBs and has a 32MM diameter shaft.
Therefore, the PowerSpeed Bar is placed in this awkward position where it's not REALLY optimized to be a squat bar, and it doesn't REALLY perform all that well for other movements.
Next, the sleeves on the bar are completely smooth. If you don't use clips on the bar, the plates will slide, even calibrated plates. Although it's pretty much always suggested to use clips, I typically don't on my warm-up sets, and that's impossible with the smooth sleeves. I really wish they would have ribbed them.
Lastly, Rep Fitness makes an AWESOME power bar in the Rep Fitness SS Power Bar. However, the Stainless Steel version is even cheaper than the PowerSpeed Bar even though the tensile strength of the bars doesn't have a dramatic difference. If you want a Rep Fitness Power Bar, grab the SS Power Bar.
All of this said, overall, if the specs and unique features of this bar meet your preferences, then pick it up. It's a good barbell at a good price, it just fits in a weird category in my opinion. Disagree, let us know in the comments.
We like that Rep Fitness is trying new things. It may seem like we're “bashing” their bar, but that's the nature of being honest in our reviews.
The idea of making it easier to slide on j-cups is great, but the disadvantage of being able to grip out wide is too big of a disadvantage for most people. One idea I have is to simply make the knurling more passive at the end of the bar, that way there's still something for people to grip, but it accomplishes the original intent of the bar.
The next glaring weakness of the bar is the smooth sleeves. I don't see a reason to have bare sleeves other than cutting costs. They may have a good reason for it, I just don't see it. So, my suggested improvement would be to rib the sleeves.
Finally, both of the end cap stickers are peeling off the bar. I've seen this happen with other imported bars and it is an annoyance. In my opinion, this is the shining point for branding the bar, make it memorable and exude quality. I do like the etching on the inner sleeve, however.