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Kabuki Strength is by and large making some of the best specialty bars on the market and the newest version of the Transfomer Bar is their best one yet. I’ve tested and reviewed practically every safety squat bar on the market and written about the best safety squat bars here. The original Transformer Bar was very much average, in my opinion. It was a cool idea, but wasn’t quite ready for commercial adoption and was hard to recommend for any home gym owner. However, the latest Transformer Bar (version 4) is easy to recommend for anyone wanting an incredibly versatile safety squat bar for squats, goodmornings, lunges, and many other movements.
The Kabuki Strength Transformer Bar is a safety squat bar that uses a rotating sleeve to allow the load to be placed at various cambers and distances from the shaft of the bar to change how the bar feels during use.
The Transformer Bar was created by Chris Duffin and his team at Kabuki Strength in Portland, Washington. They’ve come up with quite a few popular specialty bars including the Duffalo Bar, HD Trap Bar, Kadillac Bar, and the Transformer Bar, which is now in its fourth iteration.
Although we call the Transformer Bar a safety squat bar, that’s largely because there isn’t another category to put it in. Similar to the Marrs-Bar which we recently reviewed, the Transformer Bar is quite a bit different from a traditional safety squat bar. Dissimilar from the Marrs-Bar, the Transformer Bar can do much more by mimicking the feeling of everything from a front squat to a low bar back squat while being held in the same position on the back.
When Kabuki Strength reached out to us about the possibility of us reviewing the Transformer bar, I was a bit worried they were simply changing some of the aesthetics of the bar. We’ve used and reviewed the previous versions of the Transformer Bar and although I liked the concept, I thought it was very much “half-baked.”
Here was the biggest issue with the previous version which will lead into my favorite fix with the newest version:
Using the various features of the bar that allow for changing the camber angle and sleeve distance from the shaft were so tedious and time-consuming to change that they simply weren’t used.
This was certainly the case for me and I know it was for many others as I talked to owners of the bar who voiced the same frustrations. The versatility of a piece of equipment only increases in positivity as the time to use it’s features decreases in time to setup. Take wall-mounted squat racks for instance. A PRx Profile Rack that folds up is vastly superior to the Rogue Fold-Away Racks not due to better steel or any quality, but because folding the rack down and using it immediately is quicker than folding the uprights in individually, securing it to the wall, and locking in the pull-up bar.
Thankfully, Kabuki took our criticisms of the previous versions of the Transformer Bar and made a much easier and quicker to use model. To be blunt, this is the most versatile safety squat bar on the market (it has been since it came out) and now has it’s features easily useable by trainees no matter their experience.
Although the Transformer Bar can be used in a similar manner as any safety squat bar such as the EliteFTS SS Yoke or Rogue SB-1 Safety Squat Bar, it can mimic the feeling of other movements as well. A safety squat bar traditionally feels in between a deadlift and a back squat due to where the load is placed. It obviously has the benefit of helping those with shoulder mobility issues by placing the hands in front, but the main reason it’s used by powerlifters the world over is to add a different stimulus to the squat (one, if not THE most trained movement.)
The way the Transformer Bar is able to achieve the feeling of different bars and movements is by placing the load at different angles and distances from the shaft of the bar. The curve in the bar that you see on safety squat bars is called a camber and is replaced by an adjustable bracket on the Transformer Bar. This is what allows the Transformer Bar to feel more like a low bar back squat when the load is placed in a similar location as it would be with a barbell for a low bar back squat. Or makes it feel like a front squat when a barbell is used in the front rack position for a front squat.
The new mechanism for the Transformer Bar is a pop-pin that’s seen on many different pieces of gym equipment from benches to functional trainers. The pop-pin may give you reservations to its weight capacity as it did me, but we’ve been told the Transformer Bar and its pop-pins are rated for 1,500 LB. The same weight rating that the original Transformer Bar had.
The other adjustment piece on the Transformer Bar is the sleeve that fits into 4 different holes on the brackets and then locks in with a spin. This places the weight either farther or closer to the shaft of the bar. The further away from the center, the heavier/harder the weight/movement will be. This allows home gym owners with a low amount of weight make movements harder or just change the difficulty of a movement by changing the stimulus.
Honestly, I’m surprised that Westside Barbell and those that follow a Conjugate style of training that is constantly changing bars and movements haven’t fully embraced the Transformer Bar. It could be that the angle was difficult to change, but maybe with this new design, it will be adopted; I think it should.
The sleeves are machined, Olympic-sized barbell sleeves that are ribbed and due to their size fit Olympic plates and bumper plates while being able to take the same collars you use on your straight bars which is not the case with many specialty bars on the market.
Beyond the sleeves and camber mechanism, the bar is overall what you’d expect from Kabuki. High-end materials and well-thought-out features. The shaft, brackets, and handles of the bar have a bright zinc finish that should provide better corrosion resistance than the black zinc previously used.
The handles on the bar have a volcano knurl pattern that is the same as what’s used on the Kabuki Strength New Gen Power Bar. They also now have end caps which is yet another addition to the bar that makes it feel much more polished.
All of these improvements and features make the Kabuki Strength Transformer Bar my favorite specialty bar that the team has come out with and quite possibly the most versatile specialty bar available.
With the improvement of the useability of the angle adjustment system, the Transformer Bar has overcome many of the objections we initially had.
There are only a couple of minor things that we don’t like.
First, and this is very small, but black zinc sleeves show wear quicker than just about any other coating (Cerakote and powder coat are probably the worst.) I get the reason behind using it as it provides a contrast and looks pretty cool against the bright zinc, but understand that over time it will end up looking faded and worn.
The other thing we don’t love is the stickers on the brackets. I do really like the addition of these from the standpoint of easily identifying what angle you’re at, however, I worry that in a hardcore training environment they could end up getting torn up and removed. Laser-cut would have been preferable, but again, I don’t think this is a major critique and is getting nit-picky.
Lastly, and this is just a product of the bar being made in the USA, the price is quite a bit more than other safety squat bars. I wouldn’t want any of the features removed or the quality lessened, so I’m actually fine with the cost. I also like the fact that the price is the same as the previous model even though it’s vastly improved.
Other than that, there isn’t a whole lot we dislike.
Kabuki Strength Transformer Bar vs. Rogue SB-1 Safety Squat Bar
To be honest, with all of the great options available today, I don’t recommend the SB-1 from Rogue to just about anyone. It’s not a bad bar, but it’s been overtaken by nearly every company producing specialty bars today.
Kabuki Strength Transformer Bar vs. EliteFTS SS Yoke
The EliteFTS SS Yoke is one of the best safety squat bar designs there is. It’s since been copied by many others, including the Titan Fitness Safety Squat Bar which we do feel is a better value, but the SS Yoke is still the original. If you don’t feel you’d use the functionality of the Transformer Bar, then there is little reason to buy it as the SS Yoke and myriad of other SSB’s are much less. However, The Transformer Bar has a much wider range of functionality and is better quality overall.
Marrs-Bar vs. Kabuki Strength Transformer Bar
If I was going to spend the amount of money it takes to buy either of these bars, I would definitely purchase the Transformer Bar. The Marrs-Bar is a great specialty bar that provides a unique feeling in comparison to most SSB’s. However, it lacks the versatility of the Transformer Bar at a similar, if not more expensive price (depending on shipping.)
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