This is a review of the new Stainless Steel Ohio Bar from Rogue Fitness. In this article I’ll go over the SS Ohio’s technical specs, the benefits of stainless steel, knurl pattern, sleeve rotation, and whip. I’ll also compare the SS Ohio to the American Barbell SS bars, comment on comparisons to other SS bars, and finally I’ll talk about how the new SS Ohio Bar compares to the classic Ohio Bars. As always, if I miss anything important or if you have a question regarding the review, leave a comment below.
These are the technical specifications taken from the Rogue website. They are copied here for quick reference.
- 20 kg men’s multi-purpose bar
- 28.5 mm stainless steel shaft
- chrome finished sleeves with 16.4″ loadable length
- dual composite bushings
- 195,000 PSI tensile strength
- dual Olympic/powerlifting marks
- medium depth knurl with no center
- average whip typical of Ohio line
- manufactured in Columbus, Ohio
- lifetime warranty
- full product description
If I may add something that isn’t very technical, the SS Ohio is an extremely beautiful bar. The flawless surface of the stainless steel shaft in conjunction with the polished chrome sleeves simply makes for a stunning piece of equipment.
Stainless Steel 101 (Finish, or lack of)
Stainless steel is still an uncommon material to use for Olympic bars. Not only is it more expensive to manufacture and harder to work with than carbon steel, there really isn’t much of a performance benefit gained from lifting with a stainless bar. It makes you wonder why anyone would bother with stainless steel at all, right?
Well there are two things to consider about carbon steel when it comes to barbells. First, nothing feels as natural and secure in the hands as an unfinished, raw steel bar shaft – no applied finish can compare. Secondly (and unfortunately), bare steel rusts – and it does so quickly and easily.
Because of this rust issue almost all steel bars are finished with either a chrome, zinc, or oxide finish. These applied finishes definitely help reduce and/or eliminate rust, but they also strip away that naturally secure grip and superior feel of the bare bar. In a way you’re trading performance (grip security) for protection from rust.
Stainless steel is the way around this issue. By using stainless steel over carbon steel you get that same natural feel of a raw bar, that same secure grip, but no rust. Seems simple enough, right? Well the problem has always been the extra cost. Up until pretty recently a stainless steel bar could cost as much as $200 more than it’s raw steel equivalent. That’s a lot to pay for oxidation protection when you can just dip the steel bar in chromium and effectively achieve the same protection. For $200, to hell with the feel.
Here we are now about to head into 2017, and we can buy a multi-purpose, stainless steel Ohio Bar for just a little more than the classic black oxide Ohio. Not only does the SS variation feel more secure, it will always feel that way. There is no finish to wear away, the bar won’t chip or fade out, and you’ll probably never have to do much more than take a nylon brush to it to remove chalk, dust, and skin. You certainly won’t be scrubbing rust off of it – unless you live in the ocean (if you do, say hi to Patrick). Sure it’ll still cost you more than a steel bar, but not by nearly as much as it used to.
Does stainless steel really not rust?
It is extremely unlikely that you will ever have to deal with rust on a stainless steel bar. That said, there still are some very rare circumstances in which stainless steel will oxidize. Of course, going into detail on this subject is a whole separate article, so fortunately these topics are already addressed elsewhere. You can read about stainless steel and the conditions that cause rust here or here.
The important thing to know is that rust on stainless is easily managed, and the bar is easily restored. Stainless truly is the ideal bar shaft material.
Knurl and Grip
As Rogue Olympic bars go (that is, non-power bars), I’ve always felt that the Matt Chan Bar has the best knurling and overall feel. It’s aggressive without being uncomfortable, and despite having a zinc finish (or chrome, in some cases), the grip is simply flawless – just very secure in the hands. In the review that I did for the Chan Bar a couple years back, I gave the knurl a 10/10 rating. Well today, I think I can safely extend that same perfect score to the Stainless Steel Ohio Bar.
The SS Ohio’s knurl is a tad less aggressive than the Chan, but it’s still a superior knurl to what is found on the rest of the Ohio line (not to mention all the competition’s multi-purpose bars). Combine this moderately aggressive and consistent knurl with the flawless feel of an unfinished, stainless steel shaft and you have an incredibly firm grip… the perfect grip.
So whether you use the SS Ohio for high-rep Oly lifts, maxing out on deadlifts, or simply as bench bar, I think that you’ll be pleased by the grip confidence that this bar offers, and by the overall feel of bare shaft. The only thing that I would change in terms of the knurling is that I would have included a passive center knurl, but what can you do.
The elasticity of the Stainless Steel Ohio Bar is moderate – pretty average really. It’s consistent with the rest of the Rogue 28.5 mm bar family (Ohio, Chan, Rogue Bar 2.0, etc). In other words, you can count on slightly more flex than a power bar, and noticeably less flex than a 28 mm Olympic WL bar.
Since the majority of what Rogue does with barbells is centered around CrossFit, and since most lifters (regardless of their training choices) are not cleaning over 225 pounds, the lack of bar elasticity in Rogue’s non-professional WL bars will never be an issue. That is to say, if you’re not a veteran weightlifter (or Rich Froning), then worrying about the bar whip of your WOD bar is probably a total waste of energy. Focus on the aspects of a barbell that directly impact you. The knurl quality and grip, finish, sleeve rotation, and so forth (all of which this bar has in spades).
Sleeve Assembly & Rotation
Unlike the rest of the Ohio line, the Stainless Steel Ohio bar uses composite bushings instead of cast bronze bushings. This is a giant perk as far as I’m concerned, as I find Rogue’s bronze bushing bars to be overly loud and require more frequent oilings than bars with sintered bronze bushings. Composite also seems to be able to handle having much more weight loaded before becoming compressed. That compression of course causes sleeve rotation to deteriorate.
The spin is pretty much flawless for a multi-purpose bar. It’s more more than adequate to provide smooth, reliable turnover in the Olympic lifts, but not so erratic that it’s a nuisance when pressing or squatting. Rogue really has found a nice balance when it comes to the rotation of their bushing bars regardless of which bushings they use. Other than the aforementioned noise, I’ve never encountered an issue with their sleeve assemblies.
It is also worth mentioning that because of the composite bushings, the Stainless Steel Ohio is indeed much, much quieter when dropped. I’ve dropped my other Ohio bars onto the mat from no more than an inch and found the noise to be unreasonable for such a short drop, but the SS Ohio sounds much better. It doesn’t scare the neighbor’s cat.
Rogue Stainless Steel vs American Barbell
There was a fourth stainless steel bar offered. About a year ago AB offered the 28.5 mm SS WOD Bar, a bar much more similar to the new Rogue SS Ohio than any of AB’s current stainless bars. It was a limited-run bar and it sold for a very reasonable $299, but because of how good of a deal that it was, those bars are obviously long gone.
Without the SS WOD in the line-up, the closest thing that American Barbell has to the new SS Ohio is the Precision Training Bar. Both the Ohio and the Precision are composite bushing-based Olympic bars with stainless steel shafts and chrome finished sleeves, but that’s about where the similarities end. You can see how the specs differ in the chart below. I’ve also included the SS WOD for those of you who are aware of that bar, but perhaps missed out on that deal.
|Rogue SS Ohio||AB Precision||AB SS WOD *|
|Tensile Strength||195,000 PSI||190,000 PSI||190,000 PSI|
|Shaft Diameter||28.5 mm||28 mm||28.5 mm|
|Knurl Depth||medium – firm||mild||mild|
|Hash Marks||dual-marked||Oly only||Oly only|
* this is just for comparison purposes, the SS WOD is no longer offered.
There doesn’t appear to be much difference in the stainless steel used in all of these bars. Coloration isn’t any different from bar to bar, the feel is consistent among them all (I own the Ohio, WOD, and SS Pro Bearing), and about the only thing that sets the shafts apart is the quality and depth of the knurling.
American Barbell has notoriously soft knurl on their bars which I think gives Rogue a slight edge. When I compare the feel of my SS WOD and SS Pro Bearing to the Rogue SS Ohio, it’s clear as can be that the Rogue has a superior grip. That’s not to say that the American Barbell bars have a bad grip (it’s hard to have a bad grip on a stainless steel bar), just that the Rogue’s is better – much more substantial.
As if the grip and feel of the Ohio wasn’t enough to make it more appealing, the Rogue SS Ohio is $145 less than the American Barbell Precision Training Bar. Granted, the Precision Training Bar is a 28 mm Oly bar rather than a 28.5 mm multi-purpose bar, but that’s still a pretty hefty price difference. This is especially true when you factor in that superior knurl and higher tensile strength of the Ohio.
At the end of the day each bar has its pros and its cons, and while the AB bars may be slightly more ‘elite’, the Ohio is definitely a much better deal and much more accessible.
Rogue Stainless Steel Ohio vs SS Bar x
Direct bar comparisons between the Rogue SS Ohio and other stainless steel bars are by and large unreasonable comparisons to make, as the bulk of the market’s stainless steel bars are higher-end Oly bars. In addition to the American Barbell SS Bearing Bar, you’ve got bars like the Vulcan Absolute Olympic Bar and the Ivanko OBXS-20KG Olympic Bar; both of which are premium, professional barbells. We’re talking about higher quality, higher tensile strength metal, premium needle bearings, and just overall better performance.
The Ohio is a multi-purpose, bushing-based gym bar. The stainless steel is used because of the superior grip and resistance to oxidation, but at its core the SS Ohio is still a simple Ohio bar. Don’t get me wrong it’s a fantastic bar, and a very welcome addition to my gym, but to put it up against an Ivanko SS Oly Bar is just going to make the Ohio look bad. And why shouldn’t it?, the Ivanko is a $1200 barbell.
It’s apples and oranges, at least until more mid-range SS bars (like the retired SS WOD) hit the market.
Stainless Steel Ohio vs other Ohio Variants
So how do the classic Ohio bars stack up to the new stainless steel Ohio? Should you even consider purchasing one of the classic bars, or is the new SS Ohio a no-brainer?
The classic Ohio Bar has a base price of $282, and that includes two zinc variations. A black oxide variation is offered for just a few bucks more at $295. All three of these OG Ohio Bars feature a 190k PSI shaft and cast bronze bushings versus the 195k PSI shaft and superior composite bushings of the SS Ohio. Both the zinc and oxide bars will fade and chip over time, and the oxide Ohio will also oxidize, but the stainless won’t fade or rust.
So for no more than $68 extra you can upgrade the classic Ohio Bar to the Stainless Steel Ohio Bar ($350) and get a stronger shaft, more reliable spin under heavier loads, a much better grip, and no worries of fading, chipping, or rust. Seems pretty good to me. Unless you are already stretching the budget to afford a zinc Ohio, it’s about the easiest decision ever.
As always, I hope this review has been helpful in your quest to find equipment worthy of your gym. If you liked this article, please share this article somewhere.