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American Barbell SS Elite Power Bar Review

American Barbell Stainless Steel Elite Power Bar Review

This is a full review of the Elite Power Bar by American Barbell. This bar is one of only two semi-affordable, IPF-spec, stainless steel power bars currently on the market. In this review I will not only cover the specifications and features of the Elite, I will also compare it to that other semi-affordable, IPF-spec, stainless steel power bar.

The Elite is a mid-range bar in terms of specifications, but as most of you already know the use of stainless steel does have quite an impact on overall cost; making it significantly more expensive than a finished steel bar with the same specs. That said, I’m still quite the big fan of stainless steel shafts, and I think that will be evident as you read this review (and this site in general). They feel better in the hands than any finished bar, and they also age better.

About the only time I think stainless is a bad idea is if purchasing it would put you in a tight spot financially, or if you’re an absolute newcomer to barbell training. For more experienced lifters I think that stainless is a luxury worthy of consideration. If that’s you, then read on.



Elite Power Bar Specifications

American Barbell Elite Power Bar - Specifications

  • 20 kg powerlifting bar
  • built to IPF specs
  • shaft diameter: 29 mm
  • sleeve diameter: 50 mm
  • knurling: moderate
  • center knurl: yes
  • shaft material: stainless steel
  • tensile strength rating: 190k PSI
  • whip: minimal
  • sleeve finish: industrial (hard) chrome
  • rotation: composite bushings
  • origin: USA
  • warranty: limited lifetime
  • price: $450


Elite Power Bar Shaft

Elite Power Bar's stainless steel shaft is rigid and attractive

The Elite Power Bar has a shaft made from precision-grade stainless steel with a minimum tensile strength rating of 190,000 PSI. While not an overly high rating by today’s power bar standards, the premium grade of the stainless steel combined with the 29 mm diameter of the shaft makes for an acceptably rigid barbell.

American Barbell SS Elite Power Bar - rigid, 190k stainless steel shaft

As I touched on in the intro, stainless steel is still considered a premium material for a bar. It has a very natural, grippy feel to it that’s rivaled only by raw alloy steel, but unlike raw steel it offers almost total oxidation protection. Stainless requires practically no maintenance, can be cleaned quickly and easily without any risk of damaging the bar, and it will last and look good for a lifetime.

The only drawback to stainless steel gear is pricing. Stainless is not only a more expensive material to use, but also more expensive to work and machine (knurl). Prices are lower than they were a few years ago though, thanks to more competition.



Elite Power Bar Knurling

It’ll probably come as little surprise to most of you that the knurl depth is pretty shallow; very moderate. I am fairly certain at this point that all AB bars have the exact same knurling. The consistency is nice (in a sense) but it’s not ideal when you offer multiple bar types. Olympic WL bars, powerlifting bars, and WOD bars benefit from different types of knurling. But alas!

Elite Power Bar - knurling detail

This is a stainless steel bar so luckily the knurling depth is less crucial than it is with coated bars. Overall grip quality is superb while remaining extremely comfortable for longer sets. I don’t see any disadvantages of the moderate knurl when it comes to bench press or squat, but I think it’s merely acceptable for the deadlift (not at all bad, just not perfect.)

The Elite is great for those who just don’t want a razor sharp bar, but who still put up or are on track to put up some decent numbers. It’s also a good choice for less experienced lifters who may just not be ready for full-on aggressiveness. It’s actually perfect that the Elite is an option in the power bar market since most other high-end power bars are quite aggressive, and there are those folks who just don’t want or need that regardless of what’s “typical”.



Elite Power Bar Sleeves

Each sleeve of the Elite Power Bar rotates on two high-load, composite bushings. American Barbell uses industrial, premium bushings for their bars; bushings that are meant to handle thousands of RPMs at much higher loads than your bar will ever see. These things are not only solid, but the assembly tolerances are so tight that I think it’s safe to say that American Barbell also makes the quietest bushing bars in America.

The sleeves are affixed to the shaft via snap-rings. There is really nothing noteworthy about this, as this type of assembly is simple, effective, and very common.

American Barbell Elite Power Bar with stainless shaft and dual snap-ring, hard chrome sleeves

Elite Power Bar – double snap-ring assembly and industrial chrome sleeve finish.

Elite Power Bar's recessed welded sleeves with hard chrome finish

Elite Power Bar – recessed sleeve weld.

The finish on the sleeves is a fairly thick coat of industrial hard chrome. This is another area where American Barbell shines, as this hard chrome is ‘above and beyond’ those of a more decorative nature. Hard chrome is very resilient, and the thickness of it makes it even more so. One of the extra benefits of this thick layer is a nicer fit of the plates on the sleeves. The plates move around less, and make less noise on the bar. It just feels nice and tight; like the rest of the bar does.



Elite Power vs Stainless Steel Ohio Power

Both of these stainless steel power bars adhere to IPF standards, so you can expect most of the specs and features to be the same. They are both 29 mm bars with stainless shafts, chrome sleeves, and bushings.

They are also quite different. The OPB has cast bronze bushings, very aggressive knurling, and a higher tensile strength shaft (205k versus 190k.) The American Barbell Elite has high load composite bushings, moderate knurling, a more resilient, industrial chrome finish, and seemingly tighter sleeve tolerances.

I believe both of these bars are winners, and they each have their place. The Rogue OPB is more appropriate for those who like a super aggressive knurl, and the Elite is for those who want something a little more low-key; more suitable for longer sets or virgin hands.

Normally I’d praise the aggressive knurling of the OPB; considering that we’re talking about power bars and all; but these bars are both stainless steel, and stainless offers one hell of a grip on its own. If these bars were finished in zinc or chrome then the moderate knurl of the Elite would be less appealing; but they’re not.

In any case, I call this a tie. The AB Elite is a higher quality barbell overall with it’s high-load bushing system and industrial chrome, but the OPB is more of a classic power bar with the sharp knurling, and it has a more attractive price. Each bar suits a different lifter, yet they do so equally well.



Elite Power vs the classic Super Power Bar

Elite Power Bar versus the Super Power Bar

I’ve praised American Barbell’s retired Super Power Bar time and time again on this site. It was one of my favorite bars when I got it, and it remains a favorite to this day. When I’m not in the process of testing a new bar (which has not been very often lately), it’s one of my first choices for my training.

When AB still offered the Super Power Bar, it sold for $595 because it was not only one of the only stainless steel power bars available, but it was also heat treated; a process that left the stainless steel a darker color, a color that turns like a bluish, purplish color in certain lights. The coloration was beautiful.

Elite Power Bar (top) versus the Super Power Bar

I bring all this up because the Elite Power Bar is very reminiscent of the Super. They have a very similar feel to them. There’s a minor difference in diameter (the Super was 28.5 mm), but they have the same shaft material, same sleeves, and the same knurling. Sure the heat treatment changed the color of the Super, but it didn’t impact how it felt in the hands. In any case, the point is that the Elite is a very close and less expensive substitute for the Super.



Elite Power Bar Review – Summary

I’m of the opinion that American Barbell produces some of the nicest bars in the world, and the Elite is no exception. It’s made with superior materials, the specifications are exact, and the finished product is well-refined. While normally I find American Barbell’s milder knurl to be the biggest drawback of their barbells, the Elite is actually filling a void by being one of the only moderately knurled power bars worth a damn, and the only one with an unfinished, stainless steel shaft.

The only other real drawback to the Elite is the price. We’re definitely paying a premium for the industrial components, stricter assembly tolerances, and stateside manufacturing. All of these expensive features do add life to the bar, and they also make for a very quiet bar, but not everyone has a money tree in their backyard.

American Barbell Elite Power Bar - Review Summary

Who should spring for the Elite Power Bar? Well again, any current or aspiring powerlifter who wants the luxury of stainless steel, but who doesn’t want a cheese grater for a power bar. I also believe the Elite makes a perfect gym bar. It has the durability, performance, and warranty needed for a multi-user facility, while also having a knurling that’s compatible with just about any lifter. Novices will like it, intermediates will love it, and even elite athletes will be able to get a good grip on the stainless shaft.

I personally give the Elite Power Bar 4.5-stars. I’d make it 5-stars in a heartbeat if the price ever drops to $400. It’s current product page rating is a 5-star average with 23 total reviews. Only one reviewer gave 4-stars, the rest are 5-stars. Pretty solid. Check it out!

The American Barbell Elite Power Bar

{ 24 comments… add one }
  • Duncan October 4, 2017, 3:00 pm

    How does the knurl on the AB compare to the knurl on the stainless Ohio Bar (not the power version)?

    Duncan

    • jburgeson October 4, 2017, 3:13 pm

      The SS Ohio is still slightly more aggressive. Actually I didn’t even consider that while writing this. Interesting.

      • Duncan October 4, 2017, 6:51 pm

        If the price of the AB and SS OPB was the same, which would you acquire for yourself?

        • jburgeson October 4, 2017, 8:15 pm

          Well in a couple days I’ll have both to side-by-side compare, but…

          I really think it comes down to knurl preference. I personally prefer sharper knurl, so I’d probably favor the OPB. The drawback to the OPB line is that the center knurl is not passive. I actually find that mildly annoying, but not so much I wouldn’t want to own it. Arguments could be made for seriously strong lifters to favor the Ohio simply because it’ll be more rigid at 500+ pounds, but that is definitely not a concern to the majority.

          The issue right now is that they are not the same price, and that makes the OPB more compelling. $55 more compelling, at least so long as you don’t mind a sharp bar. I have a feeling that the price of the Elite will eventually be lowered to match that of the OPB, or maybe even $375 or something. Selling them for $75 less is better than not selling them at all. That’s just my guess, I don’t really know that for sure.

          I’ll write up a review of the SS OPB pretty quickly once I have it in my hands since I’ve basically reviewed that bar twice already. All I need to pay attention to is the stainless and the chrome sleeves. I’ll definitely have another updated comparison in that review.

          • Duncan October 9, 2017, 5:46 pm

            Now that you have spent time with both, of you could have only one, and they were priced the same, Elite, or SS OPB? I see in the pictures that the knurl on the elite doesn’t appear as deep, but it also doesn’t appears as course, ie, there are more peaks per square inch in the AB knurl vs OPB. Do you find that there is a functional difference in the grip, or is it psychological due to the OPB feeling more like it is piercing in to your hand?

            • jburgeson October 9, 2017, 6:16 pm

              No I don’t think there is a functional difference and that’s mostly because they are both raw steel bars. AB’s knurl is milder for sure, but it’s still very nicely done, and extremely consistent. Is it ‘typical’ for a powerlifting bar? No, but that’s not bad or anything, just different.

              To answer your question, if I could only have one or the other, the Elite. Two reasons: center knurl is too aggressive for heavy back squats on the Ohio, and because the Elite knurl is super comfortable for the majority of major lifts (bench, squat, barbell rows) Whereas the Ohio’s aggressiveness really only shines in the deadlift. Of course this is just my personal opinion

  • clay October 4, 2017, 4:57 pm

    Did AB move the knurling out more to be closer to the standard 17″ in the center? One of the reasons I sold my Super was because I didn’t like the reduced smoother part of the bar.

    • jburgeson October 4, 2017, 5:06 pm

      Yes that was only the Super – as far as I know. I’ve not seen it on any of their other bars anyway. Maybe the Mammoth is like that? The fact that they render their images makes it hard to tell, and I’ve not seen a Mammoth.

      • clay October 4, 2017, 6:25 pm

        do you like the AB better than the Vulcan Absolute?

        • jburgeson October 4, 2017, 8:03 pm

          I like the Absolute a lot. Only thing I don’t like about it is maintaining the oxide and the raw sleeves. It’s stiffer than the Elite, much less expensive, and I personally prefer aggressive knurl over moderate. Now I own a deadlift bar so I only bench, press, squat, and barbell row my power bar. I have no grip issues doing any of this with either bar, but if I had to deadlift with this same bar I’d probably favor the Absolute because of the meatier knurl.

          Really though, these two bars are so different. Different shaft material, sleeves, rotation, knurl, finishes, and pretty different in terms of pricing. It’s sort of apples and oranges. But I mean if I could only have one or the other and nothing else, the Absolute would win for me.

  • SCarter October 5, 2017, 12:31 pm

    How would you compare the stiffness between the Elite and the OPB? Is the 190K vs. 205K rating even worth worrying about? Splitting hairs is how I’ll decide to get the SS OPB, Elite or Mammoth bar.

    • jburgeson October 5, 2017, 1:28 pm

      My SS OPB just arrived today, so over the next couple days I’ll be checking all that out. I expect the Ohio to stay stiffer for longer as I stack weight, but my guess is that it won’t matter until the weight gets up there.

      With so many bars on the market these days, it almost always comes down to splitting hairs haha.

      • SCarter October 5, 2017, 4:46 pm

        Look forward to the review, as always!

  • C. Stewart October 12, 2017, 11:30 pm

    Hey I’m not sure if this is the right place to put this so my apologies if its not. I’m looking for a good all around bar for my garage gym. I mainly powerlift myself, but I do just about everything from time to time depending on my goals and who I’m working out with at the time. Anyways, I had an Ohio Bar, and I like the feel of it, but it seemed really loose on the sleeves, and was incredibly loud when dropped as a result. I did buy it used, but still it always bothered me. So I sold it. Now I think I want a bar from American Barbell bar, or possibly Vulcan. (I have there Alpha Plates as a result of your reviews and I love them) So I’m trying to stay in the $250-300 range and my main priorities of course are just over all value, build quality, and durability, but also being quiet when dropped. I’m not overly concerned with knurl differences. I like whatever as long as its not slick. So I just want your input since you have a lot of experience with these bars. And I know everyone has there preferences but from your experience what is going to be durable and has high tolerances. (little to no play in the sleeves) Also, I live in AZ so I’m not worried about rust. The bars I’m thinking about are these;

    AB Training Bar-$275
    AB Black Ox Training Bar-$245
    AB Performance Training Bar-$295
    AB Power Bar-$295

    Vulcan Standard 28.5mm Olympic Bar-$286
    Vulcan One Basic Olympic Bushing Barbell-$249
    Vulcan Elite Powerlifting-$295

    So anyways, I just wanted your input with what concerns I stated. Also Im not ruling out a higher priced bar either. I am somewhat interested in the stainless steel Ohio bar and the vulcan elite v3 and the absolute power bar. Is it worth the little extra? I know I’m more concerned than I should be, I just want to buy one bar that I won’t want to replace for a long time. And lastly, I may consider getting 2 bars, if I can get some of my buddies to pitch in. Of all the stated bars above or any others you recommend, what two would you want in your home gym to cover all lifts?

    • jburgeson October 13, 2017, 12:52 pm

      So in terms of sleeve assembly tightness and noise, American Barbell is winning in that department. The difference in rattle and noise is night and day – not at all subtle.

      Avoid the Ox Bar as that’s not actually an AB product. It’s a surplus bar and they are just trying to dump them.

      There is very little difference between each other AB bar that you mentioned – Matter of fact the AB Power Bar is just a 29 mm version of the other two. I don’t even think there is a difference between the Trainer and Performance Trainer anymore – except for price.

      The Standard is a comparable bar to the two AB Training Bars, only with sintered bushings and dual-marks. Standard is a very good bar, and at 28.5 mm it’s more of your all-around bar. I’d avoid the One Basic; not because it’s bad, but because you’re willing to spend more so you can do a little better. The Elite Powerlifting Bar is the only true power bar in the bunch. It’ll be sharper and stiffer.

      The SS Ohio (non-power) is a solid bar – just about everything anyone would want from a bar, but you’ll be back to that noise. That’s the only real issue with it – it’s loud. The V3 is being rotated out I think, but the Absolute is a great power bar – very rust prone though.

      I say don’t worry about a 28 mm Oly bar unless your preference is to the Olympic lifts, which you say it is not. You can power clean with 28.5 and 29 mm bars all day so long as you aren’t pulling super heavy clean and jerks and need the elasticity of an Oly bar. For a true multi-purpose bar maybe favor the 28.5 SS Ohio or Vulcan Standard. I mean honestly other than the two I suggested avoiding, I think any of them would work. Pick a shaft diameter, then choose between knurl and finish. Prices are all so similar really.

      For the money, I’d personally go with the Standard. Reliable, moderate knurl, USA-made, and great self-lubricating bushing system.

      • C. Stewart October 13, 2017, 1:07 pm

        Thanks a ton for the reply. I am probably leaning towards the standard as of now.. How would you compare the California bar to the standard? And one last question, If I were to invest in two bars, a powerlifting bar and a high-rep/functional training bar in the same price range, would your suggestions change at all? Again I really appreciate your input man, this site and your reviews have been an incredible help in purchasing equipment!

        • jburgeson October 13, 2017, 1:37 pm

          I’d say the two are on par with one another, or at least as much as they can be considering the price difference. The California has that Cerakote up-charge, and it’s probably a better option for those who lean on Oly lifts as it has a 28 mm shaft, but I certainly wouldn’t buy a barbell because it has a Cerakote finish. I own both of these bars, and they both perform better than average, and they will both last a very long time. It’s a lot of give and take between Vulcan and American Barbell. Vulcan uses unique steel blends and high-quality parts, American Barbell using industrial components, has crazy strict assembly tolerances, but gets a pretty penny for their products. It’s really kind of splitting hairs, you know? It’s not as easy to pick a definitive “better” like it would be if you asked say, American Barbell California versus a Wonder Bar or something.

          Yes, I would specifically buy a 28 mm Oly bar (just a bushing bar, like the AB Performance Trainer or similar), and a 29 mm power bar. You don’t really need a multi-purpose dual-marked bar if you have multiple purpose barbells. With power bars, base the purchase on knurl depth, finish, and price mostly. That is to say, like whether you have an AB Elite, Vulcan Elite, or Rogue OPB – they will all stay stiff and perform well, so you get to be much more particular about the little things while staying in the same general price range (well save for the stainless bars.)

  • SROhlms November 28, 2017, 9:38 pm

    Your review of this bar is not only the most in-depth, but one of the only thorough reviews that I can find of any of their stainless bars. The Mammoth bar has reviews here and there, but it’s littler brother, the SS Elite Power Bar, is somewhat hard to find much on.

    I was looking for a stainless power bar that offered a less aggressive knurl than the Rogue stainless OPB. I tend to agree with you that the knurl on that bar (although great) really only shines on the deadlift. Other than that, it’s a bit much for my tastes. Of course this cast aside many other options as well. Hearing how superior their overall fit and finish is on these bars made it an easy purchase despite having never strayed from Rogue’s offerings until now.

    Thank for the review and for being a source of great information that helped to sway me in this direction.

    • jburgeson November 28, 2017, 9:47 pm

      Of course, and thank you very much. Have you received it yet?

      The Elite is much better buy than the Mammoth in my opinion. The Mammoth is a bragging rights bar – functionally no better than the Elite.

      • SROhlms December 1, 2017, 12:00 pm

        I have not received it just yet. It was ordered on Cyber Monday with their free shipping and should be here by next Thursday.

        I guess the bragging rights statement makes plenty of sense when you consider that they coated a SS bar in Cerakote. I personally prefer the bare steel feel and have become a stainless steel snob, so the Elite simply made more sense. I would have loved a 200k+ tensile strength, but it truly shouldn’t matter much in the grand scheme of things.

        • jburgeson December 1, 2017, 12:14 pm

          Yeah the Mammoth is a little redundant in the oxidation department. I maintain that it should just be steel if it’s going to be coated in ceramic, then the price would be more reasonable and it might even steal some OPB sales. AB will probably wish that was the case when Cerakote eventually finds its way onto the OPB for $300 instead of $550

  • Jason January 22, 2018, 5:06 am

    Love the website

    Just wondering what you would buy

    I am here in Canada and I can buy the AB elite power bar and order the Rogue OPB stainless for the same price. I am hung up on the 290 compared to the 205. I already have a Black zinc OPB. I hear the fit and finish of the Elite is second to none

    Thoughts

    • jburgeson January 22, 2018, 9:47 am

      Thank you Jason.
      I wouldn’t order a second OPB regardless of finish. That’s just two of the same bar. Adding something else like the Elite gives you a variety, especially where that OPB aggro center knurl is concerned. I also think you’ll find the Elite feels different overall just as a bar. I actually prefer the Elite to the OPB for squats, presses, and barbell rows, but I use an Ohio for deadlifts. Both are good, both have their place, but ordering two of the same bar with different finishes is probably less than ideal.

      • Jason January 22, 2018, 6:01 pm

        Awesome
        Thanks for the feedback

        Much appreciate your experience.

        Jason

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