This is a review for the Rep Fitness Deep Knurl Power Bar EX, a high-tensile strength, fully-stainless steel, aggressively-knurled powerlifting bar.
Many of you may be wondering what took me so long to get around to this review. The Rep Deep Knurl has been available for a couple of months now, and those of you who follow my Instagram would know that I have indeed had it since it was released.
Well, the truth is that I just didn’t want to rush this review. Too many aspects of this bar took me by surprise when I first opened it – incredible, perfect knurling; tight tolerances; beautiful aesthetics; and a price that seemed far too low. I knew this was a great bar right away, but I still wanted to spend some real time with it before I published anything.
Additionally, other reviews of the Deep Knurl EX were getting written and published so soon after the bar’s release that there was no shortage of reading material on the subject. I could contribute to the hastily-written content, or I could actually put some mileage on the bar and give my opinion an opportunity to change. I chose to take my time.
As of today I have officially logged many many months worth of training sessions with Rep’s Deep Knurl Power Bar EX, so here is my official review. Feel free to leave any comments or questions you may have in the Comments Section following the review.
Deep Knurl Review – Table of Contents
- Deep Knurl Power Bar Specifications
- Deep Knurl Steel / Finish
- Deep Knurl Knurling / Center Knurling
- Deep Knurl Sleeves / Rotation
- Comparison – Vulcan SS Absolute vs Rep Deep Knurl
- Comparison – Rogue SS Ohio Power Bar vs Rep Deep Knurl
- Comparison – American Barbell SS Elite vs Rep Deep Knurl
- Power Bar Comparison Summary
- Deep Knurl Power Bar Review Summary
Rep Deep Knurl Power Bar EX – Specifications
- 20 kg powerlifting bar
- shaft material: stainless steel
- shaft diameter: 29 mm
- tensile strength: 200k PSI
- outer knurling: super aggressive
- center knurling: 4.75″ wide, same knurl as outer knurling
- sleeve material: stainless steel
- sleeve assembly: snap-ring
- sleeve texture: none, smooth
- loadable sleeve length: 16.25″
- rotation: self-lubricating bronze bushings (graphite-plugged)
- whip: none
- warranty: lifetime
- price: $379 + shipping
Rep Deep Knurl Power Bar EX – Steel / Finish
The Deep Knurl Power Bar EX is a fully stainless steel power bar. By “fully” I mean that it’s not just the shaft that’s stainless steel; as is typically the case; but the sleeves are stainless as well. Additionally, not one square inch of that raw stainless steel has a finish applied to it. There is no chrome, no zinc, no Cerakote, no finish of any kind. It’s a completely bare steel power bar; and as you might’ve heard, bare steel barbells feel fantastic in the hands.
The minimum tensile strength rating of the Deep Knurl’s shaft is 200k PSI, a tad higher than the 190k PSI average. As you might expect this is a very rigid bar, though power bar rigidity usually has more to do with the fact that they have 29 mm shafts than their tensile strength; as anyone who has lifted heavy with the 186k Texas Power Bar or 190k Vulcan Elite Power Bar can attest.
In any case, 200k PSI is a very respectable number. Yes, there are higher strength bars on the market; bars in the 210ks, 220ks, and even all the way up to 250k PSI. This is not at all necessary. It’s really an issue of diminishing returns to get that high, and mostly a marketing tactic to even bother (not to mention an opportunity to raise the price of the bar.) It’s not like a 29 mm, 190k PSI power bar displays whip, necessitating an upgrade to 250k PSI.
Of course, if you want to spend upwards of $700 just to say you have a 250k PSI power bar then, by all means, go for it. I’m not saying that you can’t or even shouldn’t, just that it is not going to change anything for you while you’re under the bar, or make you any stronger.
Rep Deep Knurl Power Bar EX – Knurling
The fact that the phrase ‘Deep Knurl’ is in the full name of this power bar could not be more appropriate, as the knurl of the Deep Knurl Power Bar is absolutely worth talking about. The knurling is deep, sharp, and definitely aggressive, but the peaks are ever-so-slightly blunted and they are flawlessly spaced. This brilliant combination of depth, spacing, and sharpness makes for one of the best all-around power bar knurls that I’ve ever put my hands on.
The grip security that this bar offers in insane, although, oddly enough, for as aggressive as it is there’s really no discomfort associated with it. The hold is so strong yet it doesn’t feel at all over the top. Sure, it’ll leave an imprint of the knurl on your hands when you press heavy enough with it, but it isn’t uncomfortable (at least in my opinion).
Raw steel bars (both carbon steel and stainless steel) already offer a superior grip to those with a finish (chrome, zinc, Cerakote, etc.) Bare steel bars with only a decent, moderately-aggressive knurl still tend to feel pretty good in the hands (York B&R Bar, for instance), but add a really solid, aggressive knurl to a bare steel bar and you get something that just can’t be beaten.
A good example of this is the original bare steel Ohio Power Bar. Now that is a bar that just cannot slip from your grip without taking some skin with it. It’s incredibly aggressive and has no slippery finish. Of course, it has a rather unfriendly center knurl and it’ll rust like mad, but you could hold on to the OPB for days.
Aggressively knurled, bare steel bars like the Ohio Power Bar used to be the way to go, but stainless steel bars like the Deep Knurl EX here have become so competitively priced that it makes less and less sense to buy such a maintenance-heavy bar to save a tad over $100. I think it becomes even easier to justify the relatively minor price increase when you take into consideration that not only is the entire bar stainless steel and rust-resistant, but the knurl is also superior (of course, the latter is just a matter of opinion.)
I love aggressively-knurled power bars and there is literally no shortage of them on the mar-ket, but not all aggressively-knurled power bars are created equal. For instance, the Vulcan Elite is probably the most aggressive power bar around, but it’s so aggressive that it cannot possibly appeal to everyone. The Rogue Ohio Power Bar is also super aggressive, but the coarseness of it doesn’t work for me personally. The Vulcan SS Absolute has knurl that’s on par with the Deep Knurl and it’s even stainless steel, but it’s also more expensive by $200!
Of course, the Deep Knurl Power Bar probably won’t appeal to everyone either. I mean, this bar will leave an imprint of the knurl on your hands when you press with it. If you happen to be used to milder bars (like most of the multi-purpose bars out there), well there is a chance that the Deep Knurl will feel like a bit much. The center knurl is also knurled exactly the like the outer knurl, which may or may not bother you high-bar squatters.
Still, I don’t think it gets much better than the Deep Knurl – totally stainless steel, incredible knurl, and a price tag so appealing that I’d be embarrassed for anyone who said it cost too much. I’m telling you, the knurl literally makes this bar, and Rep obviously knew that ’cause again, look what they named it.
Rep Deep Knurl Power Bar EX – Sleeves & Rotation
Just in case you skipped by the specifications and jumped straight to this section first, the sleeves of the Rep Deep Knurl Power Bar EX are 100% stainless steel and not a finished, carbon steel. Just like the shaft, the sleeves have no coating to chip, scratch, or rub away with use, and they’ll never oxidize. Well almost never oxidize, as it’s not entirely impossible to develop rust on stainless steel under certain conditions (read more on that).
Additionally, the sleeves are completely void of texture. There are zero grooves or ridges to be found. That means no grinding noises when removing plates, nowhere for plates to get hung up when adding or removing them (comp bumpers and calibrated plates like to catch on the grooves of many overly-textured bar sleeves), and nowhere for gunk to collect. The sleeves are smooth, attractive, and super easy to clean.
In terms of length, the sleeves are pretty standard. You have about 16¼” of loadable sleeve length which is completely on par with other mainstream power bars.
Like all power bars, the Deep Knurl Power Bar EX is a bushing bar. Each sleeve contains a single bronze bushing and a single stainless steel bushing (bronze behind the end cap, and stainless at the other end of each sleeve; visible where the shaft enters the sleeves.)
Ordinarily both of these bushings would be the same material. That is to say, generally both of these bushings would be bronze. Stainless steel is almost never used as a bushing, and I’m guessing that stainless steel was indeed used simply because it matches the aesthetics of the bar more effectively. It looks good, yes, but it does not offer the same reliable rotation as a pair of bronze bushings would have.
Speaking of bronze bushings, Rep chose a rather unique version of the bronze bushing for the Deep Knurl Power Bar; graphite-plugged bronze bushings. Graphite-plugged bushings are cast bronze bushings with milled holes that are then filled with a graphite lubricant. The claim is that these are a stronger alternative to other self-lubricating bushings (bushings like the sintered bronze bushing) and the ideal option for bushings being used in places that are difficult to access for maintenance (although they aren’t at all difficult to access in a barbell.)
I don’t have any experience with graphite-plugged bronze bushings, and I don’t know of any other barbells that utilize this form of bushing, but the Deep Knurl Power Bar is not the best-spinning barbell I’ve ever handled. Not by a long shot. This could be because both bushings aren’t bronze, or this could be because graphite-plugged bronze bushings don’t spin as well as sintered bronze bushings (or it could be a combination of them both.) I just know that my sleeves have a lot of drag when plates are loaded. The sleeves actually spin better without plates loaded. They spin great unloaded!
To give you an idea, when I attempt to spin the bar towards the forward-most position of my J-cups prior to a lift-off, I not only have to spin the shaft but every single plate that’s loaded as well. The shaft just does not rotate within the sleeves as easily as it should when the bar has weight on it. This should not be a problem.
Is this a deal-breaker? Not at all. The fact that this bar excels in every other arena makes a little bit of sleeve drag forgivable and worth overlooking. It is a power bar after all, and who needs rotation on their power bar (power cleans, anyone?) I’ll even go so far as to give Rep the benefit of the doubt and say that perhaps it’s just my particular bar that under-performs. To be fair, I did read all of the reviews left for this bar so far and there wasn’t one complaint regarding sleeve drag (nine total reviews at the time, all 5-stars) so it’s entirely possible it is just my bar.
If you have a Deep Knurl Power Bar EX and you want to leave any feedback regarding the rotation of your sleeves, please do in the comments section following this review. I’d love to know if your sleeves drag or not.
Deep Knurl Power Bar vs Vulcan SS Absolute
The Vulcan Absolute Power Bar is, in my opinion, the closest thing to the Deep Knurl Power Bar in terms of overall feel. Both of these bars have a strong, rigid, stainless steel shaft with very aggressive outer knurling, they both have stainless steel sleeves, and they’re both end game power bars. They’re both also really attractive power bars.
These two stainless steel beasts are not exactly the same though. The Vulcan Absolute has a higher tensile strength shaft than the Deep Knurl does; 20% higher actually. The Absolute also has stainless steel bushings throughout rather than bronze bushings (which technically makes the Absolute a true, fully-stainless steel bar; for whatever that’s worth.) The Absolute also seems to have the aesthetic edge thanks in part to its beautiful, beveled sleeve collars, but it’s a very minor edge indeed (see what I did there?).
So what does the Rep Deep Knurl Power Bar have going for it in this comparison? Well for starters, you’ll spend 50% more money to have a Vulcan Absolute dropped off at your front door (about $600 versus $400). That’s a $200 premium for an increase in strength that you would never notice while under the bar (note that there is nothing wrong with a 200,000 PSI power bar. That is not a small number. The tensile rating of the Absolute just happens to be off the charts.)
The Deep Knurl Power Bar also has completely smooth, grooveless sleeves; a feature that more and more of you seem to be after. The grooves of the SS Absolute aren’t as deep as some other bars, but they are indeed grooved; if you care.
I’ve had the Stainless Vulcan Absolute for a while now and it’s a fantastic power bar. It’s one of those bars that I will probably keep forever. The knurling is pretty much perfect, the shaft is about as strong as they come, and it’s just a beautiful bar. That said, the Rep Deep Knurl is like 90% of the Absolute in terms of features and performance (if you can accept that you don’t need a 240k PSI power bar) yet it costs 33% less to your door. There will be those out there who will always pay the premium for the technically superior SS Vulcan Absolute, but the majority of you should be more than content with the comparable, more affordable Rep.
Deep Knurl Power Bar vs Rogue SS Ohio Power Bar
Rogue Fitness actually has a few options when it comes to stainless Ohio Power Bars. The original, 45-lb Ohio Power Bar is offered with a stainless steel shaft and chrome sleeves for $395. There is an IPF-approved, 20 kg Ohio Power Bar with the same stainless steel shaft and chrome sleeves for $425. Finally, there is a new 45-lb SS Ohio Power Bar that is a fully stainless steel bar (same stainless shaft, add stainless steel sleeves) for $470.
For the purposes of this review, it really doesn’t matter which version of the Ohio Power Bar that you are considering, as they are all functionally the same bar. The finish of the sleeves or the minor difference in weight is irrelevant for our purposes here. Moving on…
The SS Ohio Power Bar is very similar to the Rep Deep Knurl EX Power Bar. They are both 29 mm bushing bars with super stiff, high-tensile strength shafts, they are both aggressively knurled (outer and center knurl) and they both have about the same loadable sleeve length.
So then how are they different?
Rogue’s Ohio Power Bar is an American-made bar, and the 20kg variant is approved by the International Powerlifting Federation. One or both of these things may matter to a handful of potential customers, and may even be all that matters.
The Rogue SS Ohio Power Bar is also far more expensive than the Rep Deep Knurl Power Bar; anywhere from about $15 to just under $100 depending on the variant you go with (but yes, it is always more). As it turns out, the most expensive variant is the fully-stainless steel bar, and it’s that version that is the most similar to the Rep Deep Knurl Power Bar.
They may both be aggressively knurled, but I personally prefer the knurling of the Rep; both the outer knurling and [especially] the center knurling. Matter of fact, I’ve favored the center knurling of pretty much every other aggressive power bar that’s come through my gym over that of the OPB. I’m just not a fan of the OPB center knurling.
I also prefer the perfectly smooth, non-grooved sleeves of the Rep Deep Knurl Power Bar. I hear this a lot from readers too; that they prefer there be no texture on their sleeves. Finally, while the Rep Deep Knurl isn’t the quietest bar I own, it’s still quieter to drop than the Rogue Ohio Power Bar.
The Rogue Ohio Power is an extremely popular power bar, and for good reason. The basic, raw steel variant is easily the strongest, best-knurled power bar for the money. However, as we move into the stainless market and as more players join in on the fun, I think the OPB is no longer the auto-buy that it once was. Sure, the fully-stainless OPB is over $100 less than the SS Absolute but it’s still an expensive bar. $470 is still a lot of cash to spend on a power bar.
People will always gravitate towards the Ohio Power Bar, and I get that; there are soo many different variants now, but when it comes to the stainless steel power bars I think they ought to be gravitating towards the Deep Knurl Power Bar instead.
Deep Knurl Power Bar vs American Barbell SS Elite
I’ve made no secret about the fact that many of my favorite bars are American Barbell bars. My favorite gym bar for the last I-don’t-even-know-how-long has been the AB Super Power Bar; the predecessor to the AB Mammoth Power Bar and one of the first high-end stainless steel power bars one could buy outside of those from the now-defunct, Iron Wolfe Barbell.
As it turns out, you cannot buy the Super Power Bar anymore, and the Mammoth; while it is indeed a stainless steel power bar; is finished in Cerakote, so neither of these two stainless steel power bars really have any business being compared to the Rep Deep Knurl Bar. That said, there is a third stainless steel power bar by American Barbell, the Elite Power Bar, and that’s a bar worth trying to compare to the Rep Deep Knurl Power Bar.
Interestingly enough, the Rep Deep Knurl and the American Barbell Elite have very little in common outside of the fact that they are both power bars with stainless steel shafts. Rep’s bar has very aggressive knurling and stainless steel sleeves that spin only moderately well with any weight loaded, while the AB Elite has a super-refined moderate knurling, industrial hard chrome sleeves, and premium composite bushings that spin smoothly under any load.
These two stainless steel power bars could not feel more different from one another. In fact, there really is no comparison after all. They are even being sold at two completely different price points ($379 for full stainless vs $450 for just a stainless shaft). I think that only one of these bars will appeal to any given person, based almost entirely on the difference in knurl.
Is one actually better than the other? Yes, I think the Elite is a more refined bar overall, but the moderate knurl is not typical of a power bar and the price tag is going to be a turn off for many. You’d be paying $70 more for non-stainless steel sleeves, softer knurl, and improved sleeve rotation. The Elite will fit the bill for some, but overall I believe the masses will prefer the aggressive knurl, stainless steel sleeves, and lower price point of the Deep Knurl EX.
The Rep Deep Knurl Power Bar isn’t the best power bar ever made, but when you consider its specifications, performance, feel, and especially its price relative to the competition, well you have to wonder if it’s not at least the best stainless steel power bar ever made.
Yes, you can always pay more for a stainless steel power bar. You can find stronger steel or superior sleeve rotation, but do these things actually equate to a better bar? A better value?
Not a single SS power bar that I know of offers a performance improvement so major that it warrants the up to $200 increase in cost. The Rep Deep Knurl is simply the best you can do in the stainless steel power bar market right now. It rivals all others in terms of performance, knurl, and even aesthetics, and it blows them away when it comes to overall value. You can do marginally better for more cash, of course, but you cannot do better for less.
Deep Knurl Power Bar Review Summary
I’d like to think that the previous section sums up the Deep Knurl Power Bar fairly well, but I realize that there are; in addition to the other stainless steel power bars on the market; a lot of finished power bars worth considering as well.
Should you consider a finished bar? That’s up to you! There are some amazing power bars out there that cost less if for no other reason than they do not have any stainless steel. The Texas Power Bar, the Vulcan Absolute Power Bar (non-SS variant), and even Rogue’s Ohio Power Bar come to mind; all very aggressive, high-performance, powerlifting bars with solid track records and all less costly than the Deep Knurl Power Bar. The question is though, do you want a black zinc, black oxide, or bare steel shaft?
The Absolute’s black oxide is a great feeling shaft and the knurling is up there with the Rep, but it will oxidize and you will only save $40 by going that route. Black zinc, in my opinion, is just horrible; both in terms of grip and aesthetics. It’s cheap, it’s slick and it doesn’t age well. Sure, you can save almost $100 by going with a black zinc Ohio or Texas Power Bar, and if that $100 matters to you maybe you should, but it would not be my recommendation.
Bare steel I have less of a problem with than the black finishes. Bare steel bars are far less costly than both finished and stainless steel bars, and the grip is ideal. You need to be very willing to maintain a bare, carbon steel bar, but at least from a performance standpoint and cost perspective, there’s nothing to complain about.
Having said all that, a $379, fully-stainless steel power bar with superb; I dare say, perfect; knurl is just too much value to ignore. Remember, the barbell is the most important piece of equipment in your gym. Is this where you want to skimp? You’re already going to spend like $300 on any other decent power bar, why not make the upgrade now and be done with it?
In any case, I definitely recommend the Rep Fitness Deep Knurl Power Bar. I say get one! And Rep, please make a 27 mm, Deep Knurl Deadlift Bar next.
Rep Fitness Deep Knurl Power Bar EX
- Fully stainless steel power bar, both the sleeves and the shaft.
- Stainless steel is extremely resistant to both scratches and oxidation.
- Sleeves have no grooves or ridges - they are completely smooth.
- Aggressive knurling is (subjectively) an 11/10.
- Very beautiful bar. It's hard to top the fully stainless steel power bars.
- Extremely competitively priced for a fully stainless steel barbell.
- Lifetime warranty offered.
- Poor sleeve rotation - A lot of drag. Wouldn't be my go-to bar for power cleans.