The Rep Fitness PowerSpeed Bar is a power bar much like any other mid-range power bar. It has a very strong and rigid 29 mm shaft with a fairly aggressive knurl, a center knurl, and bronze bushings.
What makes the PowerSpeed Bar different is the total absence of knurling on the outermost section of the shaft; a feature that I will discuss in some detail below (though I’m certain you already know what that’s about.)
While not the only bar out there with this intentional lack of knurling, it is still an uncommon design. Of the handful of bars that I know of with this design, the PowerSpeed is likely to be the most appealing to personal gym owners based on its core specs and low price – but I’ll get into that as well.
Speaking of the specs, let’s go over those first.
Rep Fitness PowerSpeed Power Bar – Specifications
- 20 kg power bar
- 29 mm shaft diameter
- 215k/205k tensile/yield strength
- bronze bushing system (presumably cast)
- aggressive knurl with IPF hash marks
- no knurling on outer 5½” of the bar shaft (both sides)
- aggressive center knurling
- choice of two shaft finishes *
- hard chrome-finished sleeves; no grooves (both variants)
- loadable sleeve length: 16-3/8″
- $299 for both variants
* The PowerSpeed is available in two different finishes; hard chrome and black manganese phosphate. Being more than familiar with chrome-finished bars I opted to go with the black manganese variant for this review.
PowerSpeed Power Bar Review – That Special Knurl Pattern
The PowerSpeed is knurled and marked to IPF specifications just like any other power bar, but rather than the knurl extending all the way to the sleeves it stops short by 5½”.
So why would we want that? Because this is the part of the shaft that makes contact with a rack’s j-cups. By eliminating the knurl from this outermost region of the shaft, one can more easily slide (to center) the loaded bar while it’s in the j-cups. This absence of knurl also has the added benefit of extending the life of the UHMW in your j-cups (and I suppose safeties.)
Does this modification actually make sliding the bar around in the j-cups easier? Of course it does! Was this really a problem before? You tell me!
Joking aside; if you truly think about it; there really is no reason for there to be knurl on this outer section of a power bar’s shaft. The only lift that requires the hands to be so far out (so near the sleeves) is the snatch, and snatches are not part of any big-3 programs that I have ever heard of. Odds are you’re not snatching as a powerlifter either. If you are, well I guess this bar is not for you if you only plan to have a single bar.
There are also those that take a max-width grip for squats, but I typically only see this when veteran powerlifters high-bar squat from a stand-alone monolift (where you’re forced to take a starting hand position outside of the cups). Still though, does anything but the center knurl even matter for a back squat?
Either way, we’re talking about a very small percentage of the powerlifting population to talk about those who need their power bar to be knurled all the to the sleeves. Still, if you simply want your power bar knurled all the way to the hilts because that’s just what you want, well that’s a totally different story. This bar wouldn’t be for you in that case either.
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You may be wondering “if this knurl modification is beneficial without meddling with function or performance, why then do I not see more power bars like this?” Well they are out there – they’re just generally commercial bars; bars meant for high-traffic gyms or training centers.
Eleiko has the NxG Rack Bar which is more or less the premium version of the Rep Fitness PowerSpeed Bar. It’s the exact same concept. Of course, you’ve likely never seen or heard of the Rack Bar because at $699 it’s ridiculously overpriced and just too expensive. Who in the hell would spend $699 for an Eleiko XF variant for their garage gym?
There are also a number of commercial manufacturers that incorporate this shorter knurling pattern, but they are not very cost-effective either, nor are they even advertised to the home user. Companies like Hammer Strength simply don’t care about selling you a single bar, so you’ll probably never have one marketed to you. Even American Barbell has a Gym Bar on their site with shorter knurl if you’re willing to scroll down far enough to find it.
In any case this is a clever feature. I’m personally indifferent about it since it has no impact on actual performance, but I can certainly see the appeal. I think where this knurling feature would really shine is in racks with no plastic lining at all, and those with non-UHMW plastic, as the cheap plastic j-cups shred apart pretty damn fast.
PowerSpeed Power Bar Review – Knurl Depth
Rep Fitness did a great job with PowerSpeed’s knurling. As the product description says, it is deep and aggressive – but it’s not quite Ohio Power/Vulcan Elite deep and aggressive.
The center knurl is less aggressive than the outer knurl but it’s not quite as passive as what you’d find on a WOD / Oly bar. I’m assuming it’s the same knurl with the sharp points taken off.
I’m pleasantly surprised with Rep’s knurling selection for this bar, and to give you an idea of where exactly the PowerSpeed would fall in terms of knurl aggressiveness, I’ve listed below a number of mainstream bars in the order of sharpness from least to most aggressive, and I have included close-up shots of their knurling as well.
1. American Barbell SS Elite Power Bar2. Rogue Cerakote SS Matt Chan Bar
As far as power bars go the Rep PowerSpeed is in the lower-middle end of the aggressive category. That is to say, it is definitely an aggressive power bar but you can easily get more aggressive if you wanted. If you ask me, this is very good place to be in the current market.
I actually believe the Vulcan Absolute Power Bar in black oxide is knurled exactly the same as the Rep PowerSpeed Bar. Try as I might, I cannot detect any differences in feel and grip. Even that black manganese finish has a similar level of tackiness as the black oxide on the Vulcan. I consider these two a tie overall.
Again, I am pleasantly surprised and very satisfied with the knurl depth of the PowerSpeed. I have zero complaints in that department.
PowerSpeed Review – Sleeves & Rotation
The PowerSpeed Bar has sleeves that are finished in hard chrome, and these sleeves have literally no texture or grooving whatsoever. They are as smooth as can be and they are very shiny and attractive.
Some people like bars that have no grooves in the sleeves, and others actually like to have those grooves. Grooves allow rubber change plates to be used without having to deal with collars, but smooth sleeves tend to wear better since there is less friction between the plate and the sleeve when sliding them on and off. They are also quieter.
That having been said, please do keep in mind that this is a power bar and it is unlikely that many people are buying expensive rubber coated or friction plates for powerlifting.
I generally prefer grooves myself, but my favorite bar in my collection doesn’t have grooves so ultimately (and obviously) I don’t actually care.
As far as rotation goes the PowerSpeed is very average. The sleeves aren’t fast and there is no excessive spin, but I wouldn’t consider them to be slow either. There is really nothing remarkable about the rotation one way or the other, and when it comes to power bars this is perfectly acceptable. No news is good news, as they say.
PowerSpeed Review – Finish Options
You have two finish options for the shaft of your new PowerSpeed; hard chrome and black manganese.
Hard chrome does not need much of an explanation, plus I didn’t opt to buy that version of the PowerSpeed anyway so I can’t really comment on finish quality, impact on knurl, or the aesthetics. I have no reason to suspect it’s any different than any other chrome bar though. It certainly looks clean in the pictures.
I did, however, buy the black manganese version and I am quite happy with the feel; both of the finish itself (it’s grippiness / tackiness) and the depth of the knurl following application of the finish. I’ve only ever had one other black manganese bar and I didn’t keep it for too long (not because of the finish btw), so I am not confident enough about how well the finish ages to comment just yet. We’ll see as time goes by.
As mentioned above, the sleeves of both variants are hard chrome. Very classy.
PowerSpeed Bar vs Vulcan Absolute V2 (oxide)
If you have the PowerSpeed Bar on your short list, then the Vulcan Absolute in black oxide probably deserves to be on that list as well. These two bars not only have a nearly identical knurl depth and overall feel to them, but they cost just about the same to your door.
The Absolute and the PowerSpeed are both high tensile strength, 29 mm, power bars with fairly aggressive knurling and chrome sleeves. The PowerSpeed of course has that unique knurling feature at the outer ends of the shaft and two finish options at the same price point while the Absolute has grooved, matte chrome sleeves and a lifetime warranty. The Vulcan Absolute is only available with a black oxide shaft at this price point, but there is a stainless steel version if you’re willing to pay significantly more.
I love the knurl on both of these bars, and with the prices being about the same one simply has to weigh the value of the other features. Like for me, I’m a fan of black oxide, but truth be told the black manganese is nearly as grippy while also being more resilient. Then again I also like the sleeve design of the Absolute (the grooves and matte chrome) more than the PowerSpeed. Of course you may have been drawn to the Rep PowerSpeed because of the smooth outer knurl, in which case that decision is much easier to make.
PowerSpeed Bar vs Rogue Ohio Power Bar
These two power bars aren’t all that similar outside of the fact that they’re both power bars, but the Rogue Ohio Power Bar is the benchmark bar for comparisons so I will indulge y’all.
The Rogue OPB is noticeably more aggressive than the PowerSpeed; even more so when you compare the center knurls, as the OPB’s center knurling is identical to the outer knurl. I myself am not a huge fun of such an aggressive center knurling because I think it’s a major drawback for performing back squats (it’s just too much), but to each her own.
The OPB is hard to ignore because it is available in half a dozen finish and weight varieties and can be had for as little as $250. The shaft is strong and rigid, the knurl is legit, and the bar is just a really good value overall. However, it isn’t available in either of the finishes that the PowerSpeed is offered in, it doesn’t have the smooth outer shaft, and frankly I think the OPB is more aggressive than most people need or even want.
To put all that another way, these two bars truly are only similar in that they are both power bars. I believe they both appeal to a totally different customer, and while they may both end up on your short list, one will probably be much easier to eliminate than the other.
PowerSpeed Review Summary
The Rep Fitness PowerSpeed Bar is an impressive power bar. The strength and rigidity of the shaft is above-average; the manganese finish is sticky, grippy, and seemingly resilient; the knurl depth is damn near perfect for a powerlifting bar; and the price is very reasonable for the specifications and quality. It’s a solid bar and a definite contender in the market.
Now regarding the special knurl pattern of the PowerSpeed, I believe that it’s a neat feature that does add extra appeal, but I think this only because the bar is solid otherwise. The lack of knurling on the outer portion of the shaft wouldn’t make the bar any more tempting to buy if it wasn’t already a great bar at a reasonable price. I say this because the knurling feature isn’t contributing anything to actual performance. I mean, who wouldn’t rather replace some plastic on a couple of jcups once every five to ten years over having a mediocre power bar? Fortunately this isn’t an issue; you get the best of both worlds with the PowerSpeed.
At the end of the day I have no issue recommending the PowerSpeed Bar; I have found no problems areas or red flags. If you prefer fairly aggressive knurling and the special knurling features of this bar appeals to you then I think you’ll be very happy with this bar. Even if you don’t care about the lack of outer knurl this is still a solid choice in the ~$300 price range.