Remember, muscles don’t grow on trees… unfortunately.
Saved by the (bar)bell
Picture this: the sun’s just peeked over the horizon, you’re in your home gym, and your barbell’s whispering sweet nothings about muscle growth.
The focus of this product review is my favorite Bells of Steel barbell, the Barenaked Powerlifting Bar, which I bought a little over a year now and have put to good use since.
I’m a fan of it, so keep my subjective bias in mind as we stroll along through my in-depth dive into everything worth sharing with you about this Bells of Steel power bar.
Here’s a peek at what topics I’m covering:
- A TLDR summary on the Bells of Steel Barenaked Powerlifting Bar;
- An in-depth look at all of its key features;
- Pros & Cons;
- Who this barbell’s a great fit for, and who should head elsewhere;
- Customer reviews & user feedback besides mine;
- Alternatives to the Bells of Steel power bar;
- My step-by-step guide on how to easily maintain your bare steel bar;
- FAQ about all things barbell;
- Final thoughts & recommendations.
Science resources included
As is my custom here on heydayDo, I will provide links to all of the relevant sports science and medical resources, clinical studies, & nutritional data used in this article.
TLDR/Reveal: Is the Bells of Steel Power Bar Worth It?
If you’re looking for a high-quality powerlifting barbell without breaking the bank, the Bells of Steel Barenaked barbell is worth considering for sure. It’s a bona fide powerlifting bar adhering to IPF specs. It’s stiff & strong, complete with aggressive knurling, minimal whip, and no plate sliding.
Made specifically for squats, bench presses, & deadlifts, its high yield strength offers 1500 lb. of capacity, so it can easily handle any home gym workload.
But if you’re looking for a more whippy Olympic-style bar, or don’t feel like taking care of a bare steel barbell, you might want to explore other options.
Deep Dive Into the Bells of Steel Power Bar Features
Let’s get into the details on the key things that make this barbell really stand out from the pack of cheap barbells under $250.
IPF-Specific Construction & Dimensions
You know, when I found out the Barenaked Powerlifting Bar is made to the exacting International Powerlifting Federation (IPF) specs, I thought “Hey now, it’s the real deal”. This isn’t some run-of-the-mill Amazon/Walmart knockoff, but a legit, heavy-duty barbell.
I’ve never entered any weightlifting contests, but the powerlifting competitors I’ve chatted with say this bar feels just like those elite bars they use in competition.
So if you’re chasing that authentic powerlifting experience, this bar’s got you covered without making your wallet cry for mercy.
Strength and Durability
With a tensile strength of 210,000 PSI and a maximum load of 1500 lb., this barbell is designed to handle more weight than any home gym buff will ever lift. It’s clear to me that this bar is built to last years without fail.
The Barenaked Powerlifting Bar offers minimal whip due to its high yield strength. This makes it perfect for benching, squats, overhead presses, and rows. It works great for my deadlifts too, though I don’t pull over 400 lb. and never used a bar’s whip to get a momentum boost.
If you’re looking for a barbell for clean and jerks, you’ll probably want a whippier Olympic bar.
Bushings Not Bearings: Save the Bucks, Slow the Spin
Brass bushings are a standard in home gym powerlifting barbells. They offer less spin than bearings, which is particularly useful for all the powerlifting movements. They also help to keep this Bells of Steel barbell affordable, being less expensive than bearings.
Bare Steel Construction
Alright, let’s talk about this barbell’s bare steel construction. On one hand, I absolutely love how the lack of coating makes the aggressive knurling super grippy. I mean, who wants a slippery bar mid-lift? That’s a recipe for a ruined rep.
And let’s not forget that going bare bones on the finish also keeps the price tag low – Bells of Steel could honestly charge more for this quality.
Now the downside is that you’ve got to babysit it a bit. A quick cleaning and maintenance every week or so is the way to keep the rust at bay, but no biggie. I’ll drop some easy maintenance tips for you later on.
Aggressive Knurling & Center Knurl
The Barenaked bar’s aggressive knurling and center knurl are true powerlifting features. I’ll say it again, who cares: a grippy bar is a good thing for me. It boosts confidence that the weight won’t slip, which I always found critical during max lifts.
The center knurl is useful for squats when your back & neck are all sweaty; it’ll keep the bar from sliding down. Its knurling hasn’t shredded the skin on my neck & traps, but then again, I’m not doing 20+ sets of heavy squats every week anymore either.
The ribbed sleeves on this bar are great at keeping the plates from shifting during lifts. While some people have mentioned that it slows down their plate changing process, it doesn’t bug me at all. Plus I’m never in much of a rush while changing plates between sets.
Because the Bells of Steel power bar is made with narrower-than-normal collars, its sleeves are longer than most cheap bars, at 17.5″ per side. This means you can get more plates on them, helpful especially if you’re using those wider ones or bumpers.
Ribbed chrome sleeves on the Barenaked power bar.
Pricing and Value for Money
Considering all the nifty features I just walked you through, you’d think this bar would cost a bunch more.
But nope, Bells of Steel keeps things affordable, even post-COVID and the fitness equipment inflation it caused (or was blamed for).
We’re talking under $250 US. Now that’s a steal for anyone in need of a rock-solid powerlifting tool.
I appreciate Bells of Steel’s decision to stand by their product with a lifetime warranty. It’s a move that not many other companies, especially those selling $200 barbells on Amazon, are willing to make.
Pros & Cons
An Honest Take On My Bells of Steel Barbell
Before we go any further, let’s hit the brakes for a minute and talk through some of the high points and potential drawbacks of the Barenaked Powerlifting Bar.
Remember, this is just my opinion based on personal experience and some input from other Bells of Steel power bar owners.
- Great Quality/Value for the Price: We’re talking high-grade construction that won’t drain your bank account.
- IPF-Specs Construction: For powerlifting competitors, it’s like training with the elite bars used in their meets. For the rest of us, it’s a no-nonsense home gym tool for serious muscle building.
- Aggressive Knurling: Get all the grip you need, exactly what you want from a powerlifting bar.
- Stiff and Strong: A high yield strength combined with a tensile strength of 210K PSI. It’s robust and rigid, just like a powerlifting bar should be.
- Reduced Spin & Plate Shifting: Thanks to its brass bushings and grooved sleeves, no more worrying about unwanted rotation or plate sliding.
- Surprisingly Affordable: No need to break the bank—it’s currently under $250 US.
- Lifetime Warranty: A little extra peace of mind for your investment.
- Routine Maintenance Required: Bare steel barbells do need a bit of TLC every 1-2 weeks to keep rust at bay. I’ll share my easy-peasy maintenance guide a bit later.
- Shipping Damage Concerns: There are a few reports of less-than-stellar packaging and shipping damage. But just to note, mine made a 1600+ mile journey from Calgary, Alberta all the way to my door near the Tijuana border in perfect condition.
Who’s a Good Fit for the Barenaked Power Bar, and Who’s Not?
Here’s a quick way to figure out if this barbell is the right choice for you or if you might be better off with a different option.
The Bells of Steel Barbell’s a Great Choice for You If:
* you’re a powerlifter or a weightlifting enthusiast who values quality and affordability;
* you appreciate aggressive knurling for a secure grip and want a stiff barbell built specifically for squats, bench presses, deadlifts, overhead presses, rows…any bar lift where whippiness isn’t wanted;
*you’re fine with a little barbell maintenance to manage rust and like a product backed by a lifetime warranty.
You Should Look Elsewhere If:
*you’re someone more into Olympic lifts like the clean & jerk and snatch, and need a barbell with more whip and spin than this bar provides;
*you’re not keen on regularly maintaining a bare steel barbell;
* you’re someone who wants smooth sleeves for quick plate changes.
Customer Reviews: What Buyers Are Saying
My journey through over 300 customer reviews on Bells of Steel’s site was like diving into a sea of positive sentiment. Overall, the bar has an impressive rating of 4.8 out of 5 stars.
That’s great by itself, but even more so because Bells of Steel is one of the few fitness companies that has the balls to post negative customer reviews on their site.
(Yup, many fitness companies totally cherry pick which buyer reviews they’ll show you on their site.)
I sorted out a bunch of customer testimonials by category to see what the general vibe was for each feature; check it out.
The bar’s price-to-quality ratio repeatedly popped up as a selling point.
Buyers from the full spectrum of experience levels, ranging from local gym owners to home gym types, praised the Barenaked power bar for delivering great quality without breaking the bank.
As one seasoned lifter with 35 years under his belt put it, it’s “perfect for a home gym enthusiast of any level.”
Many buyers described the knurling as excellent, and lots of happy campers found the aggressive knurling to be just the right level of grip without causing discomfort.
And no one complained of getting a shredded neck from the center knurl while squatting either.
Closeup of the Bells of Steel power bar’s knurling.
Barbell and Sleeves
Users compared the Bells of Steel bar favorably to other more expensive power bars they’d used, complimenting the great quality, sharpness, and design. They also loved the grooved sleeves, noting that their plates stayed put without any spinning during their workouts.
Shipping had a mixed reception. Some customers reported their bar arrived quickly and well-packaged, while others noted some shipping-related scars and dings on their bars.
But overall, the general consensus was positive. I do know that Bells of Steel’s customer support is easy to reach & deal with if there’s a problem with their product on arrival.
With rust, it seems to be a tale of two cities. While some users noted rust appearing quickly (especially those in high-humidity climates), others mentioned their bars were rust-free even after prolonged use in a dry climate, or a temperature-controlled gym, etc.
This shows the importance of routine maintenance for bare steel barbells (which I’ll cover in a little bit).
With the knurling such a big hit, no surprise the bar’s grip got rave reviews too. Owners used phrases like “super grippy” and noted that the excellent grip made heavy lifts feel fantastic.
I’ve often felt that the confidence in the grip could be worth one extra rep during crunch time at the end of a set.
Yeah it’s grippy (knurling imprint on my hand after a set of barbell curls).
And my 2¢ regarding my owner experience?
I’m echoing much of what I’ve read. In my case, the shipping was excellent even though it had to cover 1600+ miles. The “untubing” was straightforward once I figured out how to remove the staples.
In terms of quality versus price, this bar is stellar. Its feel is solid, the grip from the knurling is just right, and the plates don’t shift at all.
And the rust issue? A quick maintenance routine keeps my bar looking like new. The simple truth is, if you’re buying a bare steel barbell, some upkeep is par for the course.
Overall I’d say this bar has more than delivered on its promise.
An Alternative To Consider: The Rogue Ohio Power Bar
While I wholeheartedly recommend the Barenaked Powerlifting Bar, I totally get that you’d want to consider other similar barbell options; I know I did when I was shopping for one.
I think one such competitor to the Bells of Steel power bar that’s worthy of your attention is the Rogue Ohio Power Bar.
Rogue Ohio power bar features
The Rogue 20KG Ohio Power Bar is fully machined and assembled in Columbus, Ohio. It’s made of 205K PSI tensile strength steel, offering a bar diameter of 29MM/1.1″, like the Bells of Steel power bar.
The knurling is moderately aggressive, providing a firm grip without being overly sharp. My memory of having handled it once back before I got my Barenaked powerlifting bar is that the knurling on the Rogue is a little less aggro than the Bells of Steel bar, but still comes with plenty of grip.
It has bronze bushings and a snap ring design for a smooth, reduced spin and is finished with a Black Zinc shaft and Bright Zinc sleeves. It’s also available in stainless steel, if you feel like splurging for a top-of-the-line bar coating.
What sets the Rogue Ohio Power Bar apart is its approval for competition by the International Powerlifting Federation (IPF), proof it meets their stringent specifications.
And like the Barenaked power bar from Bells of Steel, it also offers a bit more space for weight plates due to its slightly longer-than-normal loadable sleeve length.
It costs 50% more (or more)
However, the Rogue Ohio Power Bar comes with a much higher price tag than our Barenaked Powerlifting Bar.
Including the shipping that Rogue charges, the Ohio Power Bar will range from $375 to $470, depending on whether you go for the Black Zinc or the top-shelf Stainless Steel version.
Here’s a side-by-side comparison of the two power bars:
|Factor||Bells of Steel Barenaked Powerlifting Bar||Rogue Ohio Power Bar|
|Current Price (Incl. Shipping)||$230||$375-$470|
|Tensile Strength||210,000 PSI||205,000 PSI|
|Bearings or Bushings||Bushings||Bushings|
|Sleeves||Ribbed Chrome||Smooth Zinc|
|Barbell Coating||Bare Steel||Black Zinc/Bright Zinc or Stainless Steel|
|Customer Ratings||4.8 stars, 350+ reviews||4.8 stars, 40+ reviews|
The Barenaked Powerlifting Bar and the Rogue Ohio Power Bar both perform well and boast solid construction & specs. Both bars comply with IPF specifications and come with lifetime warranties, reflecting their quality and durability.
We all have our own preferences & priorities to influence our buying decisions. For me & my lifting needs as far as a powerlifting bar goes, Rogue’s status & reputation wasn’t worth the extra $150.
I just wanted a well-built power bar that could last a long time, and the Barenaked’s low price was too attractive to ignore.
Cleaning Your Bare Steel Barbell: A Detailed Guide
I thought I’d put together an easy maintenance guide on how to take care of your bare steel barbell.
A bare steel barbell offers an exceptional grip but keeping it rust-free requires attention. In humid conditions an uncoated barbell can attract rust, since it lacks the protection found on black zinc or cerakote-coated barbells.
A well-maintained barbell not only lasts longer but also offers a better lifting experience too, and I find it only takes me a few minutes a week to keep mine as good as new. And you may not need to do it every week like I do, depending on the conditions where your barbell ‘lives’.
Let me walk through an easy way to properly clean your bare steel barbell so you can continue lifting without rusty distractions.
Tools for cleaning a barbell
(These are my choices of materials & methods, and certainly not the only way to get it done.)
Nylon bristle brush: A stiff nylon bristle brush is a safe and effective tool for cleaning your barbell. It helps remove rust and dirt without scratching the bar or dulling the knurling.
Lubricant: 3-in-1 oil is my go-to choice here. It’s not only cost-effective (a few drops go a long way), but it also cleans without leaving a sticky residue on your bar. Plus it’s less likely to poison you like some industrial lubricants not made to be touched by human hands like a barbell is.
Old rag: This is handy for wiping up excess lubricant, which there will be. Be sure it’s clean before use to avoid depositing unwanted dirt on your barbell.
Microfiber towel: A quick wipe with a microfiber towel after each cleaning and workout session will maintain the barbell’s cleanliness. I find old ones can catch on the bars that have aggressive knurling.
Disposable gloves: To keep your hands clean while you work; rust can leave a stain that lasts sometimes.
Now that you have your tools ready, let’s move onto the cleaning steps.
How to clean your barbell
1.Move the bar from the rack
Cleaning your barbell in your workout area might lead to the deposit of unwanted dirt somewhere you don’t want it. Therefore, it’s better to remove the bar from the rack and clean it in a separate area. If the weather is decent, cleaning your barbell outdoors is always nice.
2. Raise up your bar
Lifting your barbell a few inches off the ground makes it easier to clean. You can do this using a piece of 4×4 wood or by placing it on a workbench. Once the bar is raised, put on your disposable gloves.
3. Initial brushing
Start the cleaning process by brushing your bar with the nylon bristle brush. Nice easy, long strokes works for me — I never have to scrub it hard. This helps remove crusty bits and prepares your barbell for the lubricant application.
4. Apply lubricant
Put some 3-in-1 oil on the bar in streaks along the main shaft in between the collars, mostly on the knurling. The amount of lubricant you apply depends on the amount of rust present. You’ll be wiping off all the excess anyway, but use just enough to get the job done — you’ll dial it in after a couple of times.
5. Brush away
With the lubricant applied, it’s time to brush your barbell. Use your nylon brush to spread the lubricant evenly, focusing on one 12” section at a time to ensure thorough cleaning.
6. Wipe off excess lubricant
Using your old rag, wipe off any extra lubricant from the bar. If you like, finish with a microfiber towel to give your barbell a final touch and remove any lingering oil.
A Note on Bare Steel Barbell Patina
Bare steel barbell patina refers to the thin, consistent layer of ‘rust’ discoloration designs that form slowly on your bar. Despite technically being rust, the patina is not harmful to your barbell and even adds a unique and pretty cool aesthetic appeal.
If you’ve ever worked out in classic weightlifting gyms with old barbells in use still going strong, you’ll know the look I’m talking about.
Barbell care summary
Even though they require a little bit of maintenance, you can see that the process of cleaning a bare steel barbell is simple and straightforward. By following these easy steps, you can maintain your barbell’s pristine condition and keep it around for a long long time.
Here are answers to a few of the commonly asked questions about barbells.
What are the main parts of a barbell?
The main parts of a barbell include:
*the shaft (main length of the barbell),
*sleeves (where you load plates onto),
*bearings & bushings (mechanisms that allow the sleeves to spin),
*collar (prevents plates from sliding onto the shaft),
*knurling (crosshatch pattern for better grip),
*knurling marks (smooth rings to help find grip width),
*fastener (holds sleeves in place),
*and the endcap (holds the sleeves in place).
How is the tensile strength of a barbell important?
The tensile strength of a barbell, usually listed in the construction specifications, is a measure of how much weight a barbell can hold before it breaks or fractures.
A high tensile strength means more durability. For example, 150,000 PSI is suitable for beginners, while 180,000+ PSI indicates a well-constructed barbell that should last a long time.
What is knurling and its types in a barbell?
Knurling refers to the rough crisscrossed etching on a barbell, which aids grip. It can be of two types: Standard (for recreational lifting, casual powerlifters, weightlifters, and functional fitness athletes) and Aggressive (for powerlifting, squats, and deadlifts).
Additionally, there's "Olympic" knurling that indicates a smooth or absent middle knurling, ideal for weightlifters and functional fitness athletes.
What is the difference between a standard barbell, a weightlifting barbell, and a power bar?
A standard barbell comes in different lengths but is usually a couple of feet shorter than Olympic & powerlifting bars, and weighs less too of course.
Though some won't fit on racks & benches made for full-sized barbells, a standard is versatile and suitable for most forms of lifting, and usually come with medium-level knurling, bushings in the sleeves, and moderate whip.
A weightlifting barbell caters to those training Olympic lifts, featuring a smooth center knurling (or none), significant whip, and fast-rotating bearings or bushings in the sleeves.
Power bars are most relevant to powerlifters, designed to have minimal whip, aggressive knurling, and potentially weighing up to 55 pounds, though those are rare.
How should I maintain a barbell for long-term use?
Maintenance of a barbell involves wiping off excess chalk with a stiff-bristled nylon brush, applying oil to the bar once or twice per month, and cleaning the sleeves (only for barbells with bearings).
Avoid leaving a barbell loaded with plates after use and refrain from doing rack pulls on spotter arms, as these can lead to damage. A barbell should also be covered by a warranty to protect against construction defects and design issues.
What does "whip" in a barbell mean?
"Whip" in a barbell is all about flexibility. It's how much the barbell can bend or bounce during lifting.
This can help with certain lifts, like the clean and jerk or the snatch, where the energy stored in the bar can add to the lift's power.
How does the warranty for barbells work?
Most barbell warranties cover issues in the materials or the making of the barbell for a certain amount of time. However, this usually doesn't cover damage from misuse or regular wear and tear, like dropping it hard or leaving it out in bad weather.
Always read the warranty terms so you know how to take good care of your barbell.
Why should I be careful about leaving chalk on my barbell?
Chalk is great for improving your grip during workouts, but if you leave it on the barbell afterwards, it can cause problems. Chalk soaks up moisture and can make your barbell rust, especially if it's a bare steel one.
So always brush off any chalk from your barbell after your workout to help keep it in top shape.
Related articles here on heydayDo
The barbell’s features that I’ve shared with you speak for themselves, and this power bar is what it says it is. But let me also chime in that after a year of using my Bells of Steel Barenaked Powerlifting Bar it’s pretty easy for me to recommend it.
To recap, here are some of the barbell’s standout features that make it shine:
- Quality and value: Superior construction for cheap.
- IPF-specific build: Mimics the elite bars used in professional competitions, making it an exceptional training tool.
- Aggressive knurling: Super grippy for any powerlifting exercise.
- Stiff and strong: High yield strength with a tensile strength of 210K PSI gives you the rigidity a powerlifting bar needs.
- Reduced spin and plate shifting: Bushings & grooved sleeves curbs unwanted weight movement.
- Affordability: Under $250 US? Enough said.
- Lifetime warranty
I think this barbell would be a real nice add for any fitness buff seeking a reliable, affordable, and performance-focused tool for their home gym.
I hope this article’s been useful to you, and until our paths cross again, Happy Lifting.