Do you want to step up your powerlifting game?
Powerlifting is not an easy sport and it certainly does not come cheap either. Sooner or later, all those expenses will begin to pile up-trainers, gym memberships, accessories, etc.
If you get on every bandwagon there is, you’ll be broke before you know it.
Luckily for you, there are affordable options for almost everything, including powerlifting bars.
I took the opportunity to compare two of the most popular powerlifting bars, which are both easily under $300.
Both the Rogue Ohio Power Bar and the Texas Power Bar by Buddy Capps have their own legion of powerlifting fans.
The question is-in this showdown between the Ohio Power Bar vs. Texas Power Bar, which bar will come out the winner?
You can’t just take any steel bar and call it a power bar.
And just because it has “power bar” at the end of its name does not necessarily make it a real power bar either.
However, there have been a lot of substandard and much cheaper bars parading around as power bars on the market lately. Although they are certainly easier in the budget, I won’t cover these as I can’t vouch for their performance and their safety.
Power bars are designed to take on the Big 3 of powerlifting-deadlifts, squats, and bench presses. This means that these bars are unyielding bits of metal that will not bend or break whether you are lifting light or heavy weights.
Basically, these are the things that make a power bar, well, a power bar.
The Big 3 of powerlifting all require a lot of weights, which is why your power bar should be up to par. This means that there should be no springiness in the bar, unlike Olympic bars where a bit of flexibility can help with the momentum.
Seasoned powerlifters refer to this springiness as the “whip”. It is lifter-speak for the way the ends of the bar sort of bounces after each repetition. Lifters who do a clean-and-jerk can take advantage of the momentum generated by the whipping of the bar.
Not so much for powerlifters.
Powerlifting needs a bar that will not bend or break. The whip should be minimal to none as it could interfere with the performance of the Big 3 exercises.
To achieve this sort of rigidity, bars that are specifically designed for powerlifting usually have a high tensile strength rating and large diameter. A good power bar will have a tensile strength rating of at least 190,000 PSI and the diameter of the shafts are ideally 29 mm compared to the 28 mm of Olympic weightlifting bars.
Knurling is what you call the two sets of diagonal grooves carved into the shaft of the bar that intersect to form a diamond pattern. This provides a rough surface, which can help you grip the bar better.
A rough surface => digs into the skin => friction => better grip and less slip.
The width and depth of the grooves will tell you how “aggressive” the knurling is.
Powerlifters typically prefer a more aggressive knurling as grip failure is more likely to occur in the Big 3 exercises, especially in deadlifts.
One thing to note also is that a power bar has knurling even in the center portion of the shaft. This is aptly called “central knurling” and it is especially important for keeping the barbell from slipping during squats. Some bars that are specially designed for squats may even have wider central knurling to accommodate larger lifters.
The finish on your bar does more than making it look cool-it also keeps corrosion away as well as help you keep a better grip on your bar.
When you’re lifting weights that are easily several times your own body weight, you want to be sure that your bar doesn’t slip from your grasp and cause you injury or embarrassment.
While pretty aggressive knurling can help you keep a better grip on your bar, a tackier finish certainly makes things easier, too.
Some lifters say that there is nothing like the feeling of bare steel and aggressive knurling when they’re lifting. However, bare steel is probably the most susceptible to rust and corrosion amongst the lot. Frequent brushing, oiling, and maintenance are required to maintain the integrity of bare steel bars.
Bars with a black oxide finish are also pretty popular among lifters as they provide more protection against corrosion. Zinc, although better than black oxide at keeping rust at bay, quickly loses its sheen and can turn an ugly greenish color.
The most resistant to corrosion are stainless steel bars or bars with a chrome finish. These also happen to be one of the more expensive bars and are usually found on higher-end power bars. Chrome, though, can be a bit slippery, but stainless steel feels just as good as bare steel when you’re gripping it.
Compared to other types of barbells, power bars are also notably marked with IPF or International Powerlifting Federation markings. These markings signify the appropriate placement of your hands for tournaments.
For those who are new to powerlifting, these marks will help you practice a consistent grip in the right places. Seasoned powerlifters might not need many reminders, though.
However, if you plan to enter into any tournaments, then these markings will make sure that your bar passes muster.
There are two types of barbell sleeves that will determine how much spin your barbell can afford-bushings or bearings.
If your power bar says it has bearings in it, then it’s not a real power bar and will probably not meet your powerlifting needs.
Power bars are definitely bushing bars because powerlifting has no use for the spin that bearings offer. These bushings should be ideally cast in bronze to ensure that they will last a long, long time.
Fitness equipment can be expensive but these are the two most popular mid to lower range power bars. Each one costs less than $300, which is a pretty good value for your money if you ask me. Most power bars within that price range are not really up to snuff.
Since both bars are up to the standards of the IPF and have bushings instead of bearings, I’ll skip right over to the good parts of this showdown.
When talking about power bars, most powerlifters are primarily concerned with the strength and rigidity of the bar. This is a pretty legit concern as power bars are made to be both rigid and strong, capable of accommodating astronomical weights without deforming.
As mentioned previously, there are two things that determine the whip in a power bar-tensile strength and shaft diameter.
The Rogue Ohio Power Bar has a pretty high tensile strength rating of 205,000 PSI with a shaft diameter of 29 mm. Loyal fans claim that there is absolutely no whip in this one.
It’s a bar that is as tough as nails.
In comparison, the Buddy Capps Texas Power Bar has a pretty low tensile strength rating of only 186,000 PSI. While this can be considered decent enough, it is pretty low for a power bar. Its smaller shaft diameter of 28.5 mm does not help things either.
Both the Ohio Power Bar and Texas Power Bar boast of aggressive knurling, which is non-negotiable in power bars.
The TPB has pretty aggressive knurling that is known to dig into your skin but not so sharp that it will shred the skin off your palms. The knurling is machine pressed to a coarse depth and medium coarse texture at 14 points per inch.
Compared to the TPB, the knurling on the OPB initially seems way less aggressive. It definitely feels a lot softer compared to TPB’s knurling. However, there is a notable difference as the OPB seems to provide more grip than the more aggressive knurling of the TPB.
The whole concept of knurling, anyway, is to provide a better grip to reduce failure during heavy lifts.
Given the choice, I would pick the one that sticks to my palms without feeling like a cheese grater.
Some lifters like the feeling of bare steel but there are others who would prefer a finish that is more resistant to corrosion and requires less maintenance.
The Texas Power Bar has a nice black zinc finish to keep the nasty rust at bay. Although it does not feel as good as bare steel, it requires less maintenance to keep it performing for a long, long time. However, zinc does have the tendency to discolor over time.
On the other hand, the Ohio Power Bar offers you three choices in terms of finish-bare steel, black or bright zinc, or stainless steel. The 20-kg variant is only available in zinc and stainless steel.
Most lifters would go for the bare steel variant because it feels good. Bare steel also tends to be cheaper than zinc, although more susceptible to rust.
But what’s a bit of maintenance if you have a pretty solid bar that feels good in your hands, right?
On the other hand, if you want an upgrade beyond the $300 mark, then the guys over at Rogue can get you an OPB with a stainless steel finish, which feels just as good as bare steel but is even more corrosion-resistant than zinc.
Plus, it does not discolor as much.
The Rogue Ohio Power Bar!
Although both power bars have their own legion of fans, I find myself gravitating towards the better grip of the Ohio Power Bar vs. Texas Power Bar’s aggressive knurling.
It also helps that the Ohio Power Bar has a pretty high tensile strength rating and a larger diameter than the Texas Power Bar.
Plus, the guys over at Rogue let you choose the kind of finish you want. Although they do charge some for the upgrades, the bare steel variant is already pretty good considering the price range. Personally, I don’t mind doing a bit of maintenance and showing my bar some love.
Nonetheless, the Texas Power Bar is already legendary enough as it is and will continue to garner admirers through the years. It’s just that the creation of the Ohio Power Bar has put into the spotlight some of its less lovable characteristics like the low tensile strength rating and smaller shaft diameter.
Have you used either the Ohio Power Bar or the Texas Power Bar? Which side are you on in this showdown between the Ohio Power Bar vs. Texas Power Bar? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
I am Mike R.Bowen, founder of Fitness On The Weekend dot Com and my aim is to help busy people find time for fitness. We will give you actionable advice on how you can keep fit and healthy even on those busy days!
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