<link rel="stylesheet" href="//fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Roboto:400,400italic,500%7CNunito:400,400italic,600">Biddrup Mallick, Author at Barbell Pursuits
Biddrup Mallick
Biddrup Mallick

Author Archives: Biddrup Mallick

Biddrup has built 5 gyms from scratch. He's a fitness enthusiast and spends a lot of his free time at the gym. He has competed in power lifting events in his local city.

Top 10 Tredmills in 2019

INTRODUCTION

“Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night shall stay these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds”.  If this description of our long-suffering postal delivery men and women sounds like how you feel about your outdoor running routine, good for you, and keep it up!  However, if you are the type that runs back indoors at the sight of a cloud, maybe it’s time to invest in a treadmill.

Treadmills represent an excellent way to get the cardiovascular results from a walking, jogging, or running program without being subjected to the extreme elements of outdoor exercise.  Many models have capability to fold up for storage, and wheels to move them to pretty much anywhere in your house. We’ll talk about features a little later in this article, but first, let’s look at how and what a cardiovascular exercise program, or cardio, could look like.  

There are many important health benefits to a cardiovascular program.  Cardio can help you in weight loss efforts, improve your mental sharpness and focus, and help you reduce stress and block anxieties and depression symptoms.  You can see from the name itself, a cardio program is used to improve your cardiovascular health and function – your heart, circulation, and lungs.

As noted, a good cardio program can help you lose weight.  Weight loss is easy – just burn more calories than you take in.  You can lo just diet – eating less – but it’s more effective in a program of diet and exercise.  Any exercise burns calories, but cardio is one of the most effective exercises in calorie burn. Some studies indicate that you can burn up to 60% more calories via cardio than in a resistance or weight training program.  

There are two different kinds of cardiovascular exercise – aerobic and anaerobic.  Bicycling and running are examples of aerobic exercises; they require your lungs to take in more oxygen, and accelerate your heart rate to pump this oxygenated blood through your body to support you during your exercise period.  Sprinting would be an anaerobic exercise, as it uses up more oxygen than your system is able to provide; simply put, it’s being “out of breath”. Either type of exercise will help you expend oxygen, but aerobic exercises allow you to keep up that pace for a longer period of time.

So, we now know you want your heart to work harder, but how hard do you want it to work?  In a cardio program, you want your heart to work at a certain percentage of your maximum heart rate.  One simple way to calculate your maximum heart is to subtract your age from 220; if you are 40, your maximum heart rate is 180.  Your physician can help you to set your optimal percentage based on your overall health and fitness condition, and your fitness goals, but typically your percentage will be 50 – 80% of maximum.  

Now, with the science out of the way, all you need to do to get started is start moving.  Park a little further away from the mall. Take the steps instead of the escalator. Take a walk every day.  Simple things, right? But somehow, life will find an excuse to get in the way of your best intentions. Think about the cost of joining a health club or gym, and the time investment to get there, exercise, and then drive back home.  Think about the weather where you live in January or July. Are you going to want to go out and exercise in those conditions? The bottom line is that there will be barriers put up, no matter how well you are committed to improving your cardio.

One way to remove some of these barriers is to invest in exercise equipment that can be used in-home.  There are several types available – exercise bikes, rowing machines, stair climbers, ellipticals, and so on.  For our purposes here, however, we are going to focus on the treadmill.

THE TREADMILL

First question – why a treadmill?  Quite simply, they are an excellent tool to help you with your cardio improvement program.  It’s pretty simple to get started; get on the machine and start walking. Treadmills are available with a wide range of features, and prices, but more on that later.  The important thing is that you have instant availability to an exercise machine; no driving to the gym, no worries because it’s raining. Have fifteen minutes to kill before you go pick up the kids?  Get on the treadmill.

Before we get to the details, let’s take a quick look at the history of treadmills.  They were originally used as much as 4000 years ago, where walking power was used to turn a wheel to move water or grind grain.  Not surprisingly, in early 1800s England, someone had the bright idea to use this same concept of treadmill as punishment in English prisons.  The first patent on a treadmill was granted in 1913, but they didn’t gain significant use until they entered the realm of medical exercise machines for heart testing in the 1950s.  Commercially developed treadmills began to sprout up in the 1960s, and today they are the largest selling piece of exercise equipment in the US. One recent innovation has been treadmill desks, so people can exercise during work, in what would normally be a sedentary period.  

All things considered, a treadmill, whether motorized or manual, can be an excellent addition to help you with your cardio.  An example of a treadmill is pictured below.

Fact Sheet – Product Comparison Table

In this section, we’ll take a look at ten different treadmill models – two manual, and eight motor-driven.  For each model, we’ll identify a couple of the key features, a consumer rating of the treadmill, and a price indication.  The rating comes from the web site reviews of actual buyers of the treadmill. Further on in this article, I’ll add my comments on each of them, their overall functionality, and pick the “best of the best”.  Also to be reviewed are key features of a treadmill; the functionality and specifications that may or may not be important to you and your buying decision.

NumberProductBest FeatureRatingPrice Category
1Jaketen Electric Folding Treadmill Folding for storage, features 12 preset training programs and Bluetooth capabilities 5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)Basic
2
Trueform Runner
Manual, non-motorized treadmill.  Your body weight provides momentum and resistance. 5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)Elite
3
Assault Airrunner
Also manual, supports phone apps for cross-fit and interval training 4.6 out of 5 stars (4.6 / 5)Elite
4
Endurance T10HRC Commercial Treadmill
Extra thick belt for cushioning and durability, large running area, steel frame, incline capability 4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)Advanced
5
3G Cardio Elite Runner Treadmill
Large motor and running surface, pre-programmed courses, incline, entertainment console 4.4 out of 5 stars (4.4 / 5)Elite
6
Sole Fitness TT8 Light Commercial Non-Folding Treadmill
Shock absorbing system, large motor, 10 programmed workouts 4.1 out of 5 stars (4.1 / 5)Advanced
7
NordicTrack T Series Treadmill
7” full color display, iFit enabled, 50 pre-set workout apps, lifetime frame and motor warranty 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)Basic
8
Goplus Folding Treadmill
5” LCD display, cushioned to reduce noise and vibration, 12 programs, folds for storage 3.8 out of 5 stars (3.8 / 5)Basic
9
ProForm 905 CST Treadmill
30 preset workouts, iFit compatible, Bluetooth heart monitor, incline capability 3.8 out of 5 stars (3.8 / 5)Basic
10
Nautilus T616 Treadmill
Bluetooth to connect to fitness apps, incline, foldable storage, 26 programs 3.8 out of 5 stars (3.8 / 5)Basic

Product-Buying Guide

You’ve reached the stage where you are ready to buy a treadmill.  But given the ten models here, and the blizzard of options and features and specification, which are the ones that are really most important in the buying decision?  When you are looking for a new car, some models will not have features which are very important to you. Others will have equipment options that you really don’t care about.  Treadmills are going to be exactly like that, just at a smaller price scale. Here we will outline some key features and specifications with the aim to providing you enough information to decide which are absolutely critical, which are nice to have, and which are “bells and whistles” you don’t really need or want.  

Weight

A heavy-duty treadmill can weigh three hundred pounds or more, so consider the overall weight of the unit as you are reviewing specifications.  If you don’t have a dedicated floor space for the treadmill, and have to move it around, this will be an important characteristic to you.

Footprint

Much like weight, the amount of floor space the treadmill takes up may or may not be a factor.  However, with some of the larger, wider models, they can take up a lot of space, and a fold-up type for easier storage might makes sense for you.  If you have a dedicated exercise room, footprint might not be a critical measurement.

Running surface size

This will be the length and width of the platform deck on which you’ll be running.  Too narrow, and you increase the risk of accidentally stepping on the rails and falling.  Too short, you can actually fall off the back end of the treadmill, or run into the front post, if too close to it.  This is a very critical part of the buying decision, and the sizes of all the potential household users should be considered.  

Motor horsepower

The available horsepower of the drive motor will determine at what speeds the treadmill will operate.  The higher the horsepower, the higher upper end speeds of the treadmill. This will, of course, also be affected by the weight of the user; the belt will turn with less resistance with a lighter user than a heavier one.  

Warranty

There are a fair amount of moving parts on a treadmill, many have sophisticated electronics, and, as mentioned, the motor.  With a lower priced treadmill, it could be, in essence, a throwaway if it fails after a couple years. But some of the higher priced models here will most likely make sense to repair.  The purchaser should review the warranty with this in mind. The warranty will typically cover major components, life frame and motor, for one period, with a secondary, shorter warranty for parts, such as the electronics, and, in some cases, the warranty will cover the labor of replacement and/or assembly.  

Accessories

In earlier model treadmills, you pretty much got on it, stared straight ahead, and ran.  Hence the name “dreadmill”; it got old fast. Today’s models offer many more features to keep you entertained while you exercise.  These include speakers, fans to cool you, Bluetooth and wireless capabilities, even streaming hookups from your television. Storage for towels, tablets, and water bottles is also important.  

Digital display

As noted earlier, part of a good cardio program is keeping your heart rate within a targeted range.  You may also have personal goals around speed, distance, or time. A digital display will track your performance metrics, and, in some cases, record your measurements to memory so you can track progress improvements.  

Speed range

As we noted in the discussion of motors above, speed will be influenced by motor size and user weight.  Each unit will list a theoretical upper and lower end speed as part of the specifications. If you plan to use the treadmill for walking, top end speed will not be a major consideration for you.  But if you want to run intervals, with short term speed bursts, then it matters.

User weight

We’ve discussed the impact on motor and speed capabilities already.  In some cases, however, a heavier user will exceed the capabilities of the treadmill, so this feature needs to be validated if you or someone in your household using the machine are in that category.  

Incline

Several treadmill models feature the ability to raise the running ramp to an incline, which simulates running on hills for the user.  This allows you to expend more calories in the same period of time, as you are stressing your body and cardiovascular system more. Incline will also factor into motor size, as the motor will have to work harder to sustain an uphill run versus a horizontal one.  

Storage

We discussed this a little in the footprint section.  Some of these models have a hinged running area. At the end of your run, the ramp can be raised to a near vertical position, and locked in place for storage.  Many models also have wheels to that they can easily be moved into a storage area.

Programmable training programs

There are two approaches to programmable training programs.  Some of these units will have one or the other, some will have both.  The first approach is pre-programmed exercises as part of the treadmill training regimen.  The motor will automatically adjust speed and incline to increase or decrease your heart range.  Programs may also include interval training, which is adjusting to temporary higher speeds then dropping back to a lower rate.  The second approach is using technology to tie to training programs available through your phone, tablet, or the Internet. iFit is a popular internet-based program, and it simulates actual runs from around the globe.  One minute you could be running the hills of San Francisco, the next the Boston Marathon course.

Cushioning

This is a bit of a subjective measure.  While running on a treadmill will have a lot less shock and impact on your knees and body than on concrete, there will still be some shock.  The treadmill deck and belt will give some level of cushioning, but it is difficult to quantify it. A test run is recommended to get a feel for the amount of give in the treadmill.  

Assembly

Some of these units will be almost fully assembled, some will come in a box full of parts.  Some time estimates are as much as four hours to assemble and adjust the machines. Depending on your mechanical aptitude, it might be worthwhile to pay a premium and have the unit assembled in your home, in the spot where you want it.  This could include leveling for that spot, and may also be covered under warranty.

Frame construction

The frame will in some cases be made of tubular steel, in others aluminum, and occasionally you will see units with a majority of plastic parts.  The frame will have a major impact in the durability of the treadmill, and should be covered by the longest part of the available warranty.

Safety key/emergency stop

This feature is installed to immediately stop belt rotation in the event you fall.  There is a “deadman’s key” inserted into the machine, with a rope and clip on the other end to attach to your shirt or shorts.  If you fall, the key is pulled out of the slot and the machine immediately shuts down. This is an excellent safety feature and is highly recommended.

Rollers and belt

The rollers and belt are the other part of the drivetrain of the treadmill.  The belt should be made of a durable engineered plastic material, and may be single ply up to triple ply.  It should be firmly stitched to prevent fraying and stretching. The rollers are under the belt to generate movement and at the same time keep the belt adjusted, so it does not move side to side.  The rollers should be made of a durable material, as extensive roller wear can cause the belt to lose friction and increase slippage of the belt.

Price

Price can cover a wide range in buying a treadmill, from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars.  As with any major purchase, price is only a small part of the overall value of the object – that combination of features, price, and usability – that make the treadmill attractive to you or not.  

In the case of these ten treadmills, the price range is very extensive, and difficult to categorize as a range.  So, I’ve sorted the ten into three groups:

  • Basic – a treadmill with features and pricing for a first-time user, not wanting to spend a ton of money, but still wanting decent performance.  This level of treadmill will typically be priced at under $1000.
  • Advanced – This is the next level up, running between $1000 – $3000.  They will have better electronics, wider and longer running areas, and so on.  This is likely the machine you will buy when you’ve worn out your basic model treadmill.
  • Elite – This level of treadmill will appeal to only the most serious of runners.  They will have been running for longer periods, and use their treadmill to supplement their outdoor training.  It may also be used as a cardio cross training tool by an elite athlete. The treadmills for this group should closely simulate the feel of running outdoors.  

Making your decision

After this section of the article, you should have a pretty good feel, at least at a high level, which features and specifications are most important, as you make your treadmill choice.  So now let’s go one by one, and take a detailed look at every model. Following this, we can recommend some of the best treadmills for each user from this group of ten.

Top 10 Best Tredmills

#1 Jaketen Electric Folding Treadmill

First Impressions:

The first of our basic treadmill category, this unit has a five-layer EVA belt for long life, cushioning, and non-slip design.  The folding treadmill, with Bluetooth capability, allows access to the GFit program through Google. It has twelve preset training programs, and a hand pulse grip hear trate monitor.  A dampening system prevents extra shock to knee and ankle joints.

Features and Specifications:

  • A 2.25 HP motor powers a 48” x 16.4” composite belt.  
  • A five-function LCD display allows you to track heart rate, speed, distance, calories burned, and time.
  • The treadmill has a 70” x 40” footprint, but folds for storage.  It is wheeled for easy moving.

Pros:

  • It has safety hand rails and a built-in safety key emergency stop system.
  • This treadmill has built in speakers, and Internet-based training programs (GFit) can be controlled from your smartphone.  
  • It features an automatic lubricating system, and easy side to side belt adjustments.

Cons:

  • Overall capability is small – maximum 200# user, 8.4MPH maximum speed, and 3 and 5% incline settings must be manually adjusted.
  • 5.0 review, but this is based on only fifteen customer reviews.  

Final Thoughts:

This treadmill fits the definition of a basic machine quite completely.  It has a decent sized running area, but is powered by a smaller motor, and not suitable for heavy runners.  The electronics are solid, particularly with the ability to run Internet-based fitness programs. There is no warranty information available on the web site.

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#2 Trueform Runner

First Impressions:

This is the first of two manual treadmills on our product list.  This model is available in two styles, one geared for rehabbing runners of those needing handrails of extra balance; the other is designed for concentrated, high-speed training.  Both systems use the running motion to propel the belt; there is no motor to drive it, so you your speed is set solely by your effort.

Features and Specifications:

  • The Trueform Runner features a curved running surface, to better simulate the effect of running on pavement.
  • This is an elite treadmill, designed to help runners develop proper form and style to optimize their speed and performance.
  • It has a 54” x 17” wide running deck, and, even without a motor, weighs in at 325 pounds.  
  • Two tread options are available – one to simulate turf, the other to simulate a track.

Pros:

  • Designed for commercial use, it should last the individual user for many years.
  • Comes with a ten-year frame, tread, and component warranty, and five years for belts and display, two- year labor warranty.  
  • With this unit, the user dictates pace and effort.  No limitations on speed.

Cons:

  • This unit is priced in a range that effectively eliminates most individuals from purchasing it.  It could be a good fit for an elite athlete in training, or in a commercial setting like a gym or health club.
  • The 5.0 rating is only based on two reviews.  Checking other web sites did not reveal additional, more in-depth reviews.  
  • The display to track your speed, distance, etc. is a rather expensive optional purchase for the treadmill.  

Final Thoughts:

Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t see paying big bucks for this treadmill unless you have very specific circumstances that a regular treadmill would not help with.  You can buy a lot of years at a health club for what you would spend here. It’s well built, solid, with a great warranty, and will probably last a lifetime in an individual use setting.  

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#3 Assault Airrunner

First Impressions:

The second of two manual treadmills, the Air Runner offers some nice functionality at a lower price than the Trueform.  It has a solid steel frame and handrail system, corrosion–resistant hardware, a fairly compact footprint, yet weighs 280 pounds and will support a 350# user.  It has built-in target heart rate and interval training programs.

Features and Specifications:

  • Built for all skill levels, this treadmill has a built-in handle and transport wheels for easy movement.  
  • The treadmill can integrate with an Internet-based cross-training program, and also has built-in training programs.
  • The curved platform simulates outdoor running.  

Pros:

  • The unit is sold with a limited lifetime warranty for the frame and belt, with a three-year warranty for other parts.
  • The treadmill is Bluetooth capable for interaction with Internet-based training programs.
  • The running surface belt has been shown to last up to 150,000 miles.
  • Display for tracking exercise metrics is integral to the unit, and included in price.  

Cons:

  • Some users note that the speed conversions from the display panel don’t appear to be accurate when they compare to their outdoor times.
  • This is still somewhat pricey, but certainly is designed to last even in commercial settings.  The pricing may serve to keep the average runner out of the target market for this machine.

Final Thoughts:

A well-built manual treadmill, where the only speed constraints are the ones the user puts on himself.  The six-function display monitor is integrated to the machine, and standard equipment. This is a fitness club quality machine, and will help the serious runner improve his times, speeds, and endurance given all the training program options.  

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#4 Endurance T10HRC Commercial Treadmill

First Impressions:

This is the first of two advanced level machines, and is a great one to start the review.  It has a large running deck, strong motor, incline capabilities, and looks like it could survive for years in a commercial setting.  Over 25 built-in fitness programs to help train for endurance and speed. It has a lifetime warranty – period.

Features and Specifications:

  • A 3 HP motor drives a 20” x 60” belt driven running area, with a top speed of 10 MPH and an elevation of up to 15% incline, with a maximum user weight of 350 pounds.
  • An LED tracks all the normal performance metrics, and features a separate wireless heart rate monitor to keep you in your target zone.
  • A heavy-duty belt and deck, with a shock-absorbing system, give you a smooth run with less impact on your joints.

Pros:

  • Given the no questions asked warranty, you basically get a lifetime machine by purchasing this model.
  • The multiple workout programs, along with the speed and elevation capabilities, give you a great variety in your exercises, avoiding the “dread mill” repetition.
  • Steel frame construction makes this a commercial quality machine, yet still within the budget of a dedicated runner.

Cons:

  • The overall rating is based on a small cross section of reviews.
  • Given the price, some convenience functionality is missing, like iPhone dock, cooling fan, etc.

Final Thoughts:

A very solid machine that should deliver quality workouts for a long time.  While missing a couple amenities you would expect on a higher end treadmill, it is still a good overall value.  The great warranty removes some risks in spending this level of cash. Seeing some additional ratings would be better, but this is a fairly new manufacturer.  

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#5 3G Cardio Elite Runner Treadmill

First Impressions:

The third of three elite rated machines, this one is motorized and comes with a large 22” x 62” deck.  It has a commercial-level shock absorbing system to make life easier your knees. Connect your tablet or phone to the built-in speakers, and you have entertainment, while you work out.  Residential warranty is ten years for frame and motor, five years for parts.

Features and Specifications:

  • The 4HP motor supports users up to 400 pounds, and handles belt speeds up to 12MPH, and has a 15-degree incline range.  
  • A large console shows a variety of exercise metrics, and built in speakers, tablet connectivity, and a cooling fan give you an entertainment experience while you work out.
  • This treadmill has eight pre-programmed workouts, and capacity for two custom programs.  It has fast acceleration boost for interval or high-intensity training.

Pros:

  • It has all the basic functionality, and enough bells and whistles to keep pretty much anyone happy while working out.
  • This is a commercial level machine, yet still priced for individual, in-home users.
  • A large 84” x 36” footprint and 386-pound weight give you a solid machine, but one you will not likely be moving around very much.

Cons:

  • Typical assembly time is listed as four hours, so you may want to consider supplier assembly.
  • Two 1.0 reviews moved the overall rating to 4.4, but both reviews were price complaints relative to the equipment.

Final Thoughts:

The 1.0 reviews aside, this appears to be a very solid machine, with a lot of functionality and capability.  The reviews on the running comfort and capability of the treadmill are all strongly positive. It is marketed toward the elite-type runner, given the price, but, if you know you will use it, it would be a great machine for anyone with the long warranty and expected lifespan of it.  

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#6 Sole Fitness TT8 Light Commercial Non-Folding Treadmill

First Impressions:

The second of the two advanced level treadmills.  Big motor, big base, big belt, big weight, big capacity.  It has a decent-sized LCD display with integral speakers. There is a nice tray for holding water bottles, phone, and so on.  The deck is shock-absorbing, and the belt is two-ply for durability.

Features and Specifications:

  • With a 3.5HP motor, and capability to reach 12 MPH and 15% incline, this is a powerful machine, supporting up to 425 pounds.
  • 60” x 22” wide belt gives a nice, large running surface.
  • The treadmill comes with six programs, two heart rate programs, and has capability for two user defined programs.  

Pros:

  • Residential warranty is lifetime on motor, deck and frame; five years on electronics, belts, rollers, and wear parts.  
  • Heart rate monitoring can be through pulse grips, or wireless chest strap.  
  • The console measures seven exercise features, and has graphics for performance monitoring.

Cons:

  • Only a 4.1 rating on a fairly expensive treadmill.  Ratings are driven down by a couple very low scores, but most reviewers are happy with the machine.  
  • The treadmill does not fold, and, given the 300-pound weight, won’t be moved around very much.

Final Thoughts:

Like the other advanced level machine, this one is on the bubble between being a commercial or residential treadmill.  It is built for the long run, as evidenced by the very solid residential warranty. By all accounts, the machine is stable and runs quietly, with the cushioning system helping reduce wear and tear on the joints.  Power capabilities are impressive.

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#7 NordicTrack T Series Treadmill

First Impressions:

Time to move back to the basic level machines again.  Nordic Track is known for their skiing machines, and from there has moved into other fitness products.  This folding treadmill comes with a 7-inch interactive display screen, touch capabilities, and iFit capable.  The specifications are comparable to some higher priced models.

Features and Specifications:

  • The treadmill has 50 built-in exercise programs, fan, pulse grip heart rate monitoring, and supports a 300-pound user.
  • The iFit interface gives you access to over 16000 workouts, including classroom and outdoor simulations.  
  • Speed runs up to 12MPH, and a 3HP motor supports a 12% incline.

Pros:

  • No boredom with this machine.  You can simulate running through the mountains of Peru and the beaches of Thailand on the same day.
  • The 78” x 35” footprint is reduced to 39” x 35” by the folding capability for storage.   
  • There is a lifetime frame and motor warranty, with three years on parts.  

Cons:

  • With a high-end price for the basic market, and a 4.0 quality rating, the treadmill seems to have a love/hate relationship with users.
  • Most of the lowest ratings related to damage to plastic panels, likely during shipping, and iFit cost and functionality.  

Final Thoughts:

This unit has very good functionality for a basic level treadmill.  Users will have to decide if the extra training toys are worth the additional cost over some of the other basic models.  Most reviewers felt the assembly was pretty straight forward and did not consume a lot of time. Specifications are solid, and the warranty should give you some piece of mind for the extra money spent.  

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#8 Goplus Folding Treadmill

First Impressions:

This is the lowest price treadmill of the basic models, so functionality and specifications are somewhat lower than the other unite reviewed.  The unit is cushioned for noise and vibration reduction, and it has a safety key for automatic shut-off. It has twelve exercise programs, and a five function LCD display.

Features and Specifications:

  • With a 16’ x 47” rubber tread deck, it can reach a top speed of 7.5 MPH with its 2.25HP motor.
  • It has a three level, manually changed, incline level capability.  
  • The treadmill has Bluetooth capability to access Google fitness programs via the Internet.
  • The footprint reduces from 62” long to 32” long by folding the deck for storage.

Pros:

  • Very easy assembly, with just a few screws necessary to get it ready to go.  
  • Accessibility to Google fitness programs will give you a large variety of workouts.

Cons:

  • There are many complaints about the electronics, and also about useful life.  Some users state the unit stopped working after just a few months.
  • Based on numerous 1.0 and 2.0 reviews, customer service and support are extremely lacking for this product.

Final Thoughts:

Walk into buying this treadmill with eyes open.  While there are several satisfied customers, there are almost as many dissatisfied ones.  The level of support appears to be lacking, and there are apparently many operational flaws with the machine.  For me, this would be too big a gamble, even for the low investment cost.

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#9 ProForm 905 CST Treadmill

First Impressions:

While still meeting the scale of a basic machine, this treadmill has many of the same features as higher priced units.  It has several niceties such as integrated holder for a tablet, iPod compatible speakers, a workout fan, and a 5” backlit display panel.  It has a foldable steel frame, and at just over 200-pounds it should be fairly simple to move around.

Features and Specifications:

  • With thirty built in workout programs, and the diversity of the iFit programming, you should never have a boring workout with this treadmill.
  • The 3HP motor drives a good-sized 20” x 60” belt at speeds up to 12 MPH.  Incline goes up to 12%.
  • Heart rate can be monitored by pulse grip handles or by wireless heart rate belt.  

Pros:

  • This treadmill has a good combination of standard functionality, with a few “nice to have” features sprinkled in.  
  • The unit has a lifetime frame and motor warranty, and a three-year parts warranty.

Cons:

  • Several complaints about the iFit functionality, which apparently will not work without a paid subscription and special software on your tablet or phone.  There is a fix so you don’t have to subscribe, but it is not detailed in the operating instructions.
  • Assembly time is listed at four hours, so you may want to consider the assembly option.

Final Thoughts:

You get about what you would expect in a basic treadmill here – some good things, some bad.  Overall a fairly low 3.8 rating, but a lot of the lowest ratings had to do with the iFit application, and poor customer service on the part of the manufacturer.  So, in summary, a decent functioning machine, but don’t expect a lot of support if things go wrong.

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#10 Nautilus T616 Treadmill

First Impressions:

The last of our five basic level models, this is a foldable treadmill which makes wide use of technology.  With Bluetooth capability, it works with both Nautilus training apps and many other Internet based training apps, plus 26 built-in programs.  It also has RunSocial, with 19 locations and 27 real-life routes to run through the large display screen.

Features and Specifications:

  • With both pulse sensor and telemetry heart rate monitoring, you can make sure you stay within your heart rate targets, and monitor them on the backlit LCD screen.
  • The treadmill has a 20” x 60” running area, with a two ply, 2.0MM thick belt.  
  • A 3HP motor supports a top speed of 12MPH, and incline settings of up to 15%.

Pros:

  • It has a great variety in workout programs and interactive exercises to keep you entertained while exercising.  
  • Special cushioning properties give you a smooth, quiet operation, with reduced stress on your joints.  
  • The 215-pound weight makes it easy to fold up, move, and store.  

Cons:

  • Several issues about the longer-term operation of the unit, including the belt freezing up, electronics not working, and poor customer service and support.
  • Ten-year motor and frame warranty, and three years for parts and electrical, but the warranty excludes damage due to “normal usage and wear and tear.”

Final Thoughts:

Overall, a fairly low rating for a machine scratching at the upper tiers of the price range.  It has some good electronics functionality, and by most reviews, this unit gives a stable, comfortable run.  However, there appears to be some design issues, and comments about the machine just stopping in the middle of exercise should, be worrisome.  About 80% of the total reviews are 4 or 5, so the overall odds are in your favor.

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Final Verdict

Before we get to the recommendations, let’s look back at what we’ve covered so far.  We started with a little of the science behind cardiovascular exercise, and the benefits of it.  Then, we looked into how a treadmill can be a valuable part of a cardio program, and identified ten models.  We seeded these models into three ranges – basic, or entry level users; advanced, or intermediate level users; and, elite, or high-level athletes or professionals.  

We looked at about fifteen features available on treadmills, and discussed their use, and why they are important.  We talked some about how they would fit into your buying decisions – are they gotta have, wanna have, or don’t really need features?  Finally, we went model by model, and looked at overall impressions of each, and examined the pros and cons of the machines in the context of total purchasing value.  

As far as categorizing the best, we’ll use the three sorting criteria of best, advanced, and elite, and pick ,what I feel are the three best value units, one from each group.  So let’s start by talking about the three elite models:

  • TrueForm Runner
  • Assault Air Runner
  • 3G Cardio Elite

The TrueForm and the Assault Air are manual treadmills.  There is no motor; the running action of the user supplies the power and speed of the run.  The TrueForm professes to be a training treadmill, specifically designed to concentrate on form, speed, and acceleration, and has a model with hand rails to provide a workout for people (not just runners) in rehab situations.  As such, this model is more geared to commercial and institutional establishments, rather than individual owners. It also bears a serious price tag; almost $2000 more than the next model, and even the display monitor is optional equipment.  

The Assault Air is also manual, but comes with more features, including a standard performance monitor, built in programming, and the ability to interact with Internet-based training programs.  It features similar design features as the TrueForm, has a strong warranty, but again positions itself as more of a commercial treadmill.

The third treadmill, the 3G Cardio Elite, is a powered treadmill.  The price is similar to that of the Assault Air, but the features are superior.  You get a large-sized running area, and a powerful 4 HP motor to drive up to 12 MPH and 15% inclines.  This is an almost 400-pound machine, so durable enough for commercial use, but at a price the serious runner or cross-training athlete might find acceptable.  

So, which of these three units make the most sense from a purchase value perspective?  For me it’s a pretty easy decision; your results may vary. If I get on a non-motorized treadmill, it’s up to me to set the speed.  I have to have the internal drive to push myself to the utmost, and get the most out of my training run. With a motorized treadmill, I can set the speed to 5 MPH, and I know I will run at 5MPH, without dogging it, or I’ll end up in a crumpled heap behind the treadmill.  I need the motivation of a treadmill telling me how fast to run, not me telling the treadmill how fast I will run. So put a check mark next to the 3G Cardio Elite as the elite machine I recommend.

Let’s look at the two advanced treadmills from our list, the Sole Fitness TT8 and the Endurance T10.  At first glance, these two machines are virtually identical. The prices are within $1 of each other. The Sole Fitness has a larger motor (3.5HP vs 3HP), and wider belt (22” vs. 20”), resulting in a higher top end speed (12 MPH vs. 10 MPH).  Both treadmills have a lifetime warranty. The Endurance has a higher customer rating (4.5 vs. 4.1), but neither has a strong review base (total of 16 reviews between the two). The Endurance offers 25 different exercise programs, the Sole Fitness ten programs.  

There really are not any clear differentiators between these two models, so it’s basically a coin flip on which one to buy.  If you feel the need for speed, and like to just run, the Sole Fitness is probably your machine – bigger motor and wider belt, and you can live without all the extra programming.  If the exercise programs and slightly better rating are more important to you, go with the Endurance. In either case, you are getting a near-commercial level machine with a lifetime warranty, so both give you a decent value.  Final decision – You call it!

That leaves five basic machines to choose from for our first-time treadmill buyer.  They are:

  • Jaketen Electric Folding
  • Nordic Track T7.5S
  • Goplus Folding
  • Proform 905
  • Nautilus T616

Let’s start with two similarly priced machines, the Proform and the Nautilus.  Again, two very similar machines in functionality. Both have a 20” x 60” belt, driven by a 3HP motor, and fold up for storage.  Each has almost limitless programming through interfaces to Internet running and training programs. The Nautilus goes up to a 15% incline, the Proform 12%.  The Proform has a 12 MPH top speed; surprisingly, the top speed is not shown for the Nautilus.

One thing worries me here.  Both Nautilus (Bowflex) and Proform has been making fitness equipment a long time.  When I see two identical 3.8 ratings on these machines, I start to wonder, if some corners haven’t been cut to get them priced for this market segment.  Both are in the upper end of the range, so, at this stage, I’m dropping both from the list. I don’t think either are inherently bad machines, but the inconsistencies in the customer reviews don’t give me a warm cozy feeling about them.  

Let’s contrast these two with the Goplus Folding Treadmill.  This is the lowest priced treadmill from the list, which carries over to some design and feature issues.  The unit has a 2.25HP motor, much smaller than the others. The narrow, 16” wide belt is also a concern if you are a runner; maybe not so much for joggers or walkers.  Top speed is 7.5 MPH. There are twelve built-in exercise programs.

I don’t have an inherent issue with the features, as they should be an expected outcome of the price.  The issue with this unit is some absolutely blistering reviews, not only about the machine quality, but also about customer service and support.  Unless you are totally constrained by budget, I would stay away from this treadmill.

This leaves two treadmills – the Nordic Track T7.5S, and the Jaketen Electric.  The Nordic Track is the more expensive of the two, barely staying under the $1000 cap for this range of treadmills.  It has solid features – 3HP motor, 20” x 60” belt, 12MPH top speed and 12% incline capabilities. Nordic Track has been making fitness equipment since the 1970s, so the odds are good they will be around for a while.  Overall, a good machine, bordering on the advanced level qualified. The quality ratings come in at 4.0, but if you go through them, most of the complaints deal specifically with the iFit programming and cost of it. Overall use reviews seem solid.

The Jaketen drops down a notch from the Nordic Track in overall features and functionality, but also in price.  It’s just over half the price of the Nordic Track, but some of the performance features are not at the same level – 2.25HP motor, 9 MPH top speed, 16.5” belt, 3% and 5% manually adjusted inclines, 12 built in programs.  It does, however match up with Google Fitness technology, which gives you Internet access to hundreds of exercise programs. It gets a very solid 5.0 quality rating,

So, we come back to user preference again.  Both are top quality machines. The Jaketen is going to have some upper end constraints on speed and incline settings. The Nordic Track is the more powerful of the two, and the wider belt will make it easier for running than the Jaketen.   You will get plenty of programming options with either one. Both fold up for storage.

It really comes down to one simple question – Where do you see your fitness level in two years?  If you expect to grow, run longer and faster, push yourself with incline running, then you should spend a little extra now and get the Nordic Track, a machine better positioned to support that growth.  If you expect to do some light jogging or power walking only, save yourself some money and get the Jaketen.

You will get good quality and warranties with either machine, so pick your future exercise path and choose accordingly.

Hopefully this review has been helpful in helping you choose an appropriate treadmill.  Happy running!

Top 10 Exercise Bikes To Spin Up Your Health in 2019

INTRODUCTION

Cardiovascular exercise, or cardio, has many wide-ranging health benefits.  A sustained cardio program can help you lose weight, and in particular, belly fat.  It can improve your mental acuity, especially brain growth, help with stress prevention, and blocking anxiety and depression disorders.  From the name alone, it obviously improves your cardiovascular health, your heart, lungs, and vascular systems. In some studies, it appears to have the capability to actually reverse some heart disease risk factors.  

Weight loss, at its most basic, is quite simple – burn more calories than you take in.  In other words, to lose weight, create a calorie deficit. This can be done by diet alone, but it is done more efficiently by a combination of diet and exercise.  All exercises burn calories, but cardio burns more calories; in some studies, cardio has been shown to burn more than 60% more calories than weight resistance training.

There are two different types of cardio – aerobic and anaerobic.  Aerobic exercises like running and biking make your heart work faster, and your lungs take in more oxygen to support that exercise.  Anaerobic exercise, like sprinting, make you move quickly and expend available oxygen. While they both expend oxygen, aerobic exercises allow you to sustain the activity for a longer period of time.

But how do you know your aerobic exercise program is actually effective?  The effectiveness of aerobic exercise is measured in one way by your heart rate.  As you exercise harder, your heart rate increases. For health and personal safety, a maximum heart rate is calculated, which is a function of your age.  A simplified formula to calculate your maximum heart rate is 220 minus your age; a forty-year-old would have a maximum heart rate of 180. Now that you know your maximum heart rate, you can also calculate your target heart rate zone.  This is calculated as a percentage of your maximum heart rate, normally between 50 and 85%, depending on your fitness level. This lets you know if you are exercising at the right pace and intensity; too low, you lose benefits of cardio exercising, but too high any you put yourself at risk.  

So, now that we have a little of the science out of the way, what are the best ways to get started with a cardio program?  First, you should check with your physician to make sure that you are healthy enough to begin doing cardio. Assuming you are, then it’s just a matter of starting to move more.  Start by taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or parking further away from the store. Take a daily walk. Or begin a formal cardio exercise program. This might be starting a jogging or running program, swimming, etc.

Sounds easy so far, right?  Now start to think of all the things that can get in the way of being successful in your cardio workout.  The cost of joining a health club or gym. Finding the time to go there and exercise. Avoiding the elements when it comes to walking or running outdoors.  There are quite a few barriers that will get thrown up in front of you, no matter how committed you are.

One way to overcome many of these barriers is to have fitness equipment available right in your home.  You don’t have to drive to the gym, worry about whether or not it will rain, or find someone to watch the kids.  While there are various types of cardio equipment available, such as elliptical machines, treadmills, stair climbers, rowing machines, and several others, we are going to focus here on stationary bicycles, or also known as indoor cycling bicycles.

THE STATIONARY BICYCLE

Why a stationary bicycle?  First and foremost, it is an excellent vehicle for a cardio improvement program.  A stationary bicycle is a pretty much a “plug and play” option; set it up, sit down, start pedaling.  While some upper end models can get a little pricey, when you compare the years of use you will get, to the cost of a gym membership for the same period, they are a great value alternative.  Accessibility is important; having a bike in your home allows you to make use of that half hour between getting home and starting dinner, or that free time after you get the kids out the door for school.  An exercise bicycle in your home takes inclement weather out of the picture.

Many models of stationary bikes are also set up for multi-tasking.  They have holders for your phone or tablet so you can read or listen to music and podcasts while you are exercising.  Park it in front of the television to binge watch your favorite series. Many have built in monitors for heart rate, speed, distance, and pulse, and others have pre-programmed cardio exercises built in to help you stay within your target heart range.  An example of a stationary bike is shown below.

All in all, stationary bicycles are an excellent, efficient way to begin and sustain a cardiovascular improvement program.  

Fact Sheet – Product Comparison Table

Here, we will take a high-level look at the ten different stationary bicycles we are going to review in this article.  You’ll get a brief description of the bike, a price range indication, and a quality/value rating of the bike, derived from the selling web site, and compiled from reviews by customers who have purchased that particular model.  Later in the article, I’ll throw in my comments on each of the models, their overall functionality, and then recommend one or more as “best of the best. We’ll also take a look at several key features and functionalities of the bikes, and discuss how they may help structure your purchasing decisions when you are ready to pull the trigger on an exercise bicycle.  

NumberProductBest FeatureRatingPrice
1
Pooboo Indoor Cycling Bike
40# flywheel for smooth, stable riding. LED monitor to track exercise data.   5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)$$
2L NOW Indoor Cycling Bike Belt driven, 44# flywheel.  Adjustable resistance, built for commercial use. 5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)$$$$
3Schwinn Airdyne ProAir resistance technology, programmable workout options, large LED display panel 4.9 out of 5 stars (4.9 / 5)$$$$
4Concept 2 BikeErg Air resistance flywheel, self-adjusting resistance, LED display panel 4.8 out of 5 stars (4.8 / 5)$$$$
5Pyhigh Indoor Cycling BikeAdjustable tension settings on 35# flywheel, LCD monitor for exercise tracking 4.6 out of 5 stars (4.6 / 5)$$
6BulbHead Slim Cycle 2-in-1 Stationary Bike Sets up as recumbent and upright model, arm resistance bands for full body workout 4.6 out of 5 stars (4.6 / 5)$$
7Ideer Life Exercise Bike24# magnetic resistance flywheel, 4 removable wheels for transport and storage 4.2 out of 5 stars (4.2 / 5)$
8Schwinn AD7 Airdyne Bike Training programs included, wind resisted flywheel, movable arm support for full body workout    4.2 out of 5 stars (4.2 / 5)$$$$
9Stamina Elite Total Body Recumbent Bike Recumbent design, 8 levels of magnetic resistance, movable hand pedals allow for additional exercise 4.1 out of 5 stars (4.1 / 5)$$$
10Efitment Indoor Cycle Bike48# flywheel with adjustable resistance, performance monitoring 3.6 out of 5 stars (3.6 / 5)$$

Product-Buying Guide

You’ve decided on buying an indoor exercise bicycle, but what features and specifications are most important in the buying decision?  Like buying a car, some models will be lacking features you want, others will have features you don’t need or want. Exercise bikes are going to be much the same.  We’ve identified many here for further discussion; once you’ve gone through them, you can decide where they fit in your personal priority scale while making your decision.

Resistance type

There are three basic types of resistance in an exercise bike.  Friction resistance comes from putting brake pads against the flywheel.  As you push the pads tighter against the flywheel, it requires more and more energy from you to turn the flywheel, resulting in a stronger cardio workout.  The second type is air resistance. Here the flywheel has a series of fins to catch the air. As you pedal faster, the movement of the air over and through the fins creates a higher degree of resistance, again increasing your cardio benefit.  The third type is magnetic resistance. Electromagnetic magnets are used to create resistance, caused by the same polarity being matched up in two magnets. Passing greater amounts of electric current through the magnets increases the resistance, requiring you to expend more energy to overcome the resistance.  You’ll find proponents of all three types, but typically the friction-type resistance is going to be on the lower end priced bikes.

Weight

The overall weight will give you an indication of two elements.  First, the overall strength and durability of the bike – a heavier bike will tend to feature steel construction (versus aluminum, or even engineered plastics), which will make it stronger, and also increase the overall weight capacity for the user.  This same steel construction, however, will decrease the portability of the bike, as you will be a lot less likely to move a 300# exercise bicycle from room to room.

Footprint/Storage Capability

Where you use and store the bike will be impacted to at least some degree by the footprint of the bicycle.  If the bike has a relatively small footprint, and can be folded down somewhat to facilitate storage, it can be used pretty much anywhere.  Conversely, a heavy bike, with no folding capability and a large footprint, is going to tend to stay in one place all the time. Depending on whether or not you will have dedicated space, footprint may be a vital category for you.

Materials of construction

We talked about materials of construction a little bit in the “weight” section, but they have implications beyond just the strength and durability of the bike.  They can also have impact depending on where the bicycle will be used. If you are using it in a climate-controlled setting, like inside your house, there is really no downside to any of the materials.  However, if you plan on leaving the bike outside in your garage and using it there, materials of construction do become an issue. With the changes in temperature and humidity, it opens up the possibility of corrosion and rust on the bicycle.  So, a steel construction, or steel chain on the bike, may potentially cause you some issues.

Assembly

Do the words “some assembly required” make you break out in a cold sweat?  Some of these bikes come fully assembled, and some are assembled by the consumer.  Some of these models charge a fee for assembly by the seller, which helps him offset the additional shipping costs of a fully assembled exercise bicycle.  

Resistance adjustment

Every model here has some level of resistance adjustment.  As noted earlier, the greater the resistance, the more energy you must output to move the flywheel.  Some of these models automatically adjust resistance based on your output (the faster you pedal, the higher the resistance), others involve turning a small knob or dial to manually adjust the dial, while a few have specialized programs to simulate a real bicycle ride, and adjust resistance automatically to simulate hills, curves, and faster speeds.  

Full body workout

While every model here will give you a cardio workout, and help strengthen your leg muscles, some of these exercise bikes allow you the ability to move your arms while pedaling, thereby giving you a full body workout, burning more calories in the same period of time, and increasing the aerobic benefits of the exercise.  

Seat specifications

It may not seem so important, but the comfort of the seat on your model is going to go a long way in determining whether you stick with your exercise program, or whether your exercise bike becomes a very expensive clothes hanger.  The seat should be large enough for full support, and well-padded for comfort. Some models allow for optional seats to be purchased and used in place of the standard seat.

Maximum user weight

No matter how heavy duty the construction, each of these bikes has a recommended maximum user weight.  This may or may not be a consideration for you in your purchase decision, but it is a specification that should be verified before signing the final papers or hitting the “send” button.

Flywheel weight

This is another factor in the overall resistance calculation, as a heavier flywheel will provide greater resistance than a lighter one.  Flywheels range from the mid-twenties to high-forty-pound weights. Heavier flywheels also tend to give a smoother, more stable ride, with less vibration.

Programmable workouts

We talked about this a little in the “resistance” session.  Some of these bikes have built in programs where you can choose a simulated hill course, an interval program (where you vary your speed and intensity for specific time periods), and increased resistance, as in riding against the wind.  The truly sophisticated programs will actually match your riding to a specific racing course, such as those from the Tour de France.

Performance statistics

Many of these models feature performance statistics packages, where the bicycle automatically measures pre-defined outputs from your ride.  These outputs can include speed, distance, pulse, heart rate, calories burned, and time. To measure heart rate, some bikes will have built-in sensors in the hand grips, while others will work with a separate heart rate monitor and a Bluetooth connection.  Many will track historical data so you can monitor your performance over time.

Warranty

While model specific, virtually all models offer some type of warranty.  Features typically warrantied are frame, parts, electrical systems, and labor (where the bicycles have been assembled by the supplier).  

Gadget storage

Users will look for some level of storage on the bike.  Commonly sought features include a hanging rack for a workout towel, water bottle storage, and a shelf or rack for your phone or tablet.  The distractions of listening to music or watching a movie while exercising make the time go by faster, and a more enjoyable exercise session.  

Drive type

Every exercise bicycle has some mechanism to transfer the rotation of the pedals to the rotation of the flywheel; this is the drive chain, similar to the transmission in an automobile.  The drive mechanism may be steel chain, leather, polymer or plastic belts.

Seat/Handle adjustment

This can be a critical measurement for a household of differently sized people using the same bicycle.  At best, both the seat and handle will have a four-way adjustment capability – up, down, forward, and backward.  In some models, only the seat will have a four-way adjustment, with the handles having two way, up and down.

Options

Several of these models come with optional equipment.  The most popular options will be special pedals, or clips for the existing pedals, optional seats with extra size and padding, and wind deflectors for those bikes with air resistance, so the air is not blown back into your face.  

Price

Yes, I understand.  No matter how much you say it won’t matter, it always does to some extent.  I prefer to think of it as value rather than price – the combination of price and features that makes that particular model attractive to you.  I try to derive the value from things I must have (comfortable seat), things that are nice to have (programmable workouts and performance modeling), and “bells and whistles”, features I really have no use for (storage, full body workout).  List out each feature here, classify it according to my scale, and normally one or two models will jump out as best for you.

MAKING YOUR DECISION

So far, we’ve had a fairly detailed review of what is important in an exercise bicycle, and a high-level review of ten different models of exercise bikes.  We’ve also seen what real customers think of them, and classified the ten into different prices ranges so you can see how they fit into your budget.

You should now see how all these elements come together – price, functionality, features, and specifications.  Let’s take a detailed, model-by-model look at each of them now. We can then come up with the best exercise bikes from this group.  

Top 10 Best Cycling Bikes

#1 Pooboo Indoor Cycling Bike

First Impressions:

Featuring a large, 40-pound flywheel, this unit should have excellent stability and a smooth ride.  With a 35” x 17” footprint and 108-pounds, this bike will support up to 330-pounds of rider weight. A large LED screen let’s you track and view six different functions.  Storage capability for tablets, water bottles, towels, and anything else you might need.

Features and Specifications:

  • The unit has a four-way adjustable seat for rider comfort.  Handlebars also adjust four ways to fit any height rider comfortably.  
  • The bike has a steel drive chain and cupped pedals to simulate an outdoor bike ride.
  • Resistance can be easily adjusted with the turn of a knob, even while riding.  

Pros:

  • A 5.0 rating with a $$ price makes this an excellent value exercise bicycle.
  • The tracking capabilities let’s you see your performance in real time, and helps you improve your overall cardio workout by staying in target heart rate zones.
  • The bike has a wide base for stability, and wheels for easy movement from place to place.  

Cons:

  • The exercise bike is shipped unassembled, or can be assembled for an additional charge.  
  • No warranty information is given, but two and three-year warranties are available for purchase.

Final Thoughts:

This bike is at the very top end of the $$ price range, and would easily go over that with assembly and additional warranty coverage.  Reviews are limited, but all are very favorable. The heavy-duty steel frame and chain drive system should offer solid construction and good durability.  

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#2 L NOW Indoor Cycling Bike

First Impressions:

This heavy-duty, 135-pound bike is built for commercial applications, so should easily be able to stand up to at-home usage.  The ergonomic polyurethane seat, with the steel construction, will support a 350-pound rider. Four-way adjustable seat and handlebars make it easy for multiple users to enjoy the exercise cycle.

Features and Specifications:

  • This exercise bicycle comes with a heavy duty 44-pound flywheel for stability and solid weight friction resistance and a leather belt drive.  
  • A 3.5” LCD screen makes it easy to monitor vital statistics simultaneously.  Sensors in the handle grips allow heart rate monitoring in real time.
  • The frame has four-corner adjustments for stability even on uneven flooring, and has transport wheels for easy movement.

Pros:

  • The commercial specifications and full adjustment capabilities make this a great bike for a multi-person household.
  • The resistance control knob is adjustable while riding, and micro- resistance adjustments are possible.  Pushing the resistance knob down immediately stops the flywheel.
  • The bike is available in two colors, and standard seat and pedal configurations allow for retro-fit to different seats or pedals.  

Cons:

  • The bicycle is shipped unassembled; assembly is available at additional cost to the purchaser.
  • No warranty information is available on the exercise bicycle.  

Final Thoughts:

Given that this bicycle is a commercial grade model, the $$$$ price tag should not scare anyone away that is looking for a high-use cycle.  The lack of warranty information is a little off-setting, but hopefully can be obtained from the manufacturer. The bike features full feature availability, without adding a bunch of extra cost and unnecessary functionality.

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#3 Schwinn Airdyne Pro

First Impressions:

Schwinn made their first bicycle all the way back in 1895, and is still active in the marketplace today.  This exercise bike is an excellent example of their commitment to the sport, featuring a 26-blade air resistance flywheel.  It allows up to nine programmable workouts, so you can maximize your cardio benefits. Several options for the bike are shown which would drive it well into $$$$ country.

Features and Specifications:

  • With a 42” x 20” footprint and a moisture repellent steel frame, this bike will support a rider up to 350-pounds.
  • A large LCD screen monitors seven different metrics of your performance.
  • Movable handle bars allow for a full-body workout.  

Pros:

  • This bike comes with a very competitive ten-year frame, two-year parts, and six-month labor warranty.  
  • Standardized clamp and rail fittings allow for easy change-out to your choice of customized pedals or seats if desired.  
  • Resistance is automatically adjusted based on the force you exert on the pedals.  The single belt drive transmission allows efficient energy transfer to the flywheel.  

Cons:

  • Some users commented on a couple difficulties with the assembly of the bike.
  • Specifications list the seat as oversized and padded, but some users complained of the comfort level.

Final Thoughts:

With Schwinn, you know you will be buying from a manufacturer that knows bikes, and has over a century of staying power in that market.  This is a solid well-built bicycle, but starts to get into the “bells and whistles” category, with some base functionality and several options that may or not appeal to riders.  

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#4 Concept 2 BikeErg

First Impressions:

With a 48” x 24” footprint and aluminum frame, this bike weighs in at a light 58-pounds, yet still supports a 300-pound rider.  It features a four-way adjustable seat and two-way adjustable handlebars, and allows easy change out to customized equipment the user may desire.  It features an air resistance flywheel, with self-adjusting resistance.

Features and Specifications:

  • The flywheel has an adjustable damper, that let’s you regulate the amount of air entering the flywheel to simulate real-life situations such as hill climbs.
  • The performance monitor captures several key exercise metrics, and is also compatible with Bluetooth technology wireless heart rate belts.  Statistics are stored in the monitor so performance over time can be monitored.
  • The bike features high strength polygroove belts for long life and a quieter ride.

Pros:

  • The manufacturer also makes indoor rowing and ski machines, and has proven familiarity with air resistance technology.
  • This exercise cycle is supported by a five-year frame warranty, and a two-year warranty on parts.  
  • With its lightweight frame and wheels for easy transport, this is truly a portable bike.  The special powder coating and aluminum frame give the bike strong corrosion resistance.

Cons:

  • The bike does not have the ability for arm work, so full-body workouts are not possible.
  • The lack of front to back seat adjustment was a concern for some customers.
  • The bike has a small cradle for storage.  It will work with a phone, but is to small to set a tablet there.

Final Thoughts:

A 4.8 quality review and a high $$$$ price may scare some away from this bike, but it does show a 5.0 rating on a different site (although a limited sample of reviewers).  Overall a functional bike, with nice Bluetooth features, but probably not the best value of the bikes in this list.

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#5 Pyhigh Indoor Cycling Bike

First Impressions:

This bicycle comes with a 35-pound flywheel with friction resistance.  Four-way seat and two-way handlebar adjustments allow a good level of user customization.  The 40” x 22” footprint is fairly compact, and the included wheels make it easy to move. The LCD monitor allows for five different metrics.  

Features and Specifications:

  • This stationary bike features easy resistance adjustment just by turning a dial, and pressing down on it lets you make an emergency stop.  
  • The 79-pound frame supports user weights up to 280-pounds.  
  • The bike features belt drive with friction flywheel resistance, and a digital monitor tracks six different workout measures.

Pros:

  • Relatively lightweight with a compact footprint, the bike also has wheels for easy movement to other rooms or for storage.
  • Anti-slip pedals with toe cages and straps offer increased safety while working out.

Cons:

  • Based on user reviews, this bike is not adjustable enough to work for taller riders (6’3” male specifically mentioned, and seller points out height under 6’1” is needed).
  • Speed and distance measures are in kilometers and cannot be changed to miles.  There is no heart rate measurement functionality with this model.
  • Storage for water bottle and phone but nothing large enough for tablet.

Final Thoughts:

As we start to creep down into $$ price range, we also are seeing features that are standard on other bikes disappearing, such as the heart rate monitor.  This unit has some fairly tight size limitation issues, which could make it unusable for taller riders. All in all, it might be a good starter cycle, but there are better values in our list.  

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#6 BulbHead Slim Cycle 2-in-1 Stationary Bike

First Impressions:

This is a two-in-one bicycle, which converts from an upright stationary bike into a recumbent (more of a flat, laying-down position) cycle.  It features built-in arm resistance bands, for extra cardio burn and a full body workout, supported by a built-in heart rate monitor. Magnetic resistance offers eight different resistance settings.  

Features and Specifications:

  • This bicycle is lightweight and convertible to a recumbent bike for easier pedaling.  It also folds almost flat for easy storage when you don’t have the space to leave it set up all the time.
  • The built-in sensors allow you to monitor your heart rate to stay in the proper fitness zone while working out.  A digital display tracks other key exercise metrics.
  • Adjustable tension resistance bands let you work out your arms and upper body while pedaling, giving additional cardio benefits in less time.

Pros:

  • This exercise bicycle comes with a free phone app, that gives you access to live training classes.  
  • Convertibility from upright to recumbent postures lets you work different muscles at different intensities.
  • While it will block the digital monitor, there is a place to put your tablet while exercising.

Cons:

  • Maximum body weight supported is 250 pounds, which may not be suitable for some users.
  • Based on the limits of the seat adjustments, the cycle may not be suitable for shorter users (around five feet).  

Final Thoughts:

If you are having difficulty making up your mind between an upright or stationary exercise bicycle, this might be the answer for you.  It’s fairly lightweight, and folds down to 16” wide for storage, but may not be right for very large or very small users. The $$ price makes it suitable for first time purchasers.  

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#7 Ideer Life Exercise Bike

First Impressions:

This bicycle has a 24-pound, magnetic resistance flywheel, powered by a quiet belt-driven mechanism.  It has a large platform that could support a water bottle or drink cup and everything from a phone all the way up to a laptop.  A four-way adjustable seat, and height adjustable handle bars offer comfortable, user specific settings.

Features and Specifications:

  • A built-in, six feature LCD monitor lets you view your exercise statistics on a real-time basis.  Heart rate sensors are also included.
  • Transport wheels and fold in pedals and stabilizers make for easy storage.
  • The exercise bicycle comes with eight levels of resistance settings.

Pros:

  • This is a lightweight bike with all basic features and functionality at a low $ price.  It does not have a large footprint, and folds down for easy storage in smaller areas.
  • This bike has a shock absorbing system, which helps absorb vibration while providing extra support to the rider.  
  • The cycle comes with a one-year warranty.

Cons:

  • Most user complaints are around seat comfort, and the lack of front to back handlebar adjustment.
  • There is some confusion on the specifications on the web site, as one place cites maximum rider weight of 330-pounds, while another says 220-pounds.  

Final Thoughts:

As we move into the $ and $$ price ranges, the quality ratings seem to drop correspondingly.  If you go back and look at the section on features, it gets harder and harder to find the corresponding information on the web sites.  This is the only $ exercise cycle on our list, and, while the features overall are not bad, I would caution the user that you get what you pay for.  

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#8 Schwinn AD7 Airdyne Bike

First Impressions:

This is a real beast, featuring the historic Schwinn name, and clocking in at 132-pounds, and the support and stability for a 350-pound rider.  Featuring a five-year frame warranty, it is built to last. With a single belt drive and infinite resistance settings for an air resistance fan, it will definitely fuel your cardio needs.

Features and Specifications:

  • A four-way adjustable seat and multi-position hand grips offer comfortable workout positions.  Moveable arm bars support a full body workout.
  • This cycle has built in interval and target programs, and heart rate level indicators that support both aerobic and anaerobic cardio exercises.
  • A built-in console keeps track of seven different exercise measurements.

Pros:

  • The Schwinn name has been known and respected in cycling for over one hundred years.  
  • Progressive wind resistance increases the intensity of your workout as you pedal harder.
  • Excellent warranty for the bike, including one year on parts and 90 days on labor.  

Cons:

  • Most of the lower customer reviews related to assembly difficulty, lack of Bluetooth functionality, and no storage rack or table for a tablet.  Storage is provided for phone and water bottle.

Final Thoughts:

I was somewhat surprised to see a fairly low 4.2 rating on this bike, compared to a 4.9 on the similar Airdyne Pro.  Both have similar features, and the Pro offers a slightly better warranty, as it is built more for the commercial market.  With a few $$ bikes having similar or better ratings, I would not buy this bike without an opportunity to try it out in advance.  

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#9 Stamina Elite Total Body Recumbent Bike

First Impressions:

This is a recumbent exercise bicycle, designed to relieve pressure by allowing you to sit at an angle rather than vertically.  The bike has a multi-function display, and heart rate sensors in the handles that will feed information to the display. The seat is adjustable forward and backward, up and down; however, the back of the seat is not adjustable.

Features and Specifications:

  • This is a fairly heavy bike, at just over 120-pounds, but has wheels to assist in moving it from place to place.
  • Available hand pedals allow you to have an upper body workout with resistance, but they do not work in conjunction with pedaling; you have to choose one or the other.  You cannot set resistance for both at the same time.
  • There are eight different levels of magnetic resistance, and the monitor tracks five different metrics to see your output.  

Pros:

  • Full-sized, padded seat is much more comfortable that a standard bicycle seat.
  • Free assembly is included with the purchase of this exercise bicycle.

Cons:

  • Major complaints from users that resistance cannot be applied to the foot pedals and arm pedals at the same time.
  • With a $$$ price tag, a lot of functionality seems to be missing – greater functionality in tracking metrics, holder for phone or tablet, adjustable seat back, etc.
  • Maximum body weight is 250-pounds, which may be too light for some riders.

Final Thoughts:

There appears to be a love-hate response to this exercise cycle.  Several one-star reviews, and several five-star reviews, averaging out to a 4.1.  With the price at the high end of the $$$ range, and the features at the low end, this does not appear to be a good overall value.

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#10 Efitment Indoor Cycle Bike

First Impressions:

This bike has various weight flywheels available; this summary is based on the 48-pound wheel.  It is belt driven, with leather pad friction resistance. A four-way adjustable seat is featured, with two-way adjustable hand grips.  Handles have pulse grips to measure your heartbeat, and an LCD monitor displays six vital signs as you exercise.

Features and Specifications:

  • The bike has a 51” x 20” footprint, and, with the 48-pound flywheel, weighs 123-pounds, supporting up to a 275-pound user.
  • Transport wheels make for easy movement from location to location.  
  • The bike features a belt drive, micro-adjustment magnetic resistance system.

Pros:

  • Adjustable seat, pedals, and handlebars make for a customized, comfortable ride.  Handlebars have built-in heart rate monitors.
  • The heavy flywheel will really push the users, and should amplify training results.
  • Most users are very complimentary about the ease of assembly and adjustments to allow for multiple users.

Cons:

  • The 3.6 rating is easily the lowest rating of the ten exercise bicycles listed here.  Well over 1/3 of users rated the bike 3 or below, with most complaining about the noise of operation.
  • While it has a holder for a water bottle, there is no storage for tablet or phone on the bike frame.

Final Thoughts:

Overall, users judged the quality of this bike to be insufficient, mentioning the noisy ride, light frame, and poor customer support.  With three cheaper bikes than this one on the list having a higher rating, this just is not a good value. The other ones may have their own issues, but you would still spend less money than on this model.  

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Final Verdict

Before we render our decision, let’s look back at how we got to this point.  We began by talking about exercise in general, and cardiovascular exercise, or cardio, in particular.  We covered why cardio is important in your overall health and fitness goals, how cardio works within your body, and why it is so effective.

We then switched gears a little, and reviewed how a stationary bike, or exercise bicycle, is a good fit in a cardio program. We talked about easy access for use in your own home, to avoid trips to the gym.  Following this, we did a helicopter view of ten different exercise cycles, looking at their best features, quality rating, and pricing.

This led us into a discussion on the features and specifications of an exercise bicycle.  We detailed out each one, and explained why it might or might not be important to you, and relevant to your decision on buying an exercise cycle.  After a detailed review of each of the ten bikes – what’s good about them, what’s not so good about them, and what are the overall impressions of the bike – we’re now ready to narrow down the selection to one or two bikes deemed to be the best values.  Here we go.

Let’s look at this from the perspective of two different buyers.  Our first buyer is just starting a cardio program, and has decided an exercise bicycle would be a good investment for him.  There is still some nagging doubt whether he will be able to sustain this exercise, so spending a fortune on a bike is out of the question for him.  He does want some standard functionality, but is not willing to spend extra on what he deems are “bells and whistles”.

Our second buyer comes at this decision from a different angle.  He already has a successful cardio program underway, and wants to maintain it.  Maybe he had a cheaper bike he’s already worn out, or wants one with more features.  Maybe he’s been an outdoor exerciser and now wants to work out in the comforts of home.  In any case, he wants to buy a bike. Within reason, money is not an issue, but he wants good value for the money he spends.  

Let’s start with our novice biker.  He’s done his research, and knows working out within a target heart range will improve the overall effectiveness of his exercise.  He’s a bigger guy, a little overweight, so a sturdy frame and decent user weight allowance are important also. The idea of sitting on a bike seat for a while has him worried, so comfort is also key on his list.  Finally, he has a hard and fast budget of $500, but does not necessarily want to spend that much and find end up with a clothes rack in six months.

We have five exercise bicycles that fall into his category:

  • Pooboo Indoor Cycling Bike, Exercise Bike
  • PYHIGH Indoor Cycling Bike Belt Drive Stationary
  • EFITMENT Indoor Cycle Bike, Cycling Trainer
  • BulbHead Slim Cycle 2-in-1 Stationary
  • IDEER LIFE Exercise Bike Indoor

With the second highest price, and the (far and away) lowest quality rating, it’s a fairly quick decision to remove the EFITMENT Indoor Cycle from consideration.  Users did not like the clunky, noisy ride, and, while if had a heavy flywheel, the rest of the bike did not appear to be very substantial. Our user doesn’t break the 275-pound limit of this bike, but he’s close enough to it that he is worried about the overall strength and stability of this model.  

Because it has the only $ price out there of our bikes, the IDEER catches the eye of our buyer.  The bike has a fairly light, 24-pound flywheel, which may make it difficult to exert enough energy to stay in the target zone for heart rate.  It does have decent features, but the large table looks a little clunky. While it’s portable and stores easily, there are concerns about the conflicting user weight capacity, handlebar adjustment, and seat comfort. Let’s set this one off to the side for a minute.

The BulbHead and the Pyhigh are with the price of two coffees of each other, so no real decision point there.  They both have the same 4.6 rating, so again no differentiator. The BulbHead offers an app for live training classes, which is a good “nice to have” for a beginner.  The weight limit is only 250-pounds, however. It is convertible to a recumbent bike, and allows both upper and lower body exercises. The Pyhigh goes up to 280-pound capacity, has a 35-pound flywheel and a four-way adjustable seat, but requires learning the metric system for some of the exercise measurements.

These bikes each appear to cover the basics, and both have different advantages and disadvantages.  Neither, however, to my eye, really distinguishes itself over the other. Given the price advantage of the IDEER, let’s drop both of these, keep the IDEER on the list, and move over to our last model, the Pooboo.

This model is just barely within the $$ threshold, and is double the price of the IDEER.  However, with a 5.0 quality rating, it is worth looking at in more detail. A 40-pound flywheel will provide plenty of resistance, and a six feature LED display will allow real-time readings of speed, heart rate, etc.  The steel construction and large footprint indicate durability and stability, and it has a lot of space for tablets, towels, water and so on. There are no real negatives, although the manufacturer does need to be contacted to check on the warranty period.  

That leaves us with the lowest and highest priced models of the group, one with a perfect 5.0 rating and the other a somewhat low 4.2.  To me the decision comes to this – get the low end model, live with it for a while, make sure it will get used, and accept somewhat lesser functionality, or, pay the extra money, get a higher quality unit, better features, and pray you don’t get tired of it in a month.  There is a high level of individuality in this type of decision, but, in my case, I would be a lot more likely to keep using a higher priced model than a lower priced one. It would just be too easy to walk away from the IDEER the first few times I didn’t feel like exercise.

My pick, therefore, is to buy the Pooboo Indoor Cycle.  

Let’s move on to the experienced cardio warrior.  He’s ready to upgrade, hopefully to a lifetime bike.  Primary features for him are going to be strength and stability of the bike, cardio monitoring features, warranty, and enhancements like programmable workout routines.  This leaves our remaining list of bicycles as:

  • Stamina Elite Total Body Recumbent Bike
  • SCHWINN AIRDYNE PRO
  • L NOW Indoor Cycling Bike Stationary
  • Schwinn AD7 Airdyne Bike
  • CONCEPT 2 BIKEERG

We’ll begin with the only $$$ bike on the list, the Stamina Elite.  The first thing that catches the eye is the relatively low 4.1 customer rating.  When strength, stability, and warranty are on our shopping list, this is a definite red flag.  It has a low 250# rider limit, and no storage for tablet or phone. While the recumbent style is intriguing, and it does offer upper and lower body workouts, but not at the same time.  Bottom line – you’d be better off dropping down to the Pooboo, the winner of our first cycle, then selecting this bike. This one goes to the curb.

Let’s look at the two Schwinn products – the Airdyne Pro and the AD-7.  Schwinn has been making bicycles for over one hundred years, therefore a big plus for both models.  The Pro is the pricier of the two, but brings with it a 4.9 rating, versus a 4.2 for the AD-7. The AD-7 has a five-year warranty, has programmable workouts, and a tracking unit for seven different exercise metrics.  Users complained about the lack of Bluetooth functionality, and the fact it did not have much in the way of storage for tablets, phones, etc.

The Pro model, which seems to be geared toward commercial use, has a ten-year warranty, so very well could be a “lifetime” bike for our buyer.  It’s rated for a 350-pound rider, so strength and stability seem to be a non-issue. It’s also programmable for exercise routines, and tracks seven metrics and an upper body workout capability.  Some customers complained about the seat comfort level, but it is an easy change out to a different seat model if desired.

Comparing these two, the Pro seems to be the big brother – a little bigger, stronger, and with more features.  With a commercial grade warranty, you are not likely to be looking for another bike any time soon, so it might be worth paying the extra money.  For me, we table the Pro for future discussion, and dismiss the AD-7 from the possibilities.

The Concept 2 is also highly rated at 4.8, bringing with it a high $$$$ price also.   It weighs in at only 58-pounds, thanks to the air resistance flywheel and an aluminum frame construction.  It comes with a five-year warranty, and supports Bluetooth technology so a wireless heart monitor can be used with it.  While the seat adjusts four ways, the handlebars only move up and down, leading to comfort issues for some users. While you can store past workout statistics, it does not have the capability for upper body workouts, and there is limited storage available, none for a tablet.  

With the price one of this virtually equal to the Schwinn Pro, you can’t help but compare the two side by side.  Even ignoring the name, Schwinn is a clear winner with the better rating, warranty, and upper body workout capabilities.  Say goodbye to the Concept 2.

To recap, we have the Schwinn Airdyne Pro still in the hunt, and the last remaining entry, the L Now exercise bicycle.  The L Now comes in with a 5.0 rating, and can save you a Benjamin versus the Airdyne Pro. It will support a 350-pound rider, and has 4-way seat and handlebar adjustment should provide a comfortable ride for any size user.  A little off-setting is that there is no warranty mentioned for what is advertised to be a commercial model. Overall, I don’t think this would be a bad choice.

In the interest of full disclosure, the fact that Schwinn has been making bicycles since the 1890s carries a lot of weight with me.  Not to mention my first bike was a fire engine red Schwinn. So, for me, even though it costs a little more, I’d put my money on the Schwinn Airdyne Pro.  You can decide how much of the evaluation is subjective vs. objective. I will say that any of the top three would make a fine exercise bicycle.

Hopefully this has been informative, and helps you decide on an exercise bicycle for your personal use.  If not, you can always tell me to “pedal” my advice elsewhere.

Top 10 Rouge Weightlifting Belts in 2019

The Greek mathematician, Archimedes, is credited with saying, “Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it and I shall move the world.”  He didn’t really say it in English, and if I left it in the original Greek no one would understand. Pretty impressive weightlifting feat, though, don’t you think?  Now just imagine how much more weight he could move with a proper weightlifting belt, to help protect and strengthen his core, abs, and back.

Weightlifting is a pretty simple sport, if you get right down to it.  Grab something and lift it up. Move it around as prescribed. Put it back where you found it.  Repeat as desired. Where weightlifting tends to get complicated is when you apply a multi-level matrix comprised of the type of lifting (training, weightlifting, powerlifting) you are doing, the muscle groups you are working on improving, the equipment you are using, and the type or variety of lift you are doing to impact those muscle groups.  

Let’s look at each of these elements in isolation, and then in the total context of each other.  Weightlifting is generally divided into three segments – weight (or resistance) training, weightlifting, and powerlifting.  Let’s define each. Weight training typically involves using lighter weight, or even none at all, just body weight, and doing a relatively high number of repetitions.  Each group of repetitions, or reps, is called a set. So, you may do ten reps with 50 pounds of weight per set (lifting 50 pounds ten times), then, in your exercise session, do three sets.  Each set is either followed by a short rest, or doing a different set working different muscle groups. Moving from one exercise to another, with little rest in between is known as circuit training.  The objective of weight training is body toning (turning flab into muscle) and general health improvement.

Weightlifting is the next step up from weight training.  It involves using heavier weights, almost as much you can lift, for just a few times.  The stress these heavy weights put on the particular muscle group, with proper rest and continued training, can lead to significant muscle growth.  Weightlifters typically find out their one rep maximum lift – the weight that they can lift only one time – and then work out with a percentage of that weight, usually 75 – 85% of it.  In time, their one rep max will increase, and then the weight used in their workout will increase accordingly.

Powerlifting is the last and final step in the weightlifting spectrum.  Powerlifting places its emphasis on the sheer strength of the lifter, not technique or flexibility.  Powerlifters may lift as much as three times their body weight. There are three distinct lifts in a powerlifting competition – the squat, which emphasizes leg power; the bench press, which measures upper body strength; and the dead lift, which displays gripping strength and back power. During a competition, the lifter’s best weight from each lift type is recorded, and the highest total of the three lifts wins the competition.  Lifters are divided into weight classes based on their size to even out the competition.

So, how and why does a weight lifting belt come into play in each of these three scenarios?  We’ll look at that in some detail in the next section. The next two elements of the matrix are the target muscle group, and the specific lifts and movements you will do to stimulate it.  We just looked at that a little in our description of powerlifting. It’s really not much different in weightlifting or weight training. There are specific exercises designed to work your legs, arms, core, back, etc.  The variation, as noted above, is in the amount of weight you use in your lifts, and the number of times you repeat those lifts.

Equipment is the last piece of our matrix puzzle.  The first thing you need is weight. You may do only exercises with your body weight; think pull-ups and pushups.  Or you may do similar exercises with a barbell, or weightlifting bar, and weight plates. You can do your sets with just a bar and plates, or you can facilitate those sets with other equipment, such as power racks, squat racks, and weight benches.  The last piece of equipment that comes into play is for personal protection; examples include weightlifting gloves, safety pipes and straps, spotters, and weightlifting belts.

We are going to focus this article on weightlifting belts.  We’ll gain an understanding of their key features, take a look at ten specific belts from Rogue Fitness, review and rate them, and then, finally, pick the best of the best, covering a couple different scenarios.  

Let’s get started.  

THE WEIGHTLIFTING BELT

While it is admittedly lacking photos or other documentation, one of the earliest belts was worn by Milo of Croton in ancient Greece.  He reportedly carried a calf up a mountain every day to build strength, and, as the calf grew and got heavier, he got stronger. After a while, the calf was not needed, so he apparently had him for lunch, and made a belt from the hide.  Norse legend also has strongman Thor (yes, that Thor) wearing a special belt that increased his strength.

To get a little closer to the modern era, weightlifting belts made appearances in strongman contests and lifting exhibitions in the mid-1800s.  In the 1896 Olympics, the first in which weightlifting appeared as a sport, several competitors wore belts to help increase their lifts. By the 1940s, as weightlifting grew in prominence and practice, belts became more and more common.  With the development of powerlifting federations in the 1960s, weightlifting belts became an accepted part of the sport.

We now know a little bit about the history of weightlifting belts, but what exactly is a belt, and what is it supposed to do?  As far as typical features, a weightlifting belt is normally four to six inches wide, and is secured at the waist by either a buckle or other type of fastener, such as Velcro.  Most are made of leather, although others are made of synthetic materials like nylon. Some belts will have a consistent width all the way around; others will be wider in the back.  A weightlifting belt should help you with proper breathing techniques during a heavy lift, and enhance your personal safety by stabilizing your core and spine.

So, what does a belt do for you during a heavy lift? Before we get into that, let’s look at what is involved in lifting a heavy weight.  Your core is key to lifting, but your core is soft and flexible by nature. It needs to be so you can bend, twist, and move forward and backward.  But when you’re lifting, you don’t want a soft core; you want it rigid, like a board. Holding your breath and tightening your torso creates that rigidity.  This happens naturally; think about lifting something heavy or even pushing a car.

So how does a weightlifting belt fit into this scenario?  First, it helps keep your spine stable and in a neutral, straight position.  Having the spine out of alignment, when lifting heavy weights, could very likely result in a back injury.  Second, and more importantly, the weightlifting belt is to help you control your breathing during a lift. This stabilizes your core, and the belt gives you something to push those core muscles against.  The belt, then, gives you indirect support by giving your core something to push against to establish the rigidity it needs.

Other noted benefits to wearing a belt are to increase the pressure in your abdominal area, which in turn helps improve core strength, and keeps the spine in proper position to lift heavy weights.  Proper biomechanics, enhanced by wearing a belt, will greatly reduce spinal flex, and push you into lifting more with your legs than your back. It can also increase muscle activity in other parts of your body, particularly your legs.  

Why wouldn’t you wear a weightlifting belt?  What are the potential risks or drawbacks from wearing one?

Many lifters recovering from injury, particularly back injuries, wear a belt thinking a belt will protect them from future injury.  This is not the case, however, as the belt will not sufficiently protect the spine when lifting very heavy weights. Others argue that, while a belt will strengthen your core, once you take it off, and lack that support, the muscles will actually be weaker, and unable to handle the same weights you had been lifting with the belt.  

For most lifters, a belt is really not needed, as the majority of exercises do not place an excessive amount of strain on the lower back.  Many recommend a belt only if you are a powerlifter, or doing deadlifts, citing the false security a belt can leave you when you lift without one.

Fact Sheet – Product Comparison Table

Time to take a high-level review of each of the ten Rogue weightlifting belts.  You’ll get a brief review of each belt, and indication of the price range (see key below this table), and a rating from 0.0 to 5.0.  This rating is based on submitted reviews from actual Rogue customers for each of these belts. At the end of this article, I’ll throw in my opinion, for what it’s worth, about which belts have the best features, functionality, and overall purchase value.  

NumberProductBest FeatureRatingPrice Range (See Below)
1
Rogue Oly Ohio Lifting Belt
Top of the Rogue line, with a unique hole spacing pattern to allow a perfect fit. 5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)$$$
2
Rogue Premium Ohio Lifting Belt
High quality, top performance, all leather belt, with fast break-in time 5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)$$$
3
Rogue Black Leather 13mm – 4″ Lever Belt
Unique locking system, different than standard buckle. Delivers strong, consistent back support. 5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)$$$
4
Rogue USA Nylon Lifting Belt
Developed with a CrossFit games champion, belt is nylon, with Velcro rather than a standard buckle 4.9 out of 5 stars (4.9 / 5)$
5

Rogue Ohio Lifting Belt
Strong, long-lasting leather belt, offering firm support. Geared for the serious lifter. 4.9 out of 5 stars (4.9 / 5)$$$
6

Rogue Faded 4″ Lifting Belt by Pioneer
Custom dyed, very attractive leather belt. Unique two- hole system allows better fit than standard one-hole system belts. 4.9 out of 5 stars (4.9 / 5)$$$
7
Rogue Echo 10mm Lifting Belt
Black leather featuring a large Rogue logo, 4” wide, 10MM thick specs. 4.8 out of 5 stars (4.8 / 5)$$
8
Rogue 5″ Nylon Weightlifting Belt
Another nylon belt, offering 5” of back support. Light but durable. 4.7 out of 5 stars (4.7 / 5)$
9
Schiek 2004 Lifting Belt
Lightweight, matching natural body shapes, Velcro fasteners and optional suspenders 4.7 out of 5 stars (4.7 / 5)$$
10
Schiek 2004 Lifting Belt – Stars and Stripes
The same as the Schiek belt above, but with a patriotic red, white, and blue color scheme. Two-year warranty. 4.7 out of 5 stars (4.7 / 5)$$

Price Range Key:

$ – Less than $50

$$ – $50 – $100

$$$ – More than $100

Product-Buying Guide

We noted above that the majority of people involved in weight training do not really need a weightlifting belt.  Resistance training falls into that group, since lifting lighter weights several times. So, as we start to look into the details of weightlifting belts in this section, our real audience will be the weightlifters and powerlifters.  These two segments typically lift the heaviest weights, and have the most to gain from use of a weightlifting belt.

Following are some of the main specifications and features that might influence your decision on whether to buy a belt, and, if so, which one.  Later in the article we will go through each of the ten belts in more detail, and review which of these features are present or not present in these belts.

Thickness

Thickness of the weightlifting belt will have direct correlation to the amount of support it generates.  The thickness may be entirely from the material of construction, or there may be a lining material sewn in between two panels of the material.  As you look to lift heavier and heavier weights, the thickness of the belt increases in importance. Note, however, that a thicker belt may take a longer “breaking in” period before it can be moved into everyday use.

Material

Historically, (remember the story about the Greek cow lifter?), weight lifting belts have been made from leather.  Leather, when properly tanned and dried, is a strong material, relatively cheap, and has the structural integrity to maintain support for your back and core.  Recently, belts made from other materials, primarily nylon, have been introduced. The trade-off for their lower cost is typically strength; that may or may not matter based on your personal lifting habits.  

Waist Measure

Just as belts for everyday use, weightlifting belts come in different lengths.  The overall length of the belt, in conjunction with the hole spacing (discussed below), will determine the fit on the lifter.  Belts in this group range from five sizes available to seven sizes available, so, depending on your personal circumstances, this may drive your purchasing decision.  When considering waist measure, bear in mind that the belt sizes do not correspond to pants waist sizes. And additionally, Rogue is clear in their web descriptions, that their sizes will be different from those of their competitors.  Be sure to follow the instructions, for the specific Rogue belt you are contemplating, to make sure you order the correct size.

Stitching

These belts are made up of multiple layers of material, possibly including a separate liner, and stitching is required to hold these layers together.  The durability of the stitching will be key to the durability of the belt. Depending on the features of the belt, there may be a single or a double layer of stitches around the belt.  

Buckles and Fasteners

The strength of the buckle or fastener on the belt is also key.  The belt must be adjusted tightly to offer the core support necessary, and, if there is slippage during the lift, the support will decrease.  Buckles may be the standard type like day to day belts, special locking types, or, in the case of other fabrics, may be made of Velcro or other materials.

Width

The width, as with the material and waist measure fit, contribute to the strength and support of the belt.  Width may vary on belts, with the front of the belt increasing to a wider back section, or the belt may be a standard width all the way around.  The width will also play a key part in the comfort of the belt. While you want it wide enough to give good support, it should not be so high that it cuts into the back or abdomen.  

Belt interior liner

Some belts have specially textured interior lining, that will fit against your body or clothing.  This rougher inside will help to stop the belt from moving side to side or up and down during the lift.  

Warranty

Some of these ten belts have a warranty noted, others don’t, so best to check with the customer service group to find out for sure, if the belts are covered.  While some feel that top end belt should be good for lift, others feel that the structural integrity will weaken over time and it should be replaced. For nylon or fabric type belts, it’s more likely the Velcro fastener will fail before the belt does.  

Hole alignment

To extract the full benefits of a weightlifting belt, proper fit is integral.  The belt should be tight, probably tighter than you think, but not so tight as to restrict your breathing, so it’s a fine line.  The distance between holes in the belt is key to getting this proper fit. Most belts have holes spaced one inch apart, but some of the belts in this section have a special hold alignment system that gives you hole increments of one-half inch.  Velcro and some other type fasteners give you virtually limitless possibilities to adjust the tightness of the belt.

Belt weight

Some of these belts do list a weight specification; most do not.  Realistically, a few ounces either way in the weight of the belt are not going to make a big difference to you, especially when you are throwing around hundreds of pounds of bar and plates.  

Optional equipment

When it comes to weightlifting belts, there is not much in the way of optional equipment available.  Some belts offer suspenders as an option, which help hold the belt in position during the lift. Others offer some aesthetic enhancements, like special panels where decorative patches can be put in place.  

Price

Price plays a consideration in just about every purchasing decision you make.  But you should always remember the old adage, “You get what you pay for.” Overall value is more important than the actual price you pay.  When you put buying a weight belt in the context of buying a barbell, weight plates, a specialty rack, or a weightlifting bench, the actual price is not such an important consideration.  

Making your decision

The cheapest belt here will save you about a “Benjamin” from the most expensive.  The price difference between the three most expensive belts here is covered by a couple cups of coffee.  Bottom line here, buy the belt that’s right for you, and don’t be fixated on the price. The overall value, driven by functionality, form and fit, should be your primary concern.

By now you’ve seen the purpose of a weightlifting belt, the context in which it should be used, and some of the primary features and specifications that will factor into your buying decision.  Let’s look individually at each of the ten belts, which will ultimately lead us to our “best of the best” decision.

Top 10 Best List

#1 Rogue Oly Ohio Lifting Belt

First Impressions:

Designed for the Olympic lifter, this belt tends to stay away from looks and fashion, and moves right to the crux of lifting belts – strength and stability.  Tapering up from 2” at the front to 4” at the back, it has a shielded buckle to prevent accidental snags on clothing, and the narrower front reduces the chances for accidental bar contact.

Features and Specifications:

  • A full 10MM thick, this weightlifting belt is a solid, no frills fully functional lifting belt designed for the pros of the weightlifting world.
  • The belt has reinforced stitching all the way around, and is available in five sizes from 21” to 45”.

Pros:

  • Given the professional crowd that this belt is marketed towards, a 5.0 review without a whisper of discontent is pretty amazing.  
  • The belt, as part of the tanning process, is pre-broken in to allow it to be used right out of the box.  

Cons:

  • It might be driven by personal preference rather than function, but some lifters feel that a belt should be a consistent width, and not tapered.  

Final Thoughts:

If you are a weightlifter starting to go heavy, or a powerlifter already throwing around a lot of weight, this is a great choice for you.  No nonsense, immediately usable right out of the box, and a 5.0 review from your peers. Don’t let the $$$ price scare you away from a great value belt.

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#2 Rogue Premium Ohio Lifting Belt

First Impressions:

This attractive, natural looking, brown leather belt is also a premium powerlifting belt.  Made of bridle leather, which has more natural oils, this belt will be a durable, long-lasting part of your equipment even with daily, high intensity use.  

Features and Specifications:

  • This belt has a consistent 4-inch width, front and back, and features a smooth operating roller buckle for fast and easy adjustments to the belt.
  • The special grade of leather is more resistant to moisture and wear and tear, and has a faster break-in period than other, stiffer leather belts.
  • This belt has a 10MM thickness (which may vary by +/- 1MM due to natural leather characteristics), and features double stitching at the top and bottom of the belt.  

Pros:

  • Attractive, yet durable and functional, this is a long-lasting belt for the dedicated lifter.  
  • The belt has a slip-resistant, texturized interior to help hold it firmly in place during the lift.  
  • This weightlifting belt comes in five sizes, covering a range from 21” to 45”.  

Cons:

  • There are no real disadvantages to this belt, other than the break-in period, but that will be common to all leather weightlifting belts.

Final Thoughts:

Even with a $$$ price, this is a top-quality belt.  It has a 5.0 rating, and all the reviews are very favorable as to fit, comfort, and strength.  One reviewer compared it to wearing a tree trunk around your waist. It also has some flair and style, with a burnished leather look.  

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#3 Rogue Black Leather 13mm – 4″ Lever Belt

First Impressions:

Utilizing a patented lever-lock system instead of the normal buckle, this belt is certified by the International Powerlifting Federation.  In an all-black design, it provides stylish looks with the strength to support even the heaviest lifts.

Features and Specifications:

  • The belt is a full 4-inch width all the way around, and is a thick 13MM (approximately ½”) to provide strong support for the lifter.  
  • The belt is all leather, and available in five different sizes from 22” to 48”.  
  • An interior liner helps prevent interior movement and slippage, and the edges are beveled for comfort.

Pros:

  • Definitely a good choice for a powerlifter, built with maximum thickness and a locking system to prevent any slippage.  
  • Three pounds of leather with reinforced stitching most likely yields a lifetime belt for the lifter.

Cons:

  • No real negatives here, but, as with most leather belts, a break-in period will be required before the belt reaches a normal comfortable feeling.

Final Thoughts:

With a 5.0 review, you will be getting a quality powerlifting belt.  The $$$ price is premium also, but based on the reviews, a belt you will be using for quite a while.  The belt is a good combination of fit, form, and functionality.

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#4 Rogue USA Nylon Lifting Belt

First Impressions:

Available in five sizes and three colors, this nylon belt was co-developed by two-time CrossFit champ Mat Fraser.  It tapers from 5” to 4” back to front, with a 3” wide nylon Velcro closing strap. USA-made, it was used by Fraser in his 2017 CrossFit games title.  

Features and Specifications:

  • The nylon belt is structured around a ¼” thick foam frame for good support and a contoured fit, and is available in sizes from 26” to 47”.  
  • The anti-microbial foam interior will keep its shape, and gives good support without the bulk of heavier belts.
  • Special Velcro patches around the belt gives the user the option to add various weightlifting-themed patches, available optionally from Rogue.

Pros:

  • The combination of a $ price and a 4.9 rating make this belt an attractive option for newcomers to the sport all the way to experienced lifters.  
  • The belt is a proven winner, evidenced by the championship use by Fraser.
  • The Velcro closures allow for easy loosening, tightening or remove or the belt, with the no holes design.  

Cons:

  • There is an existing school of thought that feels any material other than leather is not going to give the lifter the proper support and protection needed during the lift.

Final Thoughts:

This is a budget priced belt that offers good support and fit.  Very positive reviews from users of the belt point to solid structure and functionality, and no loss of support versus leather belts.  If you are wavering on getting a belt for the first time, this would be a good choice with minimal risk to your wallet.

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#5 Rogue Ohio Lifting Belt

First Impressions:

This is a hand-crafted, American made, 4” wide leather weight lifting belt.  It is made, and priced, for the serious lifter, evidenced by its full ten-mm thickness (which may vary somewhat based on the leather properties).  A natural, deep brown leather, it comes in five sizes from 21” to 45”.

Features and Specifications:

  • The 4” width provides firm, strong support to reduce the potential for injury.
  • A single prong buckle provides a strong clasp, and quick adjustments to tighten or loosen the belt.  
  • Rogue’s vegetable tanning process, which takes more time than sole tanning, give the leather a durability and water resistance not available by the other process.

Pros:

  • The longer tanning process gives the belt a softer feel, reduces the break-in period for the belt, while not sacrificing any of the strength of the leather.
  • An excellent value, given the strong 4.9 review and a (lower end) $$$ price.

Cons:

  • There are no real negatives to this belt, other than the (should be expected) break in time to use it for extended periods.  Might be a little pinching until broken in.

Final Thoughts:

As with pretty much every belt we’ve looked at so far, it has very good reviews, and looks to be a great value for a serious lifter.  It might be a bit much for a novice lifter, but it will definitely fit the needs of a veteran weightlifter.

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#6 Rogue Faded 4″ Lifting Belt by Pioneer

First Impressions:

In a nod to fashion, Rogue has given this leather belt a faded look, making it not only functional but also a little dressy.  This 4” wide, 8.5MM thick belt has a black suede liner, and carries a solid 4.9 review rating.

Features and Specifications:

  • Patent-pending Pioneer Cut design has two lines of holes, offset from each other, so that the lifter has ½” hole spacing rather than 1” spacing as on most other belts.
  • The 8.5MM thickness, paired with the suede liner, give this belt a very solid feel and comfortable support.  
  • No frills at all on this belt.  It is designed for function, with the only concession the faded leather look to improve the appearance.

Pros:

  • A very solid 4.9 quality review, with excellent feedback about the innovative hole spacing design.  
  • The 1/2” hole spacing gives a very precise fit, and allows for easy tightening or loosening of the belt.
  • The belt is strengthened by reinforced stitching all around it.  

Cons:

  • This belt runs to a different size structures than other belts (even those from Rogue), so the sizing table on the web site should be consulted.
  • The only negative on the reviews was a reference to the $$$ price.

Final Thoughts:

An attractive belt, with all the built-in quality you would expect.  You are paying a bit of a price penalty for the appearance and also the hole sizing, but not enough to discourage any serious lifters to move away from this belt.  Others may be a little better value, so it comes down to the importance of the faded look to you.

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#7 Rogue Echo 10mm Lifting Belt

First Impressions:

This may be the ultimate in a no-frills belt – five sizes, ten adjustment holes, 4” width, 10MM thick, black with a Rogue logo.  Take it or leave it. Just breaking the $$ plane, it is a fully functional belt at a budget price.

Features and Specifications:

  • The 4” width is set to give you excellent support and optimal comfort.  
  • You lose some adjustment flexibility with the ten-hole design, but it really is not likely to be an impact for the lifter, given the five available sizes from 23” to 45”.  
  • The single prong design makes for quick adjustments to the belt to tighten or loosen it.  

Pros:

  • A 4.8 review on a fully functional, no frills belt, at budget prices.  This is a good belt for novice to experienced lifters.
  • The 10mm thickness will give plenty of back and core support.  Reinforced double stitching all the way around the belt will give it improved durability.

Cons:

  • Reviewers (and Rogue) mention that the belt is quite stiff, and the break-in period will be somewhat longer than with other leather belts.  

Final Thoughts:

This weightlifting belt just barely breaks out of the $ cost range, so it represents a very good value when measured by price and functionality.  It’s not at all frilly or fancy, but just looking at it seems to say “you can lift a little more”.

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#8 Rogue 5″ Nylon Weightlifting Belt

First Impressions:

Much like the Echo belts above, this is a no-frills, budget-conscious weightlifting belt, with the major difference being the nylon construction of this belt.  It tapers from 5” at the back to 3” in the front. This imported belt is lightweight yet durable, offering support for both your abs and lower back.

Features and Specifications:

  • Featuring a hook and loop closure system and a steel tensioning buckle, this belt is easy to close up and to adjust.
  • The 5” width offers good coverage of the lower back, and the flexible nylon helps the belt to follow the body’s natural contours.  
  • You can order this belt in six sizes, ranging from 26” to 46”.  

Pros:

  • This is the lowest price belt of the ten, and offers a good, low-priced option for the beginning weightlifter.
  • The 3” support strap with the hook and loop closure offers a firm, secure closure of the belt.  

Cons:

  • Reviewers indicate that the Velcro closure system may wear out fairly quickly, depending on use, and somewhat reducing the value of this one.  

Final Thoughts:

If you are not sure, if you want, or even need, a weightlifting belt, you can buy this one for very little cash and see if it makes sense for you to wear a belt.  Go into the purchase knowing this is not a lifetime purchase, and you are not going to get the support from this belt that other nylon and leather belts will offer.  But it will help you decide, if a belt is right for you.

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#9 Schiek 2004 Lifting Belt

First Impressions:

This American made nylon belt is available in four colors and five sizes.  It offers a contoured design, with a 4.75” height in front and back, with tapered sides to reduce pinching and friction.  A steel buckle and Velcro fasteners give you an exact fit, and the belt is light enough to support your entire workout.

Features and Specifications:

  • Available in lengths from 24” to 45”, this (barely) $$ belt is a good budget-driven belt for cross-trainers and novice lifters.  
  • The belt can be hand washed, comes with a two-year warranty, and has matching, optional, detachable weightlifting suspenders.  
  • While a lightweight belt, it still offers good abdominal support with its patented cone-shaped design.

Pros:

  • Budget-friendly, with a relatively good 4.7 review, this is a good first- or second-level belt for a new lifter.
  • Velcro fastening system allows you to make fast and adjustments to belt placement and tension.  It’s lightweight enough to be used through a whole circuit workout.

Cons:

  • Some user problems were reported with the Velcro system, but they were addressed promptly and satisfactorily by the manufacturer.  

Final Thoughts:

If you think the 5” nylon weightlifting belt might be too far down the price list, this belt could be a good alternative to it.  It’s priced similarly to other nylon belts, with similar functionality, so it really comes down to whether or not you see advantages to the design, options, or color choices.  

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#10 Schiek 2004 Lifting Belt – Stars and Stripes

First Impressions:

We’re going to make this one short and sweet.  This weightlifting belt is exactly, 100% the same as the Schiek 2004 Lifting Belt immediately above except for two things:

  1. It comes with an (admittedly attractive) red, white and blue stars and stripes design.
  2. This design adds ten bucks to the price.

Features and Specifications:

  • Available in lengths from 24” to 45”, this (barely) $$ belt is a good budget-driven belt for cross-trainers and novice lifters.  
  • The belt can be hand washed, comes with a two-year warranty, and has matching, optional, detachable weightlifting suspenders.  
  • While a lightweight belt, it still offers good abdominal support with its patented cone-shaped design.

Pros:

  • Budget-friendly, with a relatively good 4.7 review, this is a good first- or second-level belt for a new lifter.
  • Velcro fastening system allows you to make fast and adjustments to belt placement and tension.  It’s lightweight enough to be used through a whole circuit workout.

Cons:

  • Some user problems were reported with the Velcro system, but they were addressed promptly and satisfactorily by the manufacturer.  

Final Thoughts:

I have the exact same final impressions as above, with one addition.  If you have a female weightlifting friend that would like to adopt the Wonder Woman look, this is the belt for her.

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Final Verdict

Before we get into choosing the best weightlifting belts, let’s take a look back at what we’ve covered so far.  In the introduction, we talked about three subdivisions of weight lifting; weight training, weight lifting, and powerlifting.  We talked briefly about how a belt fits into the picture. We looked into the belt itself – functions and functionality. We discussed why it might be right or wrong for someone to use a belt.

We then broke it an overview of the ten belts, followed by a discussion on what features are important in a weightlifting belt, and how they can help you make a decision about the suitability of the belt for your needs.  After that, we did a deep dive into each of the ten different belts, talking about their specs and features, the pros and cons of each belt, and overall impressions of the belts. And now it is time to make some recommendations.

I want to break this down and look into the choices from two different perspectives.  My first group will consist of novice weight trainers or weight lifters, and I will also add in weightlifters with some experience, but now trying to get to heavier lifting levels, maybe even trying to cross the threshold into powerlifting.  

My second group will be established powerlifters.  They may be looking to replace an older belt, upgrade a cheaper one, or just buy a top of the line weightlifting belt.

Each of these two groups will have a different set of needs and wants, and therefore will be looking at two different sets of belts.  I’m going to break our total of ten belts into two groups of five each, admittedly, somewhat arbitrarily, but we’ve got to start somewhere.  And let’s have that starting point be our novice group.

This group will be looking at budget-friendly belts, as they don’t want to drop a lot of money on a belt without knowing if they are really going to reap any benefit from it.  So, again for the sake of argument, we’re going to give them some $ and $$ price belts as an assortment to shop from. They will have a choice of 4 nylon and one leather belt in this group.  The four nylon belts are:

#4 – USA Nylon Lifting Belt

#7 – Echo 10MM Leather Belt

#8 – 5” Nylon Weightlifting Belt

#9 – Schiek 2004 Nylon Lifting Belt

#10 – Schiek 2004 Nylon Stars and Stripes

All right then, let’s start the process.  The first decision is which type of belt you want – leather or nylon.  Let’s get the easy one out of the way. If you are interested in a budget-friendly, functional, no frills leather belt, to with the Echo 10MM.  You get a solid 4.8 review to accompany a (just barely) $$ price. The next leather belt up the scale is over double the price, and I couldn’t in good faith recommend that jump to a novice or even somewhat experienced weightlifter.  

So, the winner for this group, for anyone preferring a leather belt, is #7, the Echo 10MM Belt.

That leaves our four nylon belts for anyone with that preference.  I’m eliminating the 5” Nylon belt (#8), despite the $ price. It has a 4.7 quality rating, which isn’t bad, but the price jump from this belt to higher rated quality belts in the $$ range is fairly insignificant.  Next to drop from the list is the Schiek Stars and Stripes belt. It has a 4.7 rating, but, frankly, I’m not paying ten bucks more to dress like Wonder Woman. This leaves the other Schiek belt, and the #4 USA Nylon Lifting Belt.

This is also a pretty easy decision.  While there is nothing inherently wrong with the Schiek belt, it does have a 4.7 rating vs. a 4.9 rating for the USA belt.  The clincher for me is the combination of the higher rating for the USA belt, and the $ price range that comes with that higher rating.  It’s the best value of the nylon belts, and I would recommend it highly. It’s been competition-proven by a two-time CrossFit champion, and gets high rankings for its fit and structure.  A definite two-thumbs-up for me.

This leave us with the second group of five belts.  All of them are leather belts, all of them are $$$ price range.  Two of the five have a 4.9 rating; the other three are all at 5.0.  To recap, we are looking at a group of powerlifters here. They’ve already spent a fortune on barbells, plates, racks, and benches, so let’s agree that a price different of $35 from bottom end to top end on these belts is not going to matter to them.  Therefore, we drop price as a consideration, and focus on the features, specifications, and performance of the five belts.

To recap, these belts are:

#1 – Oly Ohio Belt

#2 – Premium Ohio Belt

#3 – Black Leather 13MM Belt

#5 – Ohio Lifting Belt

#6 – Faded 4” Belt

Since we are not paying attention to price here, but usability, I’m going to slide the #6 belt out of the competition.  While it has many favorable factors, the 4.9 rating drops it a notch behind the 5.0 belts. And I think this might be me, but a little too much was made about the faded leather look, which is pretty much irrelevant to performance.  

For similar reasons, the #5 Ohio belt drops out also.  It’s a good, solid, 10MM belt, and compares favorably to the #2 and #3 belts above.  I would feel comfortable recommending it to anyone in the powerlifting sector, but the rating factor is just enough penalty to remove it from “best of the best” competition.

And then there were three.  There are two main differentiators here.  First, the #1 belt, the Oly Ohio, is a tapered belt, slimming from a 4” width in the back to 2” width in the front.  It’s inconclusive, not fact based as far as I can see, but my research indicates that a lot of powerlifters just do not like tapered belts; they prefer a standard width all the way around.  So, I’m going to put this one on the chopping block also, leaving the #2 and #3 belts from our list.

This is where the second differentiator comes into play.  Flip back in your mind to the section on key features and specifications you should consider when selecting a weight belt.  In case you don’t remember, here’s what I said about thickness;

“Thickness of the weightlifting belt will have direct correlation to the amount of support it generates.  The thickness may be entirely from the material of construction, or there may be a lining material sewn in between two panels of the material.  As you look to lift heavier and heavier weights, the thickness of the belt increases in importance.”

The Premium Ohio Belt, #2, has a 10MM thickness, .39 inches.  The Black Leather Belt has 13MM thickness, or .51 inches. It sounds pretty inconsequential, doesn’t it?  But look at it this way – if someone were going to punch you in the stomach, wouldn’t you appreciate a little bit of extra strength protection?    For the powerlifter, that little bit of extra support might be the difference between a regular lift and a personal best record, and that’s what this sport is all about.  

So, there you have it.  Your best of the best weightlifting belt for the powerlifting set – the Rogue Black Leather 13MM 4” Lifting Belt.  If you have any doubts about this, look at the International Powerlifting Federation seal at the bottom left.

Let me reiterate; you can’t go wrong with any of these five leather belts.  Put price back in as a consideration and you might get an entirely different answer.  And remember one thing as we end this article – “Hug your kids, but belt your powerlifter.”  Happy lifting.

Top 10 Rouge Weightlifting Benches & Pads

Weightlifting as a sport or exercise can be incredibly simple, or increased in complexity based on equipment and peripherals.  At its simplest, you need a barbell and weight plates. Many lifters start expanding their equipment, either by buying specialized, highly technical equipment, like Olympic weight plates, or special racks to support the weights, and help with specific lifting movements.  These typically come in the form of squat racks or power racks. One additional piece of weightlifting equipment, which we will examine today, is the weightlifting bench.

The aim of weightlifting is to build muscle.  This can be accomplished by lifting the heaviest weights possible, in a relatively small number of repetitions. This tends to build relatively large muscles.  The other approach is to lift lighter weights, with more repetitions; which is known as weight training or resistance training. This will typically result in body toning; changing fat or flab, and developing a solid muscle tone across your body.  

In either case (but more so in weightlifting), the end objective is proportional muscle development.  This is attained by working all the major muscle groups of the body on a periodic basis – arms, legs, chest, back, core, and so on.  There are specific weight lifting movements, or lifts, that help to accomplish muscle development for each of these body parts. For example, if you want to build upper leg muscle, then you should be doing squats, which are designed to use your legs to lift your body weight, plus the weight of the barbell and plates.  If you want to work your arms and chest, a bench press would be a good choice.

So, we now know that weight lifting builds muscle, and various weightlifting movements can target specific muscles for development.  And we know that many of these lifts can be done with just the bar and plates, but other lifts are enhanced by using specific equipment for them.  So, let’s take a minute to investigate how some equipment can amplify your muscle building.

Let’s start with a squat lift.  Heavy weights are placed on the athlete’s shoulders, behind his neck.  Bending his knees, he drops until his thighs are parallel to the ground, or even lower in extreme cases.  He then uses his legs to drive the weight back up to a full standing position. A simple exercise, that would seem on the face of things could be done without any additional equipment.  So how can a squat rack change that? First, you can put an empty bar on the cups of the squat rack, and lift the plates up to the bar and rack them one at a time. The lifter gets under the bar, raises it a couple inches to clear the cups, takes a half step forward, and begins his exercise.  

Now envision this lift without the rack.  The plated barbell is sitting on the ground.  The lifter has to pick it up, move it to chest level, then snap it up over his head, using arm strength, and move it behind his neck to rest on his shoulders.  See the potential dangers in this? Now when the lifter is done, how does he put the bar back down? You could always push it backward off your shoulders, but your wife may not appreciate the impact it makes on the bedroom floor.  Or, although you are already pretty tired, attempt to lift over your head and reverse your original lifting. Or, only work out when you have a couple friends with you to help you with the weights.

The right equipment can help you do your weightlifting routine more efficiently, working the designed muscle groups, typically with heavier weights, while enhancing your personal safety as you are working with the weights.  We’ve seen how that can work with a squat rack. Now let’s look at how a weight lifting bench can be incorporated into our routine.

Many lifting movements are designed to isolate the specific group of muscles you are trying to build up.  Without this isolation, you can “cheat” and use different or additional muscle groups, which takes away from working your primary target group to the fullest.  Let’s look at one typically done from a weight bench, the curl. In this move, you start with a bar or a dumbbell (depending on if you are working one arm or two).  With your elbow in a stationary position, resting on your knee, you move the weight slowly toward you. Done properly, the curl will work your forearms and biceps.

Now let’s try it without a bench.  So, you are standing, with the weight straight down, and ready to begin the curl.  The first couple repetitions go fine, then you start to lose your form. Instead of relying on forearms and biceps, you start to bring your shoulders into the lift. Tilting backward let’s your back muscles help out.  Now the lift seems quite easy, but you are not really hitting the target muscle group.

These were a couple quick examples of how weightlifting equipment can improve and quicken your results.  Next, we’ll take a look at the ten pieces of equipment we’ll be reviewing and evaluating, followed up with a look at the specifications and features that should be important to you as you make your choices of a weightlifting bench.  Following that, we will review each bench in detail, talking about the overall impressions of it, the strengths and weaknesses of that model, and then some final thoughts on where it fits in overall suitability. We’ll make a short diversion and look into the history of weightlifting, and then come back to our equipment list, and pick the weightlifting bench best suited for weightlifters and weight trainers.

THE WEIGHTLIFTING BENCH

The primary purpose of a weightlifting bench is to give the lifter’s body support while performing specific lifts.  The bench itself may be freestanding, or it may be an integral part of a rack. It may be a fixed bench, or it may be adjustable.  We will talk about key features of a weightlifting bench a little later, but the primary one is to provide stable support for a quantifiable weight – the weight of the lifter, the weightlifting barbell, and the weightlifting plates attached to the barbell.

Many different weightlifting moves are facilitated by using a weight bench.  Among them are the bench press, rows, chest fly, bicep curls, pullovers, triceps press, and shoulder press.  As we need examples in the course of this article, we will focus on the more common lifts, such as the bench press, rows, and other presses.  Detailed descriptions of all these lifts can be found easily on the Internet for those who are interested.

Examples of weightlifting benches are below.

Fact Sheet – Product Comparison Table

Here, we’ll take a helicopter level view of each of the benches and pads under evaluation, all offered by Rogue Fitness.  You’ll get a brief description of the rack, an indication of the price range based on a scale at the end of this section, and the rating of each bench and pad, as rated by actual customers of Rogue who have purchased the equipment.  Later in the article, I will add my two cents based on the features, purchase value, and the overall functionality of the equipment, and give you my view of the “best of the best”.

NumberProductBest FeatureRatingPrice Range (see below)
1Rogue AB-3 Adjustable BenchAn adjustable bench, with almost infinite set and back positions possible.  Heavy duty. 4.9 out of 5 stars (4.9 / 5)$$$$
2Rogue Westside Bench 2.0 A framed, integrated bench.  Does all the basics, and has some nice options available.  Some assembly required. 4.8 out of 5 stars (4.8 / 5)$$$
3Rogue Adjustable Bench 2.0 Another adjustable bench, with 6 incline positions up to an 85o angle 4.9 out of 5 stars (4.9 / 5)$$$
4Monster Utility Bench Extra wide base for stability, available in short or standard heights.  Some options available. 4.9 out of 5 stars (4.9 / 5)$$
5Rogue Bolt Together Utility Bench An unassembled version of the regular bench (next).  Makes it easy to bring to small spaces or put on uneven floors. 4.9 out of 5 stars (4.9 / 5)$
6Rogue Flat Utility Bench 2.0 Very basis flat bench, no options, solid construction, easy storage 4.9 out of 5 stars (4.9 / 5)$
7AB-2 Adjustable Bench A versatile bench with over 50 seat and back combinations.  Compact footprint. 4.9 out of 5 stars (4.9 / 5)$$$$
8Rogue Monster Westside BenchOne of the big boys from the Monster series.  Heavy duty framing, safety features, optional pad choices.   5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)$$$$$
9Rogue Competition Fat Pad An almost 5” thick pad, compatible with and Rogue or Westside flat bench.  Helps optimize your lifting positions. 4.9 out of 5 stars (4.9 / 5)$
10Thompson Fat Pad Similar to the Rogue pad but wider.  Fits Rogue flat benches and can be adopted to fit competitor’s benches. 5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)$

Price Range Key:

< $250 – $

$250 – $500 – $$

$500 – $750 – $$$

$750 – $1000 – $$$$

>$1000 – $$$$$

Product-Buying Guide

Powerlifters are those behemoths you see in Olympic events and on television; lifting insane amounts of weight, using primarily deadlifts and clean and jerk lifts.  We’re not going to be worried about those guys here. If they use a weightlifting bench, it’s either for a little cross training or to tie their shoes.

Our audience here will be the weightlifters and weight trainers in the crowd.  You remember from earlier on – weightlifting equals heavier weights, lower repetitions, and weight training equals lighter weights, more repetitions.  The weightlifting benches we will be looking at now can accommodate either type of lifter; if they are geared more to one style than the other, we will try to point that out, but all are very versatile benches from the perspective of lifting techniques.  

Here are some of the key features and specifications that you should consider as you make your purchasing decision for a weightlifting bench.  As we get into the detailed unit by unit reviews later, we’ll try to point our which of these features are available, or not, on the units.

WEIGHT:

The weight of the bench may or may not be an important factor.  If you will have it in a permanent setting, and not have to move it around or store it, weight probably doesn’t matter so much.  If you have to hang it from the garage wall when you’re done with your workout, then weight matters a little more. In any event, weight can also be a good indicator of the overall strength and durability, and thus capacity, of the bench.

DIMENSIONS:

The overall bench dimensions are going to be key here, based on your space availability.  The height of the bench is going to be more of a comfort thing (more on that later), but the length and width of the bench are important, as is the footprint of the unit.  While the footprint on an adjustable bench may be fairly small, depending on the angle of set-up, it may take up considerably more overall space. Therefore, you will need to look at the dimensions in the context of the base size of the bench, and any configurable settings that will extend beyond the base size.  Make sure the width is sufficient to perform seated or kneeling lifts on the bench. Length should be enough for you to lay comfortably on the bench, for lifts like presses and flys. And even though it’s not a bench measure, don’t forget to take into account the length of the barbell, which will typically extend beyond the dimensions of the bench.

WEIGHT CAPACITY:

Surprisingly, most of the weight benches here do not list a maximum capacity for the combination of body weight and bar and plate weight.  While this is probably not an issue for the weight training set, it might be a concern for the weightlifters in the audience. A 250-pound man doing 200-pound bench presses is going to be putting some downward force on the bench, and the legs and frame should be designed so as to support it.  Look at the materials of construction and their dimensions and thickness as an indicator. If in doubt, contact the manufacturer.

HEIGHT:

In general, the height of the bench should not be a major consideration; there are, however, a couple cases where it might be.  If you are using the bench in conjunction with a separate rack, the height of the bench may not align properly with the hole spacing of the rack.  Most racks have 1” – 2” hole spacing, where the holes in the bench press area are 1” apart, and 2” apart above and below that area. If your bench height, or the combination of bench and pad height, don’t properly line up with that, you may lose some functionality in your lift parameters.  Height may also be a minor factor if you are kneeling or sitting on the bench to do curls or rows, but that will mostly be a comfort issue, not overall functionality. One of the models in this analysis offers a “shorty” version of the bench to counteract exactly these issues.

MATERIALS OF CONSTRUCTION:

The materials used in the frames and bases of these racks are directly proportional to the overall strength of the rack.  The most heavy-duty racks will be made from 3” x 3” x 11-gauge steel. 2” x 3” and 2” x 2” are also common sizes, and the assembly hardware typically ranges from ½” to 5/8” in this application.  The vinyl used in the padding should be strong, well-stitched, and easy to clean. The inside foam should be resilient enough to keep its shape under heavy pressure. While pad thickness is not specified for any of the pads, except the two optional pads: the competition pad and the Thompson fat pad (both 4.5”). You should make sure that the pad is thick enough to be comfortable, and blocks out the feel of any assembly hardware or frame members as you lie on it.

FOOTPRINT:

We touched on footprint earlier, but footprint is the measure of the space the equipment will take on the floor.  The actual space requirements for using the weightlifting bench may be quite different than the footprint of the bench.  Look for a wider base for better bench stability and no rocking.

SAFETY BARS/SAFETY SYSTEM:

If you are buying a stand-alone bench, this will not be part of your consideration.  If you already have a power rack or squat rack, hopefully some type of safety system is integral to it.  A safety system will only be available if you have some type of combination unit, like the Westside bench or the Westside Monster bench.  If you do go that way, there are usually two different options. The first is the pin and bar arrangement, where a steel bar is placed across the uprights between your chest and the J cups.  The idea is that if you drop the bar, it will stop at the bars instead of at your neck. The second system is safety straps, which are two braided steel cables that also go between the uprights.  These are the stronger of the two, and would normally be the choice only for those lifting very heavy weights.

SPOTTER DECK:

A spotter deck is an option available on a few of these models, and is a different type of safety system.  Many times, during a heavy lift, the lifter will have difficulty getting the bar back up to replace it into the J cups.  Safety pipes or straps as noted above will protect the lifter, but it still means dropping and losing control of the bar.  Many lifters, instead of working alone, will have spotters available to help them, if they lose control of the weight. A spotter deck, quite simply, is a place for the spotter to stand to help ensure the lifter’s safety.  

HOLE SPACING:

As noted earlier, typical spacing of the holes will be 1” apart in the bench press area of the uprights; where you would normally place the weight at the start of your lift, while lying on your back.  Above and below that, 2” spacing is common. You may find some cheaper brands that have as much as 6” spacing, which tends to limit your ability to put the bar in exactly the right position to maximize your lift.  Upper end bars will also have numbers etched or laser cut next to the holes, to make alignment across the uprights very visual and simple.

BENCH ADJUSTMENTS:

There are basically four types of bench adjustments we will consider here.  The first is quite simple: none. If you purchase some of the flat or utility type benches listed here, there are no adjustments possible; what you see is what you get.  The other adjustments require a little more discussion; the two basics are adjustable seat position, and adjustable back position. The final adjustment, which is available on only some of the adjustable benches, is a decline setting adjustment.

If you look back at the pictures earlier in this article, the bench pictured on the right is an adjustable bench.  Let’s talk first about the adjustable back positions. Some of these models have a virtually infinite number of adjustments system, with dozens of combinations of seat and back adjustments possible.  Typically, the seat adjustments have pre-cut stops, so you can adjust in a range of zero (flat) to somewhere approaching 90 degrees.

Seat adjustments are handled on a similar basis, but typically have less range and fewer set positions.  Remember, the basic idea here is to isolate the muscle group you are focused on, and adjustments to seat and back help do that.  One thing to look for from a comfort perspective is minimizing the gap between seat and back as adjustments are made; the larger the gap, the more uncomfortable it will be.  

One variation to the back adjustment is a decline setting.  In this, the back of the bench will actually adjust to a negative position, below flat.  The advantage to this position is working the muscles harder; instead of just lifting against weight, you are now in a negative position, and lifting against gravity additionally.

OPTIONAL EQUIPMENT:

For the most part, these weightlifting benches do not offer much in the way of options.  Some may offer different safety systems, and some offer options in the type of pad on the bench.  Some units have optional resistance pegs, which can be used in combination with resistance bands for additional workouts.  Other options relate to bench usage, such as dumbbell sets and hangar storage racks for the bench.

PRICE:

In just about every buying decision, whatever the product, price becomes a part of the decision-making process.  The question is how much of an influence can, or should, price have in selecting the right weightlifting bench. For me, while price is a consideration (most of us do have some money constraints), the real driver should be the value of the purchase.  Some questions to ask yourself:

What are the “gotta have” features in a bench I’m looking for?

  • Out of all the features a bench has, which ones am I unlikely to need or use?
  • Will this bench still meet my needs in one year?  Five years?
  • Am I paying for fluff or functionality?
  • Is it the right bench for my environment – size and space?

We will make some recommendations here, but the ultimate decision falls on the lifter, and their personal circumstances.

MAKING YOUR DECISION:

So, at this stage, you’ve seen a bird’s eye view of eight weightlifting benches, and two different pads for those benches. You know a little bit about them, including a general price range, and a rating based on what actual customers think about them.  But what else should enter into this decision?

First, and foremost, is whether you need, or even want, a weightlifting bench.  Really, you could lay out a couple cement blocks and put a 2” x 12” board between them and have a bench.  When you look at the muscle groups you want to work, and the lifts you will be doing to stimulate them, is a bench necessary?

Next, what, if any, equipment do you already have?  If you already own a squat rack or a power rack, that is likely going to push you toward a stand-alone bench system, not one with its own cage rack.  If you don’t have a racking system at all, then a combination bench with uprights might be a better choice for you. Bench compatibility with your existing components is also a consideration.

Placement of the bench is one more thing to think about.  Depending on the footprint and the size considerations, the bench you really like may not be suitable for the space you have in mind.  

You should be starting to see how everything comes together by now – price, functionality, features, and specifications.  Let’s move on and now take a detailed look at our ten items. Once we complete that exercise, we can pick our “best of the best” from the available equipment list.

Product Reviews – Top 10

#1 Rogue AB-3 Adjustable Bench

First Impressions:

This adjustable bench is an updated version of the AB-2 bench (to be reviewed later here), featuring over 50 seat and back combination positions.  Its 12” width allows it to easily fit into the working area of any squat or power rack. It has rubber feet for floor protection, and wheels and handle for ease of movement.

Features and Specifications:

  • Weighing in at a solid 117 pounds, this bench is constructed from 2” x 2” and 2” x 3” x 11-gauge steel.
  • The bench has six adjustable seat positions, and nine back settings, offering the perfect combination for almost any lifter.
  • The bench has adjustable foot catches, allowing the lifter to work from a decline position.

Pros:

  • The bench, when flat, measures 68” long.  A 12” width offers a comfortable lifting platform.
  • The overall footprint of the weightlifting bench is 51” x 22”, and an 18” high seat allows comfortable seating for specific seated lifts.  
  • The load-bearing rubber feet give added stability, while protecting the working surface under the bench.

Cons:

  • The $$$$ price might make this weightlifting bench a reach for some users, but it does represent a good quality value.  
  • As a stand-alone bench, there are no safety systems available for it.

Final Thoughts:

Other than pricing, there are no real negatives about this bench.  If offers solid construction, and the decline feature gives functionality not found on many other adjustable benches.  It will support virtually any type of bench lift, and has a size that would allow it to work seamlessly with any type of rack system.  While it might be geared more to commercial establishments, it would be a great bench for the serious weightlifter.

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#2 Rogue Westside Bench 2.0

First Impressions:

What a beast! Is all I can say about this combination bench set.  With heavy duty steel construction and an extra-strong reinforced bar under the pad to reduce flex, this weightlifting bench is rated for over 1000 pounds capacity.  A pin and pipe standard safety system is included, with the option to add spotter stands for a further safety enhancement.

Features and Specifications:

  • This rack comes in at a hefty 213 -pounds (250-pounds with the spotter decks), and features a large 52” x 34” footprint.  Overall height is 54”.
  • Constructed from 2” x 3” x 11-gauge steel, the rack also features a 7-gauge steel bar (lower gauge equals thicker metal) to reinforce the pd.  Assembled with 5/8” hardware, the rack is rated for over 1000 pounds of weight.
  • One-inch height adjustments from top to bottom give full flexibility in adjusting the bench height or placing the pin-pipe safety bars, making this a great choice for a commercial establishment or professional weight room, where multiple athletes would be using the equipment.

Pros:

  • The bench has an optional Thompson fat pad available (reviewed later), to provide maximum back support and comfort.  
  • Adjustable band pegs are standard equipment, allowing the lifter to also do workouts with resistance bands.
  • You get a rock-solid, full-featured bench, at a low $$$$ price range.  Based on the positive reviews, this could very well be your “last a lifetime” bench.

Cons:

  • The unit is shipped disassembled, so some assembly is required. One reviewer knocked some points off, for a lack of instructions.
  • There is no adjustment on the bench other than height; no angled position is possible.
  • Given the size and weight capacity, it would seem logical to have safety straps available as an option.

Final Thoughts:

While this is the first combination rack – bench we’ve looked at, it’s hard to imagine a situation where it would not meet the lifter’s needs.  The only serious negative is that the bench angle can’t be changed; the bench is made for only a flat bench, not an angled one. If you are a serious lifter looking to move up a grade for your bench work, this could probably be the system for you.

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#3 Rogue Adjustable Bench 2.0

First Impressions:

This is the little brother to the AB-2 and AB-3 benches.  It offers many of the same features, but with less flexibility.  As an example, it allows both seat and back adjustments, but two positions for the seat and six for the back.  This is a redesign of an older bench, and features some upgraded features at similar cost.

Features and Specifications:

  • With a compact 24” x 54” footprint, this adjustable bench weighs in at a solid 128 pounds.  
  • The pad is just over 11” wide, and 52” overall pad length.  At an 85o incline,the overall height of the weightlifting bench is just over 56”.  
  • The bench is constructed so that there is virtually no gap between the seat and back pad, regardless of angle, for optimal lifter comfort.
  • The bench has standard plastic covered feet for protection and stability, and wheels for easily mobility of the unit.

Pros:

  • A 4.9 rating and a $$$ price make this an affordable, yet fully functional weight bench.  It would be perfectly suitable for a novice lifter.
  • The construction materials consist of 2” x 3” x 11-gauge steel, making for a solid, heavy duty bench.  
  • An optional safety spotter deck is available for this unit, enhancing lifter safety.

Cons:

  • A relatively narrow pad and shorter pad length may make this rack an issue for taller and larger lifters.
  • As a stand-alone unit, there is no safety system built in.

Final Thoughts:

This is a solid, quality unit, offering all the basic functionality of an adjustable rack.  While you give up some of the placement flexibility the more expensive adjustable racks offer, you gain with a lower price.  Realistically, six back adjustment positions on this bench vs. nine on the AB-3 are not going to make an appreciable difference to most lifters.  

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#4 Monster Utility Bench

First Impressions:

This is a very basic, sturdy weightlifting bench.  No incline, no safety systems, no resistance band pegs; just a bench.  But, despite the basic structure, you do have several configuration options, including three choices of pads, and two choices in bench height.  Standard rubberized feet give added stability on uneven surfaces, and offer flooring protection.

Features and Specifications:

  • This bench has an extra-wide 24” base for excellent side-to-side stability while lifting.  
  • With a 44” x 24” footprint, it is compact for use in tighter spaces, and lightweight enough to hang from a garage wall for storage if extra space is needed.
  • Overall height and weight specifications will vary based on the model chosen (standard versus shorty), and the pad options (standard, Thompson fat pad, or competition fat pad).  Full details are available on the Rogue website.

Pros:

  • A basic, heavy-duty weightlifting bench, constructed from 3” x 3” x 11-gauge steel for strength and stability.
  • The compact footprint makes it perfect for use with a squat or power rack, and simple to store.
  • The combination of options available makes it fully customized to meet individual needs and preferences.

Cons:

  • While it does reduce shipping costs, the dreaded “some assembly required” is relevant for this unit.
  • Standard 47” length may be a constraint for taller or larger lifters.

Final Thoughts:

This is exactly what it says it is – a utility bench.  No incline, no safety protection, just a bench. If that’s what you want, either for stand-alone weight work, or in combination with a rack, it delivers exactly what it promises.  If that is indeed what you want, the 4.9 rating and $$ price will give you exactly that.

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#5 Rogue Bolt Together Utility Bench

First Impressions:

This is a further scaled-down version of the Utility Bench reviewed above.  While it has the same no-frills approach, you also lose the flexibility of the options available with the other unit.  This one gives you exactly what you see – nothing more, nothing less.

Features and Specifications:

  • With a compact footprint of 48” x 13” x 18” high, your only constraint will be the type of weightlifting equipment you use with it.  For dumbbell workouts, you could almost put this into a closet.
  • At 51 pounds, the only available option, the wall-mount bench hangar, makes a lot of sense.
  • Constructed of 2” x 2” x 11-gauge materials, the bench was tested at a 1000-pound limit.

Pros:

  • While this might be the ultimate in basic, the bench is solidly constructed, and rated for weights that will not be a constraint for virtually any lifter.
  • The footpads have a level of adjustment for uneven flooring that will give you added stability.
  • The pad is made from neoprene vinyl, with a closed cell foam interior to maintain its form.

Cons:

  • The bottom braces are fairly narrow, which would normally increase concerns about stability, but reviews do not reflect that.
  • The bench requires full assembly by the purchaser.

Final Thoughts:

Despite the very basic features of this weightlifting bench, it comes in with rock-solid 4.9 reviews and a (admittedly, just barely) $ price.  If you are looking for a basic bench for basic lifting, this could be a good choice for you. However, the Utility Bench reviewed above is not significantly more expensive and offers some variations.

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#6 Rogue Flat Utility Bench 2.0

First Impressions:

This is another no-nonsense bench from Rogue, built to high construction standards, and providing a solid base for every lifter.  It features an angled leg design to provide even more stability than a standard perpendicular leg-bench design.

Features and Specifications:

  • Coming in at a very light forty pounds might lead you to question the strength of this bench, but it is constructed from extra heavy-duty 2” x 3” x 11-gauge steel.
  • A 48” x 14” footprint makes for a minimal space commitment, and the light weight makes the bench suitable for hanging (optional bench hangar available) for easy storage.
  • The bench comes with a heavy-duty 2-1/4” thick neoprene pad with high density foam for comfort and shape retention.

Pros:

  • The angled leg profile gives additional stability without negatively impacting the bench footprint.
  • The bench comes fully assembled; take it out of the box and get to work.  
  • Standard rubber feet also help with stability while protecting your floor.

Cons:

  • There really aren’t any.  This bench delivers as promised.  One customer reported some rust at the pass-through weld, but all other responses are very positive.

Final Thoughts:

If you want a basic bench, no frills, but still stable and solid, here you go.  Starting off with the $ price and backed with a 4.9 rating, how can you go wrong?  Throwing in an optional fat pad will push you into $$ range, but the added comfort might be worth it.

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#7 AB-2 Adjustable Bench

First Impressions:

The AB-2 bench is virtually identical to the AB-3 bench, but without the foot catches to allow decline settings.  A retro-fit kit is available for the AB-2 to add this feature, however. With over 50 combination seat and back setting available, it is easily adaptable to virtually any sized athlete.  There are a few minor differences, such as the maximum angle adjustment on the back panel and the size of the steel construction members.

Features and Specifications:

  • This adjustable bench weighs in at 94 pounds, and has a 51” x 22” footprint.  
  • It has six adjustable seat settings, and nine adjustable back settings, with a maximum angle of 78 degrees.
  • With rubber feet for better stability, and a handle and wheels for easy portability, the 2” x 2” and 3” x 3” steel construction make this a rock-solid bench.  

Pros:

  • If you like the features of the AB-3 but don’t have a need for the decline settings, this model, while still in the $$$$ range, can leave some money in your pocket.
  • With a 12” wide, 2-1/4” thick pad, you get solid back support and comfort while using the weight bench.
  • Standard seat height at 18” gives a comfortable platform for sitting lifts.

Cons:

  • Like the AB-3, this weightlifting bench is in $$$$ territory, and might be too great an investment for the casual lifter.  
  • As a stand-alone bench, there are no safety systems built into it.  

Final Thoughts:

While you can buy an AB-2 and get the option to turn it into an AB-3 with decline settings, it ends up costing you more than the AB-3 would.  So, realistically, if you want a high-end adjustable bench, and want decline capability, go to the AB-3. If you don’t want decline, this one is better for you.  If you want similar functionality and to spend even less, look back at the Rogue 2.0.

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#8 Rogue Monster Westside Bench

First Impressions:

“Monster” is an appropriate descriptor for this weightlifting bench.  From its weight, to its size and footprint, to all the standard and optional features, this combination rack-bench is a real beast.  It has many features taken from the Rogue Monster line of power racks, and, with the fully integrated bench, has several different customization options.  

Features and Specifications:

  • Constructed from 3” x 3” x 11-gauge steel, featuring 1” hardware, this is one strong, durable weightlifting bench.  
  • Checking in at 342 pounds, with a 53” x 34” footprint, 55” high, the only weight limitations is your own.  
  • The base model comes with pipe-pin safety bars, a standard bench pad, standard J cups, and pegs for resistance and workouts.
  • Hole spacing is 2” throughout, with holes numbered for easy alignment of J cups and safety bars.

Pros:

  • Options include upgrades to two different fat pads (reviewed below), safety straps, and spotter decks.
  • The standard bench height is just under 18”, and is adjustable up or down in 2” increments.  
  • The bench comes standard with a Thompson fat pad (standard pad can be substituted), supported by a 7-gauge steel beam for exceptional stability.  

Cons:

  • Rogue freely admits that this weightlifting bench is “manufactured for the high-performance athlete”, and, while I don’t really question the value, it also has a high-performance price.  This is definitely in the realm of elite athletes in competition environments, commercial establishments, or athletic training rooms.

Final Thoughts:

If you are among the best, you want the best, and this is it.  While it’s not the point of this article, for this much money, it might be worth looking into a standard power rack and a stand-alone weightlifting bench.  Most likely the same or very similar functionality, and potentially less cost.

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#9 Rogue Competition Fat Pad

First Impressions:

We’ve touched on the fat pads several times while reviewing the various benches, and now it’s time to look at the a little closer.  This pad, as the name implies, is competition approved. It has a hole pattern, such that it can be bolted on to and Rogue or Westside model flat bench.  US made, it features a “grabber” cover, to keep the lifter from sliding around during the lift.

Features and Specifications:

  • This pad measures 4.5” thick, 50” long, and 12.5” wide.  As noted above, it fits all Rogue or Westside model benches.
  • The pad weighs almost 25 pounds, so you know you are getting a heavy-duty, stable base for your lifts.  
  • Compared to a standard thickness pad, this one will help you optimize your back and upper body position and improve your lifting capabilities.

Pros:

  • The 12.5-inch width is more comfortable for many lifters, and makes it easier for presses and fly movements.
  • The pad has a 4.9 review, and a $ price, making it a good option or retrofit for any Rogue bench.

Cons:

  • There is not really much to comment about, although one reviewer was distressed that bolts were not included to attach it to his existing bench.

Final Thoughts:

The next and last review is the Thompson fat pad, and the only real difference between the two is the additional width of the Thompson pad.  This one is fully functional; it’s just up to the lifter whether he prefers a standard of thicker pad, and, if thicker, 12” or 14” width.

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#10 Thompson Fat Pad

First Impressions:

This fat pad was named after competitive powerlifter Donnie Thompson, who worked seven years in developing the style and characteristics of this pad.  Like the competition pad, it fits either a Rogue or Westside bench, and has a plywood base. With some extra hardware and some drilling, it can be adapted to fit non-Rogue benches also.

Features and Specifications:

  • This pad is the same 4.5” thickness and 50” length as the competition pad, but is built to 14.5” width.
  • The extra width moves the weight of this pad to 32-pounds.
  • The Thompson pad has a 5.0 rating, and an identical $ price compared to the competition pad.

Pros:

  • Because of the additional width, this pad can eliminate shoulder hangover, and optimizes your back and upper body positioning.
  • The “gripper” fabric reduces slippage and movement while on the pad.
  • Claims are made that the additional width and thickness can help eliminate various injuries that could be incurred with standard pads.

Cons:

  • Using this pad, or the competition pad, on a fixed height bench might cause some difficulties for a lifter due to the altered total height.

Final Thoughts:

As noted above, the only real difference between this pad and the competition pad is the extra width.  If thickness is not an issue, you can stay with a standard pad; if width is an issue, and you want the thickness, you can go with the competition pad.  It comes down to individual preference.

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Final Verdict

Just to recap, so far, we’ve spent some time looking at weightlifting in general terms, and how using a weightlifting bench fits in with weightlifting and an overall fitness program.  We looked into a couple of different weightlifting moves, or lifts, that are enhanced by use of a bench. We then reviewed several key features of a weightlifting bench that should be considered and evaluated as part of the purchase decision.  Following that, an in-depth review of eight benches and two pads was completed.

All that’s left in this article is to go back and make some recommendations on the “best of the best”; putting together price, value, features and functionality; to make sure that we get the most bang for our buck.  We’ll look at this from the perspective of a lifter new to the sport, using weight training to tone up and improve his overall health. We’ll also look at the benches through the eyes of an experienced lifter. This guy might be upgrading from a basic flat bench to an adjustable bench, or from an adjustable bench to combination rack and bench.  

To make this exercise a little more realistic, I’m going to link together some of the common items.  In our list, we have two pads, three different adjustable benches, three flat benches, and two rack-bench combination units.  Based on the user criteria above, we’ll select the best of each of the four categories.

Let’s get started with the pads.  With our fictional lifters, we don’t know their actual preferences, so we have to lay this out as a series of choices.  If you prefer a standard pad, with standard width and thickness, it’s quite simple; don’t buy either of these two pads. If you want to move up to a fat pad, but want to stay with standard 12” width, buy the competition pad.  If you want a fat bad with extra width, then you will shift toward the Thompson. Best pad? There isn’t one. Best pad based on your individual preferences? Three good choices here, take the one that suits you best.

Let’s move over and look into our two combination rack-bench set-ups, the Westside 2.0 and the Monster Westside.  

The Westside 2.0 is $$$, bordering on being a commercial unit, but still within reach for many lifters.  The 4.8 rating is very strong, and the only negatives in the rating dealt more with personal preferences than specifications or performance.  The unit has over a 1000-pound capacity, more than enough for any user. One-inch adjustment holes throughout, give the user full flexibility in position standard safety pipes and J cups.  All in all, a top end unit for any level of lifter.

The Monster Westside is indeed a monster, with full 3” x 3” x 11-gauge construction held together by 1” bolts.  The $$$$$ price also comes with a 5.0 rating from its customers. As we noted in the details, this combination rack-bench is marketed specifically for the “high-performance athlete”, and neither of our two fictional lifters live up to that billing.  

Given that, from the two units, I will give my thumbs-up to the Westside 2.0.  While it is a little bit of a stretch for a novice lifter to move immediately to this level of cost, features and functionality, it will almost certainly be a once in a lifetime purchase, with most likely a lifetime of usage.  It definitely fits the profile of our experienced lifter; it has many of the characteristics of a power rack, and is really a good move-up piece of equipment.

Now let’s review our three flat benches, the Monster Utility Bench, the Rogue Flat Utility Bench 2.0, and the Rogue Bolt Together Utility Bench.  Starting with the Monster bench, it creeps into $$ prices, but brings a respectable 4.9 quality rating with it. It has an extra wide base for stability, and 3” x 3” beam construction throughout.  A “shorty” bench height is available so you can use a fat pad with it, without changing the overall height from that of a standard pad.

The Flat Utility Bench has a 48” x 14” footprint, with angled legs and rubber feet for extra stability and prevention of slippage.  This bench drops into $ pricing, and also carries a strong 4.9 rating. This one is made from 2” x 3” steel beam. Like all Rogue benches, it can accept a fat pad without modification.  

The bolt together utility bench is a little bit of an enigma.  It does carry a $ price (but just barely), and a 4.9 rating. The footprint is almost identical to the Flat Utility Bench, but, while is does test out to 1000-pounds, it is made from 2” x 2” beam.  And you even get to pay a slight premium for the privilege of putting it together.

For my money, I would go with the Monster Utility bench.  It is a little pricier, but not enough to break the bank. The extra width base and the added stability it brings make it practical for the heavy lifter, and with its basic function and relatively low cost, a good starter bench you can use for a long time.  Check mark next to the Monster bench.

This leaves us with the three adjustable benches, the Rogue AB-3, the Rogue AB-2, and the Rogue Adjustable 2.0.  

Let’s go back and look at the AB-3.  This is the heavy duty adjustable in Rogue’s line, with 2” x 2” and 2” x 3” steel beam construction.  It’s a hefty 117-pounds, and has over 50 set and back position adjustment. It is also the only bench on the list that is capable of a decline setting as standard equipment.  $$$$ price range, and a nice 4.9 review.

The AB-2 is pretty much an AB-3, minus the foot catch that allows you to do decline lifts.  Construction is identical, features almost identical (maximum angle adjustment is 78 vs. 85 degrees), and, while also a $$$$ price and 4.9 review, it does allow you to keep an extra Benjamin in your wallet.  

While you might consider the Adjustable 2.0 the little brother of the group, it is a fine bench in its own right.  It also has a 4.9 rating, but drops well into the $$$ price range. It has 2” x 3” steel construction, and weighs a solid 128-pounds.  It also adjusts to a full 85 degrees, and has an optional spotter deck for lifter safety.

So, given these three, there is a very limited difference in design, functionality, or features.  All have good, solid steel construction, are heavy-duty racks, and would suit either of our lifters just fine.  For the novice, at least in my opinion, the Adjustable 2.0 is your bench. Great price, and there is nothing wrong with keeping the money in your wallet.  If you want to move up later, you can buy a power or squat rack, put this one on the flat setting, and slide it right it.

While my initial inclination is to move our experienced lifter into the AB-3, I thought better of it.  I ruled out the AB-2 because you either lose the flexibility for decline lifts, or buy the kit to adopt it, and end up spending more than buying the AB-3.  But after some soul searching, I’m going to go with the Adjustable 2.0 across the board as our adjustable bench. There are just not enough features or functionality differentiation to warrant spending all the extra cash on the AB series racks.

So, there you have it – purchase recommendations on three different types of weightlifting benches, and two different pads.  Hopefully there is enough detail here to convince you, or at least to let you make an informed decision on your own. Happy lifting!

Top 10 Rouge Squat Stands In 2019

INTRODUCTION

Has anyone ever told you that you don’t know squat?  Well, by the time you read this article, you will know just about everything about squat.

The squat is a weightlifting move which focuses on building muscle – serious muscle – for competitive weightlifters.  Yet, at the same time, it is an exercise which, properly executed, can bring improved health and fitness to everyday weight training.  

Let’s start out, by looking at the evolution of weightlifting and powerlifting both as a sport, and as a health and fitness routine.  Competitive weightlifting began to evolve in western Europe in the middle of the 19th century.  However, weightlifting has been used as a measure of fitness and strength for centuries before that.  The ability to life weight was a condition to entering the military in ancient China. Documents and pictorials show the ancient Greeks doing body weight exercises like rope climbing, and lifting and throwing heavy stones to help develop their strength to do battle.  

The original weightlifting competitions featured such personae as the circus strong man in the side-show tent, purportedly lifting amazing quantities of weight.  This evolved into somewhat organized competitions in Europe in the 1890s, culminating by an introduction into the Olympic Games in 1896. Weightlifting remained a Eurocentric sport, as barbells and free weights were virtually unseen in the US.  In 1902, however, the Milo Barbell Company opened in Philadelphia, making weightlifting equipment much more available in America. Weightlifting bounced in and out of the Olympics for the next few games, and became part of the Olympics for good in the 1920 games.  

Exhibitions and feats of strength continued to be popular through the 1950s, and gaining strength was a common advertising scheme.  Any baby boomer that read comic books in this era will remember the guy on the beach getting sand kicked in his face, until he got muscular and won the girl back.  Charles Atlas was famous for his feats of strength, including pulling cars and even train cars. “World’s Strongest Man” contests continued to grow in popularity, as a young Austrian named Arnold Schwarzenegger captured the eyes of the world with his bodybuilding progress.

Let’s close this section by agreeing that weightlifting and powerlifting have a place both in American history, and in the future also.  Strength is still considered to be a desirable trait, and the role of weightlifting in general health improvement is well documented.

THE SQUAT

The squat is one of the most basic weightlifting moves.  It was initially called the “deep knee bend”, and began to evolve as a recognized move in the early 1900s.  The initial move was done lifting relatively light weights repetitively, with the lifter balanced on his toes, heels in the air.  The weight is put across the back of the neck on the shoulders, and the lifter bends down until the thighs are roughly parallel to the ground.  From that position, the lifter then pushes back up to the original position, driving upward with his legs. The move is then repeated for a set number of times.  

The move we know as the squat today started to gain popularity in Europe following World War I.  At this time, it became a powerlifting move more than a repetitive lifting move as the deep knee bend.  The first recognized squat contest took place in Germany, and was won with a lift of over 500 pounds. The lift became known in America in the early 1920s.

Initially, the lifter had to move the bar from the floor to his chest, lift the weight over his head, then lower it down to rest on the shoulders.  This limited the weight that could be squatted. A lifter named Steinborn developed a different technique to get the bar on the shoulders. He would raise one end of the bar so it was in a near-vertical position, then move under the bar, rest it on his shoulders, then get the other end of the bar on the other shoulder.  This new method helped lifters to increase their overall weight lift; Steinborn, for example, at 210 pounds body weight, could squat 530 pounds using this method.

As this lift grew in popularity in the 1920s and 1930s, it spawned the development of the squat rack.  This allowed lifters to lift even greater amounts of weight, leading to a current record squat of 450 kilos (992 pounds).  The squat rack became the precursor to the power rack, which offers even more lifting options and flexibility; however, the focus of this article will be on the squat rack.  

THE SQUAT RACK

A squat rack is a piece of weight lifting equipment to help the lifter move heavy weights safely, in the absence of a human spotter.  The rack acts as a mechanical spotter should the lifter lose control of the weights or the bar. In its simplest form, it is two or four upright bars with two horizontal bars on the side.  The horizontal bars have a dual purpose – they add stability to the rack frame, and they act as a “catch” for the lifter to place the bar after his lift, or, if he is losing control, during the lift.  An example of a basic squat rack is below:

To use the rack, the lifter will stand between the uprights, with the bar set at an appropriate level for his height.  His knees should be slightly bent as the gets the bar to his shoulders. He will then straighten his knees to get the bar off the pegs, take a slight step forward to clear the rack, and then begin his repetitions of squats.  As he finished, he reverses this procedure to put the bar back on the rack.

While this is referred to as a squat rack, it can also be used for many other lifts, including the bench press, floor press, clean pulls, and pull-ups.  While we will not discuss these moves in detail here, they are described fully on many different Internet sites.

FACT SHEET AND PRODUCT COMPARISON TABLE

In this section, we’ll list out then squat racks offered by Rogue Fitness.  For each rack, we will take a high level look at the best features of the rack, assign it to a price range noted following this table, and assign an overall rating to each of the racks.  Some of these racks have hundreds of customer reviews on the Rogue site; others have none or just a few. The assigned ratings here are based on my perceptions of the overall functionality, features, and value of the squat racks.  

Fact Sheet – Product Comparison Table

NumberProductBest FeatureRatingPrice Range (see below)
1Rogue SML-2C Squat Stand A hybrid rack, offering good features, several customizable options, and 11 color options 5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)$$
2SML-2 Rogue 90″ Monster Lite Squat Stand A solid rack with everything you need to get started, and several customizable options available. 5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)$$
3Rogue S-4 Squat Stand 2.0 Known as an “indy” rack, it features two separate upright sections.  Rated to 1000 pounds. 4.9 out of 5 stars (4.9 / 5)$$
4Rogue SM-1 Monster Squat Stand 2.0Part squat rack, part power rack.  Heavy duty combination unit, customizable. 4.9 out of 5 stars (4.9 / 5)$$$
5Rogue Mono Stand A special type of stand with movable uprights to make it easier for the lifter to clear the bar. 4.8 out of 5 stars (4.8 / 5)$$$
6Rogue Combo RackThis combo rack features a built-in bench for presses, plus high-end features as a squat rack. 4.8 out of 5 stars (4.8 / 5)$$$$
7Rogue KS-1 Kids Squat Stand A squat stand built specifically for the junior lifter; it is compatible with other Rogue products for kids. 4.6 out of 5 stars (4.6 / 5)$
8Rogue Echo Squat Stand 2.0A basic rack focusing on functionality and space utilization, rather than adding lots of bells and whistles.   4.6 out of 5 stars (4.6 / 5)$$
9York FTS Squat StandA basic unit, with adjustable uprights to support bench and squat work. 4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)$$
10S-1 to S-2 Conversion Kit Conversion kit which gives you additional flexibility like a pull-up bar. 4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)$

Price range key:

$ – Under $250

$$ – Under $500

$$$ – Under $1000

$$$$ – Over $1000

Product-Buying Guide

Weightlifters typically work out in one of three categories: powerlifting, weightlifting, and weight training.  As we begin to review these ten squat racks, we will look at them from the perspective of weightlifting and weight training.  

To explain the difference between the two, weight training is generally selected when the user wants to improve their overall health and body toning.  The idea is not to gain significant muscle growth, but to gain some muscle to add to overall conditioning and fitness, supporting weight loss, and general health improvements.  Weight training normally uses lighter weights, with multiple repetitions, in multiple sets. In addition to squats, bench presses are typically a part of a weight training program.  

Weightlifting will mostly use heavier weights, lifted a few times until failure.  This method promotes heavier muscle growth than weight training, and will lead to greater overall strength.  Squats are usually an important part of a weightlifting program.

So, knowing that a squat rack can be used for multiple lifts and has different functions, let’s take a look at some of the key features and specifications that will influence you as you select a rack for purchase.  

WEIGHT CAPACITY

Simply put, how much weight can you safely put on the squat rack.  While some of these racks, clearly note the weight capacity in the specifications section, others do not.  For those that don’t, there are typically two indicators of the overall capacity. First are the options available.  Many racks have the option to purchase plate sets with them. The sizing of the plate sets offered is a good indicator of overall strength of the rack.  Second is the assembly hardware; larger sized uprights and heavier hardware are going to give you greater stability and strength than smaller hardware. This may not be a significant factor for the weight trainer, but could be for a weightlifter.

STABILITY

To a large extent, stability goes hand in hand with weight capacity.  Stability will also be influenced by the hardware configuration. However, stability will also be impacted by the overall footprint of the rack, the number of crosspieces between the vertical bars, and whether or not the rack has to be anchored to the floor.  

SAFETY

How well the squat rack provides for the safety of the lifter, should be a primary consideration for any purchaser.  Brackets mounted to the rack, keep the bar contained prior to the lift, and allow a place to set the bar after the lift.  Secondary brackets may be needed in the event of failing to conclude a lift. Racks typically have either an L cup (shaped like the letter L) or J cup (shaped like the letter J).  The J cup was an upward curl, which helps hold the bar safely in position. The L cup has a perpendicular joint, which might allow movement of the bar off the cup. Some racks also have optional safety arms, which extend further from the vertical bars, and give even greater security should a lift fail.

UPRIGHT LENGTHS

The length of the uprights can be a factor for two reasons.  The first relates to the placement of the unit. For rooms such as a basement, with a low ceiling, a long upright might be an issue, and push you toward a shorter unit.  Second, many units feature a pull-up bar across the top of the two vertical uprights. The height of the uprights will dictate the height of the pull-up bar, and whether or not you can do full body length pull-up, or bent knee pull-ups.

HOLE SPACING

Holes are drilled in the upright bars for insertion of the J cups or safety arms.  The typical spacing is called Westside spacing, and refers to the distance between the holes.  In the better units, spacing will be 1” apart in the bench press area of the bar, and 2” spacing above and below that area.  Lower end units may have as much as six-inch spacing between the holes. A desirable option is numbering the holes, which makes placing the J-cups at the same level obvious, instead of a trial and error approach.  

FOOTPRINT

The footprint is the overall floor space that the unit will take up.  This measure has two potential impacts. First is the amount of space the unit will take up in your weight room, garage, or basement.  You may be driven to a particular unit because of the availability or lack of space for your choice. Secondly, the width portion of the footprint gives you the working area of the rack; it indicates the distance between the upright lengths, and shows the amount of side-to-side area you will have for your lifts.

HARDWARE

As we noted in the capacity and stability discussions, the hardware is key to the overall stability, and hence safety, or the unit.  Depending on the stress put on the unit based on the weights of the bar and plates, you may opt to go to heavier 3” x 3” posts, while other lighter units may feature 2” x 2” posts.  Assembly hardware will typically range for ½” to 1”, again dependent on the overall strength and stability expected of the unit.

OPTIONAL EQUIPMENT

As we go through the detail on these units, you’ll note that some are fairly basic, while others are dressed out with more bells and whistles.  Optional equipment can include bars and weights, wheel brackets to make it easier to move the equipment, safety bars, fixed or adjustable position benches, and right down to the choice of color.  Your budget and personal preferences will help you determine whether to buy that upper end model now, or buy a more basic unit and add options to it over time.

PRICE

Admit it or not, price is always an important consideration when making a purchase.  But the lifter should consider not only price, but also the overall value of the squat rack.  He should make a list of the must have features, the nice to have features, and the bells and whistles, or unnecessary features for his needs.  This list, combined with the price, should give the purchaser a good indication of which squat rack gives the best value for his personal situation and needs.  

MAKING YOUR DECISION

So, now you have some high-level information about a variety of squat records, an indication of the price range for each of them, and some data on features and specifications that may or may not be important to you.  So, what other items will factor into making your decision which rack to purchase?

Let’s start with the obvious question – Do you really want (or need) to buy a squat rack?  It is, after all, somewhat of a specialty item. Are squats that important in your lifting routine that it justifies a separate piece of equipment?  A squat rack does have flexibility to perform lifts other than squats, but maybe a power rack is a better purchase. Then again, the power racks could be pricier, and you may or may not need all the flexibility they offer.  Another option might be to use the money you’d spend on the rack to join a gym, and use their equipment. The answer here will be a pretty good starting point in evaluating the other factors that come into play.

You’ve made the decision to buy a squat rack.  Where are you going to put it? Your basement might be damp and dingy, your wife may scream if you take over the guest room, and putting it in the garage means a car stays outside.  Footprint may be an important characteristic in this decision, and things like finish and resistance to oxidation may also factor in.

Do you already have a bar and plates, or will you be buying them at the same time as the rack?  If you have them, make sure that they will be fully compatible with the rack, and with the safety systems of the rack, whether J or L cup, or safety bars.  

You should be starting to get a feel of how this all comes together – requirements, needs, features, specifications, and value.  Let’s look at each of these squat racks individually, and then do a comparison to drive down to the best racks out of this list.

Top 10 Best

#1 Rogue SML-2C Squat Stand

First Impressions:

This is a “Monster Lite” rack, a cross between Rogue’s Monster series and their S series squat racks.  This is a fairly heavy-duty rack, with a lot of available options, including eleven different colors to choose from.  There are many different configurations available depending on how it is set up, and which options are ordered.

Features and Specifications:

  • This rack is made from heavy 3” x 3” x 11-gauge steel uprights, supported by 2” x 2” x 11-gauge steel bases, assembled with 5/8” hardware.
  • The unit has a footprint of 49” x 48”, leaving a good interior lifting area.  
  • J cups comes as standard on this rack, with optional available safety spotter arms.  
  • It has a 157-pound assembled weight, with a 1000-pound weight capacity.

Pros:

  • Westside hole spacing is 1” in the bench area, for greater flexibility in placement of brackets for bench presses.  Spacing is 2” above and below the bench press area.
  • This rack comes with an adjustable fat/skinny (two different diameter bars for varying grips) pull-up bar.
  • With a $$ price, this is an affordable Hybrid Monster/S series rack.
  • Reviewers are very happy with the ease of assembly.

Cons:

  • An overall height of 92” for this rack may present some constraints in lower ceiling areas.  

Final Thoughts:

This is the first of ten racks to be reviewed, but it’s hard not to get excited about the combination of features, durability, and price of this squat rack.  Eleven available colors let you dress the rack up, and optional features give you room to grow in the future. The 1000-pound capacity makes certain pretty much any lifter will not run out of capacity.

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#2 SML-2 Rogue 90″ Monster Lite Squat Stand

First Impressions:

This squat rack looks and acts like several of the Rogue power racks as far as strength and versatility.  Quite affordable in the $$ price range, it has several available options, much like the SML-2C above. You can start out with the basic unit and add to it as your needs and budget require.

Features and Specifications:

  • This rack is made from heavy 3” x 3” x 11-gauge steel uprights, supported by 2” x 2” x 11-gauge steel bases, assembled with 5/8” hardware.
  • The 49” x 48” footprint supports a 1000-pound weight capacity, and a 92” height.  
  • While safety spotter arms are available as optional equipment, J cups come standard with the rack.  
  • Given the 157-pound weight, wheel brackets might be a good option if the rack needs to be moved frequently.

Pros:

  • The squat rack can be configured with a combination fat/skinny bar, or a single skinny bar.
  • One-inch Westside spacing gives additional flexibility for bench presses and clean pulls.
  • Available floor mounting feet let you securely fasten the rack down for added stability.

Cons:

  • The 92” height might be a constraint if the machine needs to go into a low ceiling area.

Final Thoughts:

This rack and its close cousin, the SML-2C, are virtually identical machines in form and functionality.  With a lifetime warranty, various configuration options, and a $$ price, this is an exceptional value machine.  This is very close to a power rack, without the power rack pricing. An excellent option to the novice lifter, or for an experience lifter wanting to expand his equipment.

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#3 Rogue S-4 Squat Stand 2.0

First Impressions:

This independent squat rack is made up of two completely separate upright assemblies, each self-standing with a 26” by 22” base for excellent stability.  With the small base and easy portability, this would be a good squat unit for the lifter with space constraints.

Features and Specifications:

  • With only a 72” height, while you may sacrifice the pullup bar, you gain flexibility for placement of the rack, without worrying about height or floor space issues.
  • The unit is made from 2” x 3” x 11-gauge steel uprights, and 7-gauge (note that lower gauge numbers indicate thicker steel) base pieces, all assembled with 5/8” hardware.  
  • Other than a bench, not much is available for optional equipment.  What you see is what you get.

Pros:

  • As mentioned, the overall dimensions of this unit make it appropriate for virtually any space or height situation.
  • The standard equipment rubber feet protect your flooring and increase stability by preventing movement.
  • A very good entry level squat rack, with good basic functionality at a $$ price.

Cons:

  • The separate units need to be properly set up, parallel to each other, to avoid the bar being placed at an angle and not dropping into the standard J cups properly.
  • Safety arm bars are not available as an option for this equipment.  

Final Thoughts:

Some lifters will prefer the low profile and independent character of the uprights, while others may prefer an assembled unit that stays that way.  It comes down to personal preference. Many reviewers gave it high grades for overall stability, and the easy storage could be a major benefit depending on your space situation.

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#4 Rogue SM-1 Monster Squat Stand 2.0

First Impressions:

The SM-1 is a crossover unit between a squat rack and a power rack.  It features a relatively small footprint, and a fairly low height, which makes it suitable for smaller spaces and lower ceilings.  While no weight is given in the specifications, with 3” x 3” x 11-gauge construction, it’s not going to be very portable. It comes with several options, including safety bars, a safety strap system and three different bench options.  

Features and Specifications:

  • The squat rack has a compact 54” x 50” footprint, and checks in at only 73” high, making it perfect for areas with a low ceiling, or limited space.  
  • The rack has a capacity of > 1000-pounds, and is assembled with 1” hardware for extra strength, durability, and safety.
  • Laser cut, numbered holes make aligning the J cups fast and easy.

Pros:

  • This is a seriously heavy-duty squat rack, with over half a ton of plate capacity for even the most serious lifter.
  • Compact and sturdy, this is a rack you will be passing on to your children.  Extremely heavy duty, the satin-black powder coating will protect the rack from scratches and corrosion.

Cons:

  • Hole spacing is 2” throughout, so you lose some of the accuracy and flexibility available in other squat racks in the Rogue line.
  • An outcome of the lower height of the unit, pull-up bars are not available on this rack.

Final Thoughts:

With a higher $$$ price, this unit might be out of reach for the day-to-day lifter, but, compared to the Mono Stand and Combo Rack, it really is a bargain.  The strength and durability of the unit, matched with the available options and low space requirements make this an excellent choice for the serious lifter. This squat rack would be equally at home in a commercial establishment of collegiate or professional training room.

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#5 Rogue Mono Stand

First Impressions:

With the Rogue Mono stand, we are back to the beasts of squat racks.  With this model, the uprights tilt forward. When the lifter gets the bar up off the rack, they snap back, so he can begin squatting without walking forward with the bar.  This is a very heavy-duty rack, geared for the serious lifter.

Features and Specifications:

  • This rack can be assembled with either 43” width crossmembers or 30”, which gives you some flexibility in the floor space requirements and in the interior working area.
  • The unit is constructed from 3” x 3” x 11-gauge rails, assembled with 5/8” hardware.
  • Weighing 310-pounds, the squat rack has an 86” x 57” footprint, and is 78” high.  
  • Compatible with other Monster Lite machines, additional features like plate storage, safety arm bars, and a pull-up bar are optionally available.

Pros:

  • A serious machine for a serious lifter, it was designed with input from powerlifter Mark Bell.
  • Westside spacing at 1”/2” is standard, and offers flexibility for bench work and squats.
  • Pegs for resistance band work can be optionally added to the squat rack.

Cons:

  • Primarily because of the tilting uprights, the unit must be securely bolted to the floor.
  • With a high end $$$ price (easily into $$$$ range with any options), this machine is only going to be of interest to very serious lifters, professional athletes, or commercial establishments.

Final Thoughts:

With virtually everything they make; Rouge covers the entire lifting spectrum – from novice to professional.  Squat racks are not an exception. This is a high-end squat rack; not the Combo Rack, but not very far behind it.  The main benefit of this rack, over other heavy-duty racks, is the tilting uprights, and I just don’t see that being a major consideration for the day-to-day lifter.

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#6 Rogue Combo Rack

First Impressions:

This 500-pound bad boy is the ultimate beast of squat racks.  It is certified for competition use by the International Powerlifting Federation (IPF).  The combination of an integral bench tied to the squat rack gives the lifter many options for diverse lifting.  Easy adjustments to the rack, and smooth additional or removal of equipment, like the bench, give this rack full versatility and ease of use.

Features and Specifications:

  • This squat rack is made completely from 3” x 3” x 7-gauge steel for the ultimate in strength and stability.
  • Including the bench, the unit has a 77” x 80” footprint, with a 43” inside working width.  
  • Steel spotter arms come standard for enhanced safety.
  • The adjustable uprights have standard 1”/2” Westside spacing, with laser cut number holes for easy alignment.

Pros:

  • Rubber feet offer additional protection for floors, and give the unit even more stability.
  • Uprights can be set up either vertical, or angled in five degrees.  This gives larger athletes the advantage of extra-width grip squats.
  • Bar height adjustments are possible without removing the bar or plates, with a standard lever-arm adjustment system.

Cons:

  • The $$$$ price tag (think $$$$ times two) most likely relegates this combo rack to the gym, professional weight training room, or in the home of an elite athlete.  
  • It is more size and capability than the average lifter would need, but would be a nice diversion to use occasionally given access to a commercial facility so you could see how the pros do things.  
  • This is a custom-built machine that takes 6 – 8 weeks for delivery.

Final Thoughts:

If all you want is a squat rack, this is equivalent to bringing a dragster to a bike race.  This rack is best placed in a college or professional weight training room, for elite athletes and cross-trainers.  It is obviously built with that level of lifter in mind, and the IPF certification proves it is outside the realm of anything but competition level athletes.  

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#7 Rogue KS-1 Kids Squat Stand

First Impressions:

This is really a step change from the Combo Rack we just reviewed.  This rack is geared specifically for the younger weightlifters in the crowd, with a 32” X 32” footprint, and 48” height.  This is not a toy or gimmick; it is built from 2” x 2” steel uprights, and has a 150-pound capacity. It is compatible with Rogue beginner barbells and plates.

Features and Specifications:

  • Put together from 11-gauge steel and ½” hardware, with 2” throughout Westside spacing, this youth squat rack clocks in at a solid 65-pounds.  
  • Finished in Rogue Red with black base pieces, this will make your child feel like he is using a competition -level squat rack.  

Pros:

  • A very reasonably-priced $ squat rack, it is proportioned specifically for the younger lifter, with a 28” inner working width.
  • Compatibility with other Rogue barbells and plates allows you to easily assemble a full system for your child.

Cons:

  • The unit is not expandable, so eventually your youth will outgrow the rack.  
  • There is no corresponding bench available that is sized specifically for the squat rack.  

Final Thoughts:

A worthy investment for the lifter that wants to share the weightlifting experience with his children.  The rack itself is solid and durable, and while it might be outgrown, it won’t be worn out. Note that the child’s physician should be consulted before beginning a weight training program and this rack should only be used under the supervision of an adult.

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#8 Rogue Echo Squat Stand 2.0

First Impressions:

This rack is one of the value series of the Rogue squat rack line.  You get a US made, fully functional rack, with no frills, but at an affordable $$ price.  There is no upper end to this rack; what you see is what you get, and the only real options are a choice in benches.

Features and Specifications:

  • The Echo has a compact 48” x 48” footprint, with an inside working width of 43”.
  • Consisting of 2” x 3” uprights and 2” x 2” crossmembers, assembled with ½” hardware, the unit is rated at 500-pounds, yet tested successfully at 1000-pounds.
  • At 70” tall, it comes with plastic coated J cups and plastic base covers to protect your flooring.  At 95-pounds, the unit could be moved around if used in a multi-purpose room.

Pros:

  • A really good entry level squat stand, this unit compares favorably to the S-1, and has strength and stability not available from imported racks.  
  • The entire unit is protected with a black powder coating finish to prevent scratches while racking and unracking the bar.=

Cons:

  • What you see is what you get.  No options, no conversions, no upgrades are available with this unit.
  • The squat stand features two-inch hole spacing throughout, limiting flexibility somewhat for presses and squats.  

Final Thoughts:

This is not a bad rack for the first purchase for a novice lifter, but given the limitations around upgrading or adding features, it might be better to start with a unit that could be upgraded later, like those in the SML series.  If you have, for instance, a power rack and want to add a squat rack, this unit would certainly fit the bill.

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#9 York FTS Squat Stand 

First Impressions:

This is a very basic squat rack, geared primarily for squats and bench presses; there is not much additional functionality beyond that.  The rack itself is adjustable for both squats and presses, with the primary difference that the J cups are welded to the frame, and the frame telescopes as the adjustment.

Features and Specifications:

  • Coated in basic white, this unit is 41” high by 49” wide by 35” deep.
  • The rack has plate storage pegs at the rear, which, when loaded, will improve the stability of this squat rack.  
  • Built from 2” x 3” steel frame, the unit capacity is not noted, but it should be fairly strong.

Pros:

  • This rack delivers basis squat and press functionality, and is reasonably priced at $$.
  • The rack adjusts in two-inch increments, from 41” to 61” for the squat lift, and from 29” to 49” for the bench press.  Telescoping arms control the adjustment; J cups are permanently welded to the uprights.

Cons:

  • This is an imported squat rack, with only limited (two) reviews available on the Rogue site.  
  • The top cups that hold the bar for squats are metal, and are reported to scratch the coating on the barbell used.

Final Thoughts:

This unit is pretty basic, without some of the toys that the other $$ Rogue racks have.  Considering the lower end 41” height, you could actually spend just a little more money, and have a rack that could be used for youth lifting (see above) and for adults.  Overall, a functional unit, but it really does not stack up well against the rest of the Rogue lineup.

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#10 S-1 to S-2 Conversion Kit

First Impressions:

This is a conversion kit to allow you to change the configuration of you Rogue S-1 squat rack (not reviewed here) into a Rogue S-2 squat rack.  Obviously, unless you already have an S-1, you would not be interested in this; you’d just buy the S-2. The S-2 is a good, basic squat rack, and you do gain some benefits by using the kit.  

Features and Specifications:

  • The conversion kit consists of two longer upright bars, made of 2” x 3” x 11-gauge steel, using 5/8” hardware, which takes the height of the rack from 72” for the S-1 to a full 92” for the S-2.  
  • The height addition allows you to add a pull-up bar, either a combination fat-skinny bar or a plain skinny bar.  
  • The overall footprint is 48” x 48”, with the rack weighing out at 146-pounds.

Pros:

  • Following the conversion, the rack is rated for 1000-pounds of weight for the bar and plates.
  • Converting to the S-2 allows you to add a dip stations, which allows you to do additional body weight exercises, and safety arm bars.
  • Westside 1”/2” spacing is standard on this model, allowing tight adjustments for maximum comfort and lift capability.

Cons:

  • If you already purchased an S-1 and then add on the conversion kit, you will have spent a fair amount more than had you bought the S-2 in the beginning.  Budget constraints may have prevented that, but the initial purchase of an S-2 would be the way to go over this scenario.

Final Thoughts:

While there are some gains to be made graduating from an S-1 to an S-2, the total price to do so could have put you into some upper end racks in the SML series for the same money.  While the conversion kit itself is only a $ price, you might be better off putting that money toward an SML or S-4 rack with better features.

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Final Verdict

So far in this article, we’ve looked at the history of weightlifting as a sport, we’ve looked specifically at the squat as a weightlifting move, and we’ve looked at the development of the squat rack to support that lifting move.  We know that a squat rack can also be used for other lifting moves, predominantly the bench press. Depending on the features and design, many squat racks can also support some body weight exercises, such as pull-ups and dips.

The ten squat racks we investigated were a good cross-section of the entire Rogue line.  We included a couple of specialty racks, like the S-1 to S-2 conversion kit and the Kid’s Squat Rack.  We looked at two professional level units, the Combo Rack and the Mono Stand. We checked out an import, the York model, and an introductory type rack, the Echo.  The others had similar costs and functionality, but still had several differences to differentiate each one.

At this point, we need to make some recommendations around these racks.  But what are the criteria we will apply in making the final recommendation?  Who are the customers? And what are their needs from these racks?

Let’s look at this from a couple perspectives.  Let’s start with an experienced lifter, who has been at this a while, and now wants to expand his routine to incorporate squats.  He will be looking to build some serious leg, chest, and arm strength, and wants a fairly heavy-duty rack to support higher weights, but doesn’t want to pay an arm and a leg for it.  Ideally, he will find a unit that supports all the basic lifts like presses and squats, but can be added to in the future for even more flexibility.

Our second lifter is a relative novice to the sport, and is looking at weight training as a way to tone up his body, gain overall strength, and reap the associated health benefits from weight training.  This lifter would like a budget-priced squat rack, with basic features. The ability to add options for future needs is a plus, but not a hard requirement. His available space is a little tight, but not a constraint.  He works out by himself, so safety features are important.

As we go through the list, the primary selection drivers will be the suitability of the rack for personal use, and the combination of price – value – functionality for the squat rack.  This is reflected in the rating I have assigned in the table earlier in this article.

All right, so let’s get right into the deep water, and identify the squat racks that represent the best overall value for our two fictional weight lifters.

Right off the bat, I’m going to knock out the two specialty racks from our list – the kid’s squat rack, and the S-1 – S-2 conversion kit.  The conversion kit only has value to you if you already have an S-1, and want to add a pull-up bar to it. You still end up with a good, but basic squat rack, and have spent the same, or in some cases, more money than an upper end machine would have cost you.  So, given this niche market, we’ll drop the conversion kit.

As far as the kid’s rack, it has much the same issue.  While I get the concept, for just a few dollars more you could move to the York stand and have one unit that would work for both kids and adults, due to its adjustable nature.  Before too long, the kid’s squat rack would just end up headed to a garage sale, and you’re left with nothing. So off it goes.

The next two I’m going to drop off are both exceptional quality machines, but way, way more rack than either of our two fictional lifters will ever need.  Both the Combo Rack and the Mono Stand are geared to high-end commercial establishments, or professional level training rooms. Given the $$$ and (very high) $$$$ prices, they don’t represent the best values that this exercise is seeking.  

So, at this stage, we are left with numbers 1 – 4 on the table, and numbers 8 and 9.

The next one to drop out is the #9 squat rack, the York FTS.  This imported rack features telescoping uprights, allowing a 20” adjustment for both the bench press and squat moves.  While it has basic functionality, and a reasonable price, I question the overall stability of the unit, particularly when fully extended.  Placing additional weights on the storage pegs might alleviate this somewhat, but weights are meant to be lifted, not stored.

At this point, I really start to struggle with the ratings, and coming down to the “best of the best” rating.  The five squat racks left on the list are all very good quality, and, with one exception, all in the $$ price range.  The overall ratings do vary somewhat, though. Difficult indeed, but here we go.

The next rack to discuss is the Echo squat rack, with a $$ price and a 4.6 rating.  This is a strong contender, offering all the basic functionality, no bells and whistles, but also not expandable, and with no options for upgrade.  While perfectly suitable for a novice lifter, my recommendation would be to spend a little bit more money, and get one of the remaining racks with better features upgrade capability.  

And then there were four:

SML-2C

S-4

SM-1

SML-2

Let’s now look at the first of the Monster line of squat racks left, the SM-1.  This rack is a bit of a hybrid – either an upper end squat rack, or a lower end power rack.  It’s built solid, and has a compact footprint and height for use in smaller spaces. It starts out with a $$$ base price, but, with a long list of optional equipment, it would be pretty easy to put this into $$$$ range.  It has a 4.9 overall rating, but given the pricing compared to the others left on the list, I am crossing this one off.

And then there were three.  Let’s cut over and look at the S-4.  This is another 4.9 rated squat rack, but with a $$ price.  This is an independent rack, consisting of two separate upright bars, each mounted to its own base.  You get the advantage of a small footprint and easy storage, but lack a pull-up bar, and there are no available options other than a bench.  One detriment to me is that there are no safety arms available with this cup; you have to rely on the J cups if you lose control of the bar.

The last two rack to consider are the SML-2 90” Monster, and the SML-2C.  To start off the discussion, both of these units have the exact same price, right to the dollar. Let’s look at a few of the other key figures for these two units:

Specification
SML-2C

SML-2 Monster

2” x 3” x 11-gauge base
Yes
Yes

3” x 3” x 11-gauge uprights

Yes

Yes

49” x 48” x 92”H

Yes

Yes

Unit weight 157#

Yes

Yes

1000# capacity

Yes

Yes

Safety arms available
Optional
Optional

Colors
11 different choices Black

So, the bottom line here is that these two units are virtual twins, and it really comes down to picking a color.  The $$ price range makes them affordable to either the novice or our experienced lifter, and both have a number of options to expand their functionality.  Both of these units qualify as our “best of the best”, but the top five certainly are quality units that would work well for either application.

This wraps up the product review on the ten Rogue squat racks.  I hope, if nothing else, that at the end of this, you do indeed know squat.  


Top 10 Rogue Weightlifting Power Racks in 2019

With roots back to imperial China and ancient Greece, weightlifting has long been established as a competitive sport.  The Chinese used weightlifting as a measure of strength for admittance to their armies, and in the first Olympic games, the Greeks used weightlifting to measure the strength of their men, and to improve their ability to compete.  

The basics of weightlifting are fairly unchanged from these early periods – lifting a heavy weight over your head.  While this has evolved, from lifting rocks and stones, to using high tech weightlifting bars and weight plates, the core concepts remain the same.  Let’s take a look at the two basic components in today’s weightlifting world.

First is the weightlifting bar, or barbell.  In its simplest form, it is a long metal pole, and weight plates of various sizes are slid onto the bar.  In today’s world, however, this is a complex, highly machined piece of steel, designed and engineered to support hundreds of pounds of weight, flex as it is picked up off the ground, and stress as it is dropped from height after the lift.  

Next are the plates.  Ancient Greek pictorials show men lifting large stones with holes cut in them as handholds.  These weights evolved into large bulbs which could be filled with sand or water to get to the desired weights.  Today, these plates are milled to tolerances in grams, and designed in conjunction with the barbells to produce a matched set to incredibly tight tolerance.  

Let’s look at a little more detail at how a weightlifting bar, or barbell, is set up.  Here’s an example:

Given this, the minimum equipment to become a weightlifter is quite simple – you need a weightlifting bar, and you need some weight plates.  Having these gives you access to an exercise to improve your strength, flexibility, muscle tone, and overall health. But there is another element beyond this, which can enhance your personal safety while lifting, give you access to more and different lifting moves, and enhance your overall weight lifting experience – a weightlifting power rack.

So, what is a power rack?  In general terms, it is a steel cage, which, at its basic level, has four upright, vertical bars, connected at the top and bottom with horizontal bars.  It has two basic functions – it acts as a rest, or holder, for your barbell as you start or end a specific lift. It also acts as a spotter if you work out alone – a way to stop the weight from falling, or pinning the lifter inside the rack – by having safety catches and spotter bars within the cage.

So what advantages are there with a weightlifting rack, that you don’t have with a bar and plates alone?  We will talk about this in more detail later, but there are some advantages. These include the ability to do different and additional types of lifts, adding body-weight pull-ups into your routine, and enhanced safety, if you work out alone.  

In this article, we will be reviewing ten different weightlifting power rack versions, all manufactured and/or distributed by Rogue Fitness.  We’ll also highlight the best features of these racks, their costs, and assign them an overall rating based on quality, value, and performance.

Fact Sheet – Product Comparison Table

This section of the article will take a quick, high level look at ten different power racks sold by Rogue Fitness.  They are presented in ratings order, high to low, as explained later in this document. Further on in the article, we will look into detail at each of the racks, and make some recommendations on which might be the best fit for the consumer.

NumberProductBest FeaturePrice RangeRouge Rating
1Rogue RE-4 Echo RackA basic, beginner level rack, with many of the same features as more expensive racks $ 5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)
2Rogue RM-6 Monster Rack 2.0An absolute behemoth of a rack, featuring heavy-duty hardware and steel beam construction $$$$$ 5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)
3Rogue RML-3W Fold Back Wall Mount Rack Not a floor rack, but a space-saving wall mount with many of the same features of a floor rack, without the space loss. $ 4.9 out of 5 stars (4.9 / 5)
4Rogue R-3 Power Rack Available in a standard or short version to accommodate ceiling heights.  Fairly small footprint; customization available. $$ 4.9 out of 5 stars (4.9 / 5)
5Rogue R-4 Power Rack A larger version of the R-3 rack, it has a larger footprint with greater inside depth. $$ 4.9 out of 5 stars (4.9 / 5)
6Rogue RML-490 Power Rack Reasonably compact footprint, well-suited for added customization. Nice safety features available. $$ 4.9 out of 5 stars (4.9 / 5)
7Rogue RM-390F Flat Foot Monster Rack  Another in the Monster series, many standard safety features, heavy duty steel and hardware. $$ 4.7 out of 5 stars (4.7 / 5)
8Rogue Bolt-Together R-3 Assembly required, but allows for easy maneuvering in small spaces.  Good standard features and customizable. $$ 4.8 out of 5 stars (4.8 / 5)
9Rogue RML-690C Power Rack Another Monster, fully compatible with the others. Large footprint for lots of lifting versatility. $$$$ 4.8 out of 5 stars (4.8 / 5)
10HR-2 Half Rack Conversion Kit Not a stand-alone rack, but a conversion kit for use with Rogue squat racks, expanding the versatility of the squat rack.   $$$$ 4.6 out of 5 stars (4.6 / 5)

Price range:

$ – <$500

$$ – $500 – $1000

$$$ – $1000 – $1500

$$$$ – $1500 – $2000

$$$$$ – >$2000

Prices are based on the standard configuration power rack, with no extra customization.  The Conversion Kit (#10 above) is $ by itself, but if you purchase one of the two compatible squat racks the total price moves into the $$ bracket.

Product-Buying Guide

There are three generally recognized levels of weightlifting – powerlifting, weightlifting, and weight training, also known as resistance training.

Powerlifting at competition level consists of two basic weight lifting techniques.  Each of them starts with the weight on the ground, so there are no benefits to the power lifter in using a rack, other than cross training with different lifting movements.  

Weightlifting normally consists of using heavier weights for repeated movements, until muscle failure is reached.  The purpose of weightlifting is muscle and strength development, and a weightlifting rack can assist with that. Weightlifting movements may consist of lifts such as the squat (weight across your shoulders, bending down to flex the knees, then driving up with the legs to return to the original position), bench press (laying on a weight bench, lowering the weight to your chest, lifting until an arm lock position is reached, and then lowering the weight to your chest to repeat), the shoulder press (similar to the bench press, but done in a sitting position) and the deadlift (starting with the weight on the floor or a low bar of a rack, then raising the weight to your waist level).  

Weight, or resistance, training normally is done with lighter weights, but with more repetitions.  The goal of weight training is body toning, not large muscle development. Other benefits improve strength improvement, improved health, and added strength for improved performance in other sports like football or basketball.  A weight rack can be very helpful for this type of workout, and can even enhance safety, if the individual is working out alone. The weight rack can also be used for various body weight exercises such as pull-ups.

With this background, we will focus on the use of weight racks primarily for weightlifting and weight training.  Many of the same weight movements can be used by powerlifters to improve overall stamina and strength, but that aspect of lifting will not be our main focus here.  Given that, let’s examine some of the key features and specifications for weightlifting power racks. For reference, here is a picture of a standard configuration weightlifting rack:

Capacity

The maximum capacity of weights that can be safely loaded on a rack is not normally listed in the product specifications, however, the user can get an indication of the capacity based on two factors.  First is the overall construction of the rack – size of the uprights and crossmembers. Lighter capacity racks will have smaller uprights, and lighter-weight hardware. Second, as you look at options available with the racks, most of them offer plate and bar combinations.  The weights of the plates offered is a strong indicator of the overall rack capacity; anything sold as an option is definitely compatible with the rack strength.

Upright size

This is the overall height of the rack.  This could have significance based on the ceiling height of the location of the installation.  It can also have an impact based on your personal height; a pull-up bar at six feet from the floor, when you are over six feet tall, will impact how you perform the exercise.  

Footprint

There are two overall important elements when examining the footprint of a weightlifting rack.  First is the space available in the area where you will be assembling and using the rack. The second is the inside dimension of the rack; the distance between the two upright posts.  The inside dimension needs to be wide enough where you can work both comfortably and safety within the confines of the rack.

Stability

The weight of the rack and other factors, may require the rack to be bolted to the floor in the location where it will be used.  This will be clearly defined in the specifications of the unit you are considering. Bolting down the unit, will obviously limit your flexibility in moving it between locations, such as outdoors in the summer and indoors in the winter.

Hole spacing

You will also see this referred to as Westside hole spacing.  In Westside spacing, the area where you will perform bench presses has the holes spaced one inch apart for greater flexibility and comfort in performing the lift; the distance between the bench and the bar can be adjusted based on your individual measurements.  Below and above this area, the holes are typically spaced at two inches apart. On upper end racks, you will see numbers assigned to these holes to help you make sure the pegs and bars are set at the same height inside the cage.

Hardware

Hardware will give you a good indication of the overall stability, strength, and capacity of the rack. Some weightlifting racks will use 1/2-inch bolts for assembly; top-end, heavy duty models may use 1-inch hardware.

Bar containment

Every rack needs some type of peg system where various shaped holders will be placed to rest the bar.  Lower end racks may use an L-shaped bracket, where the bar rests on a 90-degree angle, like the letter “L”.  The disadvantage here is containment; it is easy to move the bar off the peg. Better racks will use a cup like the letter “J”.  Here, the bar can’t roll out on its own; a slight lift is needed to clear the curvature of the peg.

Options

Depending on the rack, the features will vary.  A top-priced rack may have all the bells and whistles, with very few options, while a lower-priced rack may require the purchase of additional options to get all the features you need.  Some of the more common features or options include pull-up bars of different diameters to improve grip strength, dip bars, post for attaching resistance bands, a safety strap or safety bar system, and pegs for weight plate storage on the rack.

Price

Like just about anything you buy, price is an important consideration.  Price can be affected by the extras you want or need – special features, upgrades, improved specifications, and options to the basic unit.  It is no different than buying a car. If you have three children, a two-seat car is not going to be right for you. If you are a competition or serious weightlifter, buying a base rack from your local department store is not going to be right.  On the other hand, if you work out only on weekends, you probably don’t need an expensive weight rack system. Whatever you decide to do with your purchase, the emphasis should be on value, not just the purchase price alone.

Making your decision

So, you already have some information on various weight rack systems.  You know that there are lots of different models, each with a set of standard features and available options, and widely varying price ranges.   How do you match what you want, with what you need, and what you can afford?

One element is frequency of use.  If you are a serious weight trainer, and working out three to five times a week, the rack you select will have different requirements than if you throw some weights around for a half-hour on Saturday morning.  

A second consideration is the weight capacity of the unit.  Some of these units are designed with smaller sized uprights, and smaller diameter hardware than others.  No matter what weight range you lift, you will still need to purchase a sturdy weight rack, but will you really need the heaviest bar construction and hardware?

Next, location, location, location.  Where will you be doing your workouts.  Remember that a weight rack can require very little permanent space, like the wall unit we will review later on in this article, or can require quite a large space, like some of the racks in the Monster series here.  Are you going to assemble your rack in a temperature-controlled room inside your house, where you don’t have to worry about wide temperature swings from hot to cold, or humidity, which can cause oxidation and rust? Or will your unit be in an ambient temperature environment, where the steel coating becomes a more major consideration?

Will you be using equipment you already have with this rack, or buying a full, ground up set?  If you are going to use existing equipment, you have to verify that the bar style and length are compatible with the rack, and that it will fit correctly and safely into the retaining system, whether J cup or L cup.  Some racks have plate storage capability, and you will also need to ensure that is compatible with your plates.

You now should have some idea about how all these individual features and specifications fit together to comprise a weight rack system.  Because this information has been at a fairly high level, it is also important to drop down a notch, and take a look at each of these ten racks in more detail.  In the next section, we’ll look at overall impressions of the system, the advantages and strengths of the rack, and any disadvantages or missing features that could affect your purchase.  

Top 10 Best

#1 Rogue RE-4 Echo Rack

First Impressions:

This economy matches up many of the features from the other “R” series rack, with a $$ price and a 5.0- star review, so it would seem like a no-brainer purchase.  However, be cautioned there are only two reviews on this product on the Rogue site. So please set your expectations accordingly.

Features & Specifications:

  • Built with 2”x2” rails of 11-gauge steel (the lower the gauge number, the thicker the steel), this is a solid unit, clocking in at 190 pounds.  Assembly hardware is ½”.
  • It comes with standard skinny and fat grip pull-up bars, J-cups, and a set of four pegs for resistance band training.
  • A 52” x 52” footprint gives plenty of work area, without taking up a ton of space, and the unit is just over 90” tall.

Pros:

  • A good utility rack, without a lot of features, but certainly versatile enough for the novice or experienced lifter.  
  • Available plate sets go up to 260-pounds, so plenty of weight and bar capacity.
  • Black-coated steel construction, with plastic protection J-cups for durability.  J-cups are welded to the frame, so placed permanently.

Cons:

  • Unit must be bolted to the floor unless extra stability bars are purchased.
  • No attachments are available for dip stations or plate storage.  
  • Safety bars are optional equipment.
  • The hole pattern is 2” in the bench press area, 6” elsewhere.  

Final Thoughts:

It’s difficult to draw firm conclusions based on the limited reviews.  While the unit covers all the requirements of a basic rack, that’s pretty much all you can get.  Options are very limited, and it’s disappointing, that the safety features are optional rather than standard.  Despite the low cost and the rating, it is probably worth looking at other racks in the R series.

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#2 Rogue RM-6 Monster Rack 2.0

First Impressions:

This rack is a beast in every aspect, including the $$$$$ price!  Given all the configuration options, there is not a weight given in the specs, but you’re not going to carry this box by yourself.  This rack is geared for the professional athlete, elite gymnasiums, and college level athletic rooms. If an individual buys this rack, he will most likely be passing it on to his kids.

Features & Specifications :

  • Available in eleven different colors, this rack has a giant 80” x 53” footprint, and comes in three heights from 90” to 108”, allowing for varied pull-up bar placement.
  • The rack is built with 3” x 3”, 11-gauge steel and 1” hardware.  
  • A pin and pipe safety system is standard, and an optional safety strap system is rated to 10,000 pounds.  
  • The standard, moveable J cups come with a high molecular weight plastic coating, and are rated at 1000 pounds.

Pros:

  • Given the size and weight of the rack, no anchoring is required.
  • Laser cut numbers make hole alignment easy when placing the J cups.
  • The rack comes standard with four pegs for resistance band training, and 8 storage posts for weight plate storage.  
  • With all the available options, there are innumerable combinations of standard and optional equipment to make this rack complete in any application.

Cons:

  • This is a full function machine, and I can’t imagine instances where it would not be fully suitable for use.  The only real drawback to this rack is the $$$$$ price, which likely moves it out of the realm of all but the most dedicated lifters, and into the realm of professional aspects or commercial training facilities.  

Final Thoughts:

This rack is probably beyond the reach of even the most dedicated lifters, based on overall price and all the bells and whistles both standard and available as options. Its likely home will be in high school, collegiate, or professional weight rooms.  However, if money is no object, you absolutely cannot go wrong with this weightlifting rack.

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#3 Rogue RML-3W Fold Back Wall Mount Rack

First Impressions:

If space is at a premium for you, this might be the rack system you need.  Two available depths, 21” or 41”, give the lifter flexibility in determining the inside usable area.  The 4.9 rating and lifetime warranty are a strong indication of the quality and durability of this rack.  When stowed away, it takes up only 5” of space off the wall, which makes it perfect for a garage application where you still need the car inside.

Features & Specifications :

  • Constructed from 3” x 3” 11-gauge steel, with 5/8” hardware, this is a heavy-duty unit, at either 63 or 190 pounds, depending on the depth configuration chosen.
  • The steel has a black powder coating for extra durability.
  • The Westside hole spacing is 1” apart in the bench press area, and 2” apart elsewhere on the rack.

Pros:

  • This unique design allows the lifter the functionality of a standing weightlifting rack, without permanently committing the floor space for one.
  • A heavy-duty hinge and pin system lock the extended unit in place without excessive movement during lifting.
  • An optional stringer system is highly recommended by Rogue to facilitate mounting on the wall.  These stringers come with all hardware to securely mount them to a standard wood stud wall.

Cons:

  • Improper installation could cause damage to the wall, rack, or lifter!
  • The unit is fully functional, but there are not a lot of options available for it, such as dip stations and plate storage pegs.

Final Thoughts:

This rack is an excellent combination of design, functionality, and flexibility.  For those lifters with space limitations, they can still have a good quality, basic weightlifting rack.  The $ price is just one more advantage to this product.

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#4 Rogue R-3 Power Rack

First Impressions:

This is the smallest of the R series racks, with a footprint of 53” x 34”.  The rack can be purchased in a “shorty” version for low-ceiling areas such as a basement.  It has decent standard equipment, and there are several optional variations available as well.  It’s compatible with other R series racks, so much of their equipment could be added to this model.

Features & Specifications :

  • The unit features everything you need in its standard configuration, including pin and pipe safety bars, J cups, and resistance band pegs.  Plate storage is available as an option.
  • This rack has a black powder coated finish, and is guaranteed for life by Rogue.
  • The Westside hole pattern is 1” through the bench press area, and 2” above and below that.

Pros:

  • A $$ price and a 4.9 rating combine to make this a desirable rack for the novice or experienced lifter.
  • 2” x 3” 11-gauge steel, with 5/8” hardware, makes this a sturdy and durable weightlifting rack.
  • The expandability of this rack allows you to start on a basic level, and add functionality over time.
  • Having a shorter version available could make this attractive to a wider market base.

Cons:

  • While the base configuration weighs in at 200 pounds, the unit must be bolted to the floor for safety and security.
  • Some reviewers expressed concern about the tight interior depth for doing squats; others claim it is not an issue.  

Final Thoughts:

What’s not to like about this unit?  Solid, durable, great warranty. Small footprint to increase the flexibility on where it can be used, including the “shorty” version.  The unit is expandable to give it almost the same functionality of other more expensive R line racks. Did I say great rating and great price?

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#5 Rogue R-4 Power Rack

First Impressions & Specifications :

This is a larger version of the R-3 rack reviewed above.  It comes with a bigger footprint, and bigger interior depth, which some rated as a concern on the R-3.  Functionality and specs are similar to the R-3, with some additions like a second pull-up bar and standard resistance band pegs.

Features:

  • This weightlifting rack has a 53” x 53” footprint, and is constructed out of 2” x 3” 11-gauge steel, 5/8” hardware, and a black powder coating finish.  
  • The inside depth of 43” gives ample room for squats and other exercises.
  • Plastic coated J cups, pegs for resistance bands, and safety pipes and pins all come as standard equipment.

Pros:

  • While a little more expensive than the R-3, this unit still wields a 4.9 rating and a $$ price.
  • The expandability of this rack allows you to start on a basic level, and add functionality over time.  
  • While it does not have the “shorty” version available like the R-3, the overall dimensions of this unit make it usable for most home gyms.
  • Standard Westside hole spacing is 1” through the bench area, and 2” above and below.

Cons:

  • Even with fifty pounds additional weight, floor mounting is still highly recommended for this unit.
  • While it comes standard with a safety system, the preferred Infinity safety strap system is a (rather expensive) option.

Final Thoughts:

Like the R-3, there is really not much to dislike about this unit.  It is sneaking up to the $$$ threshold, but given the functionality and expandability that should not deter too many.  The real differentiator here from the R-3 is the larger footprint and interior dimensions. If those are important, this is your unit; otherwise the R-3 is fully comparable.

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#6 Rogue RML-490 Power Rack

First Impressions:

From the Monster series of racks, this one is “Monster Lite”.  With heavy-duty construction featuring 3” x 3” rails and 5/8” hardware this is a solid unit, built for a long usable life.  It weighs in at 336 pounds, and has a 53” x 53” footprint. It has decent standard features, and is easy to upgrade with other Monster equipment.

Features & Specifications :

  • Standard equipment includes J cups, pipe and pin safety bars, two pull-up bars, and resistance band pegs.  A dip station and plate storage pegs are among available options. Normal Westside bench press hole configuration is standard on this rack.  
  • Rogue recommends that the unit be mounted to the floor unless a stabilizer bar is added.  Both the mounting hardware and stabilizer bar are available at extra cost.
  • The unit has a 49” x 49” interior dimension working area, and comes in a black powder coating finish as standard.  

Pros:

  • From a quality ranking perspective, this is another 4.9 rated unit, and a price still in the $$ range.  
  • This unit has several options available for upgraded equipment and features, which can be added over time to prevent the initial “sticker shock”.
  • A wide variety of custom colors are available for this unit.

Cons:

  • Floor mounting is recommended for this unit, and buying either the stabilizer bar or anchor kit actually pushes this unit up into the $$$ range.

Final Thoughts:

This unit is kind of the middle child.  Unless you need the extra stability for lifting heavier weights, the R-4 is probably enough rack for you.  If you are lifting heavier weights, the RM-390 might be a better fit, as it has more upward potential. There are no major issues with this unit; it just seems to me, there are better choices right above or below it.

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#7 Rogue RM-390F Flat Foot Monster Rack 

First Impressions:

Back to the true monsters here. This rack comes with very heavy-duty construction, solid weight and footing for stability, includes a lot of bells and whistles, with capability for more.  We edge into $$$ pricing with this rack, but it has standard features that would cost you extra in other models. The satin black finish makes it attractive, as well as functional.

Features & Specifications :

  • This unit comes with the big guns – 54” x 50” footprint, 24” inside depth, and 93” tall.  Big enough for squats or any interior lift, and tall enough for most to do dead weight body hangs from the pull-up bar without touching the floor.
  • The rack features 3”x 3” 11-gauge steel uprights, and 1” bolts and hangers for assembly.  With a weight of 336 pounds and a self-stabilizing footer, this unit does not require floor mounting.
  • Laser cut numbers on the hole spacing make matching heights across the unit simple and efficient.

Pros:

  • Very strong standard features, including pin and pipe safety system, extra-strong Monster J cups, and all assembly tools included.  
  • Rubber coated foot guards protect flooring and prevent any movement during rack usage.
  • This rack is compatible with many other Monster accessories, including dip stations and plate storage pegs.  

Cons:

  • We’re not to Monster RM6 price levels, but we are well into $$$ range.  Add in a couple accessories and this unit will break into $$$$ pretty quickly.  In reality, you are getting a slightly upgraded RM-3, without the requirement to bolt it to the floor.

Final Thoughts:

This is a solid unit, but starting to sneak up there in the price range.  For an individual user, it’s a bit of a stretch. You do get some extra strength and stability, but pay a pretty dear price for it.  Other units will do most of what this one will. I see this rack more in the realm of gyms and weight training rooms, not individual homes.  

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#8 Rogue Bolt-Together R-3

First Impressions:

This, along with the wall-mount unit we looked at earlier, is another modified version of another rack; in this case, the R-3.  The selling and marketing advantage(?) of this unit is that it is shipped unassembled, ostensibly so you can more easily maneuver it up a tight staircase or low ceiling area.  Other than that, it is a standard R-3 unit.

Features & Specifications :

  • With a 53” x 34” footprint, and 24” inside depth (with a 30” depth option available at extra cost), this is a medium sized unit that should be able to find a home in any home or garage.  
  • At 90” tall, the unit is assembled from 2” x 3” 11-gauge steel uprights, using 5/8” bolts and hangers.
  • Like the standard R-3, this rack has all the basics you need for weightlifting, and is expandable with several compatible features and options from other R series racks.

Pros:

  • The unit features everything you need in its standard configuration, including pin and pipe safety bars, J cups, and resistance band pegs.  Plate storage is available as an option.
  • This rack has a black powder coated finish, and is guaranteed for life by Rogue.
  • The Westside hole pattern is 1” through the bench press area, and 2” above and below that.
  • A $$ price and a 4.8 rating combine to make this a desirable rack for the novice or experienced lifter.

Cons:

  • While the base configuration weighs in at 200 pounds, the unit must be bolted to the floor for safety and security.
  • Some reviewers expressed concern about the tight interior depth for doing squats; others claim it is not an issue.  

Final Thoughts:

I have to admit that I just don’t get this.  The advantage of this rack is you can put it together yourself; the disadvantage of this rack is you have to put it together yourself.  And, surprisingly, you actually pay a slight premium for the privilege of assembling it. I’m sure there are occasional instances where this rack might make sense, but I’m guessing the vast majority just buy the R-3.  

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#9 Rogue RML-690C Power Rack

First Impressions:

I think we have another step-child here.  The combination of a high-end $$$$ price and, by Rogue standards, a low 4.8 rating would move me to push this one off to the side while shopping.  An attractive rack, finished in a semi-gloss powder coat finish available in ten colors, it has many of the same features as the RM6, but seems to be just a little off, top to bottom.

Features & Specifications :

  • This rack has the same 80” x 53” footprint as the RM-6, the same 3”x 3” 11-gauge steel, but dropped down to 5/8” hardware for assembly.  
  • At 530 pounds, floor bolts are not necessary.  
  • Westside hole spacing is 1” through the bench press area, and 2” above and below.

Pros:

  • This is a very heavy-duty machine, with lots of bells and whistles.  Pipe and pin safety system, resistance band pegs, and bumper plate storage posts are standard.
  • There are many opportunities beyond color choices for customization, including height and depth of the rack.

Cons:

  • There are no numbers assigned to the holes as in the RM-6, making alignment of pegs and safety equipment more difficult.
  • Given all the weightlifting power racks offered by Rogue, this combination of high price and lower quality rating makes this a bad value.  

Final Thoughts:

Unless there is a big sale or some other event to stimulate demand, I don’t see this RM-6 “wannabe” being a good purchase.  You can get a full-featured RM-6 rack for a couple hundred bucks more, or drop down to a 390 or 490, get similar functionality and specs, and save some serious money.  This might be a great commercial machine, but to me the value is just not there.

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#10 HR-2 Half Rack Conversion Kit

First Impressions:

This kit allows you to take a couple specific Rogue squat racks and convert them into a half-sized weightlifting rack.  By doing so, you get more spotting (read as safety) options, and improved storage for you weight plates. The uprights are made of 3” x 3” 11-gauge steel, and create a half-rack with a 1000-pound weight capacity.

Features & Specifications :

  • The conversion kit gives you the two uprights, plates for attaching the uprights to the squat rack, two cross-members for attaching at the top, and all the required hardware.
  • Addition functionality, such as long and short plate storage pegs and a pin and pipe safety system are optional and at extra cost.

Pros:

  • This conversion kit lets you expand the functionality of your existing Rogue S-2 or S-3 squat rack.
  • The purchase of optional features let you increase plate storage on this piece of equipment.

Cons:

  • If you buy just the conversion kit, this is a $ item, but brings with it only a 4.6 rating.  If you were to buy both the squat rack and conversion kit, the item is $$.

Final Thoughts:

If you have the right Rogue squat rack in your equipment, and want to expand the functionality of it, then this conversion kit might be worth looking into.  However, I really don’t see any circumstances where you would buy both at the same time. For the same or a little more money, you can get a full rack, with improved stability and greater features and functionality.  This purchase is probably only for a small niche market.

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Spotlights – Weightlifting – History, How and Why

As we noted earlier, weightlifting goes all the way back to ancient civilizations, like the Chinese and Greeks.  The initial tools for this were simple; men used either their own body weight, for such things are rope climbing, or natural tools, such as rocks and stones.  The Scots to this day have competitions over how far they can throw tree trunks, and circus strong men were among the earliest lifters. Strength has always been recognized as a desirable trait, and weight training and lifting enhances that trait.

In the late 1800s, more formalized weight lifting competitions began to evolve, starting in western Europe.  In the modern Olympic games, weightlifting made its first appearance in 1896. Apparently, there was insufficient interest garnered in the event, as it did not appear as an event in the 1900 Olympics.  The early history was a bit checkered, as it was competed in the 1904 games, but not in 1908 and 1912. The 1916 games were cancelled because of World War I, and, when the games revived in 1920, so did weightlifting.

Prior to 1932, there were no weight divisions in Olympic lifting.  In 1932, five different weight classes for lifters were established, allowing them to compete with opponents of common size, across three specific lifting movements.  Women did not officially compete in Olympic weightlifting until 2000, but women were active in several different organizations and competitions well in advance of their Olympic debut.

The earlier versions of today’s weightlifting racks were known as Smith Machines.  The original concept was advanced by Jack Lalanne, a very influential person in the early days of American fitness.  In the 1950s, Lalanne was looking for a machine to allow him to do squats without having a spotter present. While working with a friend, Rudy Smith, the first concepts of the machine were crafted.  Smith arranged to have a prototype built, and then managed to work it into a chain of gyms owned by Vic Tanny. By the 1970s these machines were common in gyms all over the US.

At this point, we have an understanding about the evolution of weight lifting through history, and have seen how the equipment used in weight lifting has moved from rocks and stones to today’s plate, racks, and bars.  The focus in this section has been, so far, on the professional and elite lifters. But those groups are in reality just a small niche in the weightlifting market; let’s take a look at how weightlifting fits into the lives of the everyday man and woman.

We know from earlier discussions here that weightlifting and weight training are two different things.  Most people using free weights are involved in weight training. They want to gain strength, improve their overall fitness, and develop firm muscle tone.  All of these targets lead to an overall goal of improved health and well-being. Weight training can improve bone density, and can help you maintain or even lose weight, as muscle burns more calories than fat.  It can increase heart health by improving aerobic capability, and lowering one’s cholesterol profile. Weight training is a very simple way to gain numerous health benefits.

By incorporating a weight rack into weight training, the lifter is able to improve his lifting safety, and reduce the risk of injury.  With the various safety features incorporated into the racks, lifters can use heavier weights than they could without the rack.

Final Verdict

In the course of this article, we’ve looked at the history of the sport of weightlifting, its origins, and the types of competition within this sport – strongest man competitions, the Olympics, and so on.  The detailed review undertaken on these ten racks looked at both common and unique features and specification. Knowing what we expect as performance criteria from these racks, we looked at both the pros and cons of their ability to deliver these expectations.  An overall impression of the value and placement of each rack was also assessed.

This selection was a cross-section of ten Rogue weightlifting power racks.  Most of them were standard, floor model racks, but, within that range, there were super heavy-duty racks for the elite athlete and racks for the average guy.  We threw in a couple specialty racks, including a conversion kit and a wall mounted rack.

So, from this list, let’s get started choosing the west weightlifting rack choices.  First, let’s identify the customers for these racks. We’ll look at this from two perspectives.  Customer A has been weight training for some time, and is getting ready to move up from his department store equipment into something a little further up the quality scale.  He feels a rack will help him meet his overall strength goals, and provide him safety considerations, as he typically works out alone. Customer B is a novice lifter, just getting started in the sport, and looking for a good value investment in a weight rack to help him meet his goals.  The major decision points for each will be the cost of the rack, and the overall value provided by the rack.

The “best of” racks should be suitable for personal use, not just designed for the commercial gym or professional athlete.  We will not, however, automatically exclude those higher end racks; if they provide the right mix of cost and value, they will be selected.  So, to summarize, my selection of “best of” will be driven by the pros and cons of the equipment, and the mix of price and value.

Let’s get started.

Let’s begin this exercise by looking at the #10 rack on the list, the HR2 conversion kit.  Rogue has two models of squat rack which can be modified by installing this conversion kit, turning it into a half rack set-up.  This unit would probably have a very limited market, and, for that reason, it will be dropped from out “best of” list.

Number 9 on the list is the RML 690.  This is a very heavy-duty machine, probably geared more to the commercial or professional market than the personal one.  As we discussed above, this one falls in between the absolute top end model and a couple other very good models in different price points.  So, based on the high price scale for this model, and the availability of similar models at lower prices, we drop the 690 from the list next.

The next model, #8, is another specialty model, the Bolt-together R3.  This one is pretty much the same machine as the R3 Power Rack, but it comes unassembled, purportedly to allow for maneuvering it up tight stairways or in rooms with narrow doors or low ceilings.  Okay, an interesting concept, but is it really worth paying more than the standard R3 model, and then having to take the time to assemble it? Off the list it goes.

The next three models, the RM390, the RML490, and the R4 Power, numbers 5, 6, and 7, are all similarly rated and priced.  All have good functionality, durability, and strength. All three have the same 4.9 rating, and, although the 390 has a $$$ price, the difference is fairly small.  Any of these three machines would be a worthy step up rack for our experienced lifter, and would also suffice for a novice lifter, but have more capability than really needed for that level of expertise.  Bottom line for these three racks – all recommended, but not the “best of” “or best value” that we are looking for,

Let’s drop down to #3 on the list, the RML 3W wall mount rack.  This is unique, in that it is a wall-mounted, fold up version of a full-size rack.  It would be perfect for a garage application, or a multi-use room where you could not leave a full rack set up all the time.  It has to be securely mounted, for obvious reasons, so portability is out of the question. It is also, again, geared to a niche market.  I’d say this is probably not a great step-up choice for our experienced lifter, but could be a good starter rack given its $ price and 4.9 rating.  For those reasons, while recommended, I’m going to throw this one off the list.

To take a quick recap, we have three racks left for consideration as “best of the best”; #4, the R3 Power Rack; #2, the RM6 Monster Rack, and #1 the RE4 Echo.

Let’s start out looking at the RM6 rack.  This is a huge, heavy duty, fully versatile weightlifting rack.  You get everything with this rack, even a choice of almost a dozen colors.  But let’s be realistic here. Unless you are a professional or competition level lifter, or an elite athlete, the $$$$$ price of this rack is going to chase away most individuals.  This is a rack you would most likely find in a top end gym, or in a professional or collegiate weight or training room. It blows away almost every other rack on the list with a 5.0 rating, but it is way too much rack for a novice, and even a move-up rack for an experienced lifter.  There are too many highly functional racks on this list that would suffice for those fictional people. So goodbye to the RM6.

This leaves two racks – the RE4 and the R3 Power Rack.  Both have the same $$ price point, and are almost identically priced within that range.  The RE4 has a 5.0 rating, but qualified; the R3 has a solid 4.9 rating. The qualification on the RE4 is that it only has two reviews in total; the R3 has almost 100.

So, when we put these two remaining racks side by side, here’s what I see:

  • The Echo has 2” x 2” rails, and is assembled with ½” hardware.  The R3 has 2” x 3” rails, and is assembled with 5/8” hardware. Advantage R3.
  • The Echo has a 52” x 52” x 90” tall footprint.  The R3 is 53” x 34” x 84” or 90” tall. The shorter version is available for locations where ceiling height is a consideration.  Slight advantage Echo for having a deeper working area, but positive to the R3 for the different height availability. Advantage Echo.
  • Both units require floor mounts.  Advantage to neither.
  • The Echo has a 2”/6” Westside hole pattern.  The R3 has a more standard 1”/2” pattern. Advantage R3.
  • Safety bars are optional on the Echo, but standard on the R3.  Advantage R3.

Drumroll, please.  

When you stack up these two racks side by side, for me, it’s no-contest; the R3 Power Rack is the clear winner.  Time may prove out the 5.0 rating on the Echo, but with just not enough user comments, and some technical disadvantages, the R3 is clearly the better rack.  It has solid capability for the experienced lifter (although some of the other models might be better move-ups for a very experienced lifter), and is a perfect rack for the new lifter.  

Realistically, you could not go wrong buying any of these racks, and it was a very tough task trying to identify enough differences between them to pick the best of the best.  Hopefully this article has given you some knowledge and guidance for your first or next weightlifting rack purchase.

Top 10 Rogue Fitness Weight Plates in 2019

At its core, weightlifting is a very simple sport.  You have a big pole, weights on both ends of it, and you move it off the ground and raise it over your head.  However, when one looks at the science of weightlifting, you get quite a different picture. Weightlifting bars are designed and built to incredibly close tolerances, as the penalty for breakage or damage during a lift is severe.  The plates are also designed for strength, as they are typically released and dropped from height. The specifications and tolerances of both the plates and bars must fit together, or else the hole in the plate might be too small to fit on the bar, or the hole might be too large, and spin too freely on the bar.  

Let’s look at a little more detail at how a weightlifting bar, or barbell, is set up.  Here’s an example:

The bar itself is made of a special grade of steel.  Lengths may vary based on use and purpose. The weights on the bar are called plates, and vary in weight up to 25 kilograms (55 pounds).  The focus of this article will be on the plates. The part of the bar where the plates are held is called the sleeve. The apparatus at the end of the bar and toward the center of the bar, holding the plates in place, is called a collar.  We’ll get into the details behind these things in a little bit.

While you may think of a weight plate as just a weight, there is actually a lot of technology behind them, as they need to meet fairly exacting specifications.  Most weights will be available in sizes up to 55 pounds. Metric equivalents of up to 25 kilograms are also available. Plates may be steel, coated steel, solid, round, and even twelve-sided.  There is a key barbell measure, called loadable sleeve length, which is the measure of the usable area where plates can be loaded. The number of plates that can be put into this area determines the total poundage of the lift.  

In this article, we will be reviewing ten different plate versions, all manufactured and/or distributed by Rogue Fitness.  We’ll also highlight the best features of these plates, their costs, and assign them an overall rating based on quality, value, and performance.

Fact Sheet – Product Comparison Table

This section of the article will take a quick, high level look at ten different weight plate styles sold by Rogue.  They are presented in ratings order, high to low, as explained later in this document. Further on in the article, we will look into detail at each of the plate sets, and make some recommendations on which might be the best fit for the consumer.

NumberProductBest FeaturePrice range (see below)
1
Rogue Echo Bumper Plates
Imported from China, budget friendly model; rubber coated for dead bounce and durability $
2Rogue Machined Olympic Plates Machined to exacting tolerances, unique hammertone finish, Olympic style plates $$
3Rogue Black Training KG Plates Produced to similar specs as Olympic plates, superior dead bounce and durability $$$
4Rogue Color LB Training 2.0 Plates Narrow width plates for more loading, color coded for easier identification $$$$
5Rogue HG 2.0 KG Bumper Plates Thinner than competitive plates so more weight can be loaded; imported from China $
6Rogue 6-Shooter Olympic Grip Plates Six symmetrical grip holes for easy handling and loading, hammertone finish $$
7Rogue Bumper Plates by Hi-Temp Heavy duty bumper plates, coated in rubber for protection, available individually or in sets $$
8Rogue Dumbbell Bumpers Six weight increments, designed for use with the Rogue loadable dumbbell $$
9Rogue Calibrated LB Steel Plates Machine calibrated for extreme precision; color coding for easy identification $$
10Rogue 65LB Gorilla Bumpers (Pair) Heavier than a 45- pound plate, but only .25” thicker to allow more weight on the bar $$$

Price range:

$ – <$150

$$ – $150 – $200

$$$ – $200 – $250

$$$$ – > $250

Prices are based on cost of 2×45 pound plates, or 2×20 kilogram plates if a metric set.\

Product-Buying Guide

Any set or combination of these weight plates is perfectly suited to help you with your weightlifting endeavors.  As noted earlier, there are three subsets within weightlifting – standard (or weight training), weightlifting, and power weightlifting.  Some of these weight plates are specifically designed and manufactured for each of these purposes. Power weightlifting is the most demanding, involving lifting extremely heavy weights, typically in a competition setting.  In general, power weightlifting is centered around two specific movements, the clean and jerk, and the snatch; both of these techniques involve lifting the weight over your head. The snatch begins with lifting the weight to your knee level, bending the knees, moving the weight over your head, and then pushing up with your legs to full extension.  The clean and jerk is similar, initially moving the weight to chest level, then jerking the weight in a fluid motion so it ends up over your head, with extended arms. In each of these moves, the plates are dropped to the ground at the end of the lift. This puts a different type of stress on the plates than with other weightlifting movements. Because of this, plates for powerlifting applications typically have a plastic or rubber coating to absorb the shock of being dropped from height; this type of plate is referred to as a bumper plate.  This type of weight lifting is not about repetitions; success is measured by the amount of weight you can lift successfully.

Weightlifting involves a different set of movements – the squat, the bench press, the dead lift.  None of these moves involve lifting the weight over your head. The squat involves holding a weight at chest height, dropping into a squatting position, then using your legs to drive the weight back up.  The bench press involves lying on a weight bench, and lifting the weight off your chest using arm strength. The dead lift starts with a heavy weight resting on the floor, then raising the weight to waist height.  Weights are replaced on a rack, or set on the floor following these movements. The goal for the weightlifter is muscle building, pure and simple. This is accomplished by lifting heavy weights for a few repetitions. Weightlifting can use pretty much any type of plate; limitations may be caused by the width of the plate.  If too wide, the lifter cannot fit enough weight on the bar for his routine. Plates with small widths have developed to fill this niche.

Standard weightlifting, also known as weight training or resistance training, is usually done with a goal of increasing strength, endurance and/or muscle mass.  Weight training is often used to supplement performance in other sports, such as football or basketball. While you may use many of the same moves and lifts in weight training as in powerlifting or weightlifting, they are typically done with less weight, and more repetitions.   Weight training may also incorporate the use of dumbbells rather than using a standard barbell configuration. Dumbbells are basically a much shorter barbell designed for use in one hand. We will review one set of dumbbell plates here.

We will be looking in depth at different types of weight plates here, which serve different weightlifting purposes.  Typical divisions will include bumper plates (typically specific to powerlifting, but can be used in other applications), competition (or Olympic) plates (multi-purpose, but with an opening that only fits on an Olympic bar) , steel plates (basic, with no plastic, designed for weightlifting or training), change plates (smaller weight plates to increase weight on the bar incrementally), multi-purpose plates (used in all three applications), and dumbbell bumper plates (designed for use on dumbbells, but, depending on opening size, may be suitable for barbell use). So, now we know about the different types of weight plates available, the types of lifting they are used for, and the type of movements that are done as part of lifting.  Given that, let’s look at some of the key performance criteria and product specifications for weightlifting plates.

Loadable sleeve length

This refers to the part of the barbell where the weight plates are held; the distance from the end of the barbell to the collar.  The collar, located on the barbell itself, is typically about two inches in diameter. There is a secondary collar attached to the end of the bar to hold the weight plates in position, so they do not rotate or slide on the bar.  This secondary collar does take up bar space, but it is also a good safety feature to keep the plates from sliding off the bar. While this is primarily a feature of weightlifting barbells, not plates, it is relevant in this discussion, as the sleeve length may limit the amount of weight the bar can hold.

Collar

As noted, the collar is located on the barbell.  One of its functions is to act as a “stop” for the weight plates; they separate the sleeve and the shaft.  Inside the collar, manufacturers will place either bushings or bearings. Both of them are designed to allow the bar to spin during the lift.  Some spin is desirable; too much is not, so there is a balancing point here for both the lifter and the manufacturer.

Width and Diameter

Let’s start by looking at the weight plates with the most demanding specification – those used in weightlifting competitions or the Olympic Games.  Ten different size weights are used:

.5 kg. – 2.5 kg. in .5 kg. increments

5 kg. – 25 kg. in 5 kg. increments

15, 20, and 25- kilogram plates

The diameter on the 3 larger plates must be 450 mm, with a tolerance of +/- 1 mm.  These discs have a rubber coating. The smaller disks are made of metal or other materials, and no coating is required.  The width of the larger plates is variable, since the diameter is fixed. The largest plates, 25 kilograms, will be wider than the smaller 15- or 20-kilogram plates.  This width is where the specification of the loadable sleeve comes into play.

Standard weights are not bound to the specifications of the International Weightlifting Federation, so you may see variation in diameter and thickness based on the manufacturer and materials.  Standard weights are typically sold in pound, not kilogram, increments, with seven sizes typical. These are 2.5 pound; 5 pounds; 10 pounds; 25 pounds; 35 pounds; 45 pounds; and 100 pounds.

Bore

The center hole of the weights, or the bore, varies based on the use of the weight.  Competition level weights will have a bore of two inches; standard plates will have a one-inch center hole.  The specifications of the weightlifting barbell must obviously conform to the specification of the bore. The diameter specifications of the bore must match very closely to the diameter specifications of the barbell sleeve, or there will be fit issues with the plates.

Weight tolerance

This is the amount of variation between the actual weight of the plate, and the stated weight of the plate.  Standard specifications allow for a variation of +/- 15 grams from stated weight. Some cheaper sets may have weight variations of up to 3%.  This becomes more critical in competition and powerlifting applications, but not a big issue for the weight trainer.

Insert type

Most plates come with a center insert, which is where the bore is located.  In competition type bars, these will typically be of chrome plated steel or zinc plated steel.  Other materials used include stainless steel for higher end plates. The insert may be recessed to avoid contact with other plates while on the bar.

Shore A Durometer Test

This test measures the hardness of a material; in this case, the hardness of the steel of the plates.  The scale for steel runs from about 65 to 100. A lower score means the metal is softer, and will bounce more when dropped from height.  A higher score means the metal is harder, and will bounce less. A higher durometer test reading is more desirable in these circumstances.

Price

As with virtually any other product, price will play into your purchase considerations.  It will factor into your decision on options, features, and specifications. If you are a competition level lifter, buying low-end plates from the local big box retailer might not be the best choice for you.  Conversely, if you are a weekend lifter, using lighter weights and more repetitions, you probably do not need an Olympic or competition rated plate. But if you are planning to more from weight training to weightlifting, perhaps that higher rated plates do make sense.  In any case, your focus should be on the total value of the item, not just the price.

Making your decision

Given this information, you are already aware that there are many variations from unit to unit for product specifications, performance, and features.  So how should you decide which of these weightlifting plates is best for you? Here are a few things you should consider in making your choice:

Think about your usage patterns.  Are you going to be using the weights multiple times a week?  Or are you typically a weekend warrior, where your equipment might collect dust five days out of seven?

What type of weight will you be lifting?  If you are lifting heavy weights, the cumulative stress from dropping the weighted barbell needs to be considered as you look at things like durometer ratings. On the other hand, if you will be working from a rack, or using lighter weights and not dropping the bar, you may be able to get away with plates not rated for Olympic competition.  

Where will you be doing your workouts?  Will you be in a temperature-controlled room inside your house, or working out in your garage, with temperature swings from boiling to freezing?  These conditions may impact your choice of finish and coating, which can affect the oxidation rates of the materials of construction.

Identify the number and weight of the plates you expect to be using with the bar.  If you will be using a high number of weights to lift on the bar, the sleeve length of the bar may come into play, and push you toward buying multiple 45-pound plates rather than a graduated set of plates.  

Hopefully, all of this discussion and detail has given you some ideas about what features are most important to you.  The information so far has been at a fairly high level. Let’s drop down one more level of detail, and look at each of our top ten in depth, comparing specifications, features, advantages, and disadvantages of each version of weightlifting plates.  

Top 10 Best Fitness Weight Plates

#1 Rogue Echo Bumper Plates

First Impressions:

This bumper plate is relatively easy on the wallet, with a $ price structure.  The set offers some decent quality features, like stainless steel inserts and a virgin rubber coating.  The plates meet IWF diameter standards at 450MM, except the ten-pound plate at 446MM.

Features & Specifications:

  • These plates have a 50.4MM collar opening, and feature stainless steel inserts.
  • Imported from China, these plates hit 88 on the durometer scale, so will have a minimal bounce if dropped.  
  • Weight tolerance is +/- 1% of claimed weight.

Pros:

  • These plates are very budget friendly, and would make a good starter set for the novice lifter.
  • The ten- and fifteen-pound plates are warrantied for ninety days.  Larger plates are warrantied for three years.
  • The weights are available in pairs, or in full sets up to 260 pounds.  

Cons:

  • Rubber coating may have slight imperfections, but should not impact performance.

Final Thoughts:

A plate set of decent quality, with a low-end price to complete your equipment room, or give a good start to a novice lifter.  They meet IWF standards, so can be used in conjunction with other sets without worrying about variation in the diameters of the plates. The combination of durable rubber coating, a strong warranty, and a budget-conscious price make this a highly rated plate.

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#2 Rogue Machined Olympic Plates

First Impressions:

These classic steel Olympic style plates are still a go-to standard in the weightlifting set.  Featuring weights from 2.5 pounds to 45 pounds, the gray hammertone finish creates an attractive, yet durable plate.  The plates can be ordered in pairs, or in a 245-pound set.

Features & Specifications:

  • Diameters and thicknesses vary for each of the weight increments, and the individual plates are machined to a tolerance of +2&/-0 for the larger plates, and +/- 3% on the two-and-a-half, five- and ten-pound plates.
  • A time-tested design, good quality, and decent tolerances make this an attractive set for any level of lifter.
  • An indentation from the rim makes the plates convenient to load or carry, even with one hand.  

Pros:

  • A $$ price, with a good quality, time-tested design makes this a good purchase for the beginning lifter, right up to the powerlifter trying to add some weight to his gym equipment.  
  • Plate diameters and thicknesses are variable, but are optimized to give a good bar loading.

Cons:

  • No real negatives to this set; they are competitively priced, and deliver the quality and performance they promise.

Final Thoughts:

If I were moving up from novice to experienced, or from weight training to weightlifting, this is the weightlifting plate set I would purchase.  There are no bells and whistles here, just a fully functional set of plates that can be used for weight training, weight lifting, or powerlifting.  

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#3 Rogue Black Training KG Plates

First Impressions:

This attractive, matte-black plate comes with a rubber stripe around the full circumference of the plate, allowing for easy identification, even at a distance.  All plates are an IWF standard 450 MM diameter, and have a tight weight tolerance of +/- 15 grams of the claimed kilogram weight. They can be ordered individually or in sets up to 140 kilos (just over 300 pounds).

Features & Specifications :

  • These plates reach a hefty 94 on the durometer scale, insuring almost a completely bounce-free drop.
  • Collar opening is 50.4MM, allowing a smooth fit for the plates on the bar, with a chrome plated steel disc insert.
  • They have a raised lip to make these pumpers easier to remove from the rack or pick up off the floor.  

Pros:

  • These plates are manufactured to similar standards and specification as the competition level plates.
  • The rubber flanges help prevent friction and scuffing of the finish, and provide easy visual plate identification.
  • The plates are of a consistent diameter, with varying plate thicknesses, which give a good balance for your lift.

Cons:

  • The 50.4MM opening gives the bars free and easy loading and movement, and most reviewers have recommended collars to ensure the plates remain on the bar.
  • While they do fall into a $$$ price range, there are really no negative points in the reviews.

Final Thoughts:

While this set moves up on the price scale, it is one of the highest reviewed plate sets of the Rogue catalog.  Based on their weight and production tolerances, and the consistent dead drop, they are on a scale with the higher quality competition plates.  These are a good value purchase for the weightlifter or powerlifter.

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#4 Rogue Color LB Training 2.0 Plates

First Impressions:

These training plates are similar to the black trainers reviewed above, but do have some important differences.  As with most weightlifting plates, they can be purchased individually or in sets up to 320 pounds. A zinc plated steel disc blends perfectly with the bright colors chosen for this set.

Features & Specifications :

  • These plates have a 50.4MM collar opening, and a consistent, IWF standard 450MM diameter.  
  • They are machined to a tolerance of +/- 15 grams to claimed weight.
  • A rating of 86 on the durometer scale will give a minimal bounce, increasing plate life and durability

Pros:

  • The standardized diameter leads to different plate widths, but the overall widths are consistently low here, allowing for maximum bar loading.
  • The color-coded plates are easily recognizable, even from a distance, and make bar loading a more efficient process.
  • The 50.4MM bore hole allows for smooth loading, but may require the use of collars to hold the plates in place

Cons:

  • No real negatives to point out on these, other than the requirement to add collars for stability.  These plates get consistently high ratings.

Final Thoughts:

From a specification, quality, tolerance, and visual perspective, this is a top end weightlifting plate set.  Adaptable from weight training all the way up to powerlifting, this is a flexible set, measuring in well by any standards.  The only real negative about this set is the $$$$ pricing, which may drive away some of the more casual lifters.

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#5 Rogue HG 2.0 KG Bumper Plates

First Impressions:

Built in China to Rogue specifications, these weights feature a thinner profile so more weight can be put on the bar.  They meet IWF standards at 450MM. This is the KG version of Rogue plates, and has a weight tolerance of +/- one pound of claimed weight.

Features & Specifications :

  • Minimal bounce expected, coming in at 88 on the durometer scale.
  • Two-inch collar opening for Olympic lifting, stainless steel insert.
  • Three-year warranty on plates over 5 kilograms; 90 days on 5 kilo plates.

Pros:

  • A $ price range for a decent quality bar with a good warranty.  
  • Meets IWF standards.  
  • 20 kg. plate is 3.25 inches wide, vs. 3.75 inches wide on Rogue bumper plates.

Cons:

  • No real disadvantages to this set.  Some may prefer American made weights, but this is a good quality, well priced set.

Final Thoughts:

These thinner plates are available individually, or in sets up to 150 kilograms.  The plates meet IWF standards, and would make a good starter set for newcomer to weightlifting, or provide additional weight to an experienced lifter.  

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#6 Rogue 6-Shooter Olympic Grip Plates

First Impressions:

This is a multi-purpose set, designed for weight trainers and weight lifters, but not for powerlifters.  These are not bumper plates, and are manufactured from cast-iron, and not designed to be dropped. They do, however, come with a five-year warranty against breakage (unless there is evidence of excessive dropping).  The unique design makes handling of the plates much more convenient than other designs.

Features & Specifications :

  • These weightlifting plates have six holes spaced evenly around the plate, which make for easy lifting, carrying, and loading.  Note that this feature is not available on the smaller change plates from 2.5 – 10 pounds.
  • Hammertone gray finish with black lettering makes this an attractive set, especially complimented with the unique design.
  • The plates have a 50.6MM collar opening, and weight tolerances of +/- 1% on plates 25 pounds and up, and +/- 3% on the smaller sizes.

Pros:

  • The plates have variable diameters and thicknesses, but optimized for a good bar load.  Sold in pairs, or in a set of 245- pounds.
  • A $$ price, for good quality plates.  Built for everyday use, they are durable and should last a long time if used and handled properly.  

Cons:

  • Given the materials of construction, not suitable for powerlifting applications due to the drop restrictions.

Final Thoughts:

Much like the machined Olympic plates above, this is a good “starting from scratch” plate set, with a solid rating, good quality, and a good track record.  The only reason to drop this one down a notch is that the plates are cast iron, and not suitable for the powerlifting crowd.

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#7 Rogue Bumper Plates by Hi-Temp

First Impressions:

This heavy-duty, multi-purpose set rates a 75 on the durometer scales, so expect a bit of bounce when they are dropped.  The weights have a vulcanized rubber coating to minimize clanging and scratching the finish when racking or loading the weights.

Features & Specifications :

  • These plates feature a 2” stainless steel insert to make them a high-quality Olympic style bar.  
  • Collars are inset to reduce the chance of damage when multiple weight plates are on the bar.
  • Weight tolerance of +/- ½ pound.

Pros:

  • US made with recycled vulcanized rubber for durability.  
  • Available individually or in sets from 160 – 1000 pounds combined weight.
  • One-year warranty.

Cons:

  • Rubber finish may contain slight imperfections, but will not affect performance.
  • Diameter is 445 mm so not meeting competition specs, and may cause issues with mixed sizes on the bar.

Final Thoughts:

A high-quality set at a reasonable $$ price range.  The stainless-steel insert will resist chipping and scratches more than plated inserts.  There may be some racking issues with your bar if you have other brands of weights, and the diameters to not match.  

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#8 Rogue Dumbbell Bumpers

First Impressions:

These are the only dumbbell plates on the list.  A dumbbell, of course, is really a weight bar designed for one-handed use.  They are typically used for lifts such as rows and curls. These plates come in 6 different sizes, all 230MM diameter, with a 2” Olympic size bore for flexibility with other plates.  The plates come in various colors, with a bright finish to make a good-looking plate set.

Features & Specifications:

  • All plates have a chrome plated insert for protection and durability.  The weight plates are rubber coated for extended durability.
  • While these normally would not be dropped from overhead, they come in at 88 on the durometer scale for minimal bounce.  
  • Matching collars and dumbbells for this set are available from Rogue.

Pros:

  • A good specialty addition to a lifter’s equipment, this is a $$ price range dumbbell.
  • Rubber coating and chrome plated inserts make them suitable for use in the garage or in the gym.  
  • Smaller diameter makes them perfect for lower ceiling locations vs. standard diameter plates.

Cons:

  • These plates are imported, which may put off some users preferring American made products.  
  • While reasonably priced, this is still an equipment investment for a specialty type product.  

Final Thoughts:

Available individually or in sets up to 740 pounds, these coated dumbbells are well-rated.  Even though they become somewhat of a novelty tool for the experienced lifter, they do offer additional flexibility and the ability to add different lifts to your repertoire.  

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#9 Rogue Calibrated LB Steel Plates

First Impressions:

These powerlifting plates are precision cut to a weight variance of only 10 grams +/- from their specified weights.  The weights have a standard 50MM opening, and are thin cut for maximum bar loading – up to 1500 pounds. The plates can be orders in sets, or in various combinations up to just over 1000 pounds.  

Features & Specifications :

  • The plates have variable diameters, but the largest plate, at 55 pounds, has a thickness of only 27MM.
  • The plates are color coded in a low gloss finish for easy identification, even at a distance.
  • They are calibrated to +/- 10 grams, and have calibration plugs for even greater precision and accuracy.

Pros:

  • Designed with the powerlifter in mind, the thin design allows for maximum bar loading.
  • US made, they are IWF certified, and also available in a KG version.  
  • Powder coating finish in attractive colors makes this a good-looking product, priced in the $$ range.

Cons:

  • These plates have a precisely cut 50MM opening, and, as a result, may not fit well on cheaper bars with wider tolerances.
  • To maintain the thin profile, the plates have a very small lip, making them difficult to pick up.

Final Thoughts:

This set gets excellent reviews from the powerlifting crowd, and the precision tolerance for the weights makes them competition certified, and can help you gain personal records with minor, incremental adjustments.  A good-looking set in the right price range, it’s a “must buy” for the powerlifter looking for a new plate set.

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#10 Rogue 65LB Gorilla Bumpers (Pair)

First Impressions:

These specialty plates are not for everyone.  There is really only one reason to buy them. You gain an extra twenty pounds on either end of your barbell over a standard 45# plate, but only sacrifice an extra ¼” on either side in thickness.  This allows for an amazing 565 pounds with four Gorilla Bumpers on a standard Olympic bar.

Features & Specifications :

  • Higher density than normal bumpers allows for more weight in less space.
  • Appealing principally to the power lifter, these weight plates are $$$ price.  
  • The plates will feature a fairly strong bounce, weighing in at 75 on the durometer scale.

Pros:

  • There is really just one: more weight in a smaller area lets you stack your bar for maximum weights.

Cons:

  • These plates have a non-standard 445MM diameter, which may cause some balance issues if used with Olympic standard 450MM plates.  
  • Relative pricey for a specialty type plate.  Really marketed to only the powerlifting segment.

Final Thoughts:

This is a highly specialized plate, specialized and marketed to the elite powerlifter.  Even within this segment, most lifters will not need the extra forty pounds on the bar; they can fill the bar with standard plates and be within their lifting range.  For those elite, however, they will gain forty pounds with a bar sleeve length sacrifice of only ½” total. So truly a specialty product, and a pricey one at that.

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Spotlights — Weightlifting Plates – History, How and Why

Weight training, as we know it today, goes back to ancient Greece, where warriors lifted weights to improve their overall strength and conditioning.  They did stone lifting and throwing, and body weight exercises such as rope climbing. However, thousands of years earlier than that, during the Zhou Dynasty in the 10th Century BC, the Chinese used weightlifting tests as a qualification for those in military service.  Overall strength has always been a beneficial characteristic, and people have used weight lifting, either as a formal training program or just part of their daily lives, to gain that strength.

In more modern times, weight lifting competitions evolved in Europe in the late 1800s.  Weight lifting made its first appearance in the modern Olympics in 1896, but was dropped out of the next competition in 1900.  It reappeared in 1904, disappeared in 1908 and 1912, and reappeared permanently in 1920. The Olympic sport was fine tuned in the 1932 games, with five different weight divisions established, and three different lifting movements specified for the competition.  Women were not officially allowed to compete in weightlifting in the Olympic Games until 2000, but there were several organizations and competitions outside the Olympic venue well prior to that.

So how did weightlifting equipment evolve from the ancient days to the engineering driven science it has become today?  The ancient civilizations typically did body weight exercises for strength building, or used things like stones for lifting and throwing.  Ancient Greek pictorials show them using the earliest hand-held weights, with a hole drilled into stones and other implements for holding and lifting them, rather than a handle.  

The early version of today’s weightlifting plates were large bulbs attached to the ends of the barbell.  These bulbs could be filled with specific weights of water or sand, for instance, and then lifted. The movement of the filling agent inside the globe could create some balance issues, and the standard weight plate, as we know it, evolved from this equipment.  Over the years, as machining techniques evolved, tolerances for overall weight, diameters, sleeve openings, and so on become more and more exact. It is not uncommon today to see variances of claimed weight vs. actual weight being in the range of ten grams, fairly exceptional on a 45-pound plate!

So, here we’ve outlined a little bit about the history of weight lifting, and some details on the basic equipment of weightlifting plates.  We know that there are Olympic level competitions, and also recognize the evolution of powerlifting contests outside the Olympic venue such as the World’s Strongest Man.  But these competitions only involve a few elite athletes; let’s take a look at how the average man and woman are involved in weightlifting.

We talked earlier in this article about the differences between weight lifting and weight training.  To recap, weight lifting is typically about building serious muscle, by lifting heavy weights just a few times.  Weight training, on the other hand, is all about lifting lighter weight quantities multiple times. The objective here is fitness improvement and body toning.

Health benefits of weight training include building and toning muscle structure, and improving bone density.  Weight training also speeds your metabolism, which stimulates your body to burn more calories and help in weight loss efforts.  It has also been proven to improve one’s cholesterol profile, and reduce the risk of future heart disease. All in all, weight training has many health benefits, and should be in everyone’s health regimen in one form or another.

Final Verdict

This article has recapped weight training and weight lifting history, and discussed the origins of it in sport, such as the Olympics.  We’ve looked at key product features and specifications, and defined the terms used in weightlifting plates. Given a selection of ten different plates, the advantages and disadvantages of each were discussed, and an overall impression of the plate set given.

So, having done all that, it’s time to go ahead and make a final recommendation on the best overall weightlifting plates from the list of ten.  There were some plates here for specific specialty applications, and others that could be used in different applications, but were still primarily designed for one major application.  There were a few multi-purpose sets also reviewed.

To get down to the best weightlifting plate choices, we will look at these from the perspective of someone already weight training, looking to move up from the department store special to a higher quality bar and plate combination, and also from the eyes of a novice, just getting ready to get into weight training.  Key considerations for these fictional persons will be cost and value, within the framework of the overall features and specifications. The bars should be for general purpose use, have good quality and features, and, at least for the most part, meet International Weightlifting Federation standards. Those selection criteria, combined with the price points for the plates, will drive my recommendation for the best overall plate set.  

Let’s start out with the less controversial items, and eliminate those right off the bat.  Number ten, the Gorilla Plates, and number eight, the dumbbell plates, are very specific application plate sets.  Each of these would be geared primarily to the powerlifter, and really don’t offer any great advantages to our fictional novice or weightlifter.  

Working from the bottom up, numbers six, nine, and seven are the lowest rated of the remaining plates.  For the sake of argument, if two plates had the same overall rating, the set with the lower price was arbitrarily placed higher.  Set number 6 is somewhat of a specialty plate set, with the six sections cut out from the plate for easier handling. The biggest disadvantage of this set is we’ve capped its use at the weightlifting segment; without some level of padding to cover the impact of the drops in powerlifting, the set is just not suitable.  So, this one is also eliminated.

Both seven and nine, while not completely limited, are both pointed primarily at the powerlifting segment of lifting.  Number seven does have the rubber coating required for powerlifting, and could, in principle, be used in any segment, but I’ve ruled it out, in that the plates are not IWF specification for diameter.  Our number nine set does meet the IWF guidelines, and the very thin plates are definitely made for the powerlifter to get more weight on his bar. The precise 50MM center cutout may preclude use of the lifter’s existing equipment not meeting such a precise tolerance.  So, these two plate sets are eliminated from our competition.

From here on in, there are very inconsequential differences between the top five plates.  They all have similar specifications, applicability, tolerances, and features. Number five is eliminated, primarily because it has a slightly lower rating than the other four weightlifting plates. The only real difference here is that the number five set is imported from China, but no real issues other than that and the rating.  The $ price range makes it an attractive beginner set, or a way to add weight to an existing set. But it’s off this list, in any case.

Next up, number four, is a set that is pretty much perfect in every way but one.  Starting with a 4.9 rating, extremely tight machining tolerances, and color coding of the plates so the weight per plate can be easily identified, this set could be used in any application.  The only downside to this set is the $$$$ price, significantly higher than any of the other three left on the list. For an experienced, competition level lifter, this set would do it all. But off it goes for out two fictional purchasers.

The number three set also meets IWF standards, and, with a weight tolerance of 15 grams or less, has incredible precision in plate design and manufacture.  The coating on the plates points it to the powerlifting segment more than the other two, but it would also do perfectly fine as a weightlifting plate set. The $$$ price makes it a decent choice for someone moving up to a better plate set, but it’s somewhat overpriced for our novice builder.  

So, we are left with the number one and number two plate sets as the last two on the table.  The number one set has a $ cost, meets IWF standards except for the ten-pound plate (for an unexplained reason), a high durometer reading if dropped, and a three-year warranty on the larger plates.  They have a rubber coating for better durability, and, as noted, a budget-conscious price.

The second rated set is very similar to the top-rated set, but carries a $$ price tag.  The difference isn’t all that huge, but it is large enough to make you stop and think. This is a classically designed set, with very tight tolerances.  This set could serve as an excellent starter set for our novice lifter, and still be a decent move-up set for our more experienced lifter. The powerlifter could use the plates for added weight to his bars, as the thicknesses are optimized for better loading.

There are two sets left, and only one best choice.  However, I’m going to waffle some here, and give you two best choices.  Even though they are slightly more expensive, I would recommend the second set to our experienced lifter.  The ratings are identical to the cheaper set, but with this one you get a classic, time-tested look, along with the quality and durability the lifter wants.

For our novice lifter, the Echo bumper plates are the way to go.  The plates have a rubber coating for durability, if they are accidently dropped or fall off the bar.  The low price combined with the warranty and specifications make this a perfect starter set that should last for several years to come.  Specifications are fully comparable to any of the other plates, and these offer flexibility for growth in the future.

Realistically, you could not go wrong buying any of these sets, and it was a very tough task trying to identify enough differences between them to pick the best of the best.  Hopefully this article has given you some knowledge and guidance for your next weightlifting plate purchase.

Top 10 Rouge Fitness Bars in 2019

At its core, weightlifting is a very simple sport.  You have a big pole, weights on both ends of it, and you move it off the ground and raise it over your head.  However, when one looks at the science of weightlifting, you get quite a different picture. Weightlifting bars are designed and built to incredibly close tolerances, as the penalty for breakage or damage during a lift is severe.  

Let’s look at a little more detail at how a weightlifting bar, or barbell, is set up.  Here’s an example:

The bar itself, which is the focus of this article, is made of a special grade of steel.  Lengths may vary based on use and purpose. The weights on the bar are called plates, and vary in weight up to 25 kilograms (55 pounds).  The part of the bar where the plates are held is called the sleeve. The apparatus at the end of the bar and toward the center of the bar, holding the plates in place, is called a collar.  We’ll get into the details behind these things in a little bit.

The bars can vary in length, depending on purpose and use.  A standard men’s Olympic bar is 2200 mm long, just over seven feet.  A standard women’s Olympic bar is slightly shorter, at 2010 mm, or about seventy-nine inches.  The distance between the sleeves for both bars is the same, at 1310 mm, or about fifty-one inches.  A men’s bar is typically twenty kilograms, or forty-four pounds, while a women’s bar is fifteen kilograms, or thirty-three pounds.  Bars for juniors are shorter, at about sixty-seven inches, and normally weight ten kilograms, or twenty-two pounds. As one further sub-set, weightlifting bars are also designed for standard use, also referred to as weight training, weightlifting use, and powerlifting use.  More on these applications later.

While they will not be the focus of this article, there are also specialty weightlifting bars available.  These are typically designed for a specific exercise or weight lifting movement, and include curl bars, multi-grip bars, and hexagonal or trap bars.  Dumbbells are basically a very short barbell, designed for use with one hand. They typically are much lighter in weight than regular barbells.

In this article, we will be reviewing ten different bars, all from Rogue Fitness.  Rogue is an American based manufacturer of barbells, plates, weightlifting rigs, and apparel.

Fact Sheet – Product Comparison Table

This section of the article will take a quick, high level look at ten different weightlifting bars manufactured Rogue.  They are presented in no particular order. Further on in the article, we will look into detail at each of the barbells, and make some recommendations on which might be the best fit for the consumer.  Each of the barbells listed below is American made, and comes with a lifetime warranty.

NumberProductBest FeaturePrice Range
1ROGUE CERAKOTE OHIO BAR – FRASER EDITIONMen’s multi-purpose bar, red Cerakote coating with black Cerakote sleeves $
2ROGUE ATHLETE CERAKOTE BELLA BAR – DAVIDSDOTTIR EDITIONWomen’s multi-purpose weightlifting bar, blue Cerakote coating, with black Cerakote sleeves $
3ROGUE CHAN BAR – CERAKOTEMen’s multi-purpose barbell, Cerakote coating, Cerakote or chrome sleeve coating $
4ROGUE PYRROS BAR – 28MMOlympic weightlifting barbell, sleeves are chrome finish, men’s bar $$$
5ROGUE FREEDOM BAR – 28.5MM Men’s multi-purpose bar, red, white, and blue colored shaft, Cerakote coating $
6ROGUE OLYMPIC WL BAR – CERAKOTEMen’s Olympic weightlifting bar, Cerakote shaft $$$
7ROGUE OLYMPIC WL BAROlympic weightlifting barbell, men’s, various shaft finishes available $$
8ROGUE ATHLETE CERAKOTE POWER BAR – THOR EDITIONMen’s powerlifting bar, Cerakote coating, Cerakote or chrome sleeve coating $$
9ROGUE OHIO DEADLIFT BAR – CERAKOTEMen’s powerlifting bar, different colors available, Cerakote coating $
10SB-1 – ROGUE SAFETY SQUAT BARBar is specifically designed for squat lifts, with padded foam to protect the neck and shoulders $

$ – priced $300 – $400

$$ – priced $400 – $500

$$$ – priced over $500

Product-Buying Guide

Any one of these barbells is perfectly suited to help you with your weightlifting endeavors.  As noted earlier, there are three subsets within weightlifting – standard, weightlifting, and power weightlifting.  Some of these bars are specifically designed and manufactured for each of these purposes. Power weightlifting is the most demanding, involving lifting extremely heavy weights, typically in a competition setting.  In general, power weightlifting is centered around two specific movements, the clean and jerk, and the snatch; both of these techniques involve lifting the weight over your head. The snatch begins with lifting the weight to your knee level, bending the knees, moving the weight over your head, and then pushing up with your legs to full extension.  The clean and jerk is similar, initially moving the weight to chest level, then jerking the weight in a fluid motion so it ends up over your head, with extended arms.

Weightlifting involves a different set of movements – the squat, the bench press, the dead lift.  None of these moves involve lifting the weight over your head. The squat involves holding a weight at chest height, dropping into a squatting position, then using your legs to drive the weight back up.  The bench press involves lying on a weight bench, and lifting the weight off your chest using arm strength. The dead lift starts with a heavy weight resting on the floor, then raising the weight to waist height.  

Standard weightlifting, also known as weight training or resistance training, is usually done with a goal of increasing strength, endurance and/or muscle mass.  Weight training is often used to supplement performance in other sports, such as football or basketball. While you may use many of the same moves and lifts in weight training as in powerlifting or weightlifting, they are typically done with less weight, and more repetitions.   Weight training may also incorporate the use of dumbbells rather that using a standard barbell configuration. Dumbbells are basically a much shorter barbell designed for use in one hand.

So, now we know about the different types of barbells available, the types of lifting they are used for, and the type of movements that are done as part of lifting.  Given that, let’s look at some of the key performance criteria and product specifications for weightlifting bars.

Loadable sleeve length

This refers to the part of the barbell where the weight plates are held; the distance from the end of the barbell to the collar.  The collar, located on the barbell itself, is typically about two inches in diameter. There is a secondary collar attached to the end of the bar to hold the weight plates in position, so they do not rotate or slide on the bar.  

Collar

As noted, the collar is located on the barbell.  One of its functions is to act as a “stop” for the weight plates; they separate the sleeve and the shaft.  Inside the collar, manufacturers will place either bushings or bearings. Both of them are designed to allow the bar to spin during the lift.  

Diameter at grip

This refers to the diameter of the barbell at the spot where the hands are normally placed during the lift.  This is typically related to hand size. Diameter for youth and women is standard 25mm, and for men the standard ranges from 28mm – 29mm.  

Knurling

Knurling refers to texturizing the bar with a series of grooves at the location where the grip of the bar is normally taken.  The depth and texture of the knurling can vary from model to model. Bars may also be knurled in the center portion to prevent slippage when performing squats.  See below for an example of knurling.

Bar weight and length

Standard weight for men’s barbells is twenty kilograms, and fifteen kilograms for women.  Length for men is eighty-six inches, and seventy-nine inches for women. Weights can vary somewhat based on diameter of the barbell, and some specialty type weightlifting bars, like a squat bar, can weigh near seventy pounds.  Length can also vary, but this is less common.

Tensile and yield strength

These are both measures of the durability of the bar, and the weight load it can take.  Tensile strength is measured in pounds per square inch (PSI), and refers to the weight needed to pull the bar apart.  Most standard bars will have a tensile strength of about 180,000 PSI, with Olympic and competition bars usually rated over 200,000 PSI.  While barbells will normally have some bend as they are lifted, you don’t want that bend to become permanent. Yield strength refers to that point where the bar will bend, but not return to its normal shape once the weight has been removed.  Yield strength is measured by adding more and more weight until a permanent bend is noted.

“F” Scale

The “F” scale measures the resistance to stress (and potentially breaking) when dropped from height.  The F scale is a function of tensile strength and yield strength. Low tensile and yield strength will make the bar tend to flex.  If tensile and yield strength are too high, the barbell will be more susceptible to brittleness and breakage. Higher F ratings are desirable; the scale runs from F1 to F8.  

Oxidation rate

This rate measures the likelihood that the bar will rust.  Carbon steel has a high oxidation rate; it is very likely to rust, if unprotected.  Stainless steel has a low oxidation rate. Oxidation rate can be impacted by use of coatings over the steel used.  

Finishes and Coatings

Finished and coatings may range from none (stainless steel), to zinc, chrome, or ceramic.  These coatings are put over the metal of the bar to prevent oxidation. Zinc and chrome have been the more common coatings for weightlifting bars.  Because of the handling of the bar, moving weight plates on and off, and dropping the bar from height, the coatings need to be heavy duty and crack resistant.  One of the new coatings, used on many of the barbells here, is Cerakote. This is a man-made, polymer and ceramic composite coating. It is lightweight, can be applied in a very thin coating, and resists stress cracking, and it therefore durable.  

Whip

Whip refers to the amount of bend in the barbell when lifted with weights on it.  Some whip can be beneficial; as the bar bends downward and then moves upward, that upward momentum can be used to help with the second lifting of the snatch and clean and jerk lifts.  Too much whip, however, can raise issues with the overall balance of the barbell, and prevent the lifter from getting a clean lift.

Bearings vs. Bushings

Bushings tend to be cheaper, and also tend to spin slower.  Bearings may be needle type or ball type, referring to how the inner core is built to allow them to spin.  Bearings are more expensive than bushings, and can be more easily damaged by dropping the weightlifting bar.  Bearings typically allow for a faster spin than bushings. In general terms, bearings are preferred for Olympic and competition lifting, where bushings are generally specified in home gym and powerlifting bars, where spin is not so important.  

Price

As with virtually any other product, price will play into your purchase considerations.  It will factor into your decision on options, features, and specifications. If you are a competition level lifter, buying a low-end barbell from the local big box retailer might not be the best choice for you.  Conversely, if you are a weekend lifter, using lighter weights and more repetitions, you probably do not need an Olympic or competition rated barbell. But if you are planning to more from weight training to weightlifting, perhaps that higher rated bar makes sense.  In any case, your focus should be on the total value of the item, not just the price.

Making your decision

Given this information, you are already aware that there are many variations from unit to unit for product specifications, performance, and features.  So how should you decide which of these weightlifting bars is best for you? Here are a few things you should consider in making your choice:

Think about your usage patterns.  Are you going to be using the barbell multiple times a week?  Or are you typically a weekend warrior, where your equipment might collect dust five days out of seven?

What type of weight will you be lifting?  If you are lifting heavy weights, the cumulative stress from dropping the weighted barbell needs to be considered as you look at things like F rating and tensile and yield strength.  On the other hand, if you will be working from a rack, or using lighter weights and not dropping the bar, you may be able to get away with a bar not rated for Olympic competition.

Where will you be doing your workouts?  Will you be in a temperature-controlled room inside your house, or working out in your garage, with temperature swings from boiling to freezing.  These conditions may impact your choice of finish and coating and the oxidation rates of the materials of construction.

Identify the number and weight of the plates you expect to be using with the bar.  If you plan on using only a 25-kilo plate at each end, loadable sleeve length is probably not a consideration for you.  But if you want to use a combination of plates, graduated with different weights, you may need a larger loadable sleeve length.  

Hopefully, all of this discussion and detail has given you some ideas about what features are most important to you.  The information so far has been at a fairly high level. Let’s drop down one more level of detail, and look at each of our top ten in depth, comparing specifications, features, advantages, and disadvantages of each weightlifting bar.

PRODUCT REVIEW – TEN WEIGHTLIFTING BARS

#1 ROGUE CERAKOTE OHIO BAR – FRASER EDITION

First Impressions:

This bar is a reasonably priced, all-purpose men’s weightlifting bar.  The name is from a member of the Rogue Athlete Group, Mat Fraser. Fraser is a two-time CrossFit Games champion, and worked with Rogue on the features and design of this barbell.  The “Fittest Man on Earth” has his personal motto, “Hard Work Pays Off”, emblazoned on the bar.

Features and Specifications:

  • This is a standard 20-kilogram multi-purpose bar, with a 28.5MM grip diameter.  
  • The 190,000 PSI rating and an F8-R yield strength qualify this bar for anything from weight training through powerlifting.  It comes with a lifetime warranty against bending.
  • The barbell comes with dual knurl marks, and composite bushing construction.
  • The center shaft of the bar is a bright red finish, with black sleeves, all coated with Cerakote for durability.

Pros:

  • Very reasonably priced, this bar would be a good purchase for the beginner or even advanced weight trainer or weightlifter.  It has the capability to handle even heavy weights for powerlifting, and is fully warranted against bending.
  • Designed by someone who weight lifts for a living, you get all the necessary features, in a good looking, customized bar.

Cons:

  • There is no center knurl on the bar, which is often a desirable feature for those who do squats or clean and jerk lifts.  

Final Thoughts:

This is a reasonably priced bar by Rogue standards, even with the professional endorsement and additional color features.  As a multi-purpose bar, supporting all three weight lifting approaches, it gives the lifter a one bar solution to virtually any kind of lift desired.  

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#2 ROGUE ATHLETE CERAKOTE BELLA BAR – DAVIDSDOTTIR EDITION

First Impressions:

This bar is the only one specifically designed for the woman weightlifter.  It’s 79-inch length, 25MM grip, and 15 kilo weight make it a perfect multi-purpose barbell for the female athlete.  It is named after Katrin Davidsdottir, a two-time CrossFit Games champion, from Iceland. The attractive blue and black color design is supplemented with a Cerakote finish for extreme durability.

Features and Specifications:

  • With a tensile strength of F6-R and a 190,000 PSI rating, this barbell will stand up to powerlifting, and still offer excellent performance in weightlifting and weight training.
  • The Cerakote finish is highly durable, and compliments the Davidsdottir edition finish of a blue shaft, white lettering, and a black sleeve.  The Sled Dog/Wolf Logo, symbolic of her edition, is featured at the center of the shaft.
  • The bushing construction gives a slow but smooth and controlled spin for multi-use applications.

Pros:

  • The bar is specifically designed for the female lifter; it is not a modified version of a male lifter’s barbell.  
  • The weightlifting bar is finished with dual knurl marks to support both powerlifting and Olympic competition lifting.  
  • This is a high performance, multi-purpose bar, enhanced by excellent styling and colors.

Cons:

  • This barbell does not have a center knurl, which is often a desired feature to support squats.

Final Thoughts:

This bar is specifically designed for the female lifter, with application and design input from an Icelandic lifting champion.  While many other bars had different versions of a male’s bar for the female athlete, this one is for her and her alone. It has excellent specifications and features, and is built to stand up to the demands of powerlifting, yet suitable for weightlifting applications too.  Definitely the right Rogue bar for any female weightlifter.

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#3 ROGUE CHAN BAR – CERAKOTE

First Impressions:

This is a men’s multi-purpose bar, designed in coordination with Matt Chan, a four-time Top Ten finisher in the CrossFit Games.  This bar is an upgraded version of one also designed by Chan several years prior. It also features a 28.5MM grip, and a 200,000 PSI tensile strength rating on the stainless-steel shaft.  It has a Cerakote finish, and is available with either Cerakote or chrome sleeves.

Features and Specifications:

  • This is a standard 20-kilogram bar, featuring a 28.5MM grip diameter.  
  • It has dual knurl markings on either end, and also features a center knurl.
  • The bar can be customized with Cerakote sleeves, which are also available with a chrome coating.  
  • The barbell has black composite bushings, with a 16.5” loadable sleeve length.  

Pros:

  • This weightlifting bar comes with dual knurling to support both powerlifting and Olympic lifting, and also comes with a center knurl for a better adherence when doing squats or the clean and jerk lift.
  • The 28.5MM grip is designed to stress the hands somewhat, and ultimately increase grip strength on s standard diameter Olympic bar.
  • Many of the features of this barbell are designed by a champion user, with the credentials to know what really matters in the specifications of a weightlifting bar.  

Cons:

  • An F2 rating implies that the bar will not be exceptionally durable, given the rigors of being repeatedly dropped for height.  This might keep it at the weight training or lower weight weightlifting arenas, even though it is listed as suitable for powerlifting.  
  • Bushing construction will likely lead to slower spin, but this should not be a primary concern for weight training or powerlifting.

Final Thoughts:

This weightlifting bar was designed by someone who has lived the life, so the features incorporated into it should bring optimal value for the cost of the barbell.  The center knurl will appeal to squatters, and the 28.5 mm diameter may help lifters develop additional grip strength. This is the lowest F rating on any of the bars reviewed so far, but just indicates it might be less durable, while still exhibiting all the strength needed to carry heavy plates.  

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#4 ROGUE PYRROS BAR – 28MM

First Impressions:

This is a high performance, all purpose, Olympic competition level bar.  It’s also on the high end of the price scale, and may be a bit much for the casual user; it is definitely designed for the powerlifters and weightlifters out there.  The bar itself is named after a three-time Olympic champion – Pyrros Dimas. He was also involved during the design phase of the barbell.

Features and Specifications:

  • The bar has a stainless-steel shaft, with chrome plated sleeves for excellent oxidation resistance.
  • Two hundred thousand PSI tensile strength gives extreme strength for loads as high as 1200 pounds.  
  • The barbell has a 28MM grip diameter, loadable sleeve length of 16.3 inches
  • Bar weight is 20 kilograms, meeting all International Weightlifting Federation standards

Pros:

  • The barbell was designed with an aggressive knurl pattern for better grip during the lift.
  • It has high-quality, needle type bearings for a controlled spin during the lift.  
  • A center knurl helps the bar grip for greater control during moves like the clean and jerk or squat.  

Cons:

  • This bar would definitely be overkill unless you are a competition level lifter, or a powerlifter.  The entire design and features are specific to these high-end lifters.
  • The pricing most likely takes this bar out of the hands of the majority of lifters.  

Final Thoughts:

This is probably the top of the line model in the Rogue catalog, and, as such, is geared toward top of the line lifters.  Unless you fall into that group, I would save some money and buy a bar more geared to the general public.

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#5 ROGUE FREEDOM BAR – 28.5MM

First Impressions:

The Rogue Freedom Bar, as the name suggests, is a special edition or their Ohio Cerakote bar (to be reviewed here later), with a stars and stripes pattern on a red, white and blue background.  This particular model is only available with chrome sleeves, but it features the same high impact steel, with 190,000 PSI tensile strength. While the extra .5MM diameter may not seem like much, lifters feel that using a wider grip bar occasionally can help with overall grip strength.  This barbell is categorized as a men’s multi-purpose bar.

Features and Specifications:

  • While you get the good old red, white, and blue here, this barbell also comes with the Cerakote coating over the special design.
  • The 28.5MM grip is designed to stress the hands somewhat, and ultimately increase grip strength on s standard diameter Olympic bar.
  • The bar has dual knurl markings, set appropriately for Olympic style lifting and for powerlifting.  It has an impressive F8-R rating, designed to give some whip for Olympic-style lifting, but stiff enough for the heavier weights of powerlifting.
  • The bar features a bushing construction, rather that bearings, as in the others reviewed previously.  

Pros:

  • This weightlifting bar has dual knurl marks on the shaft, for improved grip in various weightlifting moves.
  • The barbell, like other Rogue bars, has a lifetime warranty against bending.  
  • While it does not impact performance, this is a really nice-looking weightlifting bar.  

Cons:

  • There is no center knurl on this bar, which is a desirable feature during specific weightlifting moves, as noted above.  
  • The bar is available with only chrome plated sleeves.  These do not protect against oxidation as well as Cerakote, in the even they become chipped while adding or removing plates.  

Final Thoughts:

This bar is a good value, and you get a great looking appearance with it.  There does not seem to be consensus among lifters on whether or not the extra .5MM diameter really brings any significant advantage.  The barbell itself would be a good transition bar for someone moving from weight training into weight lifting. It has sufficient design strength even for powerlifting.  

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#6 ROGUE OLYMPIC WL BAR – CERAKOTE

First Impressions:

This Olympic-level weightlifting bar features a Cerakote coating.  Cerakote is a polymer-ceramic composite coating, which offers excellent oxidation-proof coating, second only to stainless steel.  This bar is available in multiple color combinations, and a 215,000 PSI rating to support the heaviest weights. Like all Rogue bars, it is American made and has a lifetime warranty.

Features and Specifications:

  • This 20- kilogram bar comes with a standard 28mm grip for men, and is also available in a 25mm grip for women.  It has a loadable sleeve length of 16.25 inches.
  • It has a balanced blend of knurling; etched deeply enough to afford a good grip without being so aggressive as to cut or irritate the hands.  
  • The barbell goes through a special hardening process to increase the tensile strength and F scale rating for better heavy weight support.  The F6-R rating indicates the hardening process has been used on the steel.
  • This bar is manufactured with five needle bearings per sleeve for a smooth, controlled spin.  

Pros:

  • This is another example of a high-quality, high end barbell, designed with the competition and power lifter in mind.
  • The high tensile strength rating will support even the heaviest of weights.  
  • The barbell advertises strong whip, so the lifter can take advantage of that momentum during the upward lift.

Cons:

  • There is no center knurling on the bar, so the extra grip potential during squats and some other lifts is lost.  
  • This bar is also at the upper end of the price scale, and most likely out of range for all but the most serious lifters.  

Final Thoughts:

This is another example of Rogue focusing a part of their product line on the power and competition lifting segments of the market.  Logically, the skill and expertise they have serving those segments can pass down the learnings to less demanding market segments, like the home gym or commercial establishments.  While this model might make sense for a serious lifter moving up to weightlifting or powerlifting, it is more bar than needed for most.

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#7 ROGUE OLYMPIC WL BAR

First Impressions:

This is another Olympic weightlifting bar, offering many of the same features as the other weightlifting bars, but moving down a little in the price scale.  The bar still has the impressive 215K PSI tensile strength, and features a standard 28MM grip. This bar comes in a bright zinc finish, but variations are available in different finishes and coatings, as well as a 15-kilogram weight version for women.  This bar meets all International Weightlifting Federation standards.

Features and Specifications:

  • This is a standard Olympic size bar, weighing in at 20 kilograms, with a 28MM grip diameter.  
  • It has a single Olympic knurl, which is a narrow width knurl, centered in the locations where the hands would normally grip.  Other knurls may cover the entire with of the hand in the expected grip area of the barbell.
  • A needle bearing sleeve makes for a quiet, smooth spin while lifting.
  • The 215K PSI tensile strength and F6-R yield strength make this a durable bar that should last the user a long time.  

Pros:

  • While this bar places a little bit lower on the price scale, it has many of the same features as the higher priced bars featured above.  
  • The knurl is aggressive enough to improve grip, but not so much so to irritate the skin or catch on clothing during squats or a clean and jerk lift.  

Cons:

  • There is no central knurling on the bar, which may be a desirable feature for lifters doing squats and clean and jerk lifts regularly.
  • While an overall good value, the price may be a bit much for the person interested solely in weight training.  

Final Thoughts:

While this bar is still at the upper end of the $$ range, it probably makes sense for the semi-serious lifter.  This would be someone trying to build some serious muscle by lifting relatively heavy weights for limited repetitions, as opposed to the weight training doing multiple repetitions with lighter weights.  It might also be a good bar for a commercial establishment. While most people would not be using it with heavier weights, the owner could expect a good useful life even with repetitive day-to-day use.

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#8 ROGUE ATHLETE CERAKOTE POWER BAR – THOR EDITION

First Impressions:

This is a bar truly worthy of the God of Thunder, Thor.  In this case, however, the bar is named after Hafpor Julius Bjornnson, who won Iceland’s Strongest Man competition seven consecutive years, truly earning his nickname “Thor”.  This is a true powerlifting bar, with an overall length of over 86 inches, and a 29MM grip diameter. It comes in either a 20-kilogram or 45-pound configuration, with both sizes coming with Cerakote coating.  

Features and Specifications:

  • The bar has a 205,000 PSI rating, complimented with an F8-R, giving it the stiffness needed in a powerlifting competition.  
  • Both versions have over a 16” loadable sleeve dimension, leaving a lot of room for numerous weight plates.  
  • The bushing construction on this barbell will have limited spin, for a smooth, consistent feel during the lift.  
  • Single powerlifting knurls and a center knurl, both with a deep, aggressive pattern offer additional grip control on this 29MM diameter bar.  

Pros:

  • The F8-R rating gives this bar virtually no whip, making it a fine choice for the powerlifter.  
  • The black Cerakote coating on the shaft and sleeves on the 45-pound version, or chrome sleeves for the 20-kilogram version, emblazoned with the Icelandic flag, make this an attractive and functional weightlifting bar.  
  • The bronze bushings reduce spin, which is not a needed specification in the powerlifting arena.  

Cons:

  • While you could use this bar for any application, it is specifically built for powerlifting, and prices itself out of the weight training applications.  The lack of whip decreases the suitability for weightlifting applications.

Final Thoughts:

You’ll feel like Thor throwing this monster around.  It’s the ultimate powerlifting bar in the Rogue line, and is built strictly for that application.  The finishing, including the Iceland flag, are a nice crowning touch added to the functionality of this barbell.  This bar is quite high up in the price range, but, given the specific nature of its purpose for use, represents a solid value for the powerlifter.  

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#9 ROGUE OHIO DEADLIFT BAR – CERAKOTE

First Impressions:

This bar is designed with the powerlifter in mind, and, more specifically, for the dead lift.  Its 90-inch length combines with a 27MM diameter to give the weightlifter good control during his lift. The loadable sleeve length is only 15.5 inches, but, given the larger plates used in powerlifting, this should not be an issue in attaining maximum weight load.  The bar is available in four different color combinations.

Features and Specifications:

  • The 90-inch length is just within powerlifting federation standards, and, coupled with the smaller diameter grip, helps the powerlifter get maximum flex during the lift.  
  • The bar has two powerlifting knurls, with a slightly deeper etching than normal, to provide for an aggressive, non-slip grip of the barbell.
  • The Cerakote coating on shaft and sleeves gives excellent durability to this bar.
  • The bushing construction reduces spin, which is unnecessary in a deadlift.  

Pros:

  • The thinner diameter and longer bar length are specifically designed for the powerlifter. The increased flex in the bar will increase the whip, in principle increasing the upward momentum of the plates, and allowing the powerlifter to move more weight.  
  • The bar has a 190,000 PSI rated shaft, with a lifetime warranty against bending.
  • It has four different color combinations available, matching good looks with excellent performance.

Cons:

  • Like the squat bar, this is a specialized bar, not really designed for other weight training or weight lifting applications.
  • This powerlifting bar is also pretty far up the $ price scale, most likely relegating it to the professional lifters or to commercial establishments.

Final Thoughts:

A well-built powerlifting bar, but, unless you are into competition powerlifting, a fairly pricey addition to your arsenal.  You would be better off investing the money into a gym membership where powerlifting bars might be available.

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#10 SB-1 – ROGUE SAFETY SQUAT BAR

First Impressions:

This is the only true specialty bar on our list for reviews.  This bar is designed to rest on the shoulders, with two hand holds surrounding the neck, to give you improved control when doing squats.

After loading the bar with weight plates, the user steps between the hand holds, rests the bar on the neck behind the head, and lifts the bar by driving the legs to a locked position.  The move is then reversed to lower the barbell. Note that the rack is not included, only the barbell.

Features and Specifications:

  • This bar is a hefty seventy pounds, and 89” in length.  The shafts are 1-1/2” diameter, and the grip area is 1”.  One inch converts to 25MM, so the grip diameter is fairly consistent with standard barbells.
  • The pads are heavy duty vinyl, with foam stuffing.  The handles give additional control while doing squats, compared to using a standard bar.
  • The bar has a black Cerakote coating, and has been tested with 1000 pounds of weight on the sleeves.

Pros:

  • This bar is specifically designed for one weight lifting movement, and offers additional stability and safety while doing squats.
  • Given the banging and clanging adding and removing plates, and racking and re-racking this bar, the Cerakote coating should add to the durability of the bar without oxidation risk.

Cons:

  • Well up the $ price scale, this is probably too hefty an investment for the weight trainer or casual lifter.  For a powerlifter or even heavy weightlifter, it can give you additional muscle strength by working different muscle groups.  
  • For best effectiveness of this specialty bar, a rack is needed.  This probably relegates the bar to professionals or commercial establishments.

Final Thoughts:

A pretty pricey addition to your weight room, considering it only supports a single movement.  You would get more bang for your buck using a similar bar at a local gym.

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Spotlights — Weightlifting Bars – History, How and Why of Usage

Weight training, as we know it today, goes back to ancient Greece, where warriors lifted weights to improve their overall strength and conditioning.  They did stone lifting and throwing, and body weight exercises such as rope climbing. However, thousands of years earlier than that, during the Zhou Dynasty in the 10th Century BC, the Chinese used weightlifting tests as a qualification for those in military service.  Overall strength has always been a beneficial characteristic, and people have used weight lifting, either as a formal training program or just part of their daily lives, to gain that strength.

In more modern times, weight lifting competitions evolved in Europe in the late 1800s.  Weight lifting made its first appearance in the modern Olympics in 1896, but was dropped out of the next competition in 1900.  It reappeared in 1904, disappeared in 1908 and 1912, and reappeared permanently in 1920. The Olympic sport was fine tuned in the 1932 games, with five different weight divisions established, and three different lifting movements specified for the competition.  Women were not officially allowed to compete in weightlifting in the Olympic Games until 2000, but there were several organizations and competitions outside the Olympic venue well prior to that.

So how did weightlifting equipment evolve from the ancient days to the engineering driven science it has become today?  The ancient civilizations typically did body weight exercises for strength building, or used things like stones for lifting and throwing.  Ancient Greek pictorials show them using the earliest hand-held weights, with a hole drilled into stones and other implements for holding them, rather than a handle.  

While the technology has improved dramatically, the weightlifting bar has not changed very much since a 1928 revolving sleeve known as the Berg design became the standard.  This same design is used today, but it is engineered to micro-tolerances, the steel quality has improved immensely, and high-quality bushings and bearings to improve the spin of the sleeve.  Weightlifting rules were changed in 1972 to require collars to hold the weight plates in place while lifting.

The two greatest enemies of the weightlifting bar are warping and rust.  Improvements in the quality of steel used, and extremely tight milling and manufacturing specifications have virtually eliminated warping.  Measures such as tensile strength (as pounds per square inch, or PSI) and yield strength (measured as “F” value) give ratings to the bars so the lifter can judge the stress each bar must bear within his lifting ranges.  Chrome and zinc coatings were prevalent in the past, covering the steel to prevent rust. They could suffer chips and other damage from dropping the weights and removing and adding plates, however. Recently, combination ceramic and polymer coatings have been developed to replace the chrome and zinc coatings.  They offer improved resistance to chipping and scratches, and can be applied in a very thin coat.

So, here we’ve outlined a little bit about the history of weight lifting, and some details on the basic equipment of bar, sleeves, and collars.  We know that there are Olympic level competitions, and also the evolution of powerlifting contests outside the Olympic venue such as the World’s Strongest Man.  But these competitions only involve a few elite athletes; let’s take a look at how the average man and woman are involved in weightlifting.

We talked earlier in this article about the differences between weight lifting and weight training.  To recap, weight lifting is typically about building serious muscle, by lifting heavy weights just a few times.  Weight training, on the other hand, is all about lifting lighter weight quantities multiple times. The objective here is fitness improvement and body toning.

Health benefits of weight training include building and toning muscle structure, and improving bone density.  Weight training also speeds your metabolism, which stimulates your body to burn more calories and help in weight loss efforts.  It has also been proven to improve one’s cholesterol profile, and reduce the risk of future heart disease. All in all, weight training has many health benefits, and should be in everyone’s health regimen in one form or another.

Final Verdict

This article has recapped weight training and weight lifting history, and discussed the origins of it in sport, such as the Olympics.  We’ve looked at key product features and specifications, and defined the terms used in weightlifting bars. Given a selection of ten different bars, the advantages and disadvantages of each were discussed, and an overall impression of the barbell given.

So, having done all that, it’s time to go ahead and make a final recommendation on the best overall weightlifting bar from the list of ten.  There were some bars here for specific applications, such as the squat bar, and others that could be used in different applications, but were still primarily designed for one major application.  There were a few multi-purpose bars and one built specifically for women lifters.

To get down to the best bars, we will look at these from the perspective of someone already into weight training, looking to move up from the department store special to a higher quality bar.  Key considerations for this fictional person will be cost and value, within the framework of the overall features and specifications,

From the perspective of the female weight trainer, this is a simple proposition – our #2 bar, the ROGUE ATHLETE CERAKOTE BELLA BAR – DAVIDSDOTTIR EDITION is the clear winner.  While there are several bars on the list that have a woman’s version available, this is the only barbell we looked at that was specifically designed for a woman lifter.  It comes at a reasonable price, has a fine list of features, a lifetime warranty, and has a special design to add attractiveness to its full multi-purpose functionality.

The decision was a little more complicated for our fictional male resistance trainer.  Our guy will primarily be using this bar for weight training, but may occasionally delve into weight lifting.  For the sake of argument, we will assume that powerlifting is not in his immediate future. Given this profile, I eliminated the specialty type bars – the squat bar, Olympic lifting bars, and powerlifting bars.  That leaves three multi-purpose men’s weightlifting barbells:

#5 – ROGUE FREEDOM BAR – 28.5MM

#3 – ROGUE CHAN BAR – CERAKOTE

#2 – ROGUE ATHLETE CERAKOTE OHIO BAR – FRASER EDITION  

Looking at these with an eye toward specifications, they are all virtually identical.  All can be used for weight training, weightlifting, or powerlifting, but they are truly multi-purpose, not earmarked for one specific application.  All have design contributions from noted lifters, and go beyond the standard black finish with some nice-looking graphics. The prices are very similar for all three, and really do not enter into the decision.  All three have Cerakote coating for extra durability.

So, getting down to the process of elimination.  The first one I dropped out of the competition is #5, the Freedom Bar.  While I love the coloring and the overall value and performance, it does not have a center knurl.  This is a desirable characteristic for many lifters, especially those doing squats and the clean and jerk movements.  

The other two are really a toss-up, and I would recommend purchasing either of them.  If the center knurl is important to you, go with #3, the Chan bar. It is the only one of the three with this feature, and compares virtually one to one with the others for the rest of the feature menu.  If you are a price buyer, the #2 Ohio bar is the one for you. While you don’t get the center knurl on this bar, it is the lowest price of the three finalists, but not significantly so (think three or four specialty coffees).  So, even though I am waffling a little bit, here are your co-winners in the men’s division:

The bottom line here is that these are all top-quality bars, and you really can not go wrong with any of them.   Any of these multi-purpose bars will meet your need, unless you have serious aims at becoming a powerlifter, qualifying for the Olympics, or want a specialty bar for doing squats. They all have a lifetime warranty, so Rogue obviously believes in and stands by their product.  

Happy lifting!