Cerakote title card.

Is Cerakote The Best Barbell Finish? Read This Before You Buy!

In Equip Your Gym by Tim Steward

Everyone wants their garage gym to look awesome. A quick look at all the home gym pics on Instagram proves that. When I look at those pics, I see a lot of colorful (and expensive) Cerakote™ barbells.

Cerakote™ was invented in 1984 by NIC Industries. It’s a high-end ceramic coating used to coat and protect a wide variety of items, from firearms to electronics to eyewear and much more. (source)

The first company to use Cerakote™ on a barbell was American Barbell. Their California bar (now only available in Cerakote™) was the first barbell to sport this coating.

Rogue quickly copied American Barbell, and since then, several other companies have begun offering Cerakote™ as a barbell finish option.

Cerkote barbells by PRx

So is it a good finish? Does it live up to the hype? Are there any downsides? If you turn to Google, it can be hard to know since companies that use Cerakote™ sing its praises and exaggerate its benefits. Companies that don’t will knock it as an unnecessary extra expense.

Is Cerakote™ the Best Barbell Finish?

Cerakote™ is a corrosion-resistant barbell coating that offers a wide variety of colors and customization. While stainless steel is considered more durable, Cerakote™ offers more colors and designs. It is an excellent choice for a barbell finish if aesthetics is more important than feel and function.

As with anything, “best” has to be qualified. Is Cerakote™ the overall best possible option for a barbell finish? No. But it is an excellent option for some people based on their needs.

People sometimes get too caught up in finding the absolute best of anything and miss some really great choices that would work amazingly for them.

So while I’ll never buy a Cerakote™ bar (other than to test and review it for this site), it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t. You can see the barbell that I prefer here.

Key Takeaways

  • Cerakote™ was originally applied to firearms.
  • Cerakote™ is one of the most durable barbell finishes.
  • Cerakote™ comes in a variety of colors and designs.
  • Cerakote™ interferes with your connection to the barbell.
  • Cerakote™ can ruin the feel and grip of a barbell.
  • Cerakote™ has several other drawbacks that you should be aware of before buying.

What is Cerakote™?

In short, Cerakote™ is the brand name for a line of ceramic coatings developed by NIC Industries (source).

It was designed to protect metal parts from corrosion and wear and add color and design elements to the coated items. It’s currently being used across a wide array of industries, including home fitness.

Cerakote™ Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Corrosion resistant
  • Looks cool
  • Color and customization options
  • More durable than other colored coatings
Cons
  • Inconsistent finish
  • Lack of feel
  • Quality varies across mfrs.
  • Chips, scratches, and wears
  • Gets dirty easily
  • Hard to clean
  • Expensive

The Benefits of Coating a Barbell With Cerakote™

There are four primary benefits of selecting Cerakote™ as a finish for your bar.

Corossion resistance. This is the most significant benefit of using Cerakote™. Most barbells are made from steel, and steel corrodes quickly. Even with regular cleaning and maintenance, a bare steel bar can start rusting in just a few days.

Adding a coating like Cerakote™ can make the bar much more corrosion-resistant. Does it eliminate all corrosion? No. But it does do a better job, by far, than any other applied finish.

Color Options. I don’t know what it is about guys, but a large percentage of the ones I help build a garage gym want a black barbell. And who can blame them? Black barbells look cool! And I’ve lost count of how many women have asked me if barbells come in any other colors than silver.

Cerakote barbells in different colors
Just some of the colors available

It’s human nature to want the things you buy to reflect you and your personality. Colored racks, plates, and barbells are a big part of this in the garage gym world. Cerakote™ is a great way to match your barbell to your personality or decor.

Customization Options. In addition to having color applied to your barbell, Cerakote™ allows you to have integrated designs and multiple colors on the same bar. This is a really cool way to own a one-of-a-kind barbell that matches your personality and gym.

Durability. Durability is different than corrosion resistance. Durability is when the coating actually stays on the bar over time. Cerakote™ is the second most durable of all the applied finishes available. It’s not impervious, but it does last longer than black oxide and zinc.

Hard chrome is the one finish that is more durable but comes with the trade-off of not being near as corrosion resistant.

The Drawbacks of Coating a Barbell With Cerakote™

As cool and popular as Cerakote™ bars are, they do have quite a few drawbacks. I don’t think any are complete deal-breakers, but it’s important to know them before spending your hard-earned money!

Reduced feel. In my opinion, the single most important quality a barbell should have is its connection between your hands and the bar. If you’ve been lifting for any time, you know there is a distinct difference in feel between a bar with an applied coat and a bare metal bar.

Cerakote™ is the only finish you can quickly identify with your eyes closed. It adds a texture to the bar that takes away from your connection. It’s distracting and, in many cases, fills in and ruins the knurling.

I remember the first time I gripped a Cerakote™ bar. I immediately said, “ew, well, that’s gross.” Others may not agree, but considering the cost of Cerakote™ bars, try to find one in real life to put your hands on before buying. You may be surprised.

Barbell knurl with and without Cerakote applied.
This is the exact same model barbell. On the left is a Cerakote coating. On the right is bare steel. Notice the huge difference!

Inconsistency of finish. Cerakote™ is applied by spraying it on, much like a powder coat. And also, like powder coat, the application quality makes all the difference in the world.

Some Cerakote™ bars have different feel across the same bar. Others vary from bar to bar. Some manufacturers do a good job, while others don’t. In the end, Cerakote™ is an inconsistent finish.

Durability. While I also listed this as a positive (it’s better than all but one other applied finish in the area of durability), it’s also a drawback. Cerakote™ will wear off over time. It will develop nicks and scratches. The color will wear off where it sees the most use, too (where your hands grab the bar repeatedly).

What’s under that Cerakote™? In all but one case (the very expensive Mammoth power bar by American Barbell – which is Cerakote™ over stainless steel), the bar under the Cerakote is bare steel. Bare steel will rust when exposed to the air.

As soon as the Cerakote™ wears in any spot, prepare for corrosion. Once that happens, it’s a short trip from a really nice-looking barbell to one that belongs in a garage sale.

This is the precise reason I recommend stainless steel over Cerakote™. Even though stainless, in extreme conditions, will corrode much faster than Cerakote™, as soon as the Cerakote™ comes off in any way, you end up with a significant amount of corrosion.

Hard to keep clean. With darker colors, this won’t be too much of an issue. But with bright and lighter colors, it is. That really cool colored barbell that you bought to match your gym will not look new for long.

Over time it will quickly accumulate grime and dirt. Because of the textured feel of Cerakote™, it’s harder to clean than other finishes.

You can see exactly what I’m talking about in Basement Brandon’s video below.

Cost. For some people, this will be an issue, and for others, it won’t. Personally, I would rather spend my money on function over form. But I totally understand not everyone feels that way. In the end, expect to pay a premium for Cerkote™bars. Whether or not they are worth the price to you is up to you and your wallet!

Who makes the best Cerakote™ Bars?

If you think a Cerakote™ bar is perfect for your gym, a few places do an excellent job. 

The best overall would be the Mammoth power bar by American Barbell. The Mammoth bar is a stainless bar with Cerakote™ applied over it. That means that when the Cerakote™ nicks or wears, the bar below will not corrode.

Another solid choice from American Barbell is their California bar. The California bar is the very first bar to use Cerakote™, and American Barbell has gotten very good at applying it over the years!

I’m not a fan of Rogue barbells (I don’t like their knurling, and the tolerances on their sleeves are way too loose for me), but they do Cerakote™ well. They are also the best option for people wanting to customize their bars with text or designs.

If you want a lower-priced option, I would advise against it. Looking at lower-priced Cerakote™ bars by companies like Bells of Steel or Titan, I found a host of application problems. Splotches, inconsistent coverage, and a textured feel that varies across the bar were all common issues. See the images below of a Bells of Steel Cerakote™ bar for examples.

Cerakote™ is one of those things where you need to pony up the extra money to do it right, or you shouldn’t do it at all.

Conclusion

I used to be enamored with the color options available in my garage gym gear. It’s so cool to see gyms where the racks match the plates that match the barbell.

When I built my first couple of garage gyms, black barbells and brightly colored racks were part of the plan. And I was happy with them.

At this point, though, I value function over form. By a lot! For that reason, I probably won’t ever own another Cerakote™ bar. Stainless steel has a much better feel and is the best choice for durability too.

That said, if you really want a cool-colored barbell, go for it! The models I recommended above will serve you well! If not, then make sure to check out my recommended barbells page for other options.

FAQ

Some barbells offer Cerakote™ on the sleeves. Is that a good idea?

Cerakote™ on the sleeves offers the same benefits and drawbacks as having it on the shaft. If you like the look, go for it. Just understand that it will wear off over time.

Will Cerakote™ always ruin the bar’s knurling?

No. How much the Cerakote™ affects the feel of the knurling depends on the quality of the bar. Companies like American Barbell press their knurling a little deeper and sharper on their Cerakote™ bars to offset the impact of the finish.

Less expensive bars do not do this. This can lead to problems with grip and, in my opinion, ruin the barbell’s usefulness.

I’ve heard that stainless steel can rust. Is that true?

Yes. ALL metal will rust in the right conditions. Proper barbell maintenance and care are needed regardless of the bar type. 

Even though it can rust, it rarely does. Overall, stainless is the best choice in barbell material for corrosion resistance, durability, and feel.

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