Stainless Steel Barbells title card

Stainless Steel Barbells. Worth The Cost or Not?

In Equip Your Gym by Tim Steward

Stainless steel barbells have been around for a long time. But it seems like they have recently become much more widely available. And not to mention, a lot more popular.

If you’ve been shopping for a new barbell, I’ll bet money you’ve looked at a few that come in stainless steel. And it makes sense as they offer a combination of benefits that no other barbell finish provides.

Those benefits have made the stainless steel power bar by Rep Fitness my top recommended barbell for the last several years. 

But even though I recommend and use a stainless steel barbell daily, I still get asked if stainless is worth it.

Are Stainless Steel Barbells Worth the Money?

Yes! If it fits your budget, a stainless steel barbell offers a combination of feel, durability, and corrosion resistance that you won’t find in any other finish. Stainless steel provides the best possible connection between you and the bar while resisting rust and requiring very little maintenance.

I’m a big fan of “buy once, cry once” or “buy nice or buy twice.” Both are smarty pants ways of saying you get what you pay for.

sharp knurling on the power bar EX stainless steel barbell
The feel on this stainless steel barbell is amazing!

When you are building a garage or basement gym, there’s a lot of stuff you can go less expensive on. Your barbell shouldn’t be one of them.

The barbell is your connection to the weight you are lifting. The more weight you lift, the more important that feeling of connection is. Going cheap on a barbell will be something you regret later.

Also, your barbell should last you a lifetime. Seriously. For most casual lifters training in their garage, one barbell is all they’ll ever need… As long as it’s a quality barbell. And there is no better quality than stainless steel.

Benefits of a Stainless Steel Barbell

There are four key benefits of a stainless steel barbell. You might be able to get one or two of these benefits in another finish, but not all four at the same time. It’s this combination of benefits that sets stainless steel barbells apart.

Feel. As I’ve already mentioned, with no finish material to get between your hands and the bar, the feel and connection you get with a stainless bar can only be matched by a bare steel bar. Those are the only two barbell finishes that are bare metal.

Even a high-end finish like Cerakote can’t come close to bare metal. You can see clearly in the image below what happens when you layer something over the bare metal knurling on a barbell.

The image on the right is bare steel. The image on the left is the exact same bar with Cerakote™ applied. You can easily see the difference in the feel that I’m describing.

Cerakote on the knurling of a barbell

Corrosion Resistance. All barbells can rust—even stainless steel. But of all available barbell finishes, stainless resists rust the best. It’s not even close. Even Cerakote™, touted as more resistant to rust than stainless, doesn’t help here.

Cerakote™ wears off. It chips and scratches. It wears down with regular use. And guess what is under the Cerakote™? Bare steel. And raw steel will rust if you even think about water while standing next to it.

Never heard of Cerakote™? I wrote a detailed article about it that you can read here!

If you are at all concerned about rust (and you should be), stainless is the only option to go with. No other bar material combines feel/connection with corrosion resistance like stainless.

Rust on a barbell
Rust on a hard chrome bar. Stainless would never get like this.

Durability. Because there is no finishing material applied to a stainless steel bar, there’s nothing to wear off.

Virtually every finish applied to a barbell will wear off over time. Not only that, it will end up looking like crap. Sure, those black barbells look pretty sweet when they are new. But a mere few months into training, they start to look awful!

Stainless steel will look great for the entire life of your barbell!

Looks. Not only will it last, resist rust, and not change over time, but raw stainless steel is beautiful in its own right.

Stainless is this fantastic gunmetal color. You can recognize it from across the room. It’s my favorite color for a barbell, especially since I realized that no black barbell would stay all black for very long!

worn finish
Here you can see how the black oxide finish on this bar has worn completely off where I grip it.

Drawbacks of a Stainless Steel Barbell

The only real drawback here is the price. Although, honestly, I don’t really consider that a fault. Nice things cost more. That’s just the way the world works.

But if you are on a budget, I get it. That’s why my first few barbells were hard chrome (the finish I highly recommend for anyone who doesn’t want to spend extra on stainless).

But again. If you buy right the first time, you’ll never need to upgrade or buy a replacement bar down the road. If you can, start with stainless, and don’t look back!

How Much Do Stainless Steel Barbells Cost?

A quality stainless steel barbell can be purchased for just under $400, with premium models costing as much as $800 or more. As with all barbells, construction and build quality can impact the price significantly.

I wouldn’t try to go super cheap here, but you also don’t need to go to the top of the price range, either. If you stay with major manufacturers (ie, not sold exclusively on Amazon), you are most likely going to get a quality barbell.

Who Makes the Best Stainless Steel Barbells?

American Barbell Elite Power Bar
The American Barbell Elite Power Bar

The same company that makes the best barbells in any category: American Barbell. They’ve been making barbells longer than almost any other company. If money isn’t a concern, you absolutely cannot go wrong with a bar from American Barbell.

If I were to build my garage gym again from scratch and had room in the budget, the bar I’d buy in a heartbeat would be their Elite Power Bar. It’s the single best barbell I’ve ever used (and I’ve used a lot of them!). But it does cost almost $600!!!

Don’t want to spend almost $600 on a barbell? I wanted to but couldn’t. That’s why my daily driver barbell (and my most recommended barbell to anyone that asks) is the Rep Fitness stainless steel power bar.

Rep’s stainless steel power bar is stainless from end to end and comes in at almost half the price of the American Barbell option. I’ve owned and used one for years and love it!

The Verdict

Go buy a stainless steel barbell. Whether it’s one of the two I recommended above or something else, go for it! It’s a purchase you’ll appreciate for years and one you won’t regret.

FAQ

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

Yes, stainless steel can rust. The more moisture and salt it is exposed to, the higher the chances of that happening. Even stainless steel bars should be cleaned and maintained regularly (although not nearly as often). (source)

Leaving chalk on your barbell is the fastest way to make it rust, even if it’s stainless. Chalk takes all the moisture from the air and deposits it on your bar. Make sure you clean all chalk off your barbell after every use, regardless of the bar material!

Are some grades of stainless steel better than others?

Yes (source). There are specific grades of stainless designed for medical use, food service, and other specialized purposes. Top-tier stainless barbells use a higher quality stainless steel (which is why the American Barbell bar I recommend above is twice the price of the Rep Fitness model) than less expensive bars.

That said, the less expensive bars are still worthwhile. It’s not that one bar is good and the other is bad. The lower-grade bars are excellent, and the top-tier is even better.

I own, use, and recommend that Rep bar and will continue to do so.

Do stainless steel barbells need a special cleaner?

No. Clean and maintain your stainless steel bars exactly the same way you would any other material. The difference is in how often you’ll need to do that. I clean my stainless bar every six months. My other bars get that treatment monthly.

Please refer to my complete guide to barbell care and maintenance for detailed instructions with pics and video.

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