The CAP OB-86 is the first barbell I purchased for my garage gym. I purchased this brand new from Amazon back in October of 2014. I paid $137.87, which included tax and free Prime shipping. (For some perspective, this has been the only barbell in my garage gym for the better part of four years, only recently did I purchase a Rogue Ohio Power Bar.)
I want to try and keep the review from comparing the barbell to other options on the market. Mainly because there are a lot of better, and more expensive options available on the market. Not everybody has a large budget to start a garage gym. To compare this barbell to any barbell over $300 would be unfair.
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This is probably the best starter barbell to choose if you’re on a budget and aren’t trying to find a used Rogue barbell. (I would also suggest buying new from Rogue, since they come with a lifetime warranty that isn’t transferred to a new owner). Due to it’s great price point as well as it’s not terrible construction. Coming in at under $150, it is a great barbell to choose as it’s sturdy and reliable.
Some other options for a sub $200 value Olympic barbell include:
- Boneyard Rogue Barbell
- XMark Voodoo Commercial Olympic Bar $171 + tax, free shipping
- Fringe Sport Wonder Barbell, 20kg $199 + tax, free shipping
- Rep Fitness Basic Barbell, $89 + tax + shipping
- Titan Fitness Chrome Plated Olympic Barbell, $94.25 + tax, free shipping
- Titan Fitness Atlas Bar Barbell, $160.37 + tax, free shipping
The barbell also comes with a three year warranty, which is a great inclusion for this price point. I haven’t had to use it, since I had no breakage or bending issues.
There are a lot of cheap barbells available on the market, especially from big box sporting goods stores, being sold as a kit. From my own research on the internet, I opted against purchasing one of those kits due to their stated weight limits. A lot of people recommended buying the CAP OB-86, if the budget was tight. Additionally, the OB-86 gets an average of 4.5 stars out of 529 reviews on Amazon.
The barbell has lasted for four years, with no major issues in the usage of the barbell. It is the everyday barbell, there is nothing terribly special about it, there’s also nothing majorly wrong with it. For a bargain price, this has lasted me well into intermediate weights being lifted. Don’t expect a Mercedes quality when you pay Hyundai prices.
I want to start with the biggest negative about this barbell, which is the metal splinters that come off of the sleeves. If you read a couple of Amazon reviews, I am not the only one to experience this. I am always conscious to not touch the sleeves with my bare hands or clothes and vacuum the area constantly. I also have to tell anybody that comes over for a workout to not touch the sleeves, due to the metal splintering issue. I have caught myself a couple of times and it’s not great to have to work out with a splinter in your finger. I think this is caused by the poor machinery on the ribbed collar sleeves. When you place a metal plate, it simple sheers off tiny slivers of metal. I have tried to use a magnet and a trash bag to pull some of the shavings away, as well as brush it out with a nylon brush. This does work, however after a couple of weeks of use, the shavings start to reappear.
It’s a little bit hard to tell in the photos, but those ribs chip off when plates slide on and off. This creates little metal splinters, which are a pain to deal with when working out. When cleaning the barbell, brushing the collars doesn’t do much to get rid of the metal shards, when wiping it down with an oiled rag, all of the splinters attach to the rag and it looks quite ominous. A little bit of internet searching revealed the reason for the splintering is the cheap chrome plating that is applied. Apparently there is nothing to do to stop this and also warns about staying away from anything chrome plated manufactured by budget brands in the gym, for this splintering reason.
The website states that it’s rated to hold a maximum of 1200lbs. I’m not sure I would attempt to squat anywhere above 600lbs with this barbell. I have squatted 455lbs as well as deadlifted 485lbs and there are no visible signs of permanent bending/warping.
There is some noticeable whip in the barbell when squatting & deadlifting in the 400lb range, this can be felt more in the squat, right after unracking the barbell and stabilizing, but nothing major that has interfered with the movements themselves and bar has returned to a straight line afterwards. My other test for whip was to simply sit on the bar whilst it was in the J-cups, the bar flexes a little bit and returns to straight.
I have dropped both a squat or two on some safety pins, from maybe a quarter way up. I have also dropped a couple of deadlifts on horse stall mats. Neither of which resulted in any permanent damage. I don’t do a lot of Olympic movements, so can’t speak to it’s longevity or effects of dropping from a height above shoulder level to the ground. For powerlifting purposes, this bar is adequate for beginners to novice lifters.
I am not a big Olympic lifter, so the collar spin isn’t a major factor for my usage. The collars have some spin and for powerlifting purposes hasn’t caused any issues with oscillating.
The lack of center knurl has its pros and cons. Because the knurling on this bar is quite passive, having a center knurl wouldn’t cause that many negative issues. If I were to repurchase this barbell, I would opt for the CAP OB-86BCK, which has a center knurl feature. This would provide the versatility of having a little bit of grip for squats, but not having super aggressive knurling that would tear up the upper chest on cleans or overhead presses.
The knurling itself is quite passive, which does add to its suitability as a beginner’s barbell. It won’t take a layer of skin off with a week’s use. I would describe it as more like the tread of a car tire, where the metal is simply taken out of the barbell, rather than having something more aggressive carved in.
There are minor signs of rust appearing on the knurling. This is my fault, in my naive days, I would chalk the barbell itself, which is a big no no. I also haven’t been the best in barbell cleaning / maintenance, it currently gets cleaned maybe twice a year. The little rust that is appearing around where I hold the bar most frequently and actually looks kind of nice. The sleeves are terrible, as noted above, and just get worse the more and more times I load and unload weight plates. The above photo, shows what the barbell looks like just after a quick clean with a nylon brush and some 3 in 1 oil.
I haven’t had any issues requiring contact with CAP’s customer service.
I think the barbell is a great value option for the majority of users who are looking to start a home/garage gym. If you’re a more experienced lifter who moves upwards of 500lbs, I would consider a better and more expensive barbell. For those just getting started outfitting a garage gym and also just getting started with strength development, this barbell will last many years of lifting up until you start lifting serious weights and consider calibrated plates.
Even after adding an upgraded barbell to your equipment list, the OB-86 is a great ‘beater barbell’ to have around when you need a secondary barbell for supersets or outside use. For the price paid, you won’t be super disappointed if it breaks, although it would have to take a lot of abuse to damage this barbell.