American Barbell California Bar Review: Is This the Only Barbell You Need?

Nick Collias
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american barbell california bars

Some lifters love to have a full storage rack of barbells, with a specialized one for every training priority. Others prefer what skiers call a "one quiver" approach: a single well-made tool that does a pretty solid job on just about everything, from heavy lifts to fast lifts and everything else that happens in the weight room. If you're nodding your head in agreement, then the California bar might just be your single-bar solution.

This multipurpose cerakote barbell may not be the best barbell in the world at any particular lift, but it's not trying to be. As a so-called "functional training" bar, it simply checks a lot of different boxes for a lot of different lifts and lifters, and doesn't break the bank doing it.

Our in-depth American Barbell California Bar review will let you know if this brightly colored bar is a fit for you!

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A Quick Look at the American Barbell California Bar

american barbell california bar


  • Weight: 20 kg (45 lbs.) and 15 kg (33 lbs.)
  • Diameter: 28mm shaft
  • Strength: 190,000 PSI
  • Stiffness: Moderate
  • Knurling: Mild, no center knurling
  • Finish: Cerakote shaft, hard chrome sleeves
  • Warranty: Limited lifetime warranty


American Barbell has been a major manufacturer of strength equipment for over 40 years, and their bars have been in gyms large and small, fancy and filthy, the world over. If you've trained in more than a few gyms, it's very likely that you've had an American Barbell in your hands on multiple occasions.

As a well-established manufacturer, American Barbell has been able to help establish new trends, rather than simply follow them. One of which is the cerakote-finished barbell, which the company pioneered. The California takes the advantages of this coating, such as top-notch abrasion resistance and custom coloring, to a multipurpose bar that's equally at home with Olympic lifts, general lifting, or big barbell lifts.

What We Like

  • Thrives in a wide variety of uses
  • Smooth spin and easy-loading sleeves
  • Available in multiple colors, all with great rust tolerance
  • Middle-ground knurling aggressive enough for most lifters' uses, without ripping hands up

What We Don't Like

  • Knurling might not be aggressive enough for some big pullers
  • No center knurling for squats

BUY: American Barbell California Bar

A Closer Look at the American Barbell California Bar

Weight and Dimensions

One great thing about the California bar is that it comes in two different models: a 20 kg (45lb.) version, and a 15 kg (33lb.) version. You can call these "men's" and "women's" weights if you'd like, but more functionally, they're simply different weight options for different lifters with different dimensions.

At 28 millimeters in shaft diameter for the 20 kg version and 25 millimeters for the 15 kg, the California bar sits right in the sweet spot between a deadlift bar and a power bar, and matches up with the standards for men's and women's Olympic lifting bars. This makes it a great fit for all three activities, until the point where you need to specialize on a different bar for specific competitive reasons.

Stiffness and Strength

The California bar isn't the stiffest, nor the strongest, bar out there—but it doesn't need to be. This is a multipurpose bar that is designed to thrive equally in CrossFit, Olympic lifts, and general barbell training, helping build a foundational level of strength in a wide variety of lifts.

If you're a more serious puller who doesn't want to invest in a dedicated deadlift bar but wants to lift a bar with some flex, though, the California bar could be a good single or second bar. It will give you a better approximation of the flex of competition than only working with a stiff 29 millimeter power bar.


Knurling is the sort of thing that you sometimes don't notice on the bar until trying a bar that is a total mismatch for the workout you're doing. The mild-to-moderate bite of the California bar makes this far less likely.

It's light enough to keep your hands or shins from paying the price during high-volume work (within reason, of course), while also toothy enough for fairly heavy deadlifts. In case you find your grip slipping, the knurl also takes chalk like a champ.


Cerakote is a popular rust-resistant finish for firearms, and American Barbell was the first to try it on barbells. To say it's taken off as an industry trend since then is an understatement! And with good reason: Cerakote is fantastic at fighting oxidation, but is also available in numerous colorways. The 20kg bar is available in multiple colors ranging from understated black and gray to red, yellow, navy, and "zombie green," while the 15kg bar comes in black, purple, pink, and sky blue.

The finish of the sleeves is a smooth chrome that's welded directly to the collars. It's slicker than most power bars, but still has enough texture to keep weights in place during high-rep or high-velocity lifts.

American Barbell California Bar Highlights

A great thing about this bar is that it can serve you in whatever lifts you're doing now, while also rising to the challenge of new or different training styles, if and when you want to explore them. In the design, but also in the aesthetics and tiered weight offerings, it reflects the new and varied ways that people actually train, rather than simply following the established standards of a specific style.

As founder Phil Patti has said, this company "wants to change the face of weightlifting," and they get that the way to do it is to create versatile bars that work for the widest variety of lifters. The longevity and spicy color options of the cerakote finish also announce that this is something that we're doing for life, but also for fun. And there's nothing wrong with that!

American Barbell California Bar Construction

If there's one common theme from commenters who have purchased this bar, it's this: "a substantial upgrade from my old barbell." Too many people have made do with hand-me-down or budget barbells that weren't really up to the challenge of the training they enjoyed, and seen their actual in-gym performance suffer as a result. By contrast, this can be an excellent first "serious" barbell, no matter what you're serious about.

If there's a second theme from commenters, it's that this barbell is quiet when spinning or dropped. This speaks to the tight fit between the bar and sleeves, and the precision of its overall construction.

American Barbell California Bar Performance

Commenters rave about the knurling of the California bar for being fine enough to protect hands but tacky enough to stay put in heavy-ish pulls without straps or chalk. If you're preparing for elite competition, it might not be "enough" of a deadlift bar for you, but if that's the case, you probably already have a full weight rack of bars at your disposal. Otherwise, the California bar could be an adequate single-bar solution for most lifters, and for others, this plus a power bar for seriously heavy competition-style squats and benching will be more than adequate.

Our Verdict

If "functional" means thriving in a variety of lifts, for a variety of lifters, without rendering your bank account dysfunctional, the California bar is a worthy contender for your training arsenal. It stands up well against other Cerakote bars, like those made by Rogue, and the colors can be as bold or mild as you want them to be.

BUY: American Barbell California Bar

FAQs About American Barbell

Who owns American Barbell?

American Barbell founder Phil Patti is still deeply involved in the company as the Global Development Officer. Philip Patti is the Executive Vice President, and as of 2020, Doug Katona joined as partner and CEO.

How much does an American Barbell weigh?

American barbells usually come in three sizes: the traditional "men's bar" of 20kg or 45 pounds, the so-called "women's bar" of 15kg or 33 pounds, and youth or "training" bars. These can range from 25 pounds down to 15 or even less.

Is American Barbell a good brand?

American Barbell is one of the best brands in the market for multipurpose lifting and functional training. Their California Bar in particular is lauded by reviewers for being quiet, smooth, and comfortable in the hands of a wide variety of lifts, all at a reasonable price point.