In the UK the choice of premium barbells is different to our American friends. We have a ton of options – but trying to find out more about the brands, the bars themselves and work out if they are actually any good can be a headache.
One that does pop up from time to time on Reddit and various forums is what many consider to be the best ATX barbell – the ATX Ram bar.
I’ve been using an ATX Ram barbell for around 4 years now. I’ve pulled this review together to try and help the brand and the bar get some publicity, and put some real life experience out there for you guys to use in your own buying process.
So is the ATX Ram bar the best barbell available in the UK? Let’s find out.
At a glance…
- The ATX Ram barbell is a 28.5mm, black oxide bar made by a German company
- Knurling is passive aggressive – grippy in the hand, but no skin ripping
- The quality and price make this a great option for European / UK lifters looking for an alternative to the Rogue bar range
- Price is very reasonable in the UK at c.£270 vs £380 for the Rogue Ohio Power Bar
What is the ATX Ram bar?
The ATX Ram barbell is a powerlifting-focused bar manufactured by the Athletic Training Xtreme (ATX) brand.
With a 28.5mm shaft diameter, centre knurling, black oxide coating and high build quality the bar is a REALLY compelling purchase on paper- particularly in Europe where it undercuts virtually all the USA brands on price.
Unfortunately for ATX they suffer a bit from a lack of publicity and hype around the brand, particularly compared to the likes of Rogue who are EVERYWHERE online. ATX is a German gym equipment manufacturer based out of Wassenberg, Germany. They push products through resellers in each country which keeps their overall brand a bit under the radar compared to a ‘business to consumer’ approach we see with the likes of Rogue, who then push their marketing ‘en mass’ centrally.
When looking to invest a decent sum of money in a barbell being the plucky underdog is not always great as people are not often looking to go out on a limb with their own money. I think this is why Instagram is awash with Rogue Ohio Power Bars, as we all know what we’re getting there!
Who is this bar made for?
ATX have made no apologies for the Ram bar – it is aimed squarely at powerlifters. This is obvious with one look at the shaft design. With powerlifting rings – no Olympic rings in sight – as well centre knurling it is the textbook power bar format.
If your training is ‘big three’ focused (squat, bench and deadlift) or even just a bodybuilding-split style (i.e. anything that is not Olympic lifting or crossfit), the RAM bar would likely fit well into your training.
I use the ATX RAM bar whenever I squat or bench press (flat and incline) without fail. I alternate the RAM with other bars for deadlifts, overhead presses, rows and other ‘general’ gym use.
What do I like about the ATX RAM barbell?
Great build quality
As soon as I got my hands on the bar I could tell immediately that it was a premium product. The play in the sleeves is very slight (sub-1mm), the knurling is even across the shaft and the edges of the knurling are cut in really evenly. This is bar that has been precision engineered.
Compared to an entry level bar such as the Strength Shop 2028 black oxide bar I also have (note I think this is out of production now, superseded by the 2029 black zinc barbell) the Ram is in a different class.
The plain silver sleeve finish appeals to the traditionalist in me, particularly contrasting against the black oxide shaft. The sleeves themselves are chrome finished with very light ribbing to help keep the plates in situ when not using collars. The chrome finish has held up perfectly after 4 years of regular home-gym use.
For my uses the ribbed sleeve is ideal as I don’t use collars for bench pressing – the rib provides a degree of hold for the Olympic plates. What is a bit annoying is the tune it plays as I slide on Rogue calibrated change plates – it seems to act like a tuning fork and creates a hideous noise!
A stainless steel sleeve (as we see in the REP fitness line in the US) would be a step up for material quality, but it is unreasonable at this price point and is a fairly new development even in the wider home gym market in America. It would add nothing other than bragging rights to the bar as day-to-day use would be identical.
The chrome sleeve is more useful to me than the black matte paint / phosphate paint finish ATX offer on their more colourful bars (such as their camo / zombie / Cerakote barbells) as I prefer the more durable finish over one that could scratch or chip. Particularly as I store my bars in a vertical bar holder which would NOT be kind to that sleeve finish!
Black Oxide finish
Black oxide offers a pretty natural feel to the barbell, while offering some rust protection compared to bare steel. Black oxide is a superior finish to thicker chrome and black zinc for those wanting a more natural feel to the knurl as the coating is thinner. The trade off is usually worse rust protection. Note I have had virtually no rust issues on my bar after 4 years of regular use.
Stainless steel would be a step up in quality of finish and I would like to see ATX offer a stainless steel finished Ram bar (the V4A stainless bar they currently offer is a hybrid bar with less aggressive knurl).
I would also like the option of a bare steel bar, but this seems out of step with the ATX brand so I doubt we will see this. In my heart of hearts I am not sure I would welcome the extra maintenance anyway!
In 4 years the bar has largely been maintenance free beyond sweeping out the knurl and a wipe down from time to time. The bar as you will see is still looking in great shape, but some do find that black oxide (as well as black zinc) shaft finishes will wear through. I can report none of that (on my Ram bar, at least).
The brass bushings are a nice touch and again have been virtually maintenance free over 4 years of us. They allow the sleeves to have some spin which is consistent across both ends of the bar, but without being too unwieldy.
To compare, I’ve had to rebuild my Strength Shop 2028 bar a few times bar over a similar timeframe so by comparison it is refreshing to have a bar that ‘just works’!
What could be improved?
ATX advertise the Ram bar as having their most aggressive, deep knurling. It is the best ATX barbell for powerlifters as a result!
Putting that ‘powerlifter’ hat on, my personal preference is for a bit more bite in the hand, so I would prefer a more aggressive finish in a power bar particularly if I was building my training around high intensity, low rep work to develop my competition max.
That said the knurl is actually fantastic for rep work – I have had absolutely zero hand discomfort in 4 years even when knocking out high rep sets. Seriously, I have done rows for multiple sets of 15 reps with no issues.
December 2020 Edit: Check this alternative out…
Yep I have revisited this review in December 2020 (Boxing Day to be precise…) to add this – I have published a review of the Bulldog 1.0 barbell which has a more aggressive knurl pattern than the ATX Ram. This might be a better fit if you prefer a bit more BITE from your BAR!
So would I actually change the knurling? Maybe not for my home gym use or for a ‘one bar’ set up– but if I was ATX I would have a bar with a more aggressive knurl in the range for the pure powerlifter and focus the Ram instead towards a power-leaning generalist – the equivalent of the Rogue Ohio bar (or Rogue 2.0) vs the Rogue Ohio Power bar.
ATX RAM barbell vs Rogue Ohio Power Bar
Let’s get this out there: both of these barbells are fantastic options for any strength trainee.
Where we have an issue is that in Europe the price of Rogue equipment is quite a bit higher than in America. While not a deal breaker for those willing to spend what it takes – it does mean many of us would need to think twice at least before buying.
In summary the ATX Ram bar offers a very similar experience at a significantly lower price (around £270 for the ATX Ram vs around £380 for the Rogue Ohio Power Bar).
A few pointers to consider:
- Value – Part of the saving is simply logistics and not connected to quality/materials as the Ram is a German bar vs American
- Tensile strength – helps measure how much force the steel of the bar can withstand. Both bars are very similar at 205k psi for OPB and 206k psi for the Ram
- Finish – The Rogue Ohio Power Bar is black zinc vs black oxide on the ATX Ram
- Knurling – the Rogue OPB has more aggressive knurling
- Upgrades – you can get the Rogue in stainless steel if you’re happy to spend more
The Rogue is a more known quantity with plenty of reviews and footage online. What goes against the Ram is that it is relatively unknown. I’m hoping this review with 4 years of use will help put some data points out there to help the brand, the bar and competition in the gym equipment space!
Customer service from both brands is excellent, both are very quick to respond to queries and very eager to help prospective customers. I’ve used both for various issues (not connected to barbells) and they are genuinely very helpful.
After a 4 year test period would I recommend the ATX Ram barbell to someone in the UK looking to kit out a home gym? Absolutely.
The price point and quality are outstanding, with the only constructive feedback being to widen the range on offer. Could ATX introduce a more aggressively knurled “ATX Ram Power Bar” to sit above the standard Ram? How about offering different shaft finishes, such as stainless steel? This might help them tap in to repeat customers as well with multiple Ram’s (a flock, if you will) in the garage!
Overall it is great barbell to have in the repertoire, and one I have used (and continue to use) day in, day out.
You can buy the bar in the UK from thegymrevolution.com