What are the Different Barbell Finishes?

What are the Different Barbell Finishes?

Here’s a closer look at the different barbell finishes, in order from the most basic to the highest end.  

Basic Barbell Finishes

Bare steel  

This is just what it sounds like: an uncoated, steel barbell.  

Pros: Some lifters prefer the feeling of an uncoated barbell, because no coating is blunting the feeling of the knurling. Bare steel is uncoated and significantly less expensive than stainless steel.  

Cons: Bare steel is high maintenance. It’s going to rust over time.  

Bars: REP does not make bare steel barbells because they don’t hold up well. 



Electro coating (e-coating for short, also called paint deposition) is a very thin paint coating. Per the name, it uses electrical current to draw the paint to the metal. Think of it like a powder coat, but thinner. It’s more of a paint than an actual finish.  

Pros: E-coating can add color and some protection to the bar. 

Cons: Some lifters don’t like the feeling of an e-coated bar. It’s not as durable as thicker powder coating, and most e-coats aren’t UV stable, so they don’t hold up well to the elements.  

Bars: REP does not make e-coated bars because they aren’t as durable as other finishes.  


Black Oxide 

This is a common, inexpensive finish whereby the steel is immersed to create a black oxidation. Because the steel itself is transformed, a black oxide finish can feel similar to bare steel in your hands.  

Pros: Like bare steel, there’s nothing between your hands and the bar/knurling, so you really connect to the steel.  

Cons: While black oxide is a nice finish and feels good to grip, it doesn’t provide much corrosion resistance. 

Bars: Because it’s not as durable as other finishes, REP doesn’t make bars finished with black oxide.   


Medium Barbell Finishes 

Bright Chrome 

Bright chrome is an inexpensive finish that helps protect the bar from the elements and rust, while creating an aesthetic, shiny finish.  

Pros: Bright chrome is more corrosion resistant than bare steel. Plus, some people like the silver shine. It’s a lower-end finish, but it’s great for people who are on a budget.  

Cons: It toughens the material, but not a ton.  

Bars: The Delta Basic Barbell, the most basic barbell, is finished with bright chrome.  


Bright Zinc 

For a bright zinc coating, the steel is dipped into a bath and coated, leaving a thin layer of zinc plating on the material. If you look closely, clear/bright zinc can look a little yellower than a chrome bar.  

Pros: Zinc is tougher than chrome, so you get extra resistance to wear and corrosion.  

Cons: Because it’s a coating, it can flake off over time – but with the clear zinc coating, you can’t usually tell.  

Bars: The Black Canyon, Badlands, and Teton bars all have a bright zinc option (shaft and sleeves).  


Black Zinc 

This is similar to bright zinc, but instead of a bright, clear finish, the end result is a black coating.  

Pros: It’s tougher and more durable than plain chrome.  

Cons: Since it’s a coating, it can start to flake off over time. Sometimes a black zinc bar can turn greenish after a lot of use.  

Bars: REP used to offer the Sabre barbell in black zinc, but that has been discontinued due to the issues with chipping.   


Black Chrome  

Whereas bright chrome is more of a decorative finish, black chrome is more of an industrial-grade finish. Black chrome is the middle ground between bright chrome and hard chrome.  

Pros: It provides good wear resistance and a ton of corrosion resistance. Black chrome looks nice and feels thinner than black zinc.  

Bars: The Badlands and Teton have black chrome options for the shaft (with bright zinc sleeves). The Black Canyon has the option for full black chrome -- both shaft and sleeves.  


Higher-End Finishes 

Hard Chrome 

Hard chrome is a common finish for aerospace products. It’s an expensive and entailed process that requires large tanks. Whereas bright (or decorative) chrome is shiny (think of a car bumper or sink faucet), hard chrome has a more subtle, satin/matte chrome finish. Decorative chrome provides good rust resistance, but it is subject to wear and flaking. On the other hand, hard chrome is much less prone to flaking and other wear issues found with decorative chrome. 

Pros: Hard chrome bars have a high amount of both wear and corrosion resistance, and they look gorgeous. Hard chrome is super thin, so to the untrained eye, it may look and feel like stainless steel. Hard chrome will stand the test of time – it won’t rust. It’s a great finish that scores high for many desirable aspects: looks, feel, corrosion resistance, and wear resistance. This is overall the most durable finish we offer, beating even Cerakote.

Cons: Hard chrome tends to be more expensive than other finishes, like bright chrome.  

Bars: The Colorado Bar and Alpine Bar (both 20kg and 15kg) have an option for a hard chrome shaft and sleeves. There’s also a hard chrome variant of the sleeves (but not the shaft) on both the Black Diamond and Double Black Diamond 



Cerakote is a thin, protective, ceramic-polymer coating that provides a degree of durability and corrosion resistance, while adding the ability to customize color. Cerakote is sprayed onto the barbell. Its original usage was in the gun industry.  

Pros: It’s pretty wear resistant and incredibly corrosion resistant – it's the best coating possible for corrosion resistance. Plus, Cerakote is highly customizable and can come in hundreds of color options. REP offers six different Cerakote colors.  

Cons: Because it’s a coating, it can chip over time. Anything you paint runs that risk. But Cerakote is tough, so that won’t happen easily. Cerakote also blunts the knurling a bit. It can get a bad reputation by companies that spray it on so thick that it affects the feel of the bar. When applied to the sleeves, it’s at higher risk for chipping (due to metal-on-metal contact), so REP doesn’t use Cerakote on its sleeves.  

Bars: The Colorado Bar (red, white, blue, green, black, and pink); the Black Diamond and Double Black Diamond (red, green, blue, and black); and Helios and Hades (black). All Cerakote bars have Duracoat® finish sleeves.  


Duracoat® finish 

Unlike many other finishes that are applied to the outer surface of the steel, Duracoat® finish is a transformative process, more similar to black oxide. Instead of applying a thin coating on top of the steel, the steel is treated through a multi-stage, chemical process that improves both the steel’s wear resistance and corrosion resistance. The process actually hardens the outside of the steel, making it extra tough. It leaves a nice, smooth, matte black finish after it’s polished.  

Pros: Duracoat® finish is more corrosion resistant than other finishes, and it won’t wear as easily, since it’s not an actual coating that can chip off. It’s more durable than black zinc, chrome, or Cerakote when it comes to wear resistance, and it’s more corrosion resistant than zinc, black oxide, and chrome. It looks better than black oxide, too.  

Cons: Duracoat® finish is ideal for sleeves, but it’s not as optimal for the shaft (and that’d be one very expensive barbell), so you won’t get a full Duracoat® finish barbell. Instead, look for Cerakote or stainless-steel shafts with Duracoat® finish sleeves.  

Also, it’s not as corrosion resistant as Cerakote or hard chrome. (Still, you really don’t need to worry about it rusting.)  

Note: If it looks like your Duracoat® finish sleeves are scratching up, wipe them down and they’ll look new again. The Duracoat® finish is so tough it can actually pull material off the inside of the plates – but those sleeves aren’t going to be scratching or chipping. That’s why REP uses Duracoat® finish on the sleeves for all Cerakote-shaft bars.  

Bars: The sleeves for the Black Diamond, Double Black Diamond, Colorado, Hades, and Helios are Duracoat® finish.  


Stainless Steel 

This is the most expensive material for a barbell, but for good reason. Stainless-steel bars are uncoated, but straight out of the box, they won’t rust. 

Pros: Stainless steel has the highest corrosion resistance of any material/finish. And because it’s untreated/uncoated, it doesn’t blunt the knurling at all. That makes it a good match for people (like competitive powerlifters) who really care about the feeling of the knurling.  

Plus, it looks stunning. It looks quite different than bright chrome or a clear silver coating.  

We did extensive salt-spray testing on our new stainless-steel bars to ensure industry-leading performance and rust resistance. This is a totally new alloy formulation for the Double Black Diamond Bar. 

This is the top dog.   

Cons: Because this is high-end, it’s not cheap.  

Bars: Stainless steel is perfect for premium power bars, like the Black Diamond and Double Black Diamond, where you want to have a good connection to the knurling. There’s also a stainless-steel variant of the Alpine Bar