The Hybrid Bar from Fringe Sport is an interesting beast, blurring the lines between a powerlifting bar, a WOD bar, and an Olympic bar. Usually these kind of attempts to create One Bar To Rule Them All involve big compromises, but Fringe Sport has somehow managed to construct a bar that can be all things to most people.
The Hybrid Bar is a great all-around barbell that could easily take the place of multiple higher priced barbells. Unless you’re a high level athlete, this bar could very likely be the only one you need. Seriously.
Fringe Sport Hybrid Bar
As an Austin original, Fringe Sport is fairly well known here in my home town. Fringe Sport has been manufacturing and selling strength and conditioning equipment for several years, at a level of quality and price points that are hard to beat.
In my quest to build an efficient home gym, I’ve experimented with powerlifting bars, olympic bars, and specialty bars. Each one has its benefits, but I simply don’t have the space to store multiple bars in my tiny spare bedroom gym.
I’ve been looking for a single bar that can stand up to every way I want to use it, and the Hybrid Bar fits that bill almost perfectly.
Since Fringe Sport headquarters is right here in Austin, I picked up the Fringe Sport Hybrid Bar in person.
Sadly, this means I can’t evaluate the shipping, but I can still show you the box the bar came in.
I think I say this about every barbell I’ve reviewed, but the Hybrid Bar is a really nice looking bar.
What can I say, I guess I just like barbells ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Once I had the Hybrid Bar unboxed I tossed it up on my squat stands to have a good look at it.
If you read the product info for the Hybrid Bar, a good chunk of the copy is dedicated to the knurling.
Unsurprisingly, the knurl is what immediately stands out about this bar. Specifically, the knurling nearest the center is shorter than on a typical barbell by two inches per side.
A typical multi-purpose barbell has about 7.25 inches of knurl from the inner-most mark on each side. In contrast, the Hybrid Bar has 5.25 inches of knurl from the inner-most mark on each side.
If you do the math, the Hybrid bar has four more inches of smooth un-knurled steel in the center of the bar. Or, four inches less knurl, depending on how you look at it.
The product info says the knurling was intentionally backed off to play nice with heavy deadlifts, in order to protect your delicate shins from being shredded during pulls.
However, it also means your narrowest grip for any lift is now automatically four inches wider if you don’t want to hold on to a smooth bar.
Is this a good thing? We shall see.
The knurl pattern extends all the way to the sleeves and is nice and deep without being sharp. It’s nice and grippy, at least until your hands start sweating. More on that later.
The Hybrid Bar uses four needle bearing cartridges in each sleeve housing to provide incredibly smooth and noiseless spin, even under load.
However, the spin is attenuated somehow, which is a fancy way of saying it’s throttled back a bit. This is a good thing for an all-purpose bar.
A high amount of spin is great for explosive Olympic lifts, but not so great for powerlifting. An all-purpose bar needs enough spin to be useful for Oly lifts, but not so much that it interferes with heavy compound lifts.
I don’t know the specifics of the particular bearings used in this bar, but they seem to provide a nice spin speed balance between bushings used in powerlifting bars and traditional needle bearings used in Olympic lifting bars.
Still testing the #hybrid bar from @fringesport. The spin is really good considering its not a dedicated #olympicbar ? #fitness #ificandoitsocanyou #youcandoit #betteryourself #healthy #motivation #kettlebell #kettlebells #kettlebellswings #kettlebellworkout #garagegym #homegym #justkeepswinging #letsdothis #getitdone #unconventionaltraining #functionaltraining #austin #atxfitness #atx #movement #mobility #engineers #engineeringlife #powerlifting #olympiclifting #wod
A lot of engineering work goes into the design and manufacture of barbells, and these days plenty of companies are making great barbells at affordable prices.
The majority of barbells made for functional fitness right now use bushings in the sleeves instead of needle bearings. Needle bearings are complicated little things that add to the manufacturing cost of a bar, and most people don’t need a bearing bar for typical WODs or mixed workouts.
Fringe Sport is bucking that trend entirely with the Hybrid Bar, a multi-purpose barbell built with needle bearings instead of bushings.
A well made needle bearing bar will typically set you back at least $500, and they only go up from there.
I mention all this to emphasize the fact that the Hybrid Bar includes 4 needle bearing cartridges per sleeve, and yet is still priced under $400.
This is amazing, and it’s clear that Fringe Sport has just raised the bar (see what I did there?) in terms of the level of quality you should expect in a sub-$400 bar.
Even the finish is top notch – the Fringe Sport Hybrid Bar is finished in matte chrome, which is one of the more durable of the common finishes available on a barbell right now.
The last point worth mentioning is the thick spiral ribbing on the sleeves.
Although not strictly necessary, the ribbing is a nice touch. It helps keep weight collars in place during drops and also keeps change plates from moving when placed outside the collar.
The Fringe Sport Hybrid Bar is billed as the ultimate mix of Olympic, Power, and WOD features in an aggressive, strong barbell. Right up front, they state this bar is NOT for newbies.
Does it live up to the billing? I’m going to say yes, with a couple of caveats.
Granted, I doubt I’m anywhere near pushing the limits of what this bar can handle. But, I’m not a rookie lifter either.
I’ve been lifting on and off for years, and I know my way around the big lifts. I also dabble in Olympic lifts occasionally, namely snatches and power cleans. I’ve yet to try something where I felt the bar was an impediment to my lift.
Having said that, I see no reason why someone new to lifting couldn’t benefit from this bar.
It’s true, you could get a cheaper entry-level bar like the Wonder Bar or even a Bomba Bar, but entry-level bars come with compromises. Many entry-level bars will work just fine for powerlifting and your average garage gym usage, but if you ever decide to start practicing Olympic lifts (and you should, to build your explosive power) you’ll eventually want a better bar.
If you’re serious about lifting, why not just buy a bar you can grow into rather than one you’ll grow out of?
The Hybrid Bar is the kind of bar you grow into.
The Hybrid Bar is advertised as having moderate whip. I started to feel just a touch of flex in the bar at 185lb, but this is by no means a whippy bar. It’s just the right level of whip for me, but then again I don’t do a lot of Oly lifting. However, if your workout consists primarily of Oly lifting then this isn’t the bar for you anyway.
The spin is good even under heavy load, which I was pleased to see.
Many barbells designed for multipurpose use don’t include a center knurl by design, since a knurl in the middle of the bar can rip up your neck during barbell cleans. The Hybrid Bar does include a center knurl, but it’s very passive. It’s just enough to grip your shirt during squats, but not enough to grate your delicate swan-like neck during cleans or front squats.
Frankly, it’s hard to see a difference in the knurling when looking at the bar, but it’s immediately obvious when I run my hand over it.
At this point you’re probably wondering what the impact of the missing four inches of knurl is on good ol’ fashioned powerlifting lifts like deadlifts and bench.
I was initially concerned that I would miss that knurl, especially during the bench press. Granted, the missing knurl does make me go a bit wider on my grip than I ordinarily would, but not so much that it has caused me an issue. I simply adjusted my hand position and moved on with my life!
I will say that the missing knurl does in fact play nice with deadlifts. Not having the extra two inches of knurl on each side of the bar has saved my shins some scraping, and my legs are thankful for that.
Speaking of deadlifts, the extra .5mm of shaft diameter (28.5mm) makes a big difference, at least to me. Half a millimeter doesn’t sound like much, but I was surprised to see how much that tiny increase affected my grip on the bar, especially since I’ve been spending a lot of time lately using a 28mm bar. I don’t have large hands to begin with, so any extra increase makes the bar just a little bit harder to hold on to when pulling off the floor.
Most people probably won’t notice this, but it’s something to keep in mind if you have smaller hands. Those of you used to powerlifting bars that typically start at 29mm and go up from there will probably like the extra diameter.
Another point worth mentioning is the finish. The Hybrid Bar is finished in matte chrome, which is great for corrosion protection but lousy for maintaining grip with sweaty hands. Cleans, snatches, and deadlifts are hard for me to do with this bar without using chalk, and I avoid using chalk as much as possible to save on mess cleanup duty afterward.
A cerakote or stainless steel finish option would even more awesome than it already is since it would improve the grip tremendously.
The Fringe Sport Hybrid Bar is a great multi-purpose barbell that will probably outlast your resolve to use it.
Price-wise, the Hybrid Bar comes in at just under $400, and at this price I think you’ll be hard-pressed to find a bar that is a better value. The closest competitor I’ve seen to the Hybrid Bar is the Rogue Chan Bar, and while it is $100 cheaper, that bar uses bushings instead of needle bearings. The cheapest bar Rogue sells that comes with bearings starts at $545, and the prices only go up from there. Fringe Sport has upped the game in terms of what to expect in a sub-$400 multi-purpose bar.
To be clear, if you’re a high-level powerlifter or Olympic lifter then this isn’t the bar for you. However, if you’re looking for a well made all-around bar to use in a variety of workouts, the Hybrid Bar is definitely a solid option.
Fringe Sport Hybrid Bar
I'm a software product manager with a full-time job, family, and a desire to stay strong, mobile, and fit. I separate fact from fiction to find the most effective and affordable options for home fitness. If you'd like to build your own home gym, start here.