Cerakote vs. Zinc vs. Chrome vs. Stainless Steel Barbells: Which barbell finish is best?

What’s up, Fringe Fam? Today, Jo from Jo’s Barbell Service is back, and he’s talking about all things barbell finish. What’s the difference between Zinc, Cerakote, and Chrome on your barbell?

First, there’s two big things that matter. The first is how the finish feels in your hands, and the second is how well the barbell finish protects against corrosion. 

When you’ve got a barbell in your hands, you’ll want it to feel a certain way. For example, a CrossFit athlete is typically going to be doing higher repetitions and higher volume movements with a barbell in their hands. They typically aren’t looking to tear up their hands during those high volume sessions, so they’re not looking for an aggressive knurl. Instead, they’re usually looking for a more passive knurling. On the other side of the spectrum, you have a powerlifter who tends to stick to three different movements, and generally completes one rep at a time. These athletes are going to look for an aggressive knurling to be able to max-out and have the best grip possible on their bar. The finish on the bar matters in these instances, because it can affect the depth and aggressiveness of the knurling.

Let’s start with the finishes that won’t affect the grip on your barbell. 

First, a bare steel bar or stainless steel bar.

bare steel barbell


Bare steel bars do not have a finish, and are essentially raw steel. Once you cut the knurling onto the bar, you won’t apply a finish on top of it, so the knurling will remain more pristine and more aggressive, though, with bare steel, you’ve got almost no protection against rust. These bars are not recommended for newbies. Our American-Made Lonestar Bar is bare, polished steel and offers an alligator-type aggressive knurl.

On a stainless steel bar, you’ll have a pristine knurling, but because you’re using a higher quality material, you won’t get as much corrosion on that bar. Stainless steel is considered to be one of the most resistant materials to corrosion.

Second, the chrome bar.

chrome finish barbell


What you’ve got in a chrome bar, like our Power Bar or Oly Weightlifting Bar, is a material that is a high-carbon steel. The manufacturer will cut the knurling and put the bar into a bath. The bath will deposit chrome onto the shaft and into the knurling, causing it to be slightly less aggressive on your hands. Chrome offers a lot of protection against rust.

Next, a zinc-finished bar.


A zinc-finished barbell can be bright zinc, or black zinc like the Wonder Bar we offer. A bright zinc or black zinc finish has more of a material (zinc) deposit onto the bar, so it will experience less corrosion resistance, but tends to have a better feel in your hand.

Lastly, a cerakote barbell.

cerakote finish barbell

A cerakote bar has even more of a deposition of material on the bar than zinc, so it will have a better feel in your hand along with better protection against corrosion. You’ll have a ton of color options to choose from when working with a cerakote bar. The American military uses cerakote on their weapons, and a lot of people tend to choose a cerakote bar because it offers military-grade protection. Our cerakote barbells are USA-Made and we currently offer hunter orange and olive drab cerakote 20kg bars, along with a 15kg purple cerakote Bomba Bar V3.

From a technical standpoint, finishing on a barbell matters for two reasons: how it feels on your hands and how well it protects your bar against corrosion and rust. Bare steel will offer the least protection, followed by chrome with a touch more, and stainless steel is going to be the most resistant against corrosion.

At the end of the day, some people choose a barbell based on how it looks in their gym and what’s more fashionable. If that’s you, unless you choose a bar that’s stainless steel, all other bars at stainless steel are going to be coated with some kind of finish, whether that be chrome, zinc, or cerakote. In choosing one of our barbells, you can have peace of mind knowing that your barbell is going to be protected, at some level, against corrosion.

If you need help choosing a barbell, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at team@fringesport.com or on our site, or hit up Jo’s Barbell Service for some assistance.

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