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  1. #1
    Registered User MGM711's Avatar
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    Kabuki Strength Transformer Bar Review...not a Coop Review

    Full disclosure, I've always been intrigued with the concept of the Transformer Bar as some are aware. The ability to adjust the sleeve loading positions to me forward and backward and up and down could allow for some really interesting training options, sort of like having multiple bars in one. So when one of these bars was offered to me at a pretty reasonable price, I decided to go ahead and take the plunge!

    Quick first thoughts...the yolk is turrible as Charles Barkley would say. For some time, I couldn't understand why the handles were so long, I'll be honest, it kept me from buying it once before, but now that I have the bar, I get why the handles are so long. You absolutely need these handles, if not, it will likely fall off your back as it just doesn't sit right. The yolk is one, too wide, two, sits too far back, and three, needs to have thicker padding. Having thicker padding could possibly fix problems one and two but not totally sure. The yolk is so bad, I'm not really certain one could use this for Hatfield Squats, maybe if the weight gets heavy enough the pad will compress enough so the bar really digs in more to the back, but I'm not so sure I'd even want to give that a try. Now, that said, the more the sleeves are moved forward, the better the bar will sit, but I still think you need to hold those handles regardless, maybe that was by design to have to hold those handles, who knows.

    The bar adjustability is pretty good. I found 5 settings that are pretty good and each one of the settings provides a different feel. This was really the whole reason I wanted the bar was for variation purposes, and this bar gives you that and more. Now, not sure if all those infinite ways the bar can be adjusted and used is actually worthwhile, but like I said, I found 5 that I feel pretty good about using. The actual adjustability isn't that bad to me, but I can see why they are trying to make this easier. The way it's setup really isn't user friendly to constantly adjust, I can just see people just leaving it in their favorite position. But again, adjusting it isn't all that tough nor does it take all that long, but it certainly could be improved and it appears that this is the main area Duffin and co have decided to rework.

    These are my quick impressions. I saw the email being sent out with the new updates, so I figured I'd chime in before those hit the market. Hopefully this will give me some time to really test this bar out and whether I'd recommend it or not. My quick take is the adjustability part of this isn't where I'd be spending my time trying to update, without question it would be the yolk which is something I've never heard anyone mention as a shortcoming of this bar. As it stands right now, purely as a SSB, this isn't as good as either Crep or SS Yolk SSB, so if you're thinking about getting a true SSB, my quick recommendation is this isn't the bar I'd go with.

    Feel free to chime in with questions or things you'd like for me to check out.
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  2. #2
    Registered User glossyMac17's Avatar
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    Do the back and front squat settings feel similar to their straight bar versions?

    And is the padding removable (i.e. is it all one piece)?
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    Registered User cwcmac's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by MGM711 View Post
    Full disclosure, I've always been intrigued with the concept of the Transformer Bar as some are aware. The ability to adjust the sleeve loading positions to me forward and backward and up and down could allow for some really interesting training options, sort of like having multiple bars in one. So when one of these bars was offered to me at a pretty reasonable price, I decided to go ahead and take the plunge!

    Quick first thoughts...the yolk is turrible as Charles Barkley would say. For some time, I couldn't understand why the handles were so long, I'll be honest, it kept me from buying it once before, but now that I have the bar, I get why the handles are so long. You absolutely need these handles, if not, it will likely fall off your back as it just doesn't sit right. The yolk is one, too wide, two, sits too far back, and three, needs to have thicker padding. Having thicker padding could possibly fix problems one and two but not totally sure. The yolk is so bad, I'm not really certain one could use this for Hatfield Squats, maybe if the weight gets heavy enough the pad will compress enough so the bar really digs in more to the back, but I'm not so sure I'd even want to give that a try. Now, that said, the more the sleeves are moved forward, the better the bar will sit, but I still think you need to hold those handles regardless, maybe that was by design to have to hold those handles, who knows.

    The bar adjustability is pretty good. I found 5 settings that are pretty good and each one of the settings provides a different feel. This was really the whole reason I wanted the bar was for variation purposes, and this bar gives you that and more. Now, not sure if all those infinite ways the bar can be adjusted and used is actually worthwhile, but like I said, I found 5 that I feel pretty good about using. The actual adjustability isn't that bad to me, but I can see why they are trying to make this easier. The way it's setup really isn't user friendly to constantly adjust, I can just see people just leaving it in their favorite position. But again, adjusting it isn't all that tough nor does it take all that long, but it certainly could be improved and it appears that this is the main area Duffin and co have decided to rework.

    These are my quick impressions. I saw the email being sent out with the new updates, so I figured I'd chime in before those hit the market. Hopefully this will give me some time to really test this bar out and whether I'd recommend it or not. My quick take is the adjustability part of this isn't where I'd be spending my time trying to update, without question it would be the yolk which is something I've never heard anyone mention as a shortcoming of this bar. As it stands right now, purely as a SSB, this isn't as good as either Crep or SS Yolk SSB, so if you're thinking about getting a true SSB, my quick recommendation is this isn't the bar I'd go with.

    Feel free to chime in with questions or things you'd like for me to check out.
    I'm curious about the various setting. I think they recommend 9 or so (guessing from seeing their site in the past). Do you think there could be some settings that would put a user in a dangerous or less than ideal position? I'm guessing it doesn't but just curious
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    Registered User MGM711's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by cwcmac View Post
    Do you think there could be some settings that would put a user in a dangerous or less than ideal position?
    Yes, I can already see that the further back and down the sleeve is, the more the yolk wants to slide off your shoulders, especially as you start adding more weight. This is likely why they don't recommend going further back past a certain adjustment.
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  5. #5
    Registered User MGM711's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by glossyMac17 View Post
    Do the back and front squat settings feel similar to their straight bar versions?

    And is the padding removable (i.e. is it all one piece)?
    I haven't messed around with the padding just yet.

    I will have to spend more time with each setting to give you more of an informed answer. I quickly went through the positions and lightly tried them out. I don't want say something now based on just a quick trial that may not be accurate.

    So far, I can say that the Camber Bar setting does in fact feel like a Cambered Bar. I would also say that the Back Squat setting felt like a Back Squat, however, I had the sleeve adjusted too low, so I want to see how their setting recommendation feels first before saying for sure.
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    Registered User MGM711's Avatar
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    Played around with the Front Squat positions today and liked how it felt. It provides a much better yolk feel, definitely wants to stay on the shoulders as opposed to the Camber Squat setting. I also like the feel of the various Front Squat positions as they provide something a bit more than standard SSB would. You can get some good quad and core activation going with these setting, and I can see this being a very good accessory move for conventional deadlift training as well.

    Adjusting it today was a hassle. The more I adjust this bar, the more I understand why they're moving to a pull-pin adjustment instead of the way they have it now. I have a feeling once you figure out where center is and understand how to place the sleeves on, it gets easier.
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    Registered User glossyMac17's Avatar
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    With more uses how have you found the handles? More specifically do they get in the way on the descent?
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    Registered User MGM711's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by glossyMac17 View Post
    With more uses how have you found the handles? More specifically do they get in the way on the descent?
    The handles are too long, at least for me, they get in the way trying to make depth, but I don't want to frame it in a way that you can't work around it. You can certainly adjust and be fine. But I at least understand why the handle length is the way it is on this bar, I do think it's necessary for some of these different sleeve configurations. As it stands now, the handle length wouldn't be a factor as far as deciding to keep or not keep the bar.
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  9. #9
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    I have a used one i picked up on FB market place,a chance find.
    I wish they would of made the handles removable and offered a different lengths like the SSyoke bar.
    EFS also has a SSB that has similar handles that are removable i think it's called the spider SS bar.
    Removable handles would be nice.
    Adjustability is ok but it takes a bit of experimentation to find whats good for you personally.
    So don't go right in thinking your going to train on it with out trying the different settings.
    There is a chart online for each setting,but setting can be a challenge from side to side.
    For me getting those settings on each side correctly is sometime frustrating.
    It certainly though can be a bar to address many types of weaknesses with the leverage options it offers.
    I love the concept as you are not limited to one area of leverage like all other SSbars.
    I don't know if it's a must have though after having it and trying it out.
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  10. #10
    Registered User MGM711's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by Garage Rat View Post
    I have a used one i picked up on FB market place,a chance find.
    I wish they would of made the handles removable and offered a different lengths like the SSyoke bar.
    EFS also has a SSB that has similar handles that are removable i think it's called the spider SS bar.
    Removable handles would be nice.
    Adjustability is ok but it takes a bit of experimentation to find whats good for you personally.
    So don't go right in thinking your going to train on it with out trying the different settings.
    There is a chart online for each setting,but setting can be a challenge from side to side.
    For me getting those settings on each side correctly is sometime frustrating.
    It certainly though can be a bar to address many types of weaknesses with the leverage options it offers.
    I love the concept as you are not limited to one area of leverage like all other SSbars.
    I don't know if it's a must have though after having it and trying it out.
    My thoughts exactly!
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    Do you have thoughts about whether to get the Transformer vs, say, a Crepinsek SSB? I only ask because you seem to feel that the Transformer isn't necessarily a must-have.
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    God of Slowdown Synthetickiller's Avatar
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    MGM,

    First, thanks for the write up!
    For the 5 positions listed, are these just 5 different angles or do they include variation in the moment arm (the position of the sleeve in the arm)?
    I'd like to hear more details & your thoughts on these.
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    Registered User MGM711's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by rlundregan View Post
    Do you have thoughts about whether to get the Transformer vs, say, a Crepinsek SSB? I only ask because you seem to feel that the Transformer isn't necessarily a must-have.
    I was going to address this later on with more time on the various adjustments, but I'll just give you my quick thoughts. I don't think it's fair to compare the Transformer Bar with a dedicated SSB like a Crep or SS Yolk. I think those two bars do the SSB much better than the Transformer Bar does it. For example the Crep just balances way better, no weight, no hands, heavy weight, it doesn't matter, that bar isn't moving of your upper back. The SS Yolk is a lot more comfortable to use and has a way better yolk. The Transformer does a SSB setting, and it feels pretty good from a training effect, but the bar itself just doesn't feel as good as a SSB if that makes any sense. That's not to say that the Transformer isn't any good, just not great as a standalone SSB or maybe I would say may not live up to expectations. Being able to move this bar around in different training positions is where this bar excels.
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    Registered User MGM711's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by Synthetickiller View Post
    MGM,

    First, thanks for the write up!
    For the 5 positions listed, are these just 5 different angles or do they include variation in the moment arm (the position of the sleeve in the arm)?
    I'd like to hear more details & your thoughts on these.
    Yes, 5 different positions, the two Kettlebell positions, the Front and Back Squat, and Cambered Bar. I've also played around with the sleeves placements as well on a few of these like the Front Squat and Cambered Bar positions. I like the feel of the various "Front Squat" positions so far the best, they feel the most unique and ones you can't replicate with other bars. The Cambered Bar did in fact feel like a Cambered Bar without the whip. I also liked doing Good Mornings with the Cambered position. I think this could be a great variation bar, but I can't say it's great at any one setting just yet, but maybe I just need more time. I wouldn't recommend this bar to just anyone, for example, I'd never have my oldest son use this bar, if he couldn't Front or Back Squat or needed variation or had an injury, I'd put him on the SS Yolk. But with an experienced lifter, one who needs variation or understands what they need to work on, I think this bar could be extremely valuable.
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    So, lazy take here, but I've pretty much decided if one was going to just leave this bar in one position, it would be in adjustment "2" and just play around with the sleeves up and down. This gives you SSB and Front Squat feel. I also seem to like the feel of position "1" which gives you both Back Squat and Cambered Bar settings and feel. I'm going to mess around with position 1.5 today and see how this compares.

    Moving forward, what I think I will do is just leave the bar in one setting for a period of time, like say 6 weeks or so and just adjust the sleeves up and down for variation. After that period of time, just switch to a different position, that way you don't have to mess around with the adjustments all that often, and moving the sleeves up or down is really easy.
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    MGM, thanks for your posts.

    I've also noticed that the handles on the Transformer have a slight bend/curve around the shoulder pad area. Does this make any difference in regards to comfort/feel as most SSBs have straight handles?
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    Registered User MGM711's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by glossyMac17 View Post
    MGM, thanks for your posts.

    I've also noticed that the handles on the Transformer have a slight bend/curve around the shoulder pad area. Does this make any difference in regards to comfort/feel as most SSBs have straight handles?
    Are you referring to the bend where the handle inserts into the side yolk padding or are you referring to the bend on the base of the handles? Either way, the yolk IMO isn't very good and doesn't balance well and you're somewhat forced to using the handles which do get in the way. They don't terribly get in the way, you can certainly work around it, but if they were shorter and straight, it would be much prefered on some of the settings. That said, I understand why the handles are made the way they are...if you're doing anything in the position 1-1.5 range which is Back Squat and Cambered Bar settings, it's almost a must that you grab the handles down low and pull down just to keep the bar on you back! I need more time with the bar to potentially make recommendations regarding the yolk and handles. As it stands, I don't like either, but I do think the design of the handles is at least necessary and I'm not certain how much they could do to improve the yolk and still be able to provide all these different positional feels. This is easily the most unique bar I've ever owned and used, it's certainly not for everyone, but in the right situation, I think it could possibly be a must have. I love it and hate it!
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    Registered User MGM711's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by glossyMac17 View Post
    And is the padding removable (i.e. is it all one piece)?
    Padding is removable...and disposable.

    Today I decided to figure out what was going on with the yolk, so I decided to see what was under that vinyl covering after I used it today. The padding is removable and in 3 pieces, one large piece going across the back, and two smaller pieces on the sides. To my amazement, when I took the cover off, the padding was literally a pool noodle, a ****ing pool noodle! No wonder it sucks so bad! I was critical of the Crep padding, but this takes bad padding to a whole different level, even going way beyond Titan. I wouldn't even expect Titan to have something this bad for their padding. Shame on Kabuki for charging $750+ for this bar and having a pool noodle for your pad. Now, I've heard they have come out with a replacement pad that I will most certainly be hitting them up for this week. I still can't believe they thought this was a good choice for a yolk padding.
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    Originally Posted by MGM711 View Post
    Padding is removable...and disposable.

    Today I decided to figure out what was going on with the yolk, so I decided to see what was under that vinyl covering after I used it today. The padding is removable and in 3 pieces, one large piece going across the back, and two smaller pieces on the sides. To my amazement, when I took the cover off, the padding was literally a pool noodle, a ****ing pool noodle! No wonder it sucks so bad! I was critical of the Crep padding, but this takes bad padding to a whole different level, even going way beyond Titan. I wouldn't even expect Titan to have something this bad for their padding. Shame on Kabuki for charging $750+ for this bar and having a pool noodle for your pad. Now, I've heard they have come out with a replacement pad that I will most certainly be hitting them up for this week. I still can't believe they thought this was a good choice for a yolk padding.
    Rogue's SSB had/has similar padding. Just 3 pieces of grey closed cell foam tube cut to install over the bar. Basically a really dense pool noodle. It was garbage, and I would have to make sure that the cut side of the foam was rotated away from my neck or it could cause some pretty good neck pain. Still don't understand why they used that kind of padding on an otherwise well built and expensive SSB.
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    Originally Posted by murphyreedus View Post
    Rogue's SSB had/has similar padding. Just 3 pieces of grey closed cell foam tube cut to install over the bar. Basically a really dense pool noodle. It was garbage, and I would have to make sure that the cut side of the foam was rotated away from my neck or it could cause some pretty good neck pain. Still don't understand why they used that kind of padding on an otherwise well built and expensive SSB.
    Yeah, I can't figure it out either. I would assume if one is designing a SSB type bar that you'd at least want to use something decent on a $750 bar. All you'd need to do is take apart the SS Yolk and see the multi-stage foam they're using and try and copy that. It appears they copied Rogue and used the worst possible material possible. I'm actually shocked more people haven't mentioned the Transformer Bar yolk being a problem, the bar has been out for a while, the material sucks, you can feel the pad totally compress on your neck with light weights, I mean you can feel it with as low as 225 loaded on the bar and it only gets worse as you add.
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    Quick update on the yolk padding...I contacted CS about the yolk, sent them a pic of what was going on, and no questions asked, they are sending me the updated yolk padding and assured me that this would be a huge improvement. I've got to think just about anything they send me will be a big improvement since they set the bar so low to begin with. Looking forward to getting this in and on the bar to see how the mechanics of the yolk change.
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    After seeing the new bar and knowing they have addressed issues like the pool noodle pad (seriously, how did that ever get approved?) I see it being a bit tempting. I'll wait until there are others using it first but it seems like if you're going to get a SSB this one at least adds some variability that you don't get out of the others. However, after reading this review I'm questioning if that's really a good idea or not. Hopefully the updated pad addresses a lot of the issues you're having.
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    Originally Posted by ncsuLuke View Post
    After seeing the new bar and knowing they have addressed issues like the pool noodle pad (seriously, how did that ever get approved?) I see it being a bit tempting. I'll wait until there are others using it first but it seems like if you're going to get a SSB this one at least adds some variability that you don't get out of the others. However, after reading this review I'm questioning if that's really a good idea or not. Hopefully the updated pad addresses a lot of the issues you're having.
    I will be very curious and eager to see how the new padding will affect how the yolk performs. As it stands, I wouldn't recommend the Transformer Bar to someone looking for a great SSB, there's much better choices out there. The Transformer Bar, IMO, is more of a multi-variation bar than a good dedicated SSB, but I don't quite want to make that claim until I test out the new padding.
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    The Kabuki Transformer page has been updated with the new bar design.

    Coop has also posted a new video review where he mentions the padding. The new features definitely makes me lean towards it more than Marrs Bar at the moment. I'm eager though to hear your thoughts, MGM711, when you receive your new yolk padding.
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    Originally Posted by ncsuLuke View Post
    After seeing the new bar and knowing they have addressed issues like the pool noodle pad (seriously, how did that ever get approved?) I see it being a bit tempting. I'll wait until there are others using it first but it seems like if you're going to get a SSB this one at least adds some variability that you don't get out of the others. However, after reading this review I'm questioning if that's really a good idea or not. Hopefully the updated pad addresses a lot of the issues you're having.
    I ordered before I knew they were changing designs and I’m patiently waiting on one of these. I’m not sure when I’m going to get it but hopefully it’s soon. I ordered on Memorial Day and was told 5-6 weeks. I got an email about 2 weeks ago telling me they had changed designs and were going to start shipping immediately the next week and would go in order. Today I got an email telling me the price went down and they want to give me a gift card to offset the new lower price and a future discount...oh and that I have to wait another 5-6 weeks based on how I read it. I’m not happy about the wait time but we will see what happens.

    When I do eventually get it, I will be sure to post some pictures and as good of a review as I can do for it.
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    Was not interested in the prior version of the transformer but the new iteration looks really nice. The pop pin looks great for adjustments and the quick sleeve changes look nice to - even for doing a type of drop set of different difficulty (granted, the weight would have to come off then back on but that's easy)
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    Originally Posted by glossyMac17 View Post
    The Kabuki Transformer page has been updated with the new bar design.

    Coop has also posted a new video review where he mentions the padding. The new features definitely makes me lean towards it more than Marrs Bar at the moment. I'm eager though to hear your thoughts, MGM711, when you receive your new yolk padding.
    I have a Marrs Bar coming soon as well that I will likely give my thoughts on once I get some time with it.

    I'm not so sure the Transformer Bar or Marrs Bar should be grouped in the same SSB comparison. Really, outside of a padded yolk, that's about the extent of the similarities. The feel of the Transformer yolk feels nothing like a true SSB, and I'm fairly confident I can make that claim even without the new foam padding. Same goes for the Marrs Bar, people that I know that use it have never once said it feels anything like a SSB outside of the padded yolk. I wouldn't get the Transformer Bar if you're looking for a great SSB, I would get the Transformer Bar if you're looking for a bar that can (now) easily change the loading angles and offer the greatest variation that any bar can offer.
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    Originally Posted by cwcmac View Post
    Was not interested in the prior version of the transformer but the new iteration looks really nice. The pop pin looks great for adjustments and the quick sleeve changes look nice to - even for doing a type of drop set of different difficulty (granted, the weight would have to come off then back on but that's easy)
    I agree, the new design is much, much easier to adjust.
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    Originally Posted by MGM711 View Post
    Padding is removable...and disposable.

    Today I decided to figure out what was going on with the yolk, so I decided to see what was under that vinyl covering after I used it today. The padding is removable and in 3 pieces, one large piece going across the back, and two smaller pieces on the sides. To my amazement, when I took the cover off, the padding was literally a pool noodle, a ****ing pool noodle! No wonder it sucks so bad! I was critical of the Crep padding, but this takes bad padding to a whole different level, even going way beyond Titan. I wouldn't even expect Titan to have something this bad for their padding. Shame on Kabuki for charging $750+ for this bar and having a pool noodle for your pad. Now, I've heard they have come out with a replacement pad that I will most certainly be hitting them up for this week. I still can't believe they thought this was a good choice for a yolk padding.
    This was funny as all hell. Certainly answers the question about what was going on with the padding.

    Realizing the limitations stated (not a SSB, upgrading padding, new adjustment design, etc...), I'd be very interested in your longer term impressions. I'm thinking getting a few training cycles in under different positions to see if you find it worthwhile.
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    If they are willing to pool noodle your padding, what else are they willing to cut corners on to increase the profit margin?

    Their Ghost Half rack is more than a tricked out Legend Fitness 3142, doesn't really make sense.
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