axle barbell lead
CNN  — 

With an increased demand for at-home workout equipment coupled with stock issues across the board, this past year has shone a spotlight on the need for multifunctional exercise accessories. The Axle Barbell — an ultralight Olympic barbell that’s often used in group fitness classes at boutique gyms — answered that call.

This versatile barbell promises a total body workout and (spoiler alert) it delivers. While it definitely took some getting used to, after three weeks of using it, I was impressed.

What is the Axle Barbell, exactly?

The name itself is a little misleading. While you can use the Axle Barbell solely as a barbell, it does much more than that. It’s really a total body piece of equipment that also functions as a core trainer, planking tool and anchor for your feet for ab rolling or similar movements — my favorite thing about the Axle Barbell.

Rather than simply categorizing it as a dumbbell, I thought of it as a tool to help increase stability and target each of your body’s main muscle systems. And the barbell is specifically designed to roll, so your core stays activated through most of your movements, giving you a killer workout.

AXLE Barbell

Setup is quick and easy

The barbell arrives completely deconstructed. The kit includes a 55-inch aluminum barbell (in two pieces), two 5-pound plates, two clamps, two wheels, two foot anchors, a resistance band and an air pump. To get started, I assembled the bar, pushed the wheels on, added the plates and clamped everything into place. The process took only a couple minutes — the most difficult part was using the flimsy air pump to fill up the wheels, but once that was done, I was ready to go.

The performance is impressive

Fully loaded, the barbell clocks in at a light 11.2 pounds. While you can add any size Olympic plates, that weight was enough to get me started. When I wanted more weight for bicep curls or bent-over rows, I strapped on the included resistance band, a convenient touch.

Hovering around 4.5 feet, the Axle Barbell is shorter than most — standard barbells are five to six feet — but it was easy to grip and maneuver and I didn’t miss the extra length at all. While it didn’t blow other barbells away as far as basic functions go, one thing that really made the Axle stand out is that it rests on its rubber wheels, rather than on the iron plates. This made the landing a lot softer and significantly quieter, and it made the whole setup seem less intimidating, especially since the wheels have neon green spokes.

AXLE Barbell

Where the Axle Barbell really shone was in the core workouts. You can use it to increase core effort during planks, ab rolling, or push-ups. The barbell comes with two foot anchors that strap to your sneakers so you can do roll outs or pikes without needing gliders. Every time I used the Axle to focus on my core strength, I left with abs that were absolutely burning — in all of the best ways.

It took some getting used to though. My current utter lack of core strength thanks to too many hours of sitting in front of the computer probably contributed, but when I strapped my feet in the first few times, I thought I was going to fall flat on my face. Things were a little shaky and unstable, but after repeating the moves several times and getting a little more comfortable with the system, things went smoothly.

AXLE Barbell

It’s easy to store, too

One of the Axle Barbell’s main selling points is that it’s collapsible. When I hear “collapsible” or “foldable,” especially associated with exercise equipment, I’m always a little skeptical, but the Axle lived up to its promises. As easily as it comes together, the whole thing also comes apart — the clamps, plates, and wheels come off and the bar collapses into two pieces with the touch of a button. And I got it done in under a minute, so it doesn’t feel like an unwelcome project after a workout.

The barbell came with a carrying bag and while I thought it was a nice touch, it’s way too flimsy for the weight of all the components and it didn’t quite fit the length of the bar pieces. It does the job if you’re just looking for a way to keep everything together in one place in your house, but it’s not ideal for taking the barbell on the go.

Should you get it?

Whether you’re into heavy weight lifting or looking for a versatile tool to take your full-body workouts to the next level, the Axle Barbell is a solid choice. You can use it as a standard barbell, but it also specifically targets your core, thanks to its rolling mechanism. This translates to better posture and all of the benefits that come with it, like less back pain and less tension in your shoulders and neck — something that I personally noticed within a few weeks of using the barbell.

And the $299.99 retail price is right in line with other high-quality barbells. Granted, if 11.2 pounds isn’t heavy enough, you’ll have to shell out extra cash for heavier plates if you don’t already own some, but that’s true with any setup.