X3 Bar Review


In this X3 Bar review I will discuss the strengths and weakness of the X3 Bar device for training with resistance bands.  I will explain why I sold a 400 pound Olympic barbell set and replaced it with the X3 Bar. 

Is the X3 Bar perfect?  No.  It is the best available device designed for training with resistance bands in a safe and efficient fashion so that your results are as good or better than you could achieve with any other resistance training method.

CHECK OUT MY X3 BAR TRAINING VLOG HERE

X3 Bar Review - Cost

Many people wonder if the X3 bar is worth what it will cost you.  Just the day before I sat down to write this review, one of my IG followers messaged me this:

“3x bar.  Worth it? Seems very pricey.  Appreciate your time and opinion.”

Well, here’s my opinion. Yes, the X3 Bar is worth $500.

The entire device consists of a bar, some rubber bands and a platform.  Put that way, it sounds crazy to spend $500 on it.

But that’s like saying that a Ferrari consists of a box on top of a chassis with two axles and four wheels.  Its no different from a golf cart and it would be crazy to spend $100,000 for that, right?

The X3 Bar is not a lightweight, half plastic toy that will fall apart or bend in a few months or years.  This specially machined steel alloy bar is made in the U.S.A. and can handle more than 500 pounds of loading.  

The bar is precision machined with bearings so that the heavy duty band hooks remain parallel to the ground during all movements, ensuring that the bar remains stable (rather than being twisted by the bands) and no harmful torque is applied to your wrists when you perform various exercises. 

Essentially, it is a 2-foot long high grade Olympic bar.  How much do you have to pay for a high quality Olympic bar that can handle loads greater than 500 pounds without bending?  Take a quick trip over to Amazon and you will find that the least expensive bar with a 600 pound limit is the Body Solid bar that costs $110.  The CAP 1200-pound capacity bar is $130.  

Granted the X3 Bar is only 2 feet long versus 7 feet for a standard Olympic bar.  However, the X3 Bar has two heavy duty hooks that hold the resistance bands in the proper position, and it is made in the USA.   Further, a 7 foot bar takes up a lot of space and is not very portable.  To store the Olympic bar you need a dedicated space, and you aren’t going to take it with you on your business, vacation or camping trips.  Nor are you going to haul your Olympic barbell set out to the park to train several days weekly.  You are paying not only for the quality of the X3 Bar but also its convenience and compactness which allow you to take your training anywhere you can take a suitcase or backpack.

So I think its reasonable to pay $100-150 for the X3 Pro Bar alone.

Now, the rubber bands.  The X3 comes standard with 4 bands of different resistance ranges:

  1. The extra lightweight band: 10 to 50 lbs, then doubled over 100 lbs  
  2. The light weight band: 25 to 80 lbs, then doubled over 160 lbs 
  3. The middle weight band: 50 to 120 lbs, then doubled over 240 lbs   
  4. The heavy weight band: 60 to 150 lbs, then doubled over 300 lbs 

This set of bands provides a total resistance level of about 400 pounds when stacked but not doubled over, and 800 pounds with all bands doubled over and stacked!  A set of Bodylastics bands with only half the resistance capacity (404 lbs) costs $125.  A set of Serious Steel loop resistance bands with the same resistance capacity as those standard with the X3 Bar costs about $125.  

Now, how much would you have to pay for 400-800 pounds of barbell plates? Cap brand barbell plates cost about $1 per pound new, so about $400-800.

Finally, you have the X3 base platform, which is made of marine-grade HDPE material, and also capable of withstanding the forces exceeding 500 pounds.  You can make a platform with a similar strength cheaply from 2 x 4s, but it weighs 3 times as much as the X3 platform, is not as smooth and friendly to the bands (more wear and tear), nor resistant to outdoor elements (e.g. moisture), and is not as compact for travel.  

Marine grade HDPE is costly.  The X3 platform is textured surface, 1" thick, 18" long and 12" wide, and machined with a groove to accommodate the bands.  The closest item I can find on Amazon is StarBoard AS Sheet, Arctic White, 1" Thickness, 12" Width, 24" Length, with Diamond Pattern texture. It costs $63. Then each platform must be precision machined to hold the bands. Quality labor is costly as well. 

If you were to use an Olympic barbell, you would need a proper platform, a squat or power rack and a flat bench to safely perform the same exercises you can perform with the X3 as it comes out of the box. 

So, if you were to purchase a new Olympic barbell set with the same resistance and exercise capacity as the X3 bar you are looking at this investment:

Low grade Olympic bar:  $110

400 pounds Olympic plates: $400

Power rack: $200

Flat bench:  $100

Total cost:  $810

Now, you may think “Why not just get a Bodylastics set for only $125?”  Well, while I love Bodylastics bands, they simply do not provide an adequate set up for performing squats, deadlifts or rise on toes for calves.  With a Bodylastics set you can’t perform squats or deadlifts with 200 or more pounds.  

In short, the X3 Bar is comparable to an 400-800 pound Olympic barbell set with a power rack and flat bench, which would cost you $810.  In comparison the $500 price tag on a new X3 Pro Bar is very reasonable.

At $529 (regular price) an X3 Pro Bar costs you $1.45 per day for the first year of ownership.  Are you spending $1.45 daily or most days on something you don’t absolutely need, like a gourmet coffee from a coffee shop?  Over 2 years the cost drops to less than $0.75 per day for the highest quality portable resistance bands training device that will enable you to get as strong as possible training as little as 30 minutes thrice weekly.   Over 5 years of use the cost drops to $0.29 per day!  Think long term and you will avoid being dependent on paying someone else for training equipment.  

X3 Bar Review – Advantages

Aside from the fact that an X3 Bar basically replaces an entire gym containing more than 400 pounds of barbells and plates, a squat rack and benches, in a 15 pound package that will fit in a large drawer, suitcase or backpack, the X3 Bar has distinct advantages over conventional resistance training.

Resistance bands have distinct advantages over isoenertial resistance (like barbells), in safety, variable resistance curve, gravitational independence, versatility, footprint and portability.

However, without a high quality and capacity bar and platform, one can’t really easily take advantage of the benefits of resistance bands.  The X3 Bar truly enables you to capitalize on these advantages by simply providing the feel and capacity of an Olympic barbell so that you can perform basic exercises with an effective level of band resistance.  

The X3 Bar is literally a stand alone exercise device.  You don’t absolutely need anything other than the X3 to have a complete and portable gym you can use at home, at a park, on vacation or on business trips.  

You can simply follow the X3 Bar training program which literally takes only 10-15 minutes a day to perform 4 basic exercises.  Day 1 consists of one set each of chest press, upright row or overhead press, tricep press, and squats.  Day 2 consists of one set each of deadlift, bent over row, bicep curl, and rise on toes.  That’s it!  Nothing more is required for full body training for the average person, although I would add a set of chin ups on Day 2, or alternate chin ups with the bent over row. 

Regarding portability, I can fit the entire X3 system in a carry-on travel bag with room to spare.

CHECK OUT MY X3 BAR TRAINING VLOG HERE

X3 Bar Review – What I Don't Like

The first thing I don't like about the X3 Bar is the marketing hype.  The company claims that you will grow muscle three times faster with X3 Bar training than with weights.

To support this claim, they reference one study that found that when athletes trained with free weights plus elastic bands providing about 20% of total load, they had greater strength gains than when training with free weights alone.1  

In this study, the athletes using the combined resistance had nearly 3 times greater increase in squat load, 2 times greater increase in bench press load, and nearly 3 times greater average power over the 7 week intervention.  Since the strength gains were only 2 times greater for the bench press, this study does not support a claim that using elastic resistance produces a 3 times greater gain in strength for all exercises.  Note however that these were strength gains, not mass gains.  The X3 home page claims 3 times faster muscle gains, not strength gains. 

In fact, in this study both groups gained lean mass with no statistical difference between the groups:  

"Body composition analysis revealed a small but significant increase (P < 0.05) in LBM during training for both groups. LBM increased from 66.5 ± 15.5 to 66.8 ± 15.1 kg in the FWR group and from 65.8 ± 12.1 to 66.5 ± 12.0 kg in the CR group. Increases in LBM are common in well-planned weight training studies. However, in this study, there were no differences in LBM between the groups before or after the training program. In other words, we have no evidence that muscle mass differences accounted for the observed performance differences between the groups."

Therefore this study provided no evidence that use of the X3 bar will enable you to gain muscle 3 times faster than with weights.  

Next, in this study only 20% of the total load was provided by elastic resistance. While it is correct to attribute the greater rate of gain to the variable resistance provided by the bands (the only difference in equipment between the conditions), this study does not provide evidence that training with more than 90% of resistance from bands via the X3 system will have the same effect.  It is possible that the combination resistance (free weight + bands) with at least 50% of the resistance coming from free weights produces better results than either free weights alone or the X3 system alone.  No one has done any properly controlled trial to determine the answer to this question. 

Don't purchase the X3 Bar expecting faster strength or muscle gains.  A 2019 systematic review of studies of resistance training with elastic bands found that training with bands produces essentially equivalent gains in strength, not 3 times greater gains.2

As far as hypertrophy goes, I am not aware of any peer-reviewed evidence from randomized trials that would support the claim that training with bands yields a rate of muscle mass gain 3 times faster than training with conventional weights. If as the meta-analysis found, training with elastic bands produces strength gains essentially equivalent to training with free weights, then most likely the rate of hypertrophy gains will under controlled experimental conditions be found to be essentially equivalent as well.

That said, there are a couple of ways by which I think training with the X3 system (and bands in general) might enable some trainees to produce somewhat faster gains than they would produce training with weights.  

First, I do believe a good case can be made for elastic band training being significantly safer than training with conventional weights, at least regarding risk of joint injury in the weaker ranges of motion for squats, deadlifts and presses, simply because the variable resistance  of elastic bands reduces the load in the most vulnerable positions (bottom of presses, deadlifts or squats).  Injuries slow your rate of gain by keeping you from training consistently with adequate growth-stimulating intensity.  Training with the X3 system (or other band resistance) may significantly improve the rate of gain for some trainees over the long-term by reducing or eliminating down time from injuries.  However I doubt this would translate to a 3 times faster rate of gain.

Second, the X3 training program is very brief (only 4 sets and 10 minutes per session) which may enable some trainees to make faster gains than they would on conventional higher volume programs due to a combination of more effective stimulus (training to muscular failure), less muscle damage, less drain of recovery resources (due to minimal training volume), and less down time due to joint injuries.  However these potential advantages have not been systematically quantified in randomized trials to support the claim that the X3 Bar training yields a rate of muscle mass gain 3 times faster than training with conventional weights. 

If you hustle, you could complete each X3 routine of 4 exercises in ~10 minutes. If you do it 6 days weekly, you would spend 60 minutes weekly on training.  In comparison, people using conventional training programs will likely spend 60 minutes thrice weekly or more.  So if you spend 1/3 as much time training and get the same results, you could say that X3 is 3 times more time efficient than conventional training.  However, 3 times more time efficient is not the same as 3 times faster gains.  

Moreover, if someone gets better results from X3 than from a conventional volume routine, is it because of the variable resistance alone, or because they adopt a low volume, high intensity training program that includes only 8 basic exercises?  Many people fail to progress using conventional equipment because they use too high volume, too low effort, or too many exercises, or switch exercises in and out frequently, never sticking to any one routine long enough to go past the motor learning stage of gains, to the stage when you just have to keep grinding away, adding up small gains over a long period of time.   

I repeat: DO NOT EXPECT TO GAIN MUSCLE 3 TIMES FASTER WITH THE X3 BAR THAN WITH CONVENTIONAL TRAINING.  The real benefits are in variable resistance, safety, portability, small home gym footprint, and freedom from a costly gym membership, all of which in my opinion justify the cost of the X3 Bar even though it very likely does not yield the promised 3 x greater strength and mass gains.  I think the company unfortunately discredits itself by claiming results that are not supported by evidence. 

Next, the feet of platform are too short to easily accommodate stacking of several bands.  The feet of the platform are less than half an inch high.  I think the feet of the platform should be a minimum of 1” high, and preferably 1.5-2” high.  

If you purchase an X3, you can improve this by adding rubber or wood to the feet to increase the leg height.  I chose to use horse stall rubber matting because it won’t slip on  or damage smooth floors, and is both light weight and resistant to outdoor elements. I used outdoor duty double sided tape to attach them to the HDPE.

For front squats and deadlifts, I prefer to add a layer of dense horse stall mat on top to increase band stretch, resistance and effectively loaded range of motion, as shown below (mat is not attached, just lain upon the plate).  If you are shorter like my wife Tracy, you may want to have 2 or even 3 of these layers for those two exercises.

Another issue is that the 41” band length is not adjustable to users to maintain an effective range of resistance for exercises.  I have solved this problem very simply, as demonstrated in this video. 

Links to the products mentioned in the video:

Carabiners

Cartman tie-down straps

Another issue is that the jumps in resistance between bands may be too large for many people, particularly for the upper body exercises.  Where I want smaller increments of resistance increase, I use the more graduated Bodylastics bands if the range of motion permits.  You can also get the #0 and #1 bands from Serious Steel for small resistance increases. 

A final issue is that the band resistance curve is very poor for the bent over row.  I personally prefer chin ups, pull ups and ring rowing variations (especially 90º pulls) because these have greater ranges of motion and a better resistance curve than the bent over row.  Combine a pull up bar and some rings with the X3 Bar and you have the ideal home gym in my opinion.

Nevertheless the X3 bent over row is workable and if you follow the X3 Bar Users Group on Facebook you will see that people have built substantial upper back muscle with it.  Ultimately your level of effort and proper use of the equipment you have is more important than the tool you use. 

X3 Bar Results

Check my page showing some of my muscle gain results using the X3 bar as part of my training program. 

X3 Bar Review Summary

The X3 Bar is a good value for a home and portable gym device that provides a high level of resistance in a compact package.  It has a few minor design flaws but these have easy fixes.  

Before you purchase, check out the X3 Bar Users Group on Facebook to see what others think of it after using it for months at a time.  You can also get an additional $75 off your X3 bar purchase by using the following code at checkout:  X3usersgroup.

CHECK OUT MY X3 BAR TRAINING VLOG HERE

Notes

1. Anderson CE, Sforzo GA, Sigg JA. The effects of combining elastic and free weight resistance on strength and power in athletes. J Strength Cond Res. 2008 Mar;22(2):567-74. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181634d1e. PMID: 18550975.

2. Lopes JSS, Machado AF, Micheletti JK, de Almeida AC, Cavina AP, Pastre CM. Effects of training with elastic resistance versus conventional resistance on muscular strength: A systematic review and meta-analysis [published correction appears in SAGE Open Med. 2020 Sep 9;8:2050312120961220]. SAGE Open Med. 2019;7:2050312119831116. Published 2019 Feb 19. doi:10.1177/2050312119831116

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