The Earthquake Bar
If you want to last in any sport, especially strength sports, you must take care of your shoulders. The shoulder is very complex, with many small and large muscles involved in its movement. Strengthening these muscles provides support to the shoulder joints, helping to prevent injuries related to overuse or instability.
At Westside, much demand is placed on the shoulders every week. For an athlete to remain trainable, they must put in the work necessary to build the muscles that support the shoulder. Training the larger muscle groups of the shoulder isn't tough to do. We can accomplish that with any regular barbell or dumbbell.
The question then becomes, how can we best improve the strength and durability of the four smaller muscles that make up the rotator cuff? The answer is simple, the Earthquake Bar, commonly known as the bamboo bar.
The Earthquake Bar provides oscillating kinetic energy that significantly challenges an athlete's shoulders and upper body with just a small amount of weight added to the bar. Considering the overall weight of the barbell is kept low, this allows the smaller muscle groups that make up the rotator cuff to benefit maximally.
You must train these smaller muscles to build strong, stable, and durable shoulders. You've likely heard of an athlete retiring from their sport due to a rotator cuff injury. Some of them may have even taken what they thought were preventative measures to take care of the shoulders via barbell training. The problem is most of that training is performed at an intensity where the larger muscle groups perform the most meaningful work.
The Earthquake Bar eliminates that problem, providing a challenging exercise that athletes can perform at low intensity and will directly influence an improvement in rotator cuff health and stability in all pressing movements.
Here are a few ways we use the Earthquake Bar at Westside Barbell:
The Earthquake Bar or "bamboo bar" bench is the movement we perform most frequently with this bar. All athletes will use this bar at some point during the month, some more frequently than others depending on the health and strength of their shoulders. Even if a lifter has developed strong rotator cuff muscles, regular stimulation is necessary to maintain shoulder health.
When loading the bar, always start with light weight and higher reps (15-25). To benefit maximally from this bar, you must develop the ability to control it properly. The oscillating kinetic energy can be highly chaotic for an athlete unfamiliar with the feeling, so be sure to program accordingly.
Our typical Earthquake Bar bench programming is 4-6 sets of 10-15 reps performed as a finisher on ME or DE upper training days. You can also change your variations, alternating between regular and close grip. To maintain strong and healthy shoulders, you should press this bar at least once weekly.
You can bring your stability training to another level when introducing the overhead press into the equation. Unlike the bench press, which primarily focuses on the shoulders, the Earthquake Bar overhead press will not only train shoulder strength and stability; it will challenge your trunk and ability to maintain a strong brace.
This exercise is most commonly programmed for athletes focusing on Olympic weightlifting, CrossFit, or Strongman. This bar is an excellent tool for these athletes to improve shoulder strength, stability, and health. It is also great for adding additional variation to your pressing programming.
To program this exercise for rotator cuff/shoulder health, you'll load enough weight to challenge you for 12-15 reps. Using this exercise as a heavy press variation, you can work up to top sets of 3-5 reps.
Not only can this bar improve the health and stability of your shoulders, but you can also use it as a conditioning tool. This barbell forces athletes to accomplish significant amounts of work as they walk when used as a yoke. You must control your foot strikes and pace, keep posture rigid, and keep the trunk engaged at all times.
A few 20-50 yards down and back trips with a challenging amount of weight loaded onto the barbell will make even the best-conditioned athletes feel challenged. We employ this exercise for all athletes; CrossFitters, Strongman competitors, MMA fighters, football players, and track athletes.
Sweat the Small Stuff
As an athlete, addressing the small muscle groups involved in the various athletic movements you perform is vital. These muscles require development, and without proper programming, you risk leaving them underdeveloped and at a greater risk of injury. Joint issues don't just happen magically; they often occur because surrounding tissue has been neglected.
The Earthquake Bar solves rotator cuff and shoulder issues for athletes. Additionally, these exercises are trained at an intensity that adds almost nothing to your overall recovery burden. This makes Earthquake Bar presses one of the most valuable movements in your training arsenal.
Significant improvements in shoulder health and development, and tremendously easy to recover from. Why aren't you using this bar?