Bamboo Barbells: The Ultimate Guide!


The bamboo bar is one of the best specialty barbells ever invented.

Many of the world’s greatest powerlifting coaches including Louie Simmons and Josh Bryant use this bar to blast through training plateaus in the bench press.

If you want to take your training to the next level then this article is for you!

Introduction

  • Part 1: The Science Of The Bamboo Bar
  • Part 2: The Best Bamboo Bar Exercises
  • Part 3: The Best Bamboo Bar Workouts

In this comprehensive guide I will show you how to use the different bamboo barbells to build a bigger, stronger and healthier upper body.

The bamboo bar is a specialty barbell that was invented by Jim Seitzer, a national level bodybuilder and elite powerlifter. The bamboo bar is made out of a flexible bamboo material that shakes all over the place when you use it.

Here is the bodybuilding coach John Meadows demonstrating the bamboo bar bench press:

Unlike a regular 45-pound barbell you increase the weight of the bar by hanging weights or kettlebells from bands on either side of the bar. The weights bounce around in every direction which creates even more vibrations in the bar.

The bamboo bar is so effective because your upper body has to recruit more muscle fibers to stabilize the weight. The bamboo bar is also one of the only “functional training” tools that actually works for building muscle mass and strength.

Here is the elite powerlifter Marc Bell describing his love affair with this bar:

“This is not just some wild circus trick. This is not just some crazy thing, I know it looks crazy, I know it looks insane, it looks like you are going to die.

The reason is things that don’t challenge you, things that aren’t going to scare you probably aren’t going to make you stronger.”

The bamboo bar can be used on many different exercises like bench presses, incline bench presses, overhead presses, bicep curls, lying tricep extensions and upright rows. It is a very versatile piece of equipment.

There are three bamboo bars that you can purchase for your own gym:

The Three Types Of Bamboo Barbells

Note: you can click on the links above to purchase your own bamboo bar, earthquake bar or e-maxx bar. The bamboo bar is the original specialty bar as used by John Meadows in the above video.

The original bamboo bar is still a great choice. However, the modern version of this bar is called the earthquake bar.

Here is a perfect demonstration of the earthquake bar overhead press:

The big difference with the earthquake bar over the original bamboo bar is the way you load extra weights onto the bar.

The earthquake bar has three grooves on either side of the barbell. This makes it extremely easy to load extra weights onto the bar. You never have to worry about the weights being unbalanced from one side to the other.

The earthquake bar weighs about 6 pounds and has a maximum capacity of about 300 pounds. This is more than enough for most athletes. You can click right here to purchase your own earthquake bar.

If you are an elite powerlifter and want to load the bar with more than 300 pounds then the e-maxx bar is for you. Check it out:

The e-maxx bar is a bigger version of the original earthquake bar. It has 4 grooves on either side of the barbell and can hold far more than just 300 pounds.

Many of the world’s strongest bench pressers including Julius Maddox have used the e-maxx bar in their training without any issues.

You can click right here to purchase your own e-maxx bar. I hope you found this overview helpful.

Now let’s kick things off by discussing the science of bamboo barbells.

Part 1: The Science Of Bamboo Barbells!

The bamboo barbell is one of the only pieces of equipment that can make you bigger and stronger while also rehabilitating your upper body all at the same time. The bamboo bar is almost like the reverse hyperextension of the upper body!

When you perform the bamboo bar bench press all of the muscles of your upper body have to work harder than normal to stabilize the weight. That includes your primary bench press muscles like your chest, shoulders and triceps but it also includes the smaller supporting muscles like your rotator cuff.

Louie Simmons says that he used the bamboo bar to bench press 300 pounds after having his shoulder replaced! Here is Louie using this bar:

Many people report decreased shoulder pain and improved overall shoulder health after using this bar.

Here is the powerlifting guru Louie Simmons describing his experience with this bar:

“Why does this bar work so well? We really don’t know why scientifically, we never had anyone study this bar from a physiological standpoint.

I had a physics professor who called it a pendulum chaotic oscillating effect – that is what it does for strength.

As for what it does to the body truly I don’t know until I get someone with an an advanced understanding of physiology to come in and study it.”

There are many advantages for using the bamboo bar in your own workouts:

  • Advantage #1: Improved rotator cuff strength
  • Advantage #2: Improved muscle fiber recruitment
  • Advantage #3: Improved exercise technique

First of all you are getting increased recruitment of the rotator cuff muscles. This is a big deal!

The Canadian strength coach Charles Poliquin says that a weak rotator cuff is the #1 upper body weakness of most athletes.

The bamboo bar forces your rotator cuff to work dynamically because it is the primary muscle that has to stabilize your shoulder joint while you use the bar. This will keep your shoulders healthier and improve your overall upper body strength.

Just look at Matt Hoff bench pressing 300+ pounds with the bamboo bar:

Now that’s what I call a strong rotator cuff!

The bamboo bar also helps you recruit more muscle fibers in your chest, shoulders and triceps. When you press the bar the weights are flying all over the place: forwards, backwards, to the left, to the right, up and down.

Your central nervous system has to rapidly fire additional motor units on every rep to maintain correct form. This is especially true when the weights are falling down and stretching on the bands.

When this happens the total tension on the bar rapidly increases even though the total weight stays the same. Your body has to rapidly recruit more muscle fibers to handle the increased tension when this happens.

The last major benefit is your exercise technique improves. Here is Matt Wenning demonstrating what your technique looks like when you first use this bar vs when you master it:

When you first use the bamboo bar your arms are going to be shaking all over the place! After a few workouts your strength will have improved and you will be able to perform the exercise with much better technique.

When you go back to perform the regular bench press you will find that your exercise technique is vastly improved.

Part 2: The Best Bamboo Barbell Exercises

There are many different exercises you can perform with the bamboo bar. Here are some of the most effective ones:

The Best Bamboo Bar Exercises

  • Exercise #1: The Bench Press
  • Exercise #2: Overhead Press
  • Exercise #3: Lying Triceps Extensions

Let’s take a closer look at each of these exercises.

Exercise #1: The Bamboo Bar Bench Press

The bench press is the first exercise that most people perform with the bamboo bar.

Many powerlifting gyms like Westside Barbell and Supertraining Gym use the bamboo bar once per week on their lighter bench press workouts.

Marc Bell says that this is a great strategy because you can use the bamboo bar to stimulate size and strength gains without having to use a ton of weight. Check it out:

“The reason we use this bar is we have a day where we go heavy and a day where we go light.

The lighter bar allows us to increase or blood flow and improve our recovery.

We’re also doing something fun. We’re doing something new and challenging and that’s a big part of this as well.”

Marc Bell says that he likes to use as many as 20-40 repetitions per set with the bamboo bar! This is an awesome strategy for building a bigger, stronger upper body.

Exercise #2: The Bamboo Bar Overhead Press

The bamboo bar overhead press is one of the most underrated exercises in the world.

The regular overhead press is a great way to train your shoulders, triceps and traps. Using a bamboo bar for this exercise takes things to the next level! The instability of the bar means that your rotator cuff muscles have to work unbelievably hard to stabilize the weight.

Here is Marc Bell describing the bamboo bar overhead press:

“The instability of the bar shaking and wobbling all over the place, we’re only able to use so much weight on the bamboo bar.

No matter how much you try to stabilize the weight, no matter how much you try to squeeze the bar, no matter how much you try to get into this crazy zen mode and hold on for dear life, that bar is going to take you where it wants when you get to a certain weight.”

The world’s strongest bench presser Julius Maddox used the bamboo bar overhead press extensively while he was training to bench press 800 pounds.

The strength coach Charles Poliquin was also a big fan of this exercise. He used the bamboo bar overhead press with Helen Maroulis as she prepared for the 2016 Olympic Games.

Charles used as little as 3 reps per set on this exercise but you don’t have to go that low to get the full benefit of this exercise.

Exercise #3: The Bamboo Bar Lying Triceps Extensions

Bamboo bar triceps extensions are an extremely underrated exercise. The instability of the bamboo bar means that your triceps have to work harder than normal to stabilize the weight.

The Westside Barbell powerlifting team uses this exercise extensively to build triceps strength for the bench press.

In fact Louie Simmons had one person use the bamboo bar exclusively for triceps extensions to rehabilitate his torn triceps tendon. Check it out:

“I had a powerlifter who uses the bamboo bar exclusively for triceps extensions.

His physical therapist said within 4 months he can handle 2 pounds for triceps extensions.

Within 2 months my powerlifter was handling 135 for sets of 20! Basically because of this bar working the stabilizers of the triceps.”

I think you will be shocked with how sore your triceps get the first time you try this exercise using the bamboo bar!

Part 3: The Best Bamboo Bar Workouts

Now let’s look at how some of the world’s top powerlifters and bodybuilders use the bamboo bar to train their upper body.

The powerlifter Marc Bell likes to use the bamboo bar once per week on his speed bench day. He follows a system similar to the Westside Barbell training program where you perform 1 heavy bench press workout and 1 speed bench press workout per week.

Marc likes to perform the bamboo bar bench press as his second exercise for the day right after his speed bench. Check it out:

“The reason we use this bar is we have a day where we go heavy and a day where we go light.

The lighter bar allows us to increase or blood flow and improve our recovery.

We’re also doing something fun. We’re doing something new and challenging and that’s a big part of this as well.”

Here is what Marc Bell’s typical speed bench might look like. Check it out:

Marc Bell Speed Bench Press Workout

  • Exercise #1: Speed bench press with bands, 9 sets of 3 reps
  • Exercise #2: E-maxx bar bench press, 3 sets of 20-40 reps
  • Exercise #3: Dead stop skull crushers, 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Exercise #4: Barbell dead stop row, 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Exercise #5: Rope cable face pulls, 3 sets of 8-12 reps

Here is a great video of Marc Bell bench pressing using the E-maxx bar:

Here is Marc Bell describing his experience with this bar:

“The other thing I like about this bar is you’re going to have to do a tremendous amount of repetitions with it to get the full benefit.

You’re using the smaller muscle groups, really working and getting deep into those stabilizer muscles.

A lot of times tapping into those smaller muscles, stuff like that, things that can really help with restoration, doing sets in the 20-30-40 rep range can help the most.”

The world’s strongest bench presser Julius Maddox is also a huge fan of the bamboo bar. Julius trains his upper body about once every 5 days.

He likes to alternate between a heavy bench press workout and an upper body assistance day where he performs lighter exercises and attacks his weaknesses. Check it out:

Julius Maddox Bench Press Schedule

  • Day #1: Heavy Bench Press
  • Day #6: Light Bench Press
  • Day #11: Heavy Bench Press
  • Day #16: Light Bench Press
  • Day #21: Heavy Bench Press (Deload)
  • Day #26: Light Bench Press (Deload)
  • Day #31: Repeat!

Julius Maddox likes to use the bamboo bar on his bench press assistance day to make his upper body stronger AND healthier.

Julius will even perform exercises like the bamboo bar overhead press to really increase the strength of his shoulders and rotator cuffs. Here is a sample upper body accessory workout that Julius performed. Check it out:

Julius Maddox’s Bench Press Accessory Workout

  • Exercise #1: Push ups, 10 sets of 25 reps
  • Exercise #2: Flat DB press, 2 sets of 20 reps
  • Exercise #3: Standing “ITY” raises, 3 sets of 5 reps
  • Exercise #4: Overhead press w/ earthquake bar, 6 sets of 15 reps

Here is the video of Julius Maddox overhead pressing with the E-maxx bar:

If the bamboo bar is good enough for an 800-pound bench presser like Julius Maddox then it is good enough or me!

The bamboo bar is mostly used by powerlifters but the truth is this bar can also be used by bodybuilders.

The bodybuilding coach John Meadows has used this bar extensively in his own workouts to build a bigger, stronger chest. John likes to perform his bench presses a little later in his workouts after his joints have been properly warmed up.

Here is what a typical Mountain Dog style chest workout might look like using the bamboo bar. Check it out:

Sample Mountain Dog Chest Workout Using The Bamboo Bar

  • Exercise #1: 15 degree incline DB press, 4 sets of 8 reps
  • Exercise #2: 30 degree incline bench press, 4 sets of 6 reps
  • Exercise #3: Bamboo bar bench press, 3 sets of 15-20 reps
  • Exercise #4: Machine pec dec, 3 sets of 10-15 reps

Here is the training video for this workout:

If you are a bodybuilder then you have to try the bamboo bar for different exercises like the bench press, the overhead press, lying triceps extensions and so on.

The bamboo bar gives these exercises a completely different feel. It is just one of those things you have to experience for yourself!

Conclusion

The bamboo bar is the most important bench press specialty bar in the world. It is used by many of the world’s top bodybuilding and powerlifting coaches including Louie Simmons, Josh Bryant and John Meadows.

The truth is this bar is good for more than just bench presses: it can be used for overhead presses, triceps extensions, upright rows and many other exercises.

The bamboo bar is one of the only functional training tools that actually works with elite athletes. It makes you bigger, stronger AND healthier all at the same time. There is no other barbell that can do this!

In my opinion the earthquake bar and the e-maxx bar are improved versions of the original bamboo bar. As an added bonus the earthquake bar is just as cheap at $289!

If you want to get your own then these links are for you:

Here is one more quote by Marc Bell to convince you to buy your own bamboo bar and take your training to the next level:

“The bamboo bar is not just some crazy thing. I know it looks crazy, I know it looks insane.

But the bottom line is things that aren’t going to scare you probably aren’t going to make you stronger. And that’s why we use this bar.”

Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of luck on your strength training journey!

Dr. Mike Jansen, PT, DPT

Thanks for checking out my site! My name is Dr. Mike Jansen and I'm the founder of Revolutionary Program Design. If you want to reach your size and strength goals faster then you've come to the right place. My goal is to make RPD the #1 strength training resource available anywhere in the world. So grab a seat, kick back and relax. There's never been a better time to lift weights or to learn the art and science of strength training program design.

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