The Westside Barbell Earthquake Bar!


The earthquake bar is an unbelievable piece of equipment.

Louie Simmons and the Westside Barbell powerlifting gym have use it to blast through bench press plateaus and rehabilitate themselves from injury.

If you want to learn how the best powerlifters in the world use the earthquake bar then this article is for you!

Introduction

  • Part 1: What Is The Earthquake Bar?
  • Part 2: Westside Earthquake Bar Exercises
  • Part 3: Westside Earthquake Bar Workouts

In this comprehensive guide I will show you how Louie Simmons and the Westside Barbell powerlifting team use the earthquake bar to break bench press world records.

The earthquake bar is a specialty barbell designed specifically for the bench press. The earthquake bar is made out of bamboo and oscillates as you perform the exercise.

To make the exercise even more challenging you hang weights or kettlebells from resistance bands on either side of the exercise.

If you want to purchase your own earthquake bar with resistance bands then check out the following link:

Here is the powerlifting coach Louie Simmons demonstrating the earthquake bar bench press:

Louie Simmons Earthquake Bar Demonstration

Louie Simmons is often called the “mad scientist of powerlifting.” He popularized many training tools such as bands, chains, reverse hyperextensions and the inverse leg curl machine.

It should come as no surprise that he uses something as crazy as the bamboo bar in his own training!

Here is Louie Simmons describing his experience with this bar:

“It’s helped me rehab. It worlds all the stabilizers and with heavier weights it makes you stronger.

I used a bar like this when I had shoulder socket surgery. Three months later I bench pressed 300 pounds in a t-shirt. Hardly anyone else can touch a weight after 3 months!”

The earthquake bar may seem a little silly but Louie Simmons thinks it is the real deal. From a scientific standpoint there are several things happening with this bar.

First of all the barbell and the weights are wobbling in every direction. This means your rotator cuff muscles have to work extremely hard to keep your shoulder joint stabilized.

This is great news because a weak rotator cuff is one of the limiting factors in the bench press.

Here is the Westside guru Marc Bell talking about the benefits of this bar for strengthening your rotator cuff:

“The bamboo bar is great for building the stabilizer muscles at the same rate as you build the big muscles.

And that’s one of the big problems with most powerlifters. Their stabilizers become lackluster compared to their big muscles and that’s when injuries occur.”

The other big advantage is the weights are bouncing up and down as you perform the exercise.

When the weights are bouncing up the bar actually feels lighter in your hands and there is less tension on your muscles. When the weights are bouncing down and the bands are stretched the bar feels heavier and there is more tension on your muscles.

This creates a form of eccentric stress on your muscles which forces you to recruit more muscle fibers than normal.

The truth is even Louie Simmons doesn’t know for sure why this bar works so well. 

Here is Louie Simmons answering the question, “how does the bamboo bar work?”

“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.”

One of the really cool things about the earthquake bar is you can really load up the bar with a ton of weight. Louie Simmons discovered that the strongest bench pressers are also the strongest with the earthquake bar.

Here is the Westside Barbell athlete Matt Hoff handling an unbelievable 305 pounds on the earthquake bar. Check it out:

Matt Hoff 305 pounds

Now that is a crazy amount of weight on the earthquake bar!

The Westside Barbell powerlifting team uses the earthquake bar for several different exercises. One of their favorites is the earthquake bar lying triceps extension.

Here is the Westside athlete Jay Fry demonstrating this exercise:

Jay Fry Bamboo Bar Skull Crushers

The earthquake bar lying triceps extension is an unbelievable exercise. The earthquake bar forces you to recruit more muscle fibers in your triceps than a regular 45-pound barbell.

This exercise works so well that many Westside Barbell powerlifters have used it to rehab their arms after elbow surgery. 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.”

If you have never tried bamboo bar skull crushers then you are missing out! This is an unbelievably effective exercise for strengthening your triceps.

The only downside to this exercise is you do need to perform slightly higher rep ranges to get the full benefit.

If you are really creative then you can perform different variations of bamboo bar triceps extensions.

Here is the Westside Barbell guru Matt Wenning showing you how to perform bamboo bar JM presses, lying triceps extensions to your forehead and lying triceps extensions behind your head. Check it out:

Matt Wenning JM Press Plus 2 Other Triceps Extensions

The earthquake bar can also be used for other assistance exercises.

Louie Simmons says that he cannot perform regular upright rows due to shoulder pain but he can perform them with this bar. It is also possible to perform standing or seated military presses with the earthquake bar.

The earthquake bar overhead press is a favorite of Charles Poliquin, Josh Bryant and many other strength coaches.

I have never seen the Westside Barbell team perform this exercise but it is definitely worth trying. 

If you are familiar with the Westside Barbell powerlifting team then you know they perform 2 bench press workouts per week: a max effort bench press workout and a dynamic effort bench press workout.

Here is the full Westside Barbell training split:

The Westside Barbell Training Split

  • Sunday: Dynamic Effort Bench Press
  • Monday: Max Effort Squat / Deadlift
  • Wednesday: Max Effort Bench Press
  • Friday: Dynamic Effort Squat / Deadlift

The Westside Barbell powerlifting team likes to perform the earthquake bar bench press once per week on their dynamic effort bench press day.

They perform their 8-10 speed sets on the bench press and then perform the earthquake bar bench press for a few sets of 10-20 reps.

Now let’s look at some typical Westside Barbell bench press workouts using the earthquake bar. Check it out:

Westside Barbell Speed Bench Workout #1

  • Exercise #1: Speed bench press with cambered bar and chains, 9 sets of 3 reps
  • Exercise #2: Bamboo bar bench press, 3-4 sets of 8-15 reps
  • Exercise #3: Lying DB extensions, 3-4 sets of 8-15 reps

Here is the training video:

This is a very normal looking Westside Barbell bench press workout. They perform 8-10 speed sets on the bench press followed by some sets with the earthquake bar and some lying triceps extensions.

It wasn’t included in the video but they probably performed some accessory work for their upper back and shoulders as well.

Marc Bell says that the earthquake bar bench press is one of the best exercises you can perform on your speed bench day because this training day is designed to be lighter and less stressful on your central nervous system. 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 another speed bench workout where the Westside Barbell crew used the earthquake bar bench press. Check it out:

Westside Barbell Speed Bench Workout #2

  • Exercise #1: Speed bench press against bands, 9 sets of 3 reps
  • Exercise #2: Bamboo bar bench press, 3-4 sets of 10-20 reps

Here is the training video:

The accessory exercises were won’t shown in this video. The Westside Barbell powerlifting team probably performed some accessory exercises for their triceps, upper back and shoulders after this video ended.

Once again the Westside crew performs very high reps using the earthquake bar bench press.

The Westside guru Marc Bell feels that this is the best way to get the most out of this specialty barbell. Check it out:

“The other thing I like about this bar is you’re going to have to do a tremendous amount of repetitions. You have to do sets in the 20-30-40 rep range to get the full benefit.”

If you have access to the earthquake bar then I highly recommend you use it on your dynamic effort bench press day for higher rep ranges.

This will make the dynamic effort workout even more effective without overtraining your central nervous system.

If you are feeling especially brave then you can perform  military presses, lying triceps extensions and upright rows using this bar. The possibilities are endless.

Conclusion

The Westside Barbell powerlifting team uses the earthquake bar to bulletproof their shoulders and make consistent progress on the bench press.

If you have access to this bar then I highly recommend you incorporate it into your own training.

Many other Westside gurus including Matt Wenning and Marc Bell swear by this bar for building size and strength through your entire upper body.

If you want to purchase your own earthquake bar with resistance bands then check out the following link:

Here is Marc Bell giving you one more reason to pick up your own earthquake bar today:

“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, I know 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.”

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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