The instability of earthquake and bamboo bars can be helpful but not in all movements. Find out what exercises are great for this type of equipment.
Something to note is that earthquake and bamboo bars are the same besides their different sleeves. Earthquake bars have ridges to put the resistance bands with weights around, bamboo bars have grooves.
The exercises you can do with both are basically the same although you may need to control your movements more with earthquake bars to avoid the weights bouncing off/around.
Besides that, you want to remember that the instability makes the exercises below harder than the standard variations. Make sure you adjust the weight down enough. When in doubt, start light.
Lastly, using earthquake and bamboo bars in the movements below is great for engaging stabilization muscles more.
However, most people also want to implement the regular versions to make their workout plan more optimal (if they are not recovering from injuries or something similar).
1. Bench presses
For all of the exercises you want one of the best earthquake and bamboo bars or a DIY model. Additionally, bench presses require a sturdy bench and bar rack.
Once you have the required equipment, take the following steps to do an earthquake bar bench press:
- Load the earthquake bar in the rack with the desired weight.
- Lie down with your back on the weight bench and place your hands with an overhanded grip on the earthquake bar at about shoulder width.
- Unrack the earthquake bar and keep your arms slightly less than stretched and pointing up.
- Slowly lower the earthquake bar to your chest. Your upper arms should be at an angle of about 45 degrees or less to your sides.
- Push the earthquake bar back up in the position of step 3 in a controlled motion.
Earthquake bar bench presses will engage shoulder and wrist stabilization muscles like your scapular muscles, middle deltoids, latissimus dorsi, biceps, and a variety of forearm muscles a lot more than the barbell version.
At the same time, you will still mainly work the more typical chest, tricep, and shoulder muscles.
If this is one of your first times doing earthquake bar bench presses, it can be smart to have a spotter. You definitely don’t want the bar bouncing out of your hands and on your body or head.
2. Back squats
For bamboo bar back squats you again need some extra equipment. More specifically a squat rack, preferably with safety bars, a squat box, and/or spotters.
Once you have the requirements, take the following steps to do a bamboo bar back squat:
- Find a squat rack and rack the bamboo bar at about chest height. Add the desired amount of weight. If there are any safety bars adjust them to the right height.
- Stand under the bamboo bar, push your shoulders up so that the bamboo bar rests on your upper back, and hold it there with your hands.
- Unrack the bamboo bar and take a few steps back so that you have room to squat. Stand up straight with your feet at more or less shoulder width.
- Slowly lower your hips by bending your knees. How far depends on different factors like knee health but at your lowest point you want your hips to be at or lower than your knee height. You will likely have to bend forward for balance but keep your back in a straight line throughout the movement.
- Push yourself up again into starting position by stretching your legs.
- Rerack the bamboo bar after your desired number of repetitions.
Similar to the bench press, the bamboo bar makes it so you engage a variety of stabilizing muscles more. In the case of back squats that means more inner thigh, outer thigh, core muscle, and ankle muscle engagement.
Back squats are the most popular option for this type of specialty barbell but you can also use it to do other squat variations like the overhead and Zercher squats. These will also engage the muscles around your shoulders.
3. Shoulder presses
Shoulder presses are another exercise that is typically done with a rack. Once you have that, take the following steps to do an earthquake bar shoulder press with a rack:
- Find an earthquake bar rack and rack the earthquake bar at about chest height. Add the desired amount of weight.
- Grab the earthquake bar with your hands at about shoulder width with your hand palms facing forward.
- Unrack the earthquake bar and take a few steps back so that you have room to do the exercise. Stand up straight with your feet at more or less shoulder width. Hold the earthquake bar at about shoulder height. Your elbows can point slightly more forward than just a horizontal line with your shoulders.
- Slowly move the earthquake bar up until your arms are slightly less than stretched.
- Lower the earthquake bar back into the position of step 3 in a controlled motion.
Make sure you keep your upper arms pointing forward enough to avoid injuries. If you do that correctly, the earthquake bar shoulder press can be a great way to work a variety of muscles.
The main ones will still be your deltoids and triceps but the instability of the earthquake bar will work your scapular muscles (including trapezius), rear deltoids, forearm muscles, and chest muscles just a bit more.
4. Lying tricep extensions
You preferably have a weight bench for this next exercise. In theory, you could also do this exercise on the ground but this will be less comfortable.
Additionally, help from a spotter can be helpful both to get the bamboo bar in position and for safety. Take the following steps to do a bamboo bar lying tricep extension on a weight bench:
- Either ask help from someone to get the bar in position or load the bamboo bar in front of the bench and carefully lie down with it.
- Lie on the weight bench with a bamboo bar in your hands. Hold it with an overhanded grip. Your upper arms should lean slightly more back than vertical and your lower arms with the bamboo bar can hang down behind your head.
- Slowly raise the bamboo bar by stretching your arms until your arms are fully stretched. Keep your wrists straight and your body and upper arms in the same position throughout the exercise.
- Lower the bamboo bar back into starting position in a controlled motion.
Lying tricep extensions are mostly for isolating your tricep muscles but by adding a bamboo bar you will work your scapular muscles, middle deltoids, latissimus dorsi, forearm muscles, and chest muscles a bit more too.
Another name for lying tricep extensions is skull crushers. The alternative name for this bamboo bar exercise is not only meant as a joke.
When first trying bamboo bar lying tricep extensions you don’t want to be too optimistic about your capabilities due to the position of the weight and the instability challenge. Start with light or no resistance and build up from there.
Additionally, a spotter can stop the bar from landing on your face if it bounces out of your hands.
Lastly, you can also do standing tricep extensions with this type of bar to work your tricep muscle heads and stabilization muscles in a different ratio.
5. Bent-over rows
For bent-over earthquake bar rows you simply need a good bar, resistance bands, and weights. Once you have these, take the following steps to do a bent-over earthquake bar row:
- Load the desired amount of weight on the earthquake bar and stand in front of it.
- Put your feet at about shoulder width, grab the earthquake bar with an overhanded grip, and lift up the earthquake bar with your legs until you stand up straight. Keep your spine straight throughout the exercise.
- Slightly fold your knees and tilt your upper body forward until it is at about a 45-degree angle or lower to the ground. Let your arms hang down to the ground for now but hold the earthquake bar tightly.
- Bend your elbows and move your shoulder blades back until your hands reach your body. The goal is to mainly make your back muscles support this movement. Keep your arms close to your body, your spine in a straight line, and your feet in the same position during the movement.
- Lower your hands again to the position of step 3 in a controlled motion.
Bent-over rows are the least impressive way on this list to use earthquake bars when it comes to working stabilizing muscles more.
That being said, you are still engaging muscles like your scapular muscles (including trapezius), middle deltoids, latissimus dorsi, forearm muscles, and chest muscles just a bit more.
Besides these, the main focus of the bent-over earthquake bar row is still your upper back and bicep muscles.