The mid-2000s were a revolutionary time in the fitness industry. Social media gained popularity, allowing massive amounts of information and communication to be absorbed instantly. With information rapidly being shared, as well as the rapid growth of online retail, collaborative efforts accelerated every industry on earth, including the fitness industry. This also accelerated the development of Crossfit. And, although I’m not a Crossfit fan, there’s no question that it got many more people into fitness and is mainly responsible for blowing up the garage gym industry. Hundreds of thousands of homes are loaded with barbells, racks, kettlebells, and a massage tool for every muscle, nook, and cranny in the body. Some are better than others, and some are pretty unnecessary. One of the more intriguing pieces in the strength and conditioning industry is the Earthquake Bar, invented during the heart of what I’m declaring as The Fitness Age, 2006.
Sometimes it’s better to explain things in a video than by typing my jibberish. Give this video a watch to see the Earthquake Bar and how it works.
Personally, I think it looks awesome and fun in a weird way. But as with all exercise equipment, we must ask if it works or is a gimmick? The Earthquake Bar has garnered enough intrigue to have its own dedicated research.
Studies on the Earthquake Bar
The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research has conducted 5 different studies involving the Earthquake Bar. The results are simple: it works! But before you hit add to cart for $300 plus shipping, you need to see if it’s right for you.
Outside of writing beautifully written articles like this, I wear two other hats. I work in physical therapy and as a personal trainer, focusing on functional training. Pieces of equipment like the Earthquake Bar particularly intrigue me both as a piece of functional equipment for training AND as a rehab tool.
Earthquake Bar Uses
The Earthquake Bar can be used in basically any way you use a regular barbell. However, its unstable nature gears it primarily for upper body lifts, namely bench, and overhead pressing. As an athlete goes through repetition on the bar, the bar inevitably shakes, causing different groups of muscles to quickly contract to maintain proper balance. This increased contraction of the surrounding muscles forces the smaller muscles (such as the rotator cuff) to be firing on all cylinders. This extra contraction of the deep, stabilizing musculature creates a more stable, stronger contraction. That much is proven in research. What is yet to be proven (though I’m optimistic it will happen in the future) is that with the proper doses and frequency, the Earthquake Bar can create stronger, more stable, and more resilient to-injury athletes.
From my perspective, I actually would recommend this to novice lifters. One of the big mistakes I see in weightlifting is young lifters doing too much too soon. Building an appreciable amount of strength through the barbell lifts takes a lot of time and even more consistency. However, one of the knocks on the barbell lifts is that they disproportionately engage the big muscles. When lifters go heavy all the time with pushing lifts, they build strong and muscular pecs, deltoids, traps, triceps, and whatever else you can see when taking that selfie in the gym bathroom mirror. That, of course, is a good thing. Still, the problem is that the smaller muscles underneath do not develop strength in the same way, lessening their ability to support the joints. And that’s where a tool like the Earthquake Bar can be helpful. It helps strengthen the smaller muscle groups dedicated to stabilizing the shoulder, scapula, and spine.
Additionally, the Earthquake bar teaches more efficient mechanics to young lifters, which can establish muscle memory with great technique. Lastly, the research shows that the Earthquake Bar gives tactile cues to “get tight.” Strength and conditioning coaches know that the key to lifting heavy and getting the most out of lifts is to get tight. Getting tight refers to the lifter squeezing every muscle with all their might to create a solid, stable foundation the lifter can use to lift with. The tighter you get, the stronger the lift.
Benefits of the Earthquake Bar
All these benefits can benefit any lifter, especially when first starting a lifting program. It teaches the lifter to use good technique by getting tight, and it builds up the smaller, deeper muscles that are responsible for keeping joints healthy. Using the Earthquake Bar can be a fantastic way to begin a strength and conditioning program involving major barbell lifts such as the squat, bench press, overhead lifting, and deadlifting.
However, it must be recognized that the Earthquake Bar is a highly specialized tool. The Earthquake Bar is not meant to take the place of standard barbell lifting. You can’t lift very heavy with an unstable bar, and heavy lifting is very necessary for building strength and muscle.
The unstable nature of the Earthquake Bar makes it more dangerous than a standard barbell. All lifting needs to be supervised by a coach or a highly experienced lifter. The Earthquake Bar has abundant resources on how to properly load and train with it. So, make sure you use it wisely, stay safe, happy lifting,