Most compound lifts start with a barbell, and you know what one looks like. Weighting 20 kg or 45 lbs, 7 feet long, and outfitted with 2 inch Olympic sleeves, a regular ole barbell will help you pack on slabs of muscle and make you harder to kill. Since the inception of modern strength training though, over 150 years, the design of the barbell hasn’t changed all that much.
Or has it?
While you will be able to hopefully find a regular barbell at any local gym, and the straightforward design isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, there are new creative barbells being made and trained with by top level powerlifters, CrossFitters, and strongmen around the world. If your curiosity has been piqued, here are four of the weirdest barbells you might be surprised to stumble across one day.
1. Bamboo/Earthquake Bar
Likely the most well known of the following barbells, the Bamboo Bar by Bandbell is used in conjunction with exercise bands and weights/kettlebells. Through the inherent flexibility of bamboo and by hanging kettlebells and/or weight plates off of the sides of the bar using resistance bands, the barbell becomes incredibly unstable to lift in all directions: up and down, side to side, and front to back. Due to the bands, any weights that are hung also oscillate with movement, and the specific frequency of the oscillation depends on the weight of each specific kettlebell and the resistance of the band that it is hung off of. This variation in load not just through it’s unique loading parameters using bands and kettlebells but also from the unique oscillation that each unique weight which is loaded onto the bar makes. All these factors makes using the Bamboo Bar incredibly difficult, demanding, and different every time you perform it. As a result of the extreme instability that the Bamboo Bar creates, the Bamboo Bar works stabilizing muscles to a greater degree than a regular barbell, and this makes the Bamboo Bar a great piece of equipment to use for rehab and prehab.
If none of that made any sense, watch the video below, as the concept of the bar and how it is loaded is best understood visually.
Instructional video demonstrating how to use the Earthquake Bar by Eric Spoto and the guys over at Super Training Gym.
You can check out the two most popular variants of the Bamboo Bar below:
2. The Elephant Bar
When Rogue was designing the equipment to be used for the 2016 Arnold Strongman Classic, it decided that a regular 7 foot long deadlift bar was just too small for the massive 300-400+ lb strongmen that were to be competing. What it created to remedy that situation was the Elephant Bar, a 10 foot long, conventional style deadlift bar that is extremely flexible and whippy.
The Elephant Bar allows one to pull a ton of slack out of the bar before starting the deadlift, decreasing the range of motion by inches, but when one aspect of the lift is made easier, another is made harder. Due to the extreme flexibility of the bar, it can be very difficult to control during the lift, especially if the lifter typically struggles the most during the lockout. Watch the video below to see that demonstrated with the strongman athletes.
The Elephant Bar in action during the 2016 Arnold Strongman Classic – Rogue. Eddie Hall used this bar to set a new strongman deadlift WR.
The making of the Elephant Bar – Rogue.
As of now this bar is one of a kind, but Rogue might release it in the future so other strongmen can train with it regularly.
3. Freak Bar
The Freak Bar is one of a kind in that it is a standard barbell that allows you to change the position of your grip during the lift via a spring mechanism. The same way you might focus on pushing out on a barbell (towards the sleeves) during a bench press to better activate the triceps, all while keeping your grip in the same place, with the Freak Bar you can actually push out using the special movable grips, which can lead to some interesting exercise variations. In the below video you’ll see isometric seated shoulder presses done while the grip positions are slid back and forth rapidly, but you can also change your grip position as you move through an exercises range of motion. According to users, the pump you can achieve with this barbell is incredible.
A demonstration of the freak bar in action during overhead presses.
You can check out the Freak Bar below:
The Freak Bar™
4. Tsunami Bar
The Tsunami Bar is similar to the Bamboo Bar, but the main difference is that it uses standard weight plates, and it comes in various degrees of flexibility. Unlike the Bamboo Bar which is inherently unstable due to the resistance bands which are used, the Tsunami Bar is more focused on eliciting a unique training stimulus by creating large oscillating motions of the barbell as a result of weight plates loaded onto a highly flexible barbell and rapid exercise movement. These large oscillating waves that pass through the barbell are thought to overload the working muscles during key parts of a lift (for example a sticking point midway up during the bench press), resulting in higher muscular activity compared to using a standard barbell.
Tsunami Bar bench press instructional video.
From Tsunami Barbell, an explanation as to why the Tsunami Bar works:
“An athlete that is trained in the correct use of the flexible Tsunami Barbell® is able to maximize the impulse forces for only a short period of time at critical points in a lift by properly timing their concentric contractions against the acceleration of the oscillating flexible barbell. This stimulates strength development by recruiting maximal motor units similar to lifting a 1RM and enhances speed of muscle contraction once the bar changes direction, thereby allowing the athlete to minimize their Explosive Strength Deficit (ESD) and achieve optimum Power ( Explosive Strength = The Ability to Exert Force Quickly). These results are achievable with the Tsunami Barbell® using submaximal weights, moving weights at maximal speeds, stimulating stabilizer muscles and accelerating through the end of the lift. The coach can determine which joint angle corresponds to specific athletic movements and instruct the athlete in when to apply the opposing force to the downward flex of the bar.” by Tony Caterisano, PhD, FACSM, CSCS*D
Tsunami Bar clean squat press instructional video.
The Tsunami Bar even had some research performed using it, which compared the EMG activity of the Tsunami Bar and an olympic barbell during the bench press. With a sample size of 13 young men who were familiar with the Tsunami Bar, the research showed that the Tsunami Bar showed significantly higher muscle activity (~15% greater) for all five muscles groups (anterior deltoid, lateral deltoid, posterior deltoid, pectoralis major, triceps brachii) during the bench press compared to a standard olympic barbell. I don’t think you’d want to permanently replace your bench press using a olympic bar with a Tsunami Bar, but as an accessory movement to help develop maximal force production it seems very promising. If that wasn’t enough to convince you, there happens to be more research on the Tsunami Bar available proving that it provides a unique and worthwhile training stimulus.
You can check out the original Tsunami Bar below:
GO FORTH AND CONQUER
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