The E-Maxx Bar (aka “the SuperQuake”) is a member of Bandbell’s Bamboo Bar family of bars – a line of hand-made specialty barbells designed around the principle of Oscillating Kinetic Energy (OKE). The SuperQuake has the same hardened ash & composite resin shaft as the original Bamboo and Earthquake Bar, but because it’s over 6″ longer and has 33% more band capacity, the SuperQuake allows for more weight and has greater kinetic energy potential.
What’s the point of training with Oscillating Kinetic Energy? Well originally it was rehab, but it turns out that it’s just as useful for injury prevention and strength training as it is for rehabilitation. I’ll explain…
Using a Bamboo Bar instead of a steel bar for linear movements like the bench press or squat changes the lift. A flexible bar with weights suspended by flexible resistance bands becomes erratic (the weights have multiple degrees of freedom), and you as the lifter have to manage this chaos throughout the lift. No longer is it a matter of just moving the bar up and down, you now have to control it in three-dimensional space as well. Doing so requires the full recruitment of the generally underutilized stabilizer muscles.
Controlling the SuperQuake (or its cousins) is definitely a challenge at first; whether you’re injured or not – but the rewards are many. These include greater strength (both for the primary movers and the stabilizers), better form, improved joint health, increased blood flow, and better coordination/motor control. OKE training also greatly reduces your susceptibility to further injury.
Origin of the Bamboo Bars
Bandbell Bamboo Bars are the brainchild of Jim Seitzer; a national-level bodybuilder and elite powerlifter with over 35-years of lifting experience. He has an anatomy and exercise physiology degree from Ohio State University, has won 12 physique titles including Mr USA, and he’s even one of the original founding members of Westside Barbell (training alongside Louie Simmons.) Jim is about as familiar with the strength training world as anyone could ever hope to be, which means he is also all-too-familiar with training injuries.
The original Bamboo Bar came to be because of Jim’s own shoulder injury. As the story goes, he was dealing with constant rotator inflammation and was unable to bench even an unloaded steel bar without pain. As a last ditch effort to bench something before having to go under the knife for shoulder surgery, Jim started messing around with a broomstick. He used resistance bands to hang kettlebells from the broomstick and discovered that he was able to press as much as 50-pounds without pain (two 25-pound kettlebells.)
Now 50-pounds sure doesn’t sound like a lot of weight, but simply finding a way to complete the movement without the pain meant that the process of restrengthening and rebuilding the damaged rotator could begin. That 50-pounds becomes 60-pounds; 60-pounds becomes 70-pounds, and so on. As you probably already figured out, this broomstick discovery led to the creation of the first Bamboo Bar.
How’s that work?
Are you wondering why 45-pounds of steel causes pain, but 50-pounds of broomstick and swinging kettlebells does not?
As I touched on in the intro, hanging weights from a flexible bar like the Bamboo bars (or a broomstick in this case) adds a whole new dynamic to the lift – oscillation. What was once a linear exercise with the steel bar (up-down-up-down) becomes a truly dynamic exercise. Single-path lifts are now three-dimensional, requiring more than the primary movers and a mediocre sense of balance to steady the barbell and complete reps. With a Bamboo bar, full activation of the stabilizer muscles** is required.
It’s these stabilizers that makes the lift less painful. Their full activation tightens up and properly aligns the joint – putting everything where it should be. This takes pressure off the damaged connective tissue, thus improving the mechanics of the movement. This is what you need to start your rehabilitation. It’s not magic, but it is ingenious.
BTW, the initial exercise for shoulder rehab with the Bamboo Bars is simply unracking the bar, stabilizing it, and then holding it for time. Re-rack, rest, repeat. You aren’t even expected to press the weight at first. Your injury might allow you the freedom to actually press the weight with a Bamboo Bar, but I would suggest not rushing it – this first exercise will activate and train your stabilizers.
**For clarification, when referring to stabilizers I’m not talking about large muscles like the triceps or deltoid, but rather the small stabilizers like the scapular stabilizers (serratus anterior, middle and inferior trapezius), rotator cuff (supraspinatus, teres minor, infraspinatus, and subscapularis), and even the core muscles to some extent. Let’s be honest though, it’s the rotator cuff that concerns us the most, and OKE training will get at those muscles.
Review Time – E-Maxx Bar Specifications
- Weight: 8.75 lbs
- Length: 86.5″
- Shaft diameter: 1.5″
- Sleeve length: 16″ (four 2″ notches per sleeve for bands)
- Capacity: 300 pounds (I’ve seen well over 400 with no issues)
- Assembly materials: Hardened ash, composite resin, wood dowels (sleeves)
- Polymer sleeves around outer shaft for durability
- MSRP: $319
I have owned the SuperQuake for a good three or four months now, and I love it. At this point it gets used in the majority of my workouts, and I have no doubt that it’s doing many positive things for my training. Let me kind of run you through how I use it.
I use the GZCL Method for my programming. In my case, every workout is based around one of four lifts – bench, overhead press, squat, and deadlift. On the days I bench, I finish my workout with four or five sets using the SuperQuake. When I squat, same thing. Now on my “shoulder” day, I’ve actually totally replaced my tier-1 overhead press with a seated press using the SuperQuake. I still push steel in tier-2, but I like the progress I’ve made using the SuperQuake for a heavy, primary lift. Currently my deadlift day is the only day I don’t touch the SuperQuake.
I log 100% my workouts, so trends are simple to follow. I know when I’m ahead and I know when I’m behind, and I have definitely seen improvements in my numbers since integrating the SuperQuake into my workouts. I’m not going to say that it’s mind-blowing, but I’ll take those gains where I can get them.
What I find more interesting than the strength increases are the improvements I’ve seen to my form. My balance, coordination, and overall control of the bar (any bar) is much better – especially in the squat. The eventual perfection of motor control along with the continuous improvements to stabilizer strength is where I think the real gains will come from. When it comes down to it, I’ve got every reason to continue using bamboo in my workouts, and no good reason not to.
The longer I own the SuperQuake the more I toy with the accessory lifts. In addition to the big lifts, I’ve also used it for bicep curls, close-grip bench press, good mornings, and lunges.
Aside from some obvious exceptions like the Olympic lifts, just about any barbell exercise can be done with a bamboo bar. How much benefit you get from using it versus using steel really seems to depend on the lift.
For instance, lunges are intense, and I can see how lunging with decent weight regularly would eventually give you next-level coordination and balance (not to mention a firm backside). Close-grip benching for triceps can also be loaded up adequately enough to set the SuperQuake off – I still get super sore when I do these. Curls I like a little less. Not only is there less kinetic energy in the bar because of the lighter weight involved, but the lack of rotation in the sleeves makes that near 180-degree rotation feel a tad awkward.
End of the day though, the SuperQuake is incredibly versatile. It has far more uses than most specialty bars, so the fact that a couple barbell lifts aren’t 100% perfect doesn’t bother me one bit.
Back and Posterior Chain?
Rows and deadlifts are a challenge. Since weight hangs from the sleeves of the SuperQuake, you can’t exactly pull the bar off the ground. Don’t get me wrong, you can deadlift and row this bar, but you have to get off the ground somehow – stand on a pulling block or bench or something.
Honestly if you’re primary interest in OKE training is for the lats or posterior chain, look at the Rhino Flex Bar – it’s actually plate-loaded. I’ve not used the Rhino yet, so I’m reluctant to make any predictions or comparisons to the SuperQuake, but it looks promising.
SuperQuake vs Earthquake vs Bamboo Bar
The original Bamboo Bar and Earthquake Bar are 80″ long, 6-pound barbells with 1.5″ shaft diameters. They both have 13″ sleeves, but the Earthquake has sleeves with three, 2″-wide safety slots for resistance bands, while the original Bamboo has the long horizontal slit in the sleeves. The Bamboo is more for light training and rehab it seems, while the Earthquake has more loading potential and makes a better strength training tool.
The E-Maxx SuperQuake is the Earthquake with even more loading capacity and more kinetic energy potential. It is 86.5″ in total length versus the 80″ length of the Earthquake. It has 16″ sleeves with four, 2″ band slots instead of being 13″ with three slots, and it’s a little heavier at 8.75 pounds (still pretty light though). The SuperQuake also has polymer bumpers added to the ends to help protect the bar shaft from unnecessary damage if ever it needs to be quickly (and forcefully) re-racked.
In my opinion the SuperQuake is all three of the bars in one. It can hold the most weight, offers the most kinetic energy potential, and can do everything that the original Bamboo bars can do in terms of rehab/prehab. I just don’t see situations where the SuperQuake isn’t the smarter buy, but maybe someone else knows a reason to own the Bamboo over the SuperQuake (comment if so, please.)
You can pick up 41″ resistance bands almost anywhere. I use Rogue’s Monster Bands simply because I know they are reliable. Some of the other brands are probably just as good, but there are some cheap ones that are not. I just stick with what I know, but feel free to use your favorite vendor, of course.
You’ll probably want to go with the #1 Red and #2 Blue for most weights (or your brands equivalent). It also doesn’t hurt to have a pair of #3 Green if you intend to really load up the SuperQuake.
For the weights themselves, you can use your existing kettlebells (assuming you have pairs), Thompson Fatbells (again you’ll need pairs), or simply use your weight plates. Bumpers are not ideal as all weights are large diameter, but they can be made to work if you can’t afford to buy any of these other options right away.
The best case for plates is the smaller-diameter 25-pound cast iron or rubber coated plates. I use Vulcan’s new Quad-Grip Rubber Plates. I like them far more than using kettlebells because they are thinner, have multiple gaps for looping the straps through (I can vary the type of swing variation I get by using different holes), and they don’t make any noise when they hit neighboring weights. Once you get more than two kettlebells per sleeve, it’s just bang bang bang as they all smash into each other.
Other than bands and weights, you’re good to go. Though I do also suggest having spotters so that you don’t smash you face in if you lose control of the bar.
Summary – Benefits of the SuperQuake
- Excellent tool for shoulder rehab/prehab.
- Great form teaching tool – it rewards good form, and punishes sloppy form.
- Works the primary movers and stabilizer muscles while improving coordination, balance, and motor control.
- Great alternative to a steel bar for low weight, high rep sets – you’ll work more muscles and get a bigger pump.
- At heavier weights, this bar will absolutely build strength and improve your standard steel bar lifts.
- Very versatile – can be used for any linear barbell lift.
- All Bamboo Bar prices were lowered about 10% across the board recently.
- Mark Bell and Louie Simmons (among others) praise the Bandbell line for both rehab and strength training. I tend to think these guys know their stuff.
- Cheaper and less painful than shoulder surgery.
Summary – Drawbacks
- Fairly large investment – you need not only the bar, but also 4-6 resistance bands and just as many appropriate weights (kettlebells, steel plates, etc.)
- It’s kind of slow going to set up and break down for heavier lifts – a little more time consuming than simply sliding on plates like a standard bar.
- Doesn’t work as well with movements that typically need rotating sleeves, but I don’t think anyone wants to snatch a bamboo bar anyway.
- Tricky to first load. If you load even 20-pounds on one side with nothing on the other, you’ve created a trebuchet. Use a band peg above the light side to prevent accidents (see image below).
Summary – Actual Summary
Injury or not, I highly recommend the E-Maxx SuperQuake. What a great training tool! It’s super durable, versatile, and rewarding to train with… the results are 100% real. I like mine so much that I’m already eyeballing that Rhino Flex.
Lot’s of other Bamboo Bar videos out there. Just search the ol’ YouTubes.