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Bamboo Bar Workout to Build Muscle and Core Strength

May 16, 2021

Bamboo Bar Workout to Build Muscle and Core Strength

The best way to practice strength training is to focus on the core barbell lifts, do them consistently, and aim for steady strength gains.

At least, this is what prevailing wisdom suggests.

But what if traditional barbell training isn’t the best way to build muscle, core strength, and athleticism? What if we had other, lesser-known, but more effective ways to stimulate the body and reach our fitness goals?

Oscillating kinetic energy (OKE) training is a relatively new way of lifting weights and one that takes advantage of oscillation - a kind of rhythmic movement - to challenge your muscles and activate stabilizers to a higher degree.

In this guide, we’ll take an in-depth look at this type of training, what benefits it offers, and how you can get started. Let’s dive in…


What Is Oscillating Kinetic Energy (OKE) Training?

Most stability exercises resemble a bad party joke rather than a sound training practice, so it’s only fair for you to feel skeptical. For instance, I don’t understand why people take perfectly good exercises, add a stability ball to them, and call them better. Apart from increasing the risk of injury, they don’t improve stability.. at all.

With that said, oscillating kinetic energy training is different because it is based on sound principles in physics. Attaching weights with resistance bands and having them hang off a bamboo bar creates an unstable training environment. The constant oscillations make it more challenging to keep the weight steady, which forces your body to produce more force and keep you stable. 


Combining Different Training Methods Into The Same Activity

A considerable drawback of traditional stability training is the inability to overload the primary muscle groups. This typically stems from the inability to use heavy loads, which prevents significant involvement of motor units.

Oscillating kinetic energy training is different precisely because it allows you to do traditional stability training and use heavier loads. How heavy? With good practice, most people should be able to work with up to 75 percent of their traditional barbell training.

Plus, the lifter has to deal with instabilities on three fronts:

  • Front to back
  • Up to down
  • Side to side

Similar to whole-body vibration training, OKE training is quite similar and offers the same benefits because the barbell tends to move. Even minor deviations can lead to significant movement and instability of the weight. As a result, you get to feel like your whole body is shaking throughout each repetition. 

OKE training also offers similar benefits to perturbation training, where the goal is to improve reactive balance control, reaction times, and whole-body stability. Instead of having external sources cause perturbations, the weights produce them independently because they hang freely off the barbell. Their movements are, by definition, unpredictable and always unique.


How Does This Impact Our Neuromuscular System And Ability to Generate Force?

You might be wondering, “Well, these benefits seem fine, but how do they impact the body?” Most notably, OKE training affects our nervous system and improves our neuromuscular capacity. 

The unpredictable perturbations and oscillations force us to exert tremendous effort and recruit a large percentage of motor units. This improves our intramuscular (between motor units in a single muscle) and intermuscular (between different muscle groups) coordination.

As a result, many powerlifters and similar types of athletes choose OKE training to build strength and greater stability. For instance, Dave Hoff - one of the strongest powerlifters globally - recently squatted 1273 pounds. He credits bamboo bar training for making him stabler and stronger under heavy loads.

The only downside is, bamboo barbells are not as common in gyms worldwide yet. If you want to use one, you might have to buy it for your home gym set-up.


Movement Mechanics, Safety, And Immediate Effects Of OKE Training

Let’s face it:

Traditional barbell training is great, but it can also be predictable, and many lifters find themselves losing focus. This can sometimes lead to poor training technique and injuries if the lifter isn’t careful.

Oscillating kinetic energy training is far from that. Because of its unpredictable nature and constant movements, the lifter must work hard on every repetition and maintain a tight posture. This is amazing for muscle activation because you subconsciously contract your entire body as much as you can.

OKE training is also great for setting your ego aside and teaching you how to do each exercise with great form. Unless you align yourself in the most biomechanically advantageous position and maintain it throughout a set, the risk of failure is high.

Constant oscillations also mean that lifters can’t use momentum because that would cause significant instability and take time for the weights to get back to a normal position. As a result, the trainee has to work extra hard to do each repetition smoothly and control the weight.

OKE training is also excellent for centrating your joints - aligning them as best as possible to produce the most optimal bone alignment and muscle support. Dave Hoff, the lifter we mentioned above, has also used bamboo bars for his shoulder rehabilitation training. 

The most notable - and immediate - effect of OKE training is that you naturally want to do each repetition slowly, smoothly, and with full control. Even slight deviations, losing focus, or relaxing your muscles can lead to significant instability.


Okay, How About Muscle Growth With a Bamboo Barbell?

Training volume, the amount of work we do in the gym, is one of the biggest predictors of muscle growth. Simply doing more work is a great way to achieve better results. With that said, training with a bamboo barbell should lead to great muscle growth.

First, as we discussed above, OKE training causes significant motor unit recruitment. We have to work incredibly hard and keep ourselves tense at all times to finish each set successfully. This hints at the idea that oscillation training should cause more muscle damage and metabolic stress - two of the three primary factors for muscular hypertrophy.  

Second, we also have the importance of controlling the bamboo bar at all times. Since even the smallest of deviations can lead to uncontrollable shaking of the weight, lifters are forced to work extra hard and do each set with perfect technique. This means slow eccentrics and concentrics, as well as a solid pause between the two. Meaning, each repetition can cause a higher stimulus, which should allow for optimal growth.

And third, given a heavy enough weight, OKE training is excellent for causing significant mechanical tension - the third vital factor for muscle growth. We have to work incredibly hard, and the intramuscular tension we build up further signals the body to allocate resources for muscle growth.


How to Get Started With Oscillating Kinetic Energy Training

The great thing about OKE training is that it matches incredibly well with the core barbell lifts. Of course, it’s worth noting that you shouldn’t attempt the Olympic lifts, given their dynamic, quick movements and dependence on momentum.

Here are some exercise examples where using a bamboo bar for oscillating kinetic energy training works great:

  • Back squats
  • Overhead press
  • Bench press
  • Lunges
  • Hip hinges (such as deadlifts)
  • Back rows

Of course, what matters most is that you start incredibly light. If you’ve never done this type of training before, start with the bar alone and gradually add weight as you gain experience. It will take you weeks, even months of regular practice to reach 70 to 75 percent of the weights you usually use with a barbell. Patience is critical here, but the rewards are incredible.

Aside from the significant muscle activation and post-training soreness, you should notice an immediate improvement in technique. As we discussed above, OKE training is highly dynamic and often unpredictable, which forces you to tighten up every muscle fiber in your body and remain entirely focused.


But Why Use a Bamboo Bar?

Oscillating kinetic energy training is particularly effective when using an unstable specialty bar like those made of composite resins. These bars provide greater instability and significantly more pronounced oscillations, making for more challenging and effective training.

Unlike the traditionally stiff and unbending steel barbells, a bamboo bar offers a lot more flex and is lighter. Combined with weights suspended from resistance band, the result is a more unstable training environment that forces you to work incredibly hard on every repetition.

The only potential downside is that you would have to use lighter weights given the constant oscillations. Some might argue this isn’t good because, you know, less weight on the bar. But isn’t the whole point of training to stimulate our muscles and cause significant disruptions? What does it matter if we achieve the effect by lifting 300 pounds or 150? The body can’t tell the difference - it can only respond and adapt

Plus, because bamboo barbells make lighter weights more effective, this means you’re not placing as much stress on your joints and connective tissues. It’s a win-win situation.


Final Considerations

  1. You can choose from using more bands with lighter weights or fewer ones with heavier weights. Though the total weight might be the same, this will impact the severity and frequency of oscillations. Having both types in your training is beneficial.

  2. With consistent work, you should eventually lift 70 to 75 percent of your barbell maximum weights.

  3. You don’t have to move to OKE training immediately. Initially, you can have it comprise roughly 25 percent of your compound lifts. For instance, do one of every four bench sessions with a bamboo bar.

  4. OKE training is not strictly for advanced lifters. In fact, it can work well for some newbies and intermediate lifters because it reinforces tightness and body control.

  5. You don’t have to fall for overly complicated programming. Treat OKE training like any other form of weight training. Simple straight sets and a linear progression model can work great.

  6. Training form and speed are paramount. The more you focus on control, the better your technique will be, the fewer oscillations you will experience, and the more weight you’ll be able to lift. 

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