From across the gym it might look like any other barbell, but pick it up and it feels a little different.
For one, it's not made of steel, but a flexible fiberglass composite. The bar bends when weights are added to each end, and through the power of physics, the resistance put on an athlete's muscles increases the faster the bar is moved.
“You can develop the most powerful athlete in the world with this bar," Brown said.
And it was born in Death Valley, where Clemson University football players tried some of the earliest versions of the barbell, including during the Tigers' 2015 national championship run, giving feedback and shaping what the Tsunami Bar is today.
"If they win here in the trenches – you kind of feel like I had a little bit of something to do with that – and that's a good feeling," Brown, 73, said as he stood in the weight room at Clemson's Allen N. Reeves Football Complex.
Jackson Carman trains using a Tsunami Bar at the Allen N. Reeves Football Complex on Monday, June 11, 2018. (Photo: JOSH MORGAN/Staff)
How it works
The Tsunami Bar is different from a regular steel barbell because it trains for speed and force in the muscles, rather than just force, said David Abernathy, who co-invented it with Brown.
"It mimics life," Brown said. "It's the same thing they encounter on the football field."
The technology works by incorporating a rectangular piece of fiber glass inside of a flexible round tube. It bends as it's moved with weight and absorbs stress, acting like shock absorbers on a car, Brown said.
That flexibility allows athletes to move the bar faster, but still with resistance, like in a Clemson drill called the "Tsunami Bar Shuffle."
The exercise has players shuffle back and forth with the bar cradled between their arms and chest, simulating the way the muscles must work for an offensive lineman who is being rushed by a defensive lineman.
This type of training provides greater activation of the neuromuscular system, training muscles to fire faster, Brown said.
“Every sport, you have to train the fast-twitch muscle,” he said. “That’s why athletes can jump higher, they can run faster.”
A Furman University study also supports what Brown and Abernathy have seen in the field, finding that training with the flexible barbell "may be more effective" than combined weight training using speed lifts and plyometrics "in lower-body development."
Plyometrics are exercises that increase muscle power through repeated stretching and contracting of muscles.
Clemson's J.L. Banks trains with a Tsunami Bar at the Allen N. Reeves Football Complex on Monday, June 11, 2018. (Photo: JOSH MORGAN/Staff)
From a garage in Anderson to a champion's weight room
The athletes on the Clemson team are already great players, but the bar has made a difference in their workouts, said Paul Hogan, Clemson's senior assistant strength and conditioning coach.
"It's a tool," he said. "There's things you can do with it that you can't do with a steel bar."
Clemson isn't the only football team that trains with the flexible barbell.
T.L. Hanna High School started using it in 2015 and now has 48 of them, said Daniel Rochester, the school's strength and conditioning coach.
“It’s changed the way we train dramatically,” Rochester said. “Instead of everybody just looking for brute strength all the time, now we can apply speed to our program."
It's not just an Upstate thing, either. Several college programs and professional teams use the barbells, Abernathy said. That includes the reigning NFL Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles, an Eagles spokesman confirmed.
"I really think it's changing the game," Abernathy said.
And it all started with Brown, who has spent the last 14 years since he retired from the reinforced plastics industry tinkering with inventions at his home in Anderson.
His two-car garage is tidy with shelves stacked neatly with plastic boxes, tools and miscellany, air circulates through a whirring window fan where light filters from shaded side yard windows. Here, he does development and prototype work. Various iterations of the barbell and other related inventions Brown has cooked up dot corners, walls and a work bench.
“I may stay up to 3 o’clock in the morning, just trying stuff," Brown said. "How many different uses could there be?”
Over the course of his career, he's been a part of or solely holds 25 U.S. patents, and a stack of six sit on the workbench. The Tsunami Bar is number 25, secured this past March with the U.S. Patent Office.
"Somewhere in your DNA, you've gotta be creative," Brown said.
On the market
The Tsunami Bar is available online, and Brown said business is good, though it's not in any big box stores yet.
Brown believes it has the potential to be a great workout tool for non-athletes as well, especially the older population, like he and his wife, because it puts less stress on joints.
“I can keep half the senior citizen community out of wheel chairs if we keep them lifting weights," he said.
The flexible barbells are priced competitively with steel bars and come in various sizes. Brown thinks the business could explode.
Right now, it's just touching the surface with usage primarily in South Carolina and the Southeast. He sees the potential for a $50 million a year business with the Tsunami Bar and related products.
“I’m excited. I think it’s tremendous technology," Brown said. “It can make people’s lives better."
Article from Independent Mail https://www.independentmail.com/story/news/2018/08/13/clemson-football-tsunami-bar/755241002/