Training with Bands for Power
By John Gaglione
The last few weeks we discussed how chains can be applied to barbell and body weight exercises for both power and strength.
There are many applications to using bands when training. They can be used for a number of different exercises for building strength as well as for injury prevention. The bands we recommend for the applications used in this article can be purchased through Elite Fitness Systems. It is important when performing these advanced exercises to use a proper band to minimize any chance of injury. Using a lesser quality band can be very dangerous. Other good brands of bands include Iron Woody and Jump stretch.
There are other bands that are better suited for other uses, but for the purpose of this article I highly recommend you use these brands of bands if you are to attempt these exercises on your own.
It is also important to note all of the exercises mentioned are ADVANCED variations on barbell lifts. The lifter or athlete should master straight weight and chains before they even think of incorporating bands in their routine. The athlete should have a few years of training before implementing these variations in their routine.
This week we will discuss how bands can be applied to barbell exercises for an increase in power and strength! Bands act a lot like chains because they are a form of accommodating resistance. The more a band is stretched the more tension it will have and will provide more resistance when attached to the bar. As the athlete raises the bar the band will stretch more and provide max tension at the lockout position. The difference between bands and chains is that bands will actively pull the weight down and causes what is called OVER SPEED ECCENTRICS.
This means the weight can be lowered faster than normal with this method. This makes bands the ultimate tool for building explosive strength. Since the bar can be lowered faster than normal a great deal of stability is required to control a barbell lift with bands. Depending on the bar weight and the set up used bands can be used to increase speed or increase strength.
Bands can be doubled up or choked under a very heavy dumbbell and attached to the bar for squat variations, bench press variations, and overhead press variations. We usually double up the bands for bench press variations and Giant Cambered Bar Squats since the bar is much lower to the ground than for traditional squats. If you are using Elite Fitness Systems short bands there is no need to double them up for this set up.
For traditional squats I recommend using two very heavy dumbbells and choking the band around the dumbbell. Remember the more the band is stretches the more tension you will get. In other words the higher the barbell from the ground the more tension you will get.
When using the Dynamic Effort Method(Speed Training) the athlete should use a moderate percentage of there 1Rm(Max). When training for speed the athlete may use as little as 30%-40% of their 1RM for the bench press, squat, deadlift or Overhead Press. We usually do around 9-12 sets of 3 reps for the speed bench press, 8-10 sets of 2 for the speed box squat and 6-8 sets of 1 for speed deadlifts. For ease of setting up for the deadlift you will need a special platform.
Here is an example of a dynamic effort bench press.
Here is athlete is working on both stability and strength because he is controlling the bar on the eccentric portion of the lift(lowering phase). Remember the bands will actively pull the bar down so lowering the bar under control takes a great deal of stability. If the coach is confident the athlete can lower the weight with good form under control the athlete can lower the bar very fast and take advantage of the faster eccentric phase caused by the bands. Experiment with what method works better for you. As a frame of reference the athlete could pause bench press around 275 pounds at the time.
I would recommend most athletes start off with double mini bands for the bench press and choked light bands for the squat. This is assuming the athlete bench press around 250-300 pounds and squat around 350-400 pounds for a 200 pound athlete. This translates to about 1.25-1.5 times body weight for the bench press and 1.5-2 times body weight for the squat. Remember these numbers may seem a lot for some, but this training is geared toward advanced athletes. Some people might even argue the numbers I am using are too low. This is just a guideline of where to start. It is certainly possible the lifter is very light or very heavy and the numbers could be adjusted. The coach needs to use his best judgment in this regard.
Don’t worry too much about how much tension there is for each band either. Just make sure you set up bands EXACTLY the same each time so you know the tension will be the same. Also make sure to monitor the quality of your bands. Make sure there aren’t any breaks or tears in them when utilizing bands.
If you want more information about band tension on certain bands just drop a comment below. Just make sure if you are performing Dynamic Effort work the bar speed is fast.
Bands can also be applied to the bar for strength purposes as well. When performed for heavy sets training with bands builds a tremendous lockout and rate of force development. The bands constantly are pulling the lifter down so the athlete must accelerate even faster than than would with chains or straight weight. Bands can be utilized to teach the lifter to be explosive with heavy loads and drive through sticking points. Using bands is the best method for developing explosive strength with barbell lifts since the athlete is forced to accelerate through out the entire range of motion. If the athlete slows down the athlete will miss the lift.
Here is an example of an athlete performing Safety Squat Bar Box Squat versus light bands choked from the bottom. As a frame of reference this athlete can squat in excess of 400 pounds.
Bands can also be set up above the lifter for a different method of training with bands. This is called reverse bands. Some people refer to this as the lightened method or the future method because it lightens the amount of weight in the bottom position of the lift. Bands can be set up by doubling or choking bands on top of a power rack, through the pins inside a power rack, or through the top of a mono-lift(this is geared for toward competitive powerlifters). Try to experiment with different heights and see what position works for you.
The difference between bands from the bottom and reverse bands is that reverse bands make the weight feel lighter in the bottom position. As the lifter lowers the weight the bands will stretch more, but this time it is stretching in the opposite direction so it is actually pulling the bar back toward the lock out position. As the lifter raises the weight back up the weight gets heavier until the lockout position where the lifter is essentially locking out the weight that is on the barbell.
This really helps the lifter with confidence when lifting certain numbers. The lifter feels a sense of accomplishment when they hit their first 300, 400, or 500 pound lift or whatever the number is for them. This help them overcome mental barriers and they believe that they will eventually have the strength to achieve the number without the bands. This is why some people refer to this as the future method. I would recommend athletes start off using mini band and light bands for the bench press and light and average bands for the squat and deadlift.
Reverse bands can be used for speed work, but since the band actually assists you on the way up it is not as effective as bands from the bottom. Reverse bands are very effective for Max Effort work (>90% of 1RM) since it lets the lifter perform the exercise with supra-maximal loads(great than their 1RM). Reverse bands will strengthen a lifters lock out and help them feel a heavier weight on their back or in their hands.
There are many old time lifters who would do heavy walk outs with supra-maximal loads in order to work their central nervous system. This helped prepare the lifter for the future when they are handling extremely heavy loads. The difference is reverse bands allows the lifter go through a full range of motion.
Bands are a great way to develop explosive power. Bands from the bottom can help build explosive power and acceleration through the entire range of motion. Reverse bands can help build confidence, engage the central nervous system, and build strong lockouts. Try out using band training with yourself and watch your speed and strength go through the roof.
Any questions? Please comment below.
About the Author
Coach John Gaglione is a Sport Performance Specialist out of Long Island New York and the director of strength and conditioning for Plainedge High School’s Football and Wrestling Programs. An avid strength sport athlete John also competes in powerliftering and kettlebell strong sport competitions. If you would like to learn more about John you can reach him at www.gaglionestrength.com or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.