By: Matt Weik
Resistance bands are becoming a more and more prevalent part of strength training programs, and for good reason – they're great tools to implement into any strength protocol. If you are a lifter and you are not using bands, then you are missing out on many benefits that can help increase muscle size and strength. Resistance bands are used by athletes and powerlifters across the globe to increase force production and continue making progress through your training programs.
In most cases, coaches or trainers go for resistance bands to improve the athlete's strength, force production, velocity, movement, and overall power output. Resistance bands work like an extra challenge in compound workouts such as bench press, squat, and deadlift. They can be used for smaller lifts as well, but most of the time, you will see them used on the big three movements.
Powerlifters are one group that probably utilizes resistance bands more than anyone else. They are able to maximize their training by using resistance band techniques and strategies to make drastic improvements with their major lifts. Powerlifters started using resistance bands because of how they allow them to adapt to the "strength curve" of an exercise.
So, what is the strength curve? It is the gap between the force that you can exert and the force that you have to exert to move the barbell during a repetition using a full range of motion.
When you put resistance bands on the ends of the barbell to increase the weight that is being pushed during workouts, such as deadlift or bench press, you add an extra level of resistance that cannot be provided through a traditional barbell and plate(s). The added resistance from the resistance bands will increase the tension through both the eccentric and concentric portion of a lift. That said, when you add resistance bands to a bar, you will find the concentric portion of the movement is accentuated thanks to the addition of the bands.
Functionally, when you add bands to a barbell, it will help you to push through and maximize the major lifts while you develop greater strength and power output in a safe manner. For instance, when you are executing a bench press, you can only move a weight that you are capable of. If 315 is your max, that could become a sticking point and plateau you need to break through. But, when you add resistance bands to a barbell, you have the ability to use lighter weights and still build power and strength by applying constant tension on your muscles and having the resistance increase as you push through the movement.
Using resistance bands during your workout sessions can do you a lot of good, depending on what your goals are. Here are three main reasons why you may want to consider implementing resistance bands into your training.
Resistance bands are quite versatile when it comes to training. You can start with a banded squat and then use the same bar and bands (with a lighter weight) to do barbell biceps curls. From there, drop the bar to the floor, toss some more weight on, and then hit some deadlifts.
One set of resistance bands can allow you to increase the intensity and resistance of any lift you choose. You can even utilize resistance bands on machines if you wish.
Resistance bands allow you to put more focus on the lift itself when moving through the strength curve because not only will you have the resistance and gravity working against you but toss in a pair of resistance bands, and now you have an additional tension being implemented into the lift as well.
The key is to ensure that you maintain the tension on the resistance band during the majority of the lift. For instance, you don't want the resistance bands to only kick in during the last two inches of the movement. The key is to utilize them to add more and more resistance as you push through the concentric portion of a lift.
Because resistance bands are so versatile in your training, they can be a very efficient tool when it comes to overall muscle recruitment. When you are doing a biceps curl with a dumbbell, it is fixed on one motion. By adding a band, the muscle fibers in your arms, as well as the shoulders, will kick in to keep the resistance bands stable.
The reverse banding method or the lightened band method is used to help you feel a heavier weight than you're used to pushing while still allowing you to maintain proper form when executing the movement.
Rather than securing the resistance bands at the floor like what was mentioned above utilizing the three major lifts, with reverse banding, the resistance bands are actually secured at the top of something like a power rack and then attached to the ends to the barbell.
With the reverse banding method, you take some of the load off from the bar, hence the opposite (reverse) name. When using reverse banding in training, the resistance bands must be rigged in such a manner that the resistance bands are relaxed at the top of the movement and then fully stretched at the bottom during the eccentric portion of the movement.
By doing this, you are deloading some of the weight at the bottom of the movement, and the weight slowly increases as you move the bar through the concentric portion and the resistance bands start losing tension.
There are many methods of how you can use reverse banding in major lifts, such as:
You could even utilize reverse banding when doing pull-ups and chin-ups if you aren't able to use your own body weight and need a little assistance until you build your back strength.
All in all, adding resistance bands to barbells to adjust the strength curve through traditional banding or reverse banding is an effective tool to implement in your training. When using resistance bands with your major lifts, you have the ability to improve your strength and power as well as strengthen your weaknesses and sticking point within the lift itself.
Do you think you're ready to give resistance bands a try? At the end of the day, it's all about practice and utilizing these focused training methods and strategies to get better results from your time in the gym.
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