Bench Press: The Benefit of Bands

 In Bodybuilding, Non-member

mind muscle academy, justin woltering

Alright,  so you’ve heard about weight lifting chains.  They’re a great tool to accommodate the strength curve, make you faster and more explosive, and build more muscle with all of your favorite exercises.  However, there is another way to change the strength curve of a movement, one that’s arguably even more effective!  Get ready to learn about weight lifting bands…

Gravity and Weight Lifting

weightlifting bands

Obviously, when you lift weights (even with chains attached), the force you must produce to push back against them is determined by the earth’s gravity.  As long as you’re standing on dry land, 200 pounds is 200 pounds, and that’s all there is to it.  As you push or pull a weight to lockout, inch by inch, you’re beating gravity.  Think this is all there is to lifting weights?  Think again!

With weight lifting bands, you can force your body to work against greater acceleration (sometimes much greater) than gravity produces.  This, in turn, makes your muscles much more explosive, able to accelerate massive amounts of iron like it was paper!  This may sound like a bold claim, but after a few month of working with bands, you’ll see what I’m talking about.

The Setup

weightlifting bands

(Source – Stack)

If you’re going to use weight lifting bands, get the good ones – thick, durable, and super-strong.  They are essentially giant rubber bands which you can attach to barbells, dumbbells, and machines in various ways.  Once you’ve gotten then hang of using them, you can worry about doing all sorts of fancy stuff with them, but for now, let’s talk about how to use them on a barbell for squats and bench presses.

For both of these movements, you’ve got a bar that sits in a rack or on pegs at a certain height above the ground.  Take two bands of equal strength, and loop them from the sleeves of the barbell down to something secure on the ground.  Sometimes you’ll be able to find a good place to tie or choke them around at the bottom, and sometimes you’ll have to use another heavy object like a dumbbell to secure them in place.  Once your setup is done, you should have a barbell with tightly stretched bands on either side.  Add plates to this setup until you’ve got the combination of weight and band tension that’s best for your training goals.

Lifting With Weight Lifting Bands

weightlifting bands

(Source – Muscle and Performance)

Alright, before you take the bar out of that rack and start lifting, you probably want to get a spotter, especially for the bench press.  The bands are going to pull the weight down towards your body or the floor faster than you’re used to, and you don’t want to have heavy iron hurling in the wrong direction.  Also, make sure you’ve got a super-secure grip on the bar to keep it from wobbling around – the bands can really throw you off-balance if your setup isn’t tight as a drum!

Now, the idea behind using bands is to make the negative AND positive portions of the lift faster.  You need to keep the weight under control as you lower it, but also allow the band tension to quickly pull the weight down to the bottom of the lift.  As soon as you reach that bottom end of the squat or bench press, DRIVE that weight up as fast as you can, pushing through any sticking points the band tension produces.

As far as set and rep schemes, there are three ways you can go with bands.  First, you can do powerlifting-style speed work, using multiple sets of low reps with a moderate weight, making sure each rep snaps with serious speed.  Second, you can do super-heavy lifting.  The weight won’t move as fast, but you’ll build a combination of strength and speed that will translate into stronger lifts when you go back to using straight weight.  Finally, you can use the same moderate and high reps you usually would when trying to build muscle, taking advantage of the extra challenge of the band tension.

Chains vs. Bands – Which one is Best?

weightlifting bands

(Source – 507 Fitness)

Since chains and bands have a similar purpose – accommodating that strength curve and making normal exercises harder – people often argue about which one is best for building strength and muscle.  The truth is, they both have their advantages, and neither is best.  Bands will probably work best for producing speed, but they are also hard to recover from.  They also tend to “lock you in” to a certain position and bar path that may not be best strength when you go back to straight weight.  Chains may not be as good for producing speed and explosiveness, but they can be better for building muscle mass.  Also, chains will actually help make you more stable when you return to straight weight because they hang off the bar, making it wobble and forcing you to keep tight and secure.

mind muscle academy, justin woltering

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