Resistance bands are increasingly becoming a useful tool in the bodybuilder, athlete or powerlifter’s repertoire, and for good reason.
As you become more advanced, simply performing the basics in regular rep ranges – and continually trying to add weight to the bar workout after workout – do not infinitely lead to bigger and better gains.
For one, adding weight each and every week is a recipe for burnout and puts you at risk for injury. While, on the other end of the spectrum, those who do the same routine day after day (look around your commercial gym) stagnate and look the same year after year.
You’ll eventually plateau – we all do – which is when outside-the-box techniques need to be employed to continue progressing.
Bands allow for accommodating resistance through the entire range of motion, matching your strength curve. In other words, the bands are most resistant when you’re at your strongest (i.e. band is fully lengthened at the peak of a dumbbell press when you’re near full extension), challenging you equally throughout the entire distance that your targeted muscle group travels. This adds a whole other level of difficulty to any exercise, without having to go too heavy and sacrifice form.
For instance, take smith squats. When you squat down, the bands wrapped around the bar deload at the bottom position but add resistance as you accelerate up, increasing the tension to lockout, essentially increasing the amount of weight on the bar without actually adding weight to the bar (that sounded a lot better in my head).
There’s also the benefit of eccentric overload, which is a fancy word for putting added tension on a movement during the eccentric/negative portion. On a standard barbell bench press, for example, the eccentric is when you’re bringing the bar down to your chest. The concentric is when you’re pushing it back up to full extension. For those in pursuit of muscle and strength, the eccentric (negative) portion of a rep is hugely important, and too often overlooked.
Attach some reverse bands to a leg press and you’ll have to fight like hell on the negative, increasing the load and time under tension during that portion of the movement and leading to new growth opportunities that correspond with that.
Enough chit chat. Here’s some visual evidence to get you started. We all know the written word is overrated nowadays!
Exercises To Try
Hammer Strength Bench Press
Double up on heavy bands on the incline hammer strength press. This is a good warm-up exercise to pump blood into the chest and shoulders before getting into your heavier work for the day. Using the bands with the added tension is night and day for pump and strength.
Flat Dumbbell Presses
The flat dumbell press with the monster-mini band behind the back wrapped at the thumb helps you push across the chest towards the middle, resulting in a much stronger contraction. If you struggle to “feel” your chest working (and are naturally tricep dominant on chest movements) try using bands to increase the mind-muscle connection.
Hammer Strength Lat Pulldowns
Try this one for back: add heavy bands to the hammer strength machine to emphasized the stretch and build that mind-muscle connection.
Standing Calf Raises
Too many trainees have the tendency to “cheat” on calf movements, missing the growth opportunities extended time under tension and slow eccentrics can have on this muscle group. The constant tension – even on the explosive, concentric portion of the movement – really helps keep you in form. There’s no rest at the top, which is sometimes where a guy will pause to take the pressure off.
A Word of Caution
Too much of a good thing can be bad! There is a point of diminishing returns with band use. Using bands every workout – and for every exercise – will quickly lead to burn out and a beat up CNS.
Instead, slowly incorporate them into your periodized training program (ramping up from one set per major muscle group per week to a max of three though individual responses vary) and take time to deload where you don’t train with bands at all.