The Benefits Of Using Bands & Chains

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Follow the hashtag #conjugate on IG and you’ll likely see scores of people using bands and/or chains on a regular basis.

It’s become a well-known fact that using accommodating resistance improves Rate of Force Development (RFD) but there are other benefits that are not as obvious but equally as important.

The best part is that a small investment can yield training gains for years to come! You also do NOT need any special equipment to set-up bands either perfect for any garage gym owner.

And in case you were wondering, we recommend 5/8 chains from Rogue, micro, mini, monster mini, and light bands from Elitefts, and chain loader from Elitefts to attach your chains to your barbell.

How To Set Up Bands

What is Accommodating Resistance?

Accommodating Resistance refers to the use of chains or bands to develop maximal tension throughout the full range of motion, rather than at your weakest point.

While there are a number of benefits to using accommodating resistance, one of the most noteworthy is accommodating the strength curve in which tension is highest where we are strongest, and lowest where we are weakest.

Key Points of Accommodating Resistance:

1. Breaking Through Sticking Points

It allows for greater accountability with bar-speed compared to just straight weight – as tension increases through ROM athletes are forced to accelerate through each repetition and not get complacent.

2. Altering The Strength Curve

Accommodating resistance coincides with the strength curve meaning your band tension will be highest where you are strongest (top of the movement) and lowest where you are weakest (bottom of the movement).

3. Improved Rate of Force Development (RFD)

It provides more resistance without compromising bar speed.

4. Optimizes The Force-Velocity Curve

As weight increases, bar speed decreases. Maximal strength force is high, and velocity is low. Accommodating resistance gives you the ability to develop speed-strength whereas simply adding straight weight bar velocity will inevitably decline.

5. Re-Educates Ability To Absorb Force

Teaches athletes how to absorb more force which in turn allows them to become more powerful.

6. Expand Movement Acceleration ROM Window

Without bands or chains, bar deceleration is inevitable, and when bar speed is too slow, RFD simply cannot be developed. Accommodating resistance forces you to accelerate through full ROM and becoming more explosive translates to becoming stronger.

7. Reduced Muscular/Articular Wear & Tear

The use of accommodating resistance can also be used for ME work. The advantage here is we will be able to use less straight weight with overload occurring at the top of a given movement. As a result, loading through the complete ROM is lower which equates to less breakdown and delayed soreness.

For a movement like a max effort rack deadlift where loading for some can reach supramaximal levels, being able to use Accommodating Resistance will certainly reduce the amount of wear and tear that would normally occur with just straight weight all while still incurring supramaximal loads at lockout.

When and WHY To Use Bands vs. Chains

The major difference between bands vs. chains is the phenomenon known as “overspeed eccentric”. Put simply, in the case of a squat, the lowering portion of your lift is greatly increased where the bands actually pull you down, increasing the amount of kinetic energy that is produced.

Because of this, we are able to enhance reversal strength and our ability to absorb force, crucial to any sport. Clearly with chains, the “overspeed eccentric” is not present whereby the resistance does not stay consistent when an athlete is lowering the weight.

“We know the greatest athletes have the highest amount of stored energy where muscles stretch and contract. With band tension, it can force an individual down very compulsorily, causing a strong stretch reflex.

How does this work? Think of a basketball. Drop it, and it falls at the speed of gravity near earth of 9.8 m/s. When it recoils, the ball has deformation as it contacts the floor, but if it is thrown downward with great velocity, it bounces up much higher.

Why? Greater deformation acts much like the deformation of the tendon and muscle where the energy is stored.”

-Louie Simmons (Simmons, 2015)

How to use:

  • Submaximal Work: 3-6RM
  • Max Effort Work: 1RMs
  • Dynamic Effort Work: 2-5 reps per set with 25% of Accommodating Resistance
  • Repetition Effort Work: sets of 8-15

Other Uses Of Bands & Chains

Front Squat with chains attached to bands

This is a unique variation that can be used in both ME or DE scenarios. Attaching the band to chains provides an oscillatory effect so progress slowing with your loading.

Direct Arm Work With Chains

Direct arm work with chains is a favorite of mine, particularly with extensions. Reason being, the chains tend to be more joint-friendly since the load is altered through ROM.

Drag Shrugs With Chains

This variation may seem superfluous but I assure you it’s not. You will need heavier chains and you’ll want to push the rep-scheme of 15+ per set.

Closing

Accommodating Resistance is a mainstay in our individual programming because of the training effects it provides but most importantly it’s ability to improve longevity.

The key differences between using straight weight vs. accommodating resistance lie in the fact that the load on the bar accommodates the varying strengths of your body throughout the entire range of motion.

On the other hand, AR increases loading during the concentric phase to ‘accommodate” the ascending strength curve. This alone can improve the force-velocity relationship.

Maximizing trainability and decreasing the risk of articular wear & tear = pain-free training gains!

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