Accommodating resistance has been a staple in the strength training world for decades – but what is it, and does it really work?
By Coach Hunter Bennett
What is accommodating resistance?
Accommodating resistance training refers to a style of lifting where the load increase through a range of motion.
With this in mind, when most people talk about accommodating resistance, they are talking about lifting with bands or chains.
When you lift with bands, the band slackens as the bar descends, and then “tightens” as the bar ascends. This increases the tension on the band, making the exercise harder as you move towards lockout.
Similarly, when lifting with chains, the chains coil on the ground as the bar descends, and rise from the ground as the bar ascends. Because chains are heavy, this adds load to the bar as you get closer to lockout.
Both methods elicit a similar stimulus, and provide similar benefits.
Accommodating resistance benefits
There are several key benefits that come with accommodating resistance training, making them a valuable tool in your training toolbox.
1. Better Power Development
Research has show that training with accommodating resistance seems to improve muscular power (i.e., your capacity to lift weight quickly) to a greater extent than “normal” training.
This makes it a great option for athletes. It also offers utility for people who are training for strength but feel really slow under heavy loads.
2. Less Joint Stress
With accommodating resistance, the load is lowest when you are in your deepest position.
For example, the bottom of a squat, or with the bar on your chest in the bench press. Importantly, these positions are anecdotally the most stressful for your joints.
This makes accommodating resistance training the perfect option for people who get sore shoulders and hips with high volumes of lifting.
3. Enhanced Strength Development
In conjunction with lower loads at the bottom, accommodating resistance also allows you to handle supramaximal loads at the top.
This can provide a great neural stimulus to improve long-term strength development.
4. Better Growth
Building on the above point, this overload can also help promote greater muscle growth by increasing the amount of mechanical tension placed on the muscle tissue.
However, it is important to note that if your goal is to get as big as possible, then using movements that take you through a larger range of motion is also important.
Don’t only rely on accommodating resistance training for size. Instead, use it to compliment your other training methods.
5. Teaches You To Grind
Being able to lift heavy is largely predicated on strength.
But being able to grind through a hard lift?
That’s a skill.
A skill that is improved by accommodating resistance…
With accommodating resistance training, the load you lift increases throughout the movement. This means that there is no clear sticking point, whereby the exercise becomes easier.
This teaches you to push through the entirety of the lift, become better at grinding.
How to use accommodating resistance?
There are no real “rules” when it comes to accommodating resistance.
I mean, technically, you could use it in several different ways.
But we have some recommendations that we believe make it more effective.
1. Stick with the main lifts
Accommodating resistance training works best with your main compound lifts.
This means squat variations, bench variations, and deadlift variation.
These exercises allow you to use the most load, promote the largest increases in athletic performance, and are often most challenging at the bottom of the movement.
This makes them the perfect candidates for accommodating resistance.
2. Use it sparingly
Accommodating resistance should be applied to your main lifts in 3–5 week blocks.
Think of it as a novel stimulus that aims to benefit your traditional training. It should not replace them completely, and should only be used once every 3-4 blocks of training per lift.
3. Don’t overdo the tension
Whether you are using bands or chains, the load they add to the bar should be equivalnet to 15-30% of the bar weight.
For example, if you have 100kg on the bar, the band/chain tension should be somewhere between 15 and 30kg at the top of the movement.
This ensures that you can still accelerate through the movement. It also guarantees that the accommodating resistance is not so large that it effects your normal movement pattern (which makes it less effective).
Accommodating Resistance Training: Key Points
Accommodating resistance is a novel tool you can use to bust through plateaus, increases athletic performance, and train around pain.
Just make sure you don’t overdo it!
By following the tips outlined in this article, you can implement accommodating resistance training effectively to maximise progress.
And if you are keen to try some accomdating resistance training, check out some of our programs and add them in as an accessory lift