Lifting with Bands and Chains: What’s the Point?

Hunter Bennett

Lifting with bands and chains — it looks great for social media, but is there more to it than that?

If you have spent any time training at BUILT, then there is a good chance you have done a heavy lift with bands or chains on the side of the barbell.

In short, they are a key component of almost all our training programs.

But why is this the case? 

1. Increased Power Development

I apologise in advance, but I am going to get a little ‘sciency’ for a moment.

But only a little bit.

The addition of bands or chains to a loaded barbell creates a training stimulus known as ‘accommodating resistance.’ As fancy as this term sounds, it simply means that the load increases as you take the barbell through a given movement.

If you think about bands being applied to a bench press, the bands are slack when the bar is on your chest, and then they get tighter as you get closer to lockout – subsequently, the load increases as you move through the range of motion.

As a result, you need to drive through the entire movement as explosively as you possibly can – otherwise you will lose momentum and fail the lift.

Why is this important?

Research has shown that lifting with bands and chains can lead to greater improvements in explosive power than normal weight training methods. This means it will have better carryover to things like jumping, sprinting, and bounding.

It will also help you be more explosive when it comes to your gym lifts, which is a nice little bonus.

2. Less Joint Stress

One of the main reasons I really like using bands and chains is because it is easier on your joints.

If you think about the most challenging part of almost any movement (like the bottom of a squat or deadlift, for example), it is when you are at end range – which also happens to be where your joints are under the most load.

With this in mind, when you start lifting with bands and chains, you reduce the amount of load placed on your joints in those more compromising positions.

This means less risk of injury, and more long-term progress.

Did someone say win-win?

3. Greater Muscle Growth

Staying strong and injury free is pretty good, but it doesn’t stop there.

Yep, let’s get jacked.

If you think about any traditional barbell movement, you are ultimately limited by the weight you can lift in your weakest position.

This is unfortunate, because as you move further from the bottom position of a lift, you become stronger. Consequently, when you are training without bands or chains, the load stays the same throughout the entire movement – despite the movement progressively getting ‘easier’ for your muscles.

This ultimately means that you are getting a lot of stimulus at the bottom, but not as much at the top.

As a result, you are leaving gains on the table.

But when you slap on bands or chains, this changes. The movement ultimately gets more challenging throughout the entire range of motion. In turn, you start placing your muscle tissue under a high amount of stress across the entire movement.

This increase in load leads to an increase in tension, which means more muscle growth.

Seriously, what more could you want?

Should I Only Train with Bands and Chains? 

Now, all this begs the question — if chains and bands are so good, why bother doing anything else?

And unfortunately, it isn’t quite as simple as that.

When it comes to any type of training, it is only going to be effective for a certain period of time. After which your body will begin to adapt, and your rate of improvement will decline.

While the speed at which this occurs is highly individual, if your training looks exactly the same week in week out, then you can expect it to happen some point down the line. 

This essentially means that you want to cycle your use of bands and chains periodically to ensure you make constant progress. With this recommendation, they feature heavily for a six week training block, then not at all for the next six weeks, before becoming a main feature again.

The key is to cycle them in and out across the training year.

Take Home Message

Lifting with bands and chains is a great way to improve power, keep your joints healthy, and enhance muscle growth — however, like any training stimulus, they should not be used all the time.

Instead, they should be implemented at different points across the training year, promoting adaptation and enhancing your progress.

If you want to come in play around with some seriously effective training methods, you know where to find us.

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