Everything You Need To Know About Bands & ChainsDec 27, 2021
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.
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. Improved Ability To Handle & 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. The reason is that the chains tend to be more joint-friendly since the load is altered through ROM.
Accommodating Resistance is a mainstay in my programming because of the training effects it provides but most importantly its 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!