How To Use Reverse BandsJan 20, 2023
Reverse Bands aka. The Future Method
Utilizing reverse bands has more benefits than simply lifting with supramaximal loading. The benefits of using this method are improvements in neuromuscular efficiency, but most importantly this method allows us to fine-tune and repattern foundational movements.
Being able to work with supramaximal loads at the top of each movement creates scenarios different than that of just working with straight weights too – the degree of which you’ll be able to exceed your 1RM will depend on the thickness of the band you chose.
Because you’re able to work with supramaximal loads this method tends to be quite demanding on the nervous system particularly with big movements like the deadlift when used in true Max Effort scenarios, but in submaximal or repetitive effort scenarios, you’ll likely find you’re able to maintain better position even with loads that exceed your current 1RM.
The “future method” can work quite well with repetitive effort work too and allow you to reinforce better movement patterns while getting a pump from hell! They're so effective that I utilize this tool in many my programs.
Even though you may be approaching loads where some mechanical breakdown would normally be present if you were using straight weight, the band will deload a percentage of the load in the bottom position thus allowing you to reinforce better motor patterns, with less breakdown while still receiving the desired training effects.
To recap, reverse bands are optimal when used for:
- Max Effort Work – 1RM
- Submaximal Effort Work – 2-6RM
- Repetition Effort Work – 6-10 rep sets
- Technique Work – Straight sets with moderately heavy loads – 80-85% of 1RM
Reverse Band Benefits
- Improve Neuromuscular Efficiency – The ability of the nervous system to recruit the correct muscles to produce force.
- Improve Stability – The ability of your body to stabilize and brace while achieving supramaximal loading at the end range of motion.
- Improve Motor Patterns – Deloads a percentage of the weight at the bottom of a movement and allows us to in essence to do the OPPOSITE of accommodating resistance where tension is highest where we are strongest – accommodating the strength curve – the opposite true with reverse bands (tension is highest where we are weakest.)
- Technique Work – Allows you to still work with heavier loads with less chance of mechanical breakdown.
- Hypertrophy – If gaining lean mass is your goal reverse bands work great with big movements so you can create situations with high amounts of metabolic stress with less mechanical breakdown.
Reverse Band Squat Variations
Reverse band squat variations have massive benefits. As we’ve talked about, using the bands will allow for the bottom position to incur some deloading, so if massive legs are your goal using reverse bands will provide you with the capacity to give you a huge quad pump!
I’ve never been a fan of high-rep squats with straight weight simply because mechanical breakdown is inevitable – I can count on one hand how many people I’ve seen stay completely symmetrical when performing 5+ RM squat variations, but with reverse bands, there is far less chance of this happening.
We typically opt for using a squat variation in submaximal settings for multiple rep maxes. This is usually done as a secondary lift as well, BUT using your bands for maximal effort is a viable option as a main lift too.
Max Effort – 1RM
Submaximal Effort – 3-6RM
Repetition Effort – 6-10RM
Rack Pull Variations
Just like our reverse band squat variations using reverse bands with your pulls will allow you to maximize loading and trainability, but there a few caveats when using reverse bands for your deadlifts.
The first is that the position you’re pulling from should allow you to maintain a neutral spine – for most this will happen with the plates slightly elevated off of the floor.
This is why rack pull variations where you can adjust your pin height based on the individual is something we favor as opposed to pulling from the floor with a supramaximal load.
Second, if your deadlift variation needs work, reverse bands are a great tool. We’ve had great success performing straight sets with moderately heavy loads (80-85% of 1RM – this is based on a straight weight max.)
In this case, you may feel inclined to push your loads due to the deloading and enhanced sense of confidence you’ll experience with the bands but instead, stick with one load for all sets to retrain faulty motor patterns.
Because you’re still able to use heavier loads with better technique you’ll still incur the same training effects with the advantage of maintaining great technique for all sets.
Max Effort – 1RM
Submaximal Effort – 3-6RM
Technique Work – 6 x 3 @80-85% of 1RM (based on straight weight 1RM)
Romanian Deadlift Variations
The Romanian Deadlift variations are a staple in any serious program and when used with reverse bands you’ll be able to retrain and improve your hip-hinge pattern.
Most people tend to have issues simply starting the movement – initiating with their hips. By varying the loading through ROM we’re able to eliminate the chance of compensation patterns and maximize movement execution.
We’ll still have the capacity to use heavier loads by way of the bands assisting at the bottom of each rep so gains in strength, hypertrophy, and technique are possible.
Repetition Effort Method
4-5 sets x 6-10
Power Clean Variations
Olympic Lift variations are something we use with our CrossFit athletes which provide a nice change of pace both mentally and physically and all of the aforementioned benefits such as motor pattern refinement.
The advantage is the same as that of an RDL variation – we’re unloading a percentage of the load at the bottom of each rep (how much deloading occurs is dependent on how much band tension you go with) and allowing people to “feel” heavier loads than normal from a variety of positions (floor, below the knee, and hang positions.)
In this video, I’m using a Hang Power Clean below the knee – this could be performed starting from the floor as well. This can also be performed with the Snatch if your bands are affixed high enough overhead.
Max Effort Method 1RM
Submaximal Effort Method – Heavy 1-3
Technique Work – 8 x 2 @80% of 1RM (based on straight weight max)
Bench Press Variations
The Bench Press & Floor press are variations that tend to flare up a lot of people’s shoulders. If that’s the case for you then using reverse bands may be in your best interest.
You’ll be able to work with heavier loads with less chance of breakdown – most tend to internally rotate putting undue stress on their rotator cuffs.
In this case, you’ll be more likely to keep the triceps in closer relationship to the lats thus creating more stability optimizing position of the shoulder joint.
For both variations, we use in both max effort & repetition effort scenarios with great success.
Max Effort: 1RMs
Repetition Effort: 6-10 rep sets
*Bonus – Reverse Band Goodmornings
The good-morning is a great variation for many individuals, but to be honest I don’t program it as much as other Conjugate coaches.
Reason being, this variation tends to aggravate lower-back issues that exist with many of the people I work with (the gravity line the bar creates being further away from center of mass at end range puts a lot of stress on the lumbar spine – which can be a good thing if people are able to stabilize), but add reverse bands and we can eliminate the risk of injury and increase trainability.
You won’t see this one done for maximal effort, but more so for repetitive efforts with light to moderate loads.
Repetition Effort – 4-5 x 5-8
The best part of using Reverse Bands other than simply allowing you to have another vital tool in your toolbox is that they can serve a variety of purposes – maximal strength development, technique improvement, bodybuilding, and motor pattern refinement.
The most critical aspect of this method is that it allows you to maximize trainability and decrease the risk of injury – if that’s not a win-win I don’t know what is!
Moreover, you can apply these variations to your program design right away and notice a difference within a few weeks – you’ll likely see that you’ll experience new levels of soreness in places that you’re not usually sore too.