Bench pressing has always been an integral part of powerlifting and a key movement to enhance the upper body strength. For decades Powerlifters have been using different methods to improve their bench press, employing resistance bands while bench pressing has also been a part of the process.
Have you tried bench press with resistance bands? While many people don’t really understand the effects of using a band with the bench press, others look at it as another fancy method to workout.
What are the benefits of bench press with bands? Incorporating resistance bands in the strength training not only adds up resistance but also assists in the development of explosive strength. Adding bands to your chest routine will help you gain strength, size, and break plateaus. Additionally, because of the variable resistance of bands, it also protects from workout injuries.
Through this article, we are going to find out the scientific reasons behind the benefit of using resistance bands while bench pressing.
How does bench press with bands work?
Personally, I am a big fan of including resistance bands within my workouts and students have been asking this question again and again, “what’s so special about using resistance bands?”. Here is the answer:
Resistance bands primarily work on the principle of “Linear Variable Resistance”, it means the resistance changes at different point of range.
For example: Suppose you are trying to do Lateral raise for shoulders with a resistance band. The bottom position has the minimum resistance and resistance increases as you move your hand laterally upwards.
This is a very unique benefit of training with resistance bands, the resistance is lowest at the beginning and increases as you reach to the full range of motion.
Most of the lifters are stronger at lockout position in comparison to the starting position, this Variable resistance of bands helps in achieving greater resistance at the lockout position.
Learn: How to setup bands with a bench explained by renowned powerlifting coach and speaker “Mr. Matt Wenning” he is also a former all-time World Record Holder with 2665 lb total.
Reasons to bench press with bands
World-class powerlifters swear by the benefits of adding resistance bands in the training regimes. But do these bands prove their effectiveness to the common fitness enthusiast as well? let’s discuss the six reasons to benchpress with bands that will change the way you lift.
1- Promotes explosive power
One of the primary reasons why powerlifter love including bands in most of their compound lifts is the improvement in explosive power.
The primary reason behind the development of greater explosiveness is its ability to activate more fast-twitch muscles in the body.
Muscles are broadly classified into two types 1) Fast twitch and 2) Slow Twitch, classification is based on their endurance and power generation.
Slow-twitch type muscles have greater endurance but inferior explosiveness, on the other hand, fast-twitch muscle fibers have high explosiveness but low endurance.
Adding variable resistance training through bands helps in achieving greater activation of Fast-Twitch muscle fibers that promotes explosive power.
Not just that, supplementing your bench press with bands also Improves Elastic recoil, Elastic recoil occurs when you convert energy temporarily stored in tendons and fascia into a free push. This mechanism can be better compared to spring, where the muscle tissue is continuously shortened and stretched to gain effectiveness and force
For example, kinetic energy is absorbed in running every time one’s foot strikes the ground and continues as one’s mass overtakes the foot. At this moment, elastic recoil energy is at its maximum and a large amount of this energy is absorbed and is added to the next stride.
2- Strength gains
Benching with resistance bands is no bro-science, is has been benefiting professional powerlifters to improve strength.
Adding bands to your bench assist in the development of greater power by improving the Eccentric and Concentric control.
How does it work?
Concentric push: Adding a band to the bench press will urge you to press the barbell fast to complete the range of motion. Benching with bands also demands greater force at the top of motion which helps in superior contraction and muscle pump.
Eccentric control: Adding bands to the barbels is going to pull the weight at a faster velocity. To stop the barbel from hitting your chest, your pectoral muscle develops greater eccentric control.
Study (1) conducted at the Department of Physical Education and Sport, University of Granada, Granada, Spain, on the effects of Variable Resistance Training on Maximal Strength. Researchers found – Long-term VRT training using elastic bands attached to the barbell emerged as an effective evidence-based method of improving maximal strength both in athletes with different sports backgrounds and untrained subjects.
In short, VRT is a scientific training pattern that surely helps in performance improvement.
3- Size gains
Strength gains have always been correlated to the size gains, so including bands in your chest training is definitly a great way to improve the size.
There is another benefit that goes unnoticed, its eccentric control.
Muscle development includes three phases: Concentric, Isometric, Eccentric. Adding bands helps in improving the eccentric control which stimulates superior muscle gains.
Now how does that happens?
When you push a barbell while bench-pressing, the weight comes to you at the speed gravity pull it, right? Including bands in your bench pressing increases the velocity of weight coming towards you.
This increase in velocity of the eccentric moment forces your body to develop new muscle tissues to absorb the extra resistance.
Controlling the eccentric moment is also known as “negative training”, This negative training has been proven far more superior in creating micro-tears in muscle fibers to stimulate growth and strength.
A Study conducted at The Pennsylvania State University, Department of Kinesiology on the subject of ” A BIOMECHANICAL ANALYSIS OF THE BENCH PRESS” concluded – you produce two times more pec activation while eccentric movement compared with pressing it up. The analysis also states that various stabilizing other muscle groups, such as the lats and upper back were found to have better activation while decelerating the bar toward the chest.
4- Prevents injury
Your muscles are naturally stronger at certain parts of a lift and certain ranges are more vulnerable to injuries.
For example, your shoulders experience maximum stress at the lower position of bench press, resistance band makes it feel much better. Basically, it’s reducing the level of resistance at weak spots.
Combining bands with a barbell can certainly help in injury prevention.
5- Stronger contraction
Bands help in improving muscle activation and muscle contraction by increasing the resistance at the peak contraction.
Variable resistance on bands is not only assisting in injury prevention, but also proven effective to designate more muscle tissues to do the work which eventually helps in stronger contraction.
Better muscle pumps and improved hypertrophy are the byproducts of a strong contraction.
6- Recruit more muscles
One of the very basic mistakes I notice with most of the amateur lifters is they train to lift weights, they are not really concerned about the muscle activation and its connection to the mind.
Better recruitment of muscle will certainly help in fat better strength gains.
Adding resistance bands to your weight training assist in enhanced recruitment of muscles in many different ways. Let’s have a look at them:
- Controlling the eccentrics: As we already discussed the study, found double pec muscle activation while the controlled negative reps.
- Activation of fast-twitch muscles: bands supports greater activation of fast-twitch muscles that are responsible for the explosive power and superior hypertrophy.
- Improved mind and muscle connection: Stronger contraction at the top and lower resistance at the bottom of the lift helps in better mind-muscle connection.
7- Breaks The plateau
It’s not just a great training protocol to add strength and muscle mass, but also a great way to break the plateau.
If you have been struggling with the halted progress at the gym then you should definitly try to incorporate resistance bands in your training routine.
Adding bands to your bench press will act as an effective “muscle confusion” technique that helps in breaking plateau and stimulating muscle development.