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What is the purpose of using bands and chains in training?

Hello RealFITT community! I hope that your week is going well and thank you for taking the time to read my answer to this weeks question about using bands and chains in training.


Before I continue it would be remiss of me not to credit Louie Simmons from Westside Barbell for bringing these tools to the forefront of strength and conditioning training here in the west. His years of research, knowledge, wisdom, and experience in strength training has inspired many athletes and coaches alike to immerse themselves in this field of work.

There are many different applications for the use of bands and chains when it comes to strength and conditioning training, or just training in general. 

Bands are often used in different ways for mobility and warm-up movements that prepare the body for strength training, and for certain types of strength training itself. 

Bands and chains are most often used for what we call accomodating resistance in strength training movements like the squat, the bench press and the deadlift and their variants. 

So why use them you might be thinking? Well at the risk of sounding cliche I would say that it could be to break through a training plateau, to mix training up or to specifically target a goal or need. The overarching positive is that, when used correctly, they can and often will make you stronger, more explosive, and more powerful.

Most commonly bands are used for generating more eccentric (downward or with gravity) bar velocity (speed) which in turn means that you will likely move faster in the concentric (upward or against gravity) phase of a movement.

This requires almost exclusive use of what I like to call your Chief Executive Officer muscle fibres, better known in anatomy as our fast twitch muscle fibres- think Usain Bolt, he’s a boss! How well do you think he’d go running a marathon? That’s right....he’s made for speed and power. You know your CEO fibres aren’t coming out to photocopy paperwork. Anyway your muscles are forced by the eccentric velocity of the bar to change length quickly which we surmise from the force velocity relationship that those same muscles must then contract equally as quickly in the opposing concentric phase of the movement.

Bands are often utilised in speed strength training with lighter loads and moved at maximal speed. As stated in Newton’s third law, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, is kind of what we’re talking about here. So the outcome we’re actually targeting in this particular endeavour is to become more explosive....again Usain Bolt being an extreme example. This can be great for most sports, almost all barbell related sports, and just for a challenge in general.

I would only consider using band resistance for barbell strength movements if you possessed adequate stability, proprioception, and technique to do the movements safely in order to get the most out of it. 

When it comes to the implementation of chains in strength training there are also many outcomes that can be achieved. As I mentioned earlier they are great for use as an accomodating resistance tool, meaning that the load on the bar (referring to the chains) caters to the body’s strength through the full range of motion of the chosen lift. Example- if you hang chains correctly from a bar whilst squatting then as you rise back up from the bottom of the squat the bar will get heavier as you get into a stronger position because it will take links of the chain with it off the floor as you rise.

So what does all of this do?

Well, a number of things really, it can teach us to generate more force and improve our bar speeds, particularly in the big barbell compound movements. It will also assist in improving our trunk stability. 

I cannot go without saying that training with bands and chains can be a lot of fun when done properly. 

If it’s something that interests you and you’d like to know more just ask your coach in the gym or shoot me an email. 

Joe Matthews


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