How to use Bands and Chains in the Gym To Get Stronger

Many of you may have seen videos of power lifters lifting against the heavy resistance of bands and chains. Now apart from it looking extremely cool, there is science behind it and it may be a unique way for you to smash through strength and power plateaus.

Louie Simmons of the world renowned Westside Barbell powerlifting club, is the man most responsible for popularising the use of bands and chains. They originally began using them to improve their dynamic effort work, but then found it was also effective for maximum strength work also…

How Bands & Chains Work??

By applying bands or chains to the barbell you increase the amount of resistance as the bar is lifted, so the top of the lift is considerably heavier than the bottom. I would recommend beginning with using chains and then progress to bands, as bands are more stressful. Due to their elastic nature, they pull the bar back down quickly increasing the eccentric stress on the muscles.


Here are 4 of our favourite accommodating resistance techniques…

1 – Explosive Power Development

Dynamic effort training that the Westside lifters use involves using 50-70% of 1RM and lifting as fast as possible. It is very effective for increasing rate of force development, but Louie Simmons wasn’t satisfied. He could see that the last portion of the lifts, e.g. locking out of a bench press when using free weight alone, involved a considerable amount of deceleration. When bands and chains are introduced the athlete can accelerate the bar for a longer period of time. I prefer bands for Bench Press and Squats and chains for Deadlifts. For first time users you don’t need that much band or chain resistance and you should stick to the lower end of the prescribed percentage… A good first cycle would be:

Bench Press

WK 1 – 8 x 3 @ 50% 1RM,
WK 2 – 8 x 3 @ 50% + 2.5kg
WK 3 – 8 x 3 @ 50% + 5kg
WK 4 – Deload.

45 sec between sets

Squat / Deadlift

WK 1 – 10 x 2 @ 50% 1RM
WK 2 – 10 x 2 @ 50% + 5kg
WK 3 – 10 x 2 @ 50% + 10kg
WK 4 – Deload.

1 min between sets

Week 5 you could begin with week 2 weights or increase the band or chain resistance. This session is to be performed once a week followed by assistance work.

2 – Improving Weak Points in Lift

If you are someone who fails maximum effort sets at the top of your bench press and deadlift, then this technique is for you! Basically perform your bench presses and deadlifts with band or chain resistance, but lift heavy weights. I recommend using this technique as an assistance exercise after your regular lifting to keep your technique on the main lifts.

I would suggest lifting for 3-5 sets of 3-5 reps. The percentage of 1RM to use will depend on the bands/chains you use, but start light and build up over a few weeks. After 4-6 weeks of this technique deload and retest your regular deadlift or bench press. I have also used bands and chains on Pull Ups and Bench Pulls to strengthen the weakest point of the lift with great results. If you have a weak point at the bottom of a lift (a few inches above the chest on bench presses is common), with some play about with the bands/ chains you can set them up so the weight increases at that point specific point.


3 – Push Up Chain Drop Set

This is a great technique for Hypertrophy and muscular endurance and is dead simple and a lot of fun! Get into a push up position and get your training partner to load several chains onto your back, begin performing pushups and get your partner to remove one chain each time your begin to struggle to complete the push ups.

4 – Bands for Hypertrophy

As stated earlier bands increase the eccentric portion of the lifts and therefore are a great way to stimulate hypertrophy. You can add bands to any exercise really but they work particularly well on exercises that have a peak contraction. One of my favourites is adding it to machine chest presses and performing 3-4 sets of 8-10 reps.

Another technique I have used with good results is the Jettison curl. Begin by performing barbell curls with added band resistance (use a weight you can lift 8-10 times) then drop the band and perform as many reps as possible with the barbell only and finally drop the bar and perform as many reps as possible with the band only. Perform 2-3 sets of that once a week and you’ll have arms like David Pocock before you know it!!


Jamie Bain
Senior S&C Coach
Gloucester Rugby

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