The bench press is by far the most popular lift in gym culture. The phrase “how much can you bench” is used so much that it’s turned into a meme.
But while the bench press remains one of the best chest exercises, you might see people at your gym bench pressing with weird little bands attached. And you’re probably thinking, “what’s the point of this, and does it offer any real benefits?”
Well, in this post, you’ll learn;
- Why you must start bench pressing with resistance bands
- The benefits banded bench pressing offers
- How to measure the tension your bands are creating
- And how to set up the banded bench press.
Let’s dive in!
- 1 What Is The Banded Bench Press?
- 2 What Is The Purpose Of A Banded Bench Press?
- 3 Why Should I Bother Bench Pressing With Bands?
- 4 How To Set Up The Banded Bench Press?
- 5 Tips For A Better Banded Bench Press
- 6 Try The Banded Speed Bench
- 7 Measure Your Band Tension
- 8 Lower The Bar Slowly
- 9 Adding The Banded Bench Press Into Your Program
- 10 Conclusion
- 11 FAQ
- 12 Is Reverse Bands Effective?
- 13 Which Is Better, Bench Pressing With Bands Or Chains?
What Is The Banded Bench Press?
The banded bench press is almost identical to a regular bench press, except it has resistance bands attached to the bar and floor. This creates more resistance during your lockout and helps strengthen your weak points.
What Is The Purpose Of A Banded Bench Press?
Powerlifters have come up with a term called “the strength curve”. Without diving too deep into human anatomy, the strength curve says that when a barbell is at the bottom of a bench press, you’ll need to apply lots of pressure to get it off your chest.
But once you’re midway through the lift, it requires less strength and you can almost casually lock your arms out depending on the weight you’re lifting.
But by doing this every time you bench, your lockout becomes weak. This is a problem because when you test your one-rep max, you might get the bar off your chest, but fail to lockout.
This is where resistance bands are handy. It evens out the pressure needed throughout the lift, so when you’re out of the hole, you’ll still need to apply the same amount of pressure as you would at the bottom.
Why Should I Bother Bench Pressing With Bands?
There are several reasons to start incorporating the banded bench press into your program. Some benefits include;
- They provide elastic pressure, not gravitational pressure
- It helps strengthen weak points
- And it increases the force needed throughout the lift.
Resistance Bands Provide Elastic Pressure
The biggest difference between resistance bands and regular weights is that resistance bands rely on elastic pressure to create tension, weight relies on gravitational force.
If a weight falls, it falls at 9.81 meters per second and that’s why they’re heavy. But elastic pressure increases acceleration which means a resistance band pulls something down faster than gravity ever could.
This strengthens your stretch reflex and creates more muscle damage and soreness.
Resistance Bands Improve Weak Points
When bench pressing without resistance bands, we normally explode out of the hole and cruise towards lockout. But benching like this for years causes weak points and difficulty locking out heavy weight.
On top of that, most people do a ton of paused bench pressing which strengthens the bottom part of your press. But this just leaves a massive hole at the top of your lift.
This is where resistance bands come to the rescue.
Resistance bands don’t create much tension at the bottom since the band isn’t fully stretched.. But as you start to lockout, the band stretches and this increased resistance strengthens the top part of your bench press.
So if you’re someone who’s failing one rep maxes at the top of your bench press, it’s because your lockout is weak. But the solution is easy. Simply do a few sets of banded bench press every week and you’ll get stronger at locking out weight.
It Increases Force Required Throughout The Bench Press
Banded bench pressing will force you to not become lazy at the top of your lift.
This is an awesome little trick I learned from a powerlifting buddy of mine. When you’re bench pressing, don’t drive the bar up as hard as you can. Rather, produce the minimum amount of force needed to get the bar moving.
This prevents the typical, press the bar quickly off your chest, cruise through the middle part, and slowly lockout.
Using a resistance band when you bench helps you drive the bar through the whole range of motion using equal pressure.
How To Set Up The Banded Bench Press?
There are multiple ways people have gone about setting up their banded bench press. But my favorite way is by using two heavy dumbbells.
Simply place two heavy dumbbells next to your bench on each side. Now, don’t put them under the bar. Rather, place them in a position where you’d press from. Once you’ve done that, put your resistance band under the dumbbell and around the bar. If you positioned your dumbbell correctly, the band should run at a slight angle. Repeat on the other side and you’re good to go.
Another popular way people set up their banded bench press is by placing the two ends of your bands around the two ends of your barbell. This creates something that looks like a hammock.
Next, climb between the bar and resistance band and you’re good to go. This is a great way of setting up your banded bench press if you don’t have dumbbells to hold it down.
Tips For A Better Banded Bench Press
Try The Banded Speed Bench
This is the perfect exercise for athletes since it doesn’t only build strength, but explosion and power.
Most people will bench and instead of being explosive and extending their elbows, they’ll tend to grind it out. If this sounds like you, then strength isn’t your main weakness, speed is.
Try incorporating the banded speed bench. It’s the same as a banded bench press, but instead of trying to improve lockout, you’re moving the bar up and down as fast as possible.
Measure Your Band Tension
You might be wondering, “how do I know how much I’m lifting with bands?” Well, measuring band tension should only take a couple of minutes. Google, “band tension chart” and you’ll see tons of charts showing you the amount of weight you’re lifting for each type of band and length.
Measure the distance of your band from the bottom to the top of your lift. Next, look at this chart and you’ll have an idea of how much you’re lifting at each phase of your press.
Lower The Bar Slowly
Bands don’t only provide tension on your way up, but when you lower the bar, it pushes the barbell down. So to achieve the most amount of hypertrophy possible, lower the bar slowly as it’ll damage your muscles even more, allowing you to come back bigger and stronger.
Adding The Banded Bench Press Into Your Program
Programming the bench press with resistance bands can be tricky, but a simple rule I like to follow is that if your lockout is weak, bench press with bands more often. But if you never struggle with lockout and getting out of the hole is your weakness, you might not need to bench press with bands all that much.
Personally, I’m quite strong out of the hole but always struggle with locking out weight. That’s why I do 4 sets of 10 reps of banded bench press twice a week and 3 sets of 8 reps without bands once a week.
The key is to find what works for you.
The bench press is the best upper-body pressing exercise since it builds a massive chest, shoulders, and triceps. It also strengthens your core. But it does have its weaknesses. If you’re benching without bands for years, you’ll start to develop a weak lockout.
But luckily the solution is quite simple. Incorporate banded bench pressing into your workout routine and you’ll be locking out weight you could only dream of.
Is Reverse Bands Effective?
Yes. Reverse bands help you move the weight at the bottom of a bench press, but halfway through the lift you’ll have to move all the weight yourself. This not only improves your lockdown strength, but it’s effective for people recovering from injuries like pec tears.
Which Is Better, Bench Pressing With Bands Or Chains?
Resistance band creates more tension and builds more muscle.
When you bench press with resistance bands, there’s tension throughout the entire range of motion. Yes, there’s less tension at the bottom of the lift, but there still is.
Chains make your lockouts a lot harder because of the extra weight, but they completely deload at the bottom which relieves all the tension created by them.