Welcome to a twist of a time-tested exercise taken to new heights: the bench press with bands. As the pursuit of strength and muscle gains evolves, innovative training methods emerge, and adding resistance bands to the classic bench press is one such groundbreaking technique.
In this article, we delve into the world of bench pressing with bands, uncovering its benefits, mechanics, and why it has become a go-to choice for athletes, powerlifters, and fitness enthusiasts alike.
Join us as we uncover the transformative potential of this dynamic variation and guide you through its proper execution for unparalleled gains in strength and muscle development.
Table of Contents
Benefits of Bench Press With Bands
Incorporating resistance bands into the bench press offers a range of unique benefits that can take your strength training to new levels. Here are some key advantages of performing the bench press with bands:
Increased Resistance throughout the Range of Motion: As you press the barbell up, the tension from the bands progressively increases, making the exercise more challenging at the top, where you are typically stronger. This increased resistance throughout the entire range of motion helps develop greater strength and power.
Enhanced Muscle Activation: The addition of bands activates the stabilizer muscles to a greater extent, including the muscles of the shoulders, chest, and upper back. This leads to improved muscle balance, stability, and overall development.
Accelerated Force Production: The accommodating resistance the bands provide helps improve explosiveness and force production during the bench press. This translates to increased power output and the ability to generate more strength.
Overcoming Weak Points: Bands can specifically target and challenge your sticking points in the bench press. By providing increased tension where you struggle the most, they help you build strength and break through plateaus.
Versatile Training Tool: Resistance bands are portable and versatile, allowing you to adjust the resistance and experiment with different band tensions easily. This flexibility enables you to customize the intensity of your bench press workouts and target specific goals. It also mimics the popular pec deck machine.
Joint-Friendly Training: The bands offer a deloading effect at the bottom of the movement, reducing stress on the joints and tendons. This can be beneficial for individuals with joint issues or those seeking a lower-impact variation of the bench press.
By incorporating the bench press with bands into your training routine, you can experience improved strength gains, muscle activation, and explosive power. As with any exercise, proper form, and gradually increasing resistance are essential to maximize the benefits and minimize the risk of injury.
To perform the bench press with bands, you will need the following equipment:
The standard Olympic barbell used for bench pressing. Ensure it is an appropriate weight for your training level.
These are used to load the barbell and provide resistance. Choose the appropriate weight plates based on your strength and training goals.
You will need resistance bands specifically designed for strength training. Ideally, select bands that have enough tension to challenge you throughout the movement but still allow for proper form.
Depending on your chosen setup, you may need band anchors to secure the bands to a stable point. This can include racking attachments, dumbbell handles, or other suitable anchor points.
A sturdy, flat, or adjustable bench is necessary for proper positioning and stability during the bench press exercise. Ensure the bench is secure and can handle the weight being used.
It’s important to prioritize safety during any exercise. Consider using collars/clips to secure the weight plates on the barbell, and have a spotter or safety bars/racks in place to protect yourself in case you need assistance or fail to complete a repetition.
Remember to choose resistance bands with appropriate tension and ensure proper setup and alignment of the bands. Additionally, always prioritize proper form and technique to minimize the risk of injury and maximize the effectiveness of the exercise.
Setting Up For Chest Press Bands
Setting up for the bench press with bands involves a few key steps. Here’s a guide to help you get started:
- Attach the Bands: Securely anchor the resistance bands to a stable point, such as a rack or dumbbell handle. Make sure the bands are evenly placed on each side of the barbell.
- Position the Bench: Place the bench in the desired position within the band setup. Ensure it is stable and properly aligned with the barbell.
- Load the Barbell: Add weight plates to the barbell based on your desired resistance level. Ensure the weight plates are secured with collars/clips to prevent them from sliding.
- Position Yourself: Sit on the bench and carefully position yourself under the barbell. Your eyes should align with the barbell when it is unracked.
- Grip the Barbell: Grab the barbell with a grip slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Ensure your grip is firm and stable.
- Unrack the Barbell: Engage your core and unrack it, ensuring it is balanced and stable. Take a moment to establish a strong starting position.
- Engage the Bands: As you lower the barbell towards your chest, the bands will start to stretch and provide increased resistance. Maintain control throughout the movement.
- Press the Barbell: Push the barbell upward with controlled force, maintaining proper form and alignment. Focus on engaging the target muscles and utilizing the added resistance from the bands.
- Repeat the Repetitions: Complete your desired number of repetitions with proper form and control. Listen to your body and adjust the weight or band tension as needed.
- Rack the Barbell: Once you have completed your set, carefully rack it onto the bench’s supports or rack, ensuring it is securely in place.
Remember to warm up adequately before performing the bench press with bands and always prioritize proper form and technique. It may be beneficial to have a spotter or safety bars/racks in place for added safety during the exercise.
Proper Form for Chest Press
Maintaining proper form during the bench press with bands is crucial for maximizing effectiveness and reducing the risk of injury. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you achieve proper form:
- Set up as described earlier, with the bands properly anchored and the barbell loaded with appropriate weight plates.
- Position yourself on the bench, ensuring your feet are planted firmly on the ground. Your head, shoulders, and buttocks should be in contact with the bench throughout the movement.
- Grip the barbell slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, with your palms facing away from your body. Ensure a firm grip and wrists in a neutral position.
- Unrack the barbell, maintaining a controlled and stable starting position. Your arms should be fully extended, and the barbell should be positioned directly above your chest.
- Engage your core, squeeze your shoulder blades together, and maintain a slight arch in your lower back. This helps stabilize your body and protect your shoulders.
- Lower the barbell with control, allowing it to come down to your mid to lower chest, just above the nipple line. Keep your elbows at about a 45-degree angle to your body.
- As you lower the barbell, focus on maintaining tension in the resistance bands and feeling the stretch. Keep your forearms vertical, and avoid excessive flaring of the elbows.
- Pause briefly at the bottom of the movement, ensuring full control and maintaining tension in the muscles.
- Press the barbell back up with controlled force, driving through your heels and engaging your chest, shoulders, and triceps. Focus on maintaining proper alignment and utilizing the resistance from the bands.
- Continue pressing until your arms are fully extended, but avoid locking out your elbows at the top.
- Repeat the movement for the desired number of repetitions, maintaining proper form and control throughout.
Remember to breathe consistently throughout the exercise, inhaling during the eccentric (lowering) phase and exhaling during the concentric (pressing) phase. If needed, have a spotter or safety bars/racks in place for added safety and assistance.
It’s always advisable to start with lighter weights and focus on mastering proper form before progressing to heavier loads. Gradually increase the weight and band tension as you become comfortable and confident with the exercise.
Whether it’s a bodybuilding or powerlifting routine you’re aspiring to replicate, always listen to your body and leave your ego at the door.
Common Mistakes to Avoid
While performing the bench press with bands, it’s important to be mindful of common mistakes that can compromise your form and effectiveness. Here are some key mistakes to avoid:
- Lack of Proper Warm-up: Failing to adequately warm up before starting the bench press with bands can increase the risk of injury. Perform dynamic stretches and light warm-up sets to prepare your muscles and joints for the exercise. Always keep your legs close to the bench and feet flat on the floor for proper stability.
- Poor Band Setup: Improperly anchoring or positioning the bands can lead to uneven or unstable resistance, affecting the effectiveness of the exercise. Ensure the bands are securely attached and evenly placed on both sides of the barbell.
- Arching the Back Excessively: While maintaining a slight arch in the lower back is beneficial for stability, excessive arching can lead to poor spinal alignment and strain. Focus on maintaining a neutral spine throughout the movement.
- Flaring the Elbows: Allowing the elbows to flare out excessively during the bench press can stress the shoulder joints unnecessarily. Keep your elbows at about a 45-degree angle to your body to engage the chest and minimize strain on the shoulders.
- Lifting the Hips or Bouncing the Bar: Avoid using momentum or excessive leg drive to lift the barbell off the chest. Keep your buttocks and feet firmly planted on the bench throughout the movement, maintaining control and avoiding bouncing the bar off your chest.
- Inconsistent Band Tension: Maintain tension in the bands throughout the entire range of motion. Avoid letting the bands go slack at any point during the exercise, as it reduces the effectiveness of the resistance and can disrupt your form.
- Neglecting Proper Breathing: Breathing is vital in maintaining stability and strength during the bench press. Remember to inhale during the eccentric (lowering) phase and exhale during the concentric (pressing) phase to maintain proper intra-abdominal pressure and support your core.
- Overestimating Weight or Band Tension: Choosing a weight and band tension that allows you to maintain proper form and control throughout the exercise is important. Avoid using weights or bands that are too heavy, as it can compromise your technique and increase the risk of injury.
- Neglecting Range of Motion: Aim to achieve a full range of motion, allowing the barbell to reach your mid to lower chest. Avoid cutting the range short, as it limits muscle activation and potential gains.
- Lack of Spotter or Safety Measures: Performing the bench press with bands can be demanding, and having a spotter or safety bars/racks in place is crucial for your safety. They can assist or intervene if you cannot complete a repetition safely.
By avoiding these common mistakes and maintaining proper form, you can maximize the benefits and minimize the risk of injury during the bench press with bands. It’s always advisable to consult with a fitness professional or experienced trainer to ensure proper technique and personalized guidance.
Variations of Benching With Bands
The bench press with bands offers versatility and allows for various training adaptations. Here are some popular variations you can incorporate into your routine:
This is the standard bench press with resistance bands added. The bands are anchored to a stable point, creating increased tension as you press the barbell upward. This variation emphasizes explosive power and strength throughout the entire range of motion.
In this variation, the bands are anchored overhead and attached to the barbell. As you lower the barbell towards your chest, the tension decreases, making it easier at the bottom position. As you press up, the bands stretch and provide more resistance, challenging you at the top. Reverse band bench press is useful for improving lockout strength and overcoming sticking points near the top of the movement.
With this variation, you incorporate a pause at the bottom of the bench press. The bands add resistance and make it more challenging to maintain control during the pause. This variation enhances stability, control, and overall strength.
Instead of adding resistance, this variation uses bands to provide assistance. The bands are anchored overhead and attached to the barbell. They help you at the bottom position, reducing the load and making it easier to press. Band-assisted bench press can be beneficial for beginners or individuals working on improving their strength and technique.
This variation involves using a single resistance band while performing the bench press with one arm at a time. It challenges stability and activates more core and stabilizer muscles. It’s a great variation for addressing imbalances and enhancing unilateral strength.
Narrowing your grip on the barbell and adding resistance bands emphasizes triceps activation in this variation. It targets the triceps and inner chest muscles to a greater extent while still engaging the overall pressing muscles.
Remember to adjust the band tension and weight load according to your training goals and abilities. These variations can add variety to your workouts, target specific muscle groups, and address individual weaknesses or goals. Always prioritize proper form and gradually progress the intensity to avoid overexertion or injury.
Understanding Strength Curves
When you strength train you perform an exercise that has what is known as a strength curve.
All exercise are done by moving your joints at a certain angle, the strength curve is simply how much strength you can apply to different degrees of the angle.
Think about doing a dumbbell curl, you’re starting position is with your hands down at your sides then you will start to raise them up bringing the weights directly in front of you then finishing with them raised near your shoulders.
The amount of strength needed throughout this move varies depending on where you are during the joint angle, you would need little strength when the weights are down by your side at the beginning or at the top near your shoulders at the end of the movement, but when you’re in the middle of your curl this is when you have to apply the most effort.
We can break all exercises down into one of three categories…
- Ascending – This is when you near full extension and the tension decreases at this point of the motion, this is noticeable in bench presses and squats.
- Descending – This is when you near full flexion, and the tension increases at this point of the movement and makes the move harder. Leg curls and rows have descending strength curves.
- Parabolic or bell-shaped – This strength curve feels more comfortable at the ends and more challenging in the middle. The above example of a dumbbell curl would be recognized as a parabolic strength curve.
The bench press has an ascending strength curve, and this means that the movement is most comfortable when the range of motion is at the top. Put you can move more weight at the top 1/3 than you can in the middle and bottom of the exercise.
An example of this would be if you could bench 180 pounds when you bring the bar down to your chest, you could probably bench 200 pounds if you only went down 2/3 of the way then back up again.
How To Increase Intensity
To increase the intensity of the bench press with bands, there are several strategies you can employ. Here are some effective ways to ramp up the challenge:
Increase Band Tension: Choose bands with higher resistance or double up on bands to add more tension to the exercise. This increases the load and challenges your muscles throughout the entire range of motion.
Use Thicker Bands: Thicker bands typically offer greater resistance compared to thinner ones. Incorporating thicker bands can provide a more intense workout and further engage your muscles.
Incorporate Band Chains: Attach chain links to the ends of the bands and drape them over the barbell. As you press the barbell up, the chains gradually lift off the floor, adding extra weight at the top portion of the movement. This allows for accommodating resistance and increased difficulty during the lockout phase.
Slow Down the Repetitions: Perform the bench press with bands using a slow and controlled tempo. By slowing down the lifting and lowering phases, you increase the time under tension and challenge your muscles more effectively.
Pause at Different Points: Introduce pauses during the bench press at specific points, such as the bottom or halfway through the movement. These pauses require additional muscle activation and strength to initiate the upward pressing motion.
Increase Time Under Tension: Extend the duration of each repetition by focusing on a slow eccentric (lowering) phase and a controlled concentric (pressing) phase. This increases the time your muscles are under tension, promoting greater muscular growth and strength gains.
Incorporate Drop Sets: After reaching muscle fatigue with a particular band tension, remove a band or reduce the resistance to continue performing additional repetitions. This technique challenges your muscles further and helps stimulate additional muscle fibers.
Combine with Other Exercises: Supplement the bench press with bands with complementary exercises like push-ups, dips, or dumbbell variations. This creates a more comprehensive workout and provides additional stimuli to your muscles.
Remember, it’s crucial to progressively increase the intensity over time and listen to your body’s response. Avoid excessive strain or sacrificing proper form for the sake of intensity. Consult with a fitness professional or experienced trainer for personalized guidance on increasing intensity safely and effectively.
When Should You Start Using Bands
The biggest reason people start to add bands to the bench press is when they hit a plateau.
This won’t normally happen for someone that is new to lifting.
Using resistance bands on your bench press is normally for experienced lifters who have to add some intensity to their workouts to push their body into building more muscle.
I mentioned earlier how the bench press is the hardest once you hit the middle and the bottom of the movement, this can make it hard to progress your weight if you can’t strengthen this part of the exercise, in other words, you’re stuck at a plateau.
How the bands will help you get out of a sticking point or plateau.
- If your bench progression is being compromised because of the sticking point you’re encountering at the bottom of the movement then setting up resistance bands would lessen the resistance at the lowest point making it easier to get through it and continue to strengthen the muscles needed to make you more proficient at this lower part of the movement.
- The bands will also make parts of your exercise faster so that if you notice that there is a point during your range of motion that you become slow or sluggish, the bands will give you that jolt so that you can get through that sticking point as well and continue to train.
- If you’re a serious lifter and want to train seven days a week, bands can help you lighten the tension o days that you’re still recovering from a heavy workload the day before.
- Change is the spice of life, and you can use the bands just for the sake of changing things up and trying new moves.
Tips For Recovery and Rest Afterward
Recovery and rest are essential components of any exercise routine, including after performing the bench press with bands. This intense exercise places significant stress on your muscles, joints, and nervous system.
To optimize recovery and ensure continued progress, it’s crucial to prioritize adequate rest periods. Allow your body ample time to recover between bench press sessions, typically 48 to 72 hours, to give your muscles the opportunity to repair and rebuild. During this time, focus on proper nutrition, including consuming an adequate amount of protein to support muscle recovery and growth.
Additionally, prioritize quality sleep as it plays a vital role in the recovery process, allowing your body to repair tissues, regulate hormones, and replenish energy stores. Incorporating active recovery techniques such as light stretching, foam rolling, or low-impact exercises can also aid in alleviating muscle soreness and promoting circulation.
By giving your body the necessary rest and recovery it needs, you enhance your ability to adapt, grow stronger, and perform at your best during future bench press workouts.
Different Types Of Bands To Use
There are many types of bands to use for different types of exercises. The ones most popular for bench presses would be rubberbanditz.
- Medium Resistance – 1/2 inch wide x 41 inches long – 15 to 35 pounds of Resistance
- Heavy Resistance – 7/8 inch wide x 41 inches long – 30 to 50 pounds of Resistance
- Robust Resistance – 1 1/8 inches wide x 41 inches long – 50 to 80 pounds of Resistance
- Power resistance band – 1.75 inches wide x 41 inches long – 70 to 100 pounds of Resistance
- Strong Resistance – 2.5 inches wide x 41 inches long – 100 to 140 pounds of Resistance.
In conclusion, the incorporation of bands into the bench press introduces a dynamic and challenging variation that can take your strength training to new heights.
The benefits of the bench press with bands, including increased resistance throughout the range of motion, enhanced muscle activation, and improved force production, make it a valuable addition to any fitness routine.
By avoiding common mistakes, focusing on proper form, and gradually increasing intensity, you can maximize the effectiveness of this exercise. However, it is equally important to prioritize recovery and rest to allow your body to repair and grow stronger.
If it seems like you’re to sore the next day, try using dumbbells or just barbells on your next chestday until your body adapts.
So, whether you’re a powerlifter, athlete, or fitness enthusiast, embracing the bench press with bands can offer exciting opportunities for gains in strength, muscle development, and overall performance.