Have you considered adding a banded bench press to your workout routine and are wondering if it's worth your time? Or have you seen other powerlifters in the gym using resistance bands on their bench press and have found yourself thinking, does that help? Should I be doing a banded bench press?
Soon, you find that it's all you can think about. Thoughts of a banded bench press interrupt your sleep, distract you while cooking, and you find yourself staring at others in the gym, thinking if that works or not.
Well, today, we are here to put your thoughts to bed and get you the answers you want! Keep reading to find out if a band can help your bench press, why, and how to incorporate them into your research. We have a full and detailed guide below, so be sure to keep reading for all the answers you need.
Do bands help a bench press? Quick Answer
For those that just want to find out the answer and leave: yes, using a band on your bench press does help! It helps you increase force production, breakthrough sticking points, and practice greater control of the barbell.
It sounds like a dream, doesn’t it? But it does come with a word of warning; this is not the workout method for everyone. You might find the same benefits from other methods that you can incorporate into your workout routine. To find out more and learn all about the banded bench press, just keep on reading!
What is a banded bench press?
Let's have a quick refresh for anyone in the room that needs it! A banded bench press is where you add a band to the barbell while bench pressing. The band will add greater resistance when pressing the weight into the mid and top-end range of motion.
A banded bench press will feel harder as you lock the weight out. You will need more force to power through that initial resistance that wouldn’t be there without the band. You might see powerlifters or other gym-goers using banded bench presses to push themselves to work harder during their workout.
Now that we have covered what a banded bench press is, let's see if these bands help your workout or just make the task unnecessarily hard for you!
Do Bands help you bench press? Why?
Let’s get straight into it: yes, bands do help your bench press. A banded bench press can help you manipulate the strength curve and is one of the reasons why powerlifters use bands.
But what is the strength curve? It's the gap between the force you need to move the barbell to completion and the force you can produce. For example, think about how it feels lifting 70% of 1RM load in a single rep. As you bring the bar down to the chest and initiate the ascent, you need a moderate amount of force to drive the bar to lock-out.
But is that force the maximum amount of force you can produce? No, usually it isn’t. The force required to lift 70% for a single rep isn’t the maximum amount of force you can exert. Once you drive through the sticking point, you might reduce the amount of force required to get the bar off your chest as you don’t need as much.
Think of it as when you push the bar to completion; you can lock your arms and finish the lift without needing to try as hard as you possibly could. This is the gap between the force you need to produce and the force you can produce, creating the strength curve.
What a banded bench press does is it adds a form of resistance that accommodates the strength curve. The bands act as an external loading tool, forcing you to produce more force in ranges of motion that you otherwise wouldn’t need. The end result? You are working harder than before, burning more calories and working your muscles harder to help them grow.
Is there proof that the banded bench press works?
For those that like to see the cold hard facts and some proof to back it up, check out the study by Garcia-Lopez et al. (2016). Published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, results showed that using a banded bench press increased the acceleration of the barbell and maximized power by 17% compared to others that didn’t use bands.
The study shows us that athletes who trained with a band become more adept in driving through the entire range of motion for longer periods rather than decelerating the bar at the top end.
So what does this mean for max strength? Another study by Bellar et al. (2011) published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research looked at the effects of training with a banded bench press on maximal strength. Over 13 weeks of testing, one rep maxes before and after the training period with a group who used bands and a group who didn’t use bands, both saw an increase in strength.
The group who used banded bench press produced a 2.39kg (5.23lb) greater increase in 1 rep max strength compared to the group that didn’t use bands. While it might only seem like a 5lb difference, it is a significant amount that proves using a band to perform a bench press can improve your strength and training. Check out our resource section at the bottom of the article if you want to read more about these studies.
Why You Should Use Bands for a Bench Press
There are a few reasons why you should use bands with your bench press. They are as follows:
- To increase force production
- To practice eccentric control
- To break through sticking points
Let’s take a closer look at these reasons now so you can find out more about banded bench presses and why you should incorporate them into your workout routine.
1. Increase Force Production
Adding a band to the bench press forces you not to be lazy when it comes to how fast you press the barbell. When powerlifters are doing a lower number of reps with 65-80% of their one-rep max, they tend not to drive the bar as hard as they can. Instead, they produce the minimum amount of force required to complete the movement.
When you lift lighter weights, you can accelerate quickly off your chest, cruising through the mid-range, and accelerate towards the lock-out. Using a band will keep you driving the bar through the full range of motion. It allows you to accelerate and reach faster speeds in each phase of the lift that you would not otherwise access.
We call this the dynamic effort method, where the goal is to produce maximum force at all times, even when using submaximal loads. If you want to give this a try, you can use the following intensity and set amount:
- Intensity - 60-70% of 1RM
- Sets - 5-8
- Reps - 2-5
- Rest - 60 to 90 seconds
- Band resistance - 15-20% of the overall bar load.
2. Practice Eccentric Control
A banded bench press can also help you to practice eccentric control. The eccentric range of motion is when you bring the bar down and is another area where some people will use less force instead of their maximum amount. Placing a band on the barbell can allow you to start the movement with greater levels of force production than if you performed the bench press without the band.
In this case, the band will actively try to pull the bar down towards your chest, meaning you will need to exert greater control of the bar when you begin the movement. Instead of letting the band pull the bar down rapidly, you will want to manage the eccentric tempo to keep the bar within the right bar path and prevent it from slamming into your chest, potentially causing an injury.
Studies have shown that you produce twice as much pec activation when you bring the weight down compared to pressing it up. The research also shows that several stabilizing muscle groups like the lats and upper back are also activated on the way down. Their role is to assist in decelerating the bar towards the chest and get worked as a result.
If you lack or struggle with eccentric control, using a band on your bench press can effectively help emphasize the muscles responsible for producing stability. You can challenge your pecs and stabilize musicals to control the tempo of your movement in one go!
If you want to try this, use the suggestions listed below. Remember to adjust them to your fitness levels as appropriate.
- Intensity - 65-75% of 1RM
- Sets - 4-6
- Reps - 3-5
- Tempo - bring the bar down with a 2-3 second count, then drive fast off the chest.
- Rest - 2-3 minutes
- Banded resistance - 15-20% of the overall bar load.
3. Break Through Sticking Points
The final reason you should add bands to your bench press is that they allow you to overload the top range of motion with greater resistance. If you find you have a sticking point at lock-out, training with a band could produce positive results to overcome this deficiency.
As the triceps are responsible for extending the arm, a failure at lock-out suggests that your triceps have a weakness. You can find information and help online about training your triceps and bench press lock-outs if this is an issue you suffer from.
Don’t forget to check out tutorials, too; a visual breakdown can be super helpful and allow you to see the exact position you should be in.
You must train your triceps specifically to the adaptation required. You will want to load your triceps at lock-out, so the length of the muscles is adapting to the mechanics of the movement. Using a band in your bench press will place more emphasis on your triceps compared to conventional weights.
It's also worth using a banded bench press if you struggle or are weak in the middle of the bench press, but we will look into this in more detail later.
Should I use bands for a bench press?
Now, this sounds wonderful, doesn’t it and an excellent way to push your body and work your muscles, but is it right for you? We would say that the banded bench press isn’t ideal for beginners. But what is a beginner?
We would say someone with less than two years of strength training experience. There is some leeway here; if you feel experienced, you can try the bands, but make sure you take all the necessary safety precautions to avoid injuring yourself.
And while we have listed the reasons above for using a banded bench press and think it's a fantastic method, it might not be the best tool for everyone wanting to accomplish those goals. For each reason we gave, a beginner would probably have a greater benefit from benching more generally.
When we say benching more, this could mean a few things. It could mean benching more frequently throughout the week, increasing your benching sessions to twice a week. Or you could bench more over a longer period of time, honing the bench technique over several months of training.
For beginners, it's best to extract as much benefit from conventional benching as long as possible before applying external tools or methods once the benefits begin to disappear.
Use the banded bench exercise at an intermediate or advanced level or those with two or more years of experience bench pressing twice a week.
To use the banded bench press in your workout, apply the band to one of the three reasons we stated above. Consider which part of your bench press will benefit the most from the band and apply it as we suggested earlier.
Banded Bench Press - What do the coaches say?
As with any other powerlifting tool, different coaches will tell you different things in terms of effectiveness and building strength. We researched what expert trainers had to say; to get you the information you need to bench press with a band. We trolled through interviews, blogs and spoke to trainers to find out if they use bands with their athletes and why/not.
Let’s find out what they had to say.
Mike Tuchscherer at Reactive Training Systems uses a banded bench press to build tricep strength when using heavier protocols. He notes the benefit of using it as a tool to increase eccentric control, especially in the bottom range of motion. He found that pausing the bar on the chest helped, too, in strength and muscle development.
Arian Khameshi, on the other hand, doesn’t use a banded bench press with his athletes, stating that not all of his athletes had access to the extra piece of equipment (the band). Instead, he focuses on other methods to build tricep strength.
As we said, Adrian agrees that the banded bench press isn’t for beginners, and instead, they should use other exercises to increase their strength over the banded bench press.
How can I set up a banded bench press?
Before you go today, let’s take a quick look at how you set up a banded bench press. If you are a keen powerlifter that's looking to strengthen your triceps and enhance your workout, use the following steps to set up your rig!
- Put your band over one end of the barbell
- Pull the band underneath the bench
- Wrap the band over the opposite end of the barbell
- Put the bands inside the sleeve of the collar
And there you have it! That’s super easy, isn’t it? You don’t need a fancy rig for this setup, and it can be done at home or in your local gym; just don’t forget your band when you leave! There are also some online tutorials if you want to see someone elses’ setup before implementing your own.
What’s the best band to use?
This is a personal choice, and one you might find is trial and error until you find the perfect band for you, but we think a 0.5 or 1-inch band for bench press is the best.
If the band is too thick, your bar load will need to be significantly reduced for you to lock-out. Even if you don’t have issues with your lock-out, you will struggle using a thicker band.
So now we've got the thickness, what brand should you use? Well, we love WOD Nation’s Resistance Bands. You get a whole set at a reasonable price that can be used all across the gym! The color-coding indicates the band’s resistance, and it's the ideal set for those continuing to lift heavier weights - there will be a band to match!
Resistance bands are becoming increasingly popular tools for workouts, not just for powerlifters but also for those looking to strengthen their core and other muscles. You can pick the bands up here and check out the rave reviews other customers have left!
Why not get the bands and incorporate them into your warm-up exercises as well as the bench press?
And just like that, we have come to the end of our banded bench press journey today. As you can see, a banded bench press is a fantastic workout that can help increase your performance. By simply changing the nature of the strength curve, intermediate and advanced lifters can improve the force they produce, break through a sticking point or provide greater eccentric control depending on their goals.
Once you’ve used it, you will wonder how you ever coped without a banded bench press before. Don’t just take our word for it, though; get yours and give it a go today!
Bellar, D., Muller, M., Barkley, J., Jim, C., Ida, K., Ryan, E., Bliss, M., Glickman, E. 2011). The effects of combining Elastic and Free Weight Tension vs. Free weight Tension on One Repetition Maximum Strength In The Bench Press. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 25 (2) 459-463.
Garcia-Lopez, D., Hernandez-Sanchez, S., Matin, E., Marin, P., Zarzosa, F., Herroro, A. (2016). Free-weight augmentation with elastic bands improves bench-press kinematics in professional rugby players, Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 30 (9), 2493-2499.