When I first heard about bands, I thought it had to be a joke. I could only picture those cheap tubing bands people use for rehab. All I could imagine was some lame infomercial workout, or an aerobic class filled with plastic steppers and 3-pound dumbbells.
But when I started studying the famed Westside Barbell and its legendary Westside Method, and I entered a world filled with real bands, dynamic squats, and deadlifts. My eyes were opened to a new kind of training. I didn't see some pathetic tubing; instead, I saw people lifting heavy weights and using massive bands covered with chalk, dirt, and sweat. Theirs were some of the fastest and most explosive squats and deadlifts I had ever seen in my life.
Now this was some band training I could get into. After that experience, I did all I could to learn about band training. I wanted to know how bands were utilized and how beneficial they could be. I started applying them to my powerlifting workouts.
How Bands Work
Bands are effective because they make the weight get proportionally heavier throughout the range of motion. In other words, the band pulls the weight toward the floor. Even the smallest band can add 50 pounds to the bottom of a deadlift, and 200 pounds at the top. In essence, bands help you learn how to accelerate.
Each band, depending on its size, offers varying degrees of resistance. Heavy bands work great with squats because they teach acceleration coming out of the hole. Mini-bands are best when used with the deadlift because they teach you how to finish the movement with explosiveness.
Be a Band Geek
When I used them correctly, the benefits of using bands were immense—I was completely sold on implementing bands into my training regimen. My training, especially when it came to powerlifting, was forever changed for the better. These days, my explosiveness has reached new levels and the speed on all my lower-body lifts has increased substantially.
When I started applying the bands into my workouts, my contest squat was 500 pounds in a single-ply suit. In just a year and a half, my squat skyrocketed to 700 pounds in a multi-ply contest. I know that band training helped me get to that level. I'm certain that applying bands into your squat and deadlift routines will help increase your lifts.
For programming, I followed the man who pioneered using bands in powerlifting: the great Louie Simmons, creator of Westside Barbell. His method includes 8-12 sets of 2 reps of dynamic squats with light, average, or heavy bands; followed by 5-8 sets of 2 reps of dynamic deadlifts with mini-bands right after. Do these lifts once per week and you'll see amazing increases in your speed and explosive output. I usually work bands in six-week waves.
Bands are a great tool for all levels of fitness. It's obviously great for powerlifting, but squatting and pulling with bands has a place for many people. It's perfect for athletes and a must-have for anyone looking to gain strength.