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Chains, Bands & Boards, Oh My!

Training with bands, boards and chains has allot to do with bodybuilding! Using these tools can spell success in creating strength gains that usually equate into bigger muscles.

No, we're not getting ready for a S&M party, but rather a hard day of training in the gym. Performing squats, bench press, deadlifts and other activities using bands and chains provides alternative resistance for strength training.

Back in 1998, powerlifters began to incorporate bands into training routines by wrapping the bands around benches, squat racks and other pieces of equipment to enhance performance. Who were those powerlifters? Louie Simmons and his crew at Westside Barbell Club, of course. So, how the heck do chains and bands help you anyway? I am sure you've all heard the expression, shoot first and ask questions later, well, in some cases it's best to take that approach when lifting; "try it first, then figure out later."

Personally, I feel this is the correct way to train and have always incorporated that philosophy into my training and it works. If you spend all your time trying to reason why something will or will not work, then you miss out trying to be scientific instead of taking the "hands on" approach to learning. Those who take the, "tell me first why this works" approach are usually not very big or strong.

Usually, there are exceptions to the rule but not that many. But, if you must know, the research will take you deep into the force velocity curve and your own individual strength curves. Doesn't the Nike slogan say; "Just do it?" If it works that's great. Then figure out why. If it doesn't work for you, ok, then you've learned something along the way that might work for someone else that needs help.

What Does This Have To Do With Bodybuilding?

So, what does this type of training have to do with bodybuilding? Training with bands, boards and chains has allot to do with bodybuilding! Using these tools can spell success in creating strength gains that usually equate into bigger muscles.

Accelerating strength through the use of accommodating resistance. By adding chains or bands or sometimes even using both applied to just about all of your exercises can give you unreal pumps and most importantly help you blast through all those lifting plateaus that we all encounter, especially as a bodybuilder trying to maximize size naturally. Let's take the bench press first, this is the best place to see how good they work.


Attached the chains in the following manner. Loop a 1/4-inch-link chain with a hook around the bar sleeve to regulate the height of the 5/8-inch-link chain (5 feet long). Run the 5/8 chain through the metal loop and adjust it so that half of the 5/8 chain is lying on the floor while the bars in the rack.

Use 50% of a 1 Rep Max on the bar. For example, if your max is 300, put 50 pounds on the bar.


Calculate Your One-Rep Max (1RM)

Weight Lifted
Reps Done

= One-Rep Max

95% 1 RM
90% 1 RM
85% 1 RM
80% 1 RM
75% 1 RM
70% 1 RM
65% 1 RM
60% 1 RM
55% 1 RM
50% 1 RM


Enter the amount of weight you lifted (Lbs/Kg) and the number of reps you completed. Your One Rep Max (1 RM) will appear at the bottom left, and your various percentages of 1 RM will appear on the right side.

When the bar is on your chest, only the weight of the bar should be on your chest; that is, all the chain should be on the floor. Get it? A 350 or more bencher should use one pair of 5/8-inch-link chains. By doing this, you will be locking out an extra 20 pounds. (Chains weigh 20 pounds each, but half is on the floor at lockout.) Too confusing? No it's not, it's pretty simple actually.

Board Presses

OK, now how about Board Press? This is a special exercise designed to help strengthen the lockout part of the bench press. It is also very effective in increasing triceps strength. This exercise is performed exactly the same as the bench press except you pause the barbell on a board that is placed on your chest. The Board press is a great way to isolate the triceps in a bench specific motion. Do board presses close grip bench.

Anita performing close grip bench with boards and chains.

The reverse grip bench press lends itself to a good triceps workout, we all know that, but done on boards takes your triceps to a new level of size and strength. By adding the boards to benching also takes the shoulders out of the motion making it possible to use more weight and is healthier in the long term as our shoulders are put through allot as body builders and lifters. How do you do them?

First, lower the weight until it touches the boards, pause the bar but don't relax then press the weight back up, and repeat. Make a series of boards for different ranges of training like 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and even 6 boards. Again, very important make sure to pause the barbell on the boards before the accent.

Bands are a little superior to chains in accommodating resistance. This is because of several reasons. With the bands, the weight is being pulled downward to the floor at a greater force than without the bands. This form of maximal eccentrics can be very demanding on the system. But, the positives are that this type of maximal eccentric loading can also help develop an incredible amount of explosive strength. Benching with bands is much harder on your body than benching with chains.

For this reason I don't recommend training with the bands for longer than three or four weeks at a time. It's best to cycle them into your training. You'll place the bands on the inside part of the bar sleeve and then start adding plates. Remember, the bands are literally pulling down on you and the weight resistance is much more radical at different positions: much less at the bottom, but much greater at the top. Much greater at the top! Wait till you try it, talk about pushing the limits.

There are three bands with different strengths. They build the lockout as well as the start. You will realize that you have to outrun the bands, so you can develop a fast start so to enable you to lock out the heavier weight.

To get started loop the bands through the bottom supports of the bench, or better, take a pair of 120 pound dumbbells and then loop them around the dumbbell sleeves then around the sleeve of the bar.

Those should, only use this type of training, that already have a strong training background. At least three-year's of consistent training. Make sure you have enough protein in your diet; and supplementation with anti-oxidants after these types of workouts.


The use of chains and bands can also show major benefits for the development of muscle hypertrophy. Now that's a good thing for bodybuilders.

Behind The Scenes: Hypertrophy!
By: Gene. This article seeks to examine some of the factors implicated in processes of muscle growth, and, in keeping with the spirit of Mind and Muscle Magazine, elucidate the elaborate chemical pathways that transduce their effects.
[ Click here to learn more. ]

The change in the strength curve has great application for this type of training too. Again, these methods are far from the norm but who wants to be normal? Not you if you are trying to grow. You'll have fun watching everyone watch you in bewilderment when you drag a bunch of chains into the gym! Let's hope the gym will let you, you know how commercial gyms are?

But, if you want to excel in strength and size gains, then you must use bands, boards and chains because they can be instrumental in developing the above. I highly recommend that you try them as soon as possible, and don't forget to give me one more rep while your adding those chains and bands to your bar.

Note: One thing to keep in mind with this concept is if you decide to use bands you don't want to use them for every movement in the workout or training program. For chains and bands call Elite Fitness at 1-888-854-8806. For more bands, call JumpStretch at 1-800-344-3539.

   Also, Check Out Exercise Of The Week: Incline Barbell Bench Press.

About The Author

Curtis Schultz is a contributor for Ironman magazine, MuscleMag International, Martial Arts Illustrated, Natural Bodybuilding & Fitness, and many other publications. He has been a Head or an Assistant Strength Coordinator as well as a football coach for 13 years with several colleges and high schools.

Some of the places he has worked are the Univ. of Colorado, Univ. of the Pacific, St. Peter's College, and Quincy Univ.

Curtis is also an accomplished powerlifter and bench only competitor. He is also an IFPA certified Specialist in Sports Conditioning and IFPA certified Fitness Trainer, a USWF level 1 Olympic "Club" Coach, NESTA certified SAQ Specialist, and has a B.Sc. in Sports Management.