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Banded Bench Press 101: How to, Why, & Benefits

Fitness Culture Team

Dynamic Effort (Speed) Training has gained popularity in powerlifting and athletic training circles as a way to improve strength and explosiveness. Because of this, more and more people are using band resistance as a tool to increase the efficiency of this type of training. In this guide we’ll cover everything you need to know to execute the band resisted speed bench press safely and effectively.

In this guide to band resisted speed bench press we’ll cover the following topics:

Benefits of Adding Bands to Speed Training & Your Bench Press

Choosing the Right Weight and Band Tension

How to Set Up Band Resisted Bench Press

Proper Technique for Speed Bench Press

Four Best Variations - A Progression from Beginner to Pro

Band Resisted Speed Bench Press: Step by Step Guide

If you’re new to dynamic effort training for the bench press we recommend getting familiar with this type of training before attempting to perform it using bands. Once you’ve mastered the movement pattern and gained the proper body control to execute these types of reps effectively it will be easy to spot the benefits of adding bands to your speed bench.

Three Benefits of Adding Bands to Speed Training

1. Accommodating Resistance

Accommodating resistance uses an added piece of equipment (the bands) to increase the resistance of the load throughout the range of motion. In the bench press, most people can perform a lot more weight doing a ¼ rep than they can push off their chest during a full repetition. By adding bands we are giving our athletes the opportunity to apply more force throughout the entire range of motion.

2. Decrease the Need to Decelerate the Bar

Since the bands are giving us more resistance throughout the entire range of motion we do not need to decelerate as much when reaching lockout. You’ll notice if you perform a rep on the speed bench without the bands and drive all the way through the entire range of motion, your back will jump off the bench as your body weight is used to decelerate the bar. While you’ll still need the decelerate a small amount when using bands, the amount of deceleration is decreased dramatically.

3. Quicker Transition into Next Reps

When performing multiple reps as fast as possible on the speed bench the bands are extremely helpful. Without the bands, you will need to decelerate a lot at the top of the movement and wait as the bar starts falling back down into the next rep (or actively pull the bar back down, but this can get sloppy). The band tension will allow you to stay set in a good position and quickly transition into your next rep.

Choosing the Right Weight and Band Tension

Proper Load

Speed movements are generally performed around 30-50% of your 1RM, while some advanced lifters are working with loads close to 70% of 1RM. The key is to make sure you are moving fast to achieve the desired training stimulus for this type of training. The bottom line is if you are struggling at all to lockout a rep, you are using too much weight. A good strategy to approaching your speed training sessions is to start at the low end and build in weight throughout the session as long as good speed is maintained. Don’t forget to add the weight of the band tension to the total weight on the bar when determining how much weight you are using.

Determining Band Tension

To make this simple, we’ve come up with some guidelines that work well for our athletes. These guidelines are based off your 1RM using Rouge Fitness Brand Bands.

Under 250lbs - Orange Bands

250-400lbs - Red Bands

Over 400lbs - Blue Bands

How to Set Up Band Resisted Bench Press

1. Anchoring the Bands

If you’re lucky enough to have a power rack or bench with pins to attach the bands then you’re good to go. If not, our favorite solution is to use a heavy DB to anchor the band. This will allow you to use the bands the way they were designed for proper tension. It also increases the lifespan of the bands as compared to attaching it to a plate or other less effective methods. You will loop the band around the DB and we typically use another DB to keep it from rolling.

2. Band Positioning

Band positioning is crucial when setting up for this lift and is one of the most common mistakes that we see. Make sure the bands are positioned directly down the bar path of the lifter. The best way to do this is to have the lifter set up and bring the bar down to the bottom position. Place the bands directly in line with the bar in this position. If the bands are set up too close to the rack or towards the hips of the lifter it will disrupt the bar path.

3. Bar Path

We coach pushing in a straight bar path for the bench press but it’s even more important when you are using bands and doing speed reps. If you are pushing toward the rack as you lock out the bands will be pulling you back toward your chest at a bad angle. This can get dangerous, especially when performing multiple reps quickly.

4. Lifter Set Up

Proper bar path starts with a proper setup. The most important part of the setup to ensure a straight bar path is setting your shoulders in a good position BEFORE you unrack the weight. You can achieve this by externally rotating your shoulders and squeezing your shoulder blades together and down toward your butt. Once you are in the position on the bench, it’s very important to make sure you do not lose positioning when you unrack the weight.

Four Best Variations - A Progression from Beginner to Pro

Getting used to lifting with bands is going to be different for everyone. We’ve seen people pick it up nicely on their first day while others struggled for a few weeks to gain the stability and control necessary to perform these reps efficiently. Because of this, we’ve designed a progression to get our athletes comfortable with this type of training. Remember, you should get comfortable with speed work before attempting to use bands. You can use this same progression without bands to gain mastery before attempting with bands.

1. Pause at Chest

In the first variation, the lifter will control the weight to the chest, pause for 1 second, then explode the weight back to lockout as fast as possible, pausing again at the top before attempting another rep. Three reps will be performed this way to complete the set.

2. ¼ Ballistic Rep

In the next step of our progression, we will have the lifter control the weight for the top ¾ of the eccentric phase of the lift and drop the last ¼ very fast, overcoming the downward velocity of the bar and exploding the bar to lockout as fast as possible, pausing at the top before attempting another rep. Three reps will be performed this way to complete the set.

3. Full Ballistic Rep

The next step we will build on the ¼ ballistic rep and take it all the way from lockout. Starting from lockout you will drop the weight quickly to your chest, overcome the downward velocity of the bar, press back to lockout as quickly as possible and pause at the top before attempting another rep. Three reps will be performed this way to complete the set.

4. 3 Reps For Time

In the last step of the progression, we will put everything together and perform 3 reps as fast as possible. Starting from lockout you will drop the weight quickly to your chest, overcome the downward velocity of the bar, press back to lockout as quickly as possible and immediately drop back down into your next rep. Three reps will be performed this way to complete the set.

Incorporating dynamic training with bands will help you build strength and power when done properly. If you want to try a workout featuring these bands and see how we include banded speed bench in a full upper body workout, click here to download a week from our Power program.