Ideal HIT Program/Method For Resistance Bands?

Dr Darden,

What would be your choice of program/method/cadence when using resistance bands for HIT?

Resistance bands are the perfect equipment for quick, easy and portable training. Due to the resistance curve they may seem better suited for variations of pump reps (which many online sources use - James Grage is my recommendation). However, there are HIT trainees online (Arjan Meijer, who is heavily influenced by Darden, comes to mind) making use of 30-10-30 and also his own version of negative emphasized partials. Partials and/or zone-reps open up for more focus on the negatives.

That said, I believe there could be more thoughts and ideas spent on the resistance band movement - especially from the HIT community - considering bands are perfectly suited for quick workouts (change of excercise). Bands have their obvious limitations though, meaning bands will never be able to replicate or replace other equipment. But, bands provide a unique stimulus that I personally use against adaptation.

As I reinvestigated the Darden M3 muscle program - I realized it may be the perfect vehicle for resistance bands, with its combination of different repstyles (and even bands included to a minor extent). Have anyone ever tried it?

What are your thoughts on this, Dr Darden? Have you ever considered the construction of a specific resistance band workout?

I was part of the group that piloted the M3 program–called the Surge Challenge–last summer.

The flutter and pump reps could work well with bands. Exercises like triceps press downs, curls, or banded squats might work.

Most of the effort in the stimulate portion of M3 is directed towards slowing the second half of the negative and holds in the stretched position. Unless I’m misunderstanding, with bands, this would be the position of the least tension, wouldn’t it?

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Understood. Correct. The only way to overcome this - partially - is to stretch the band even more - or make better use of the more demanding position when the band is stretched the most. Which in itself demands a different concept/program.

For M3, I think you’d want the most tension through the second half of the negative.

You seem committed to making bands work for you. Hmmm…

You could do the M3 pump and flutter reps with bands, no problem.

If you’re willing to experiment: what if you tried the M3 holds just short of full contraction? Reps could be JRep style–a few rhythmic reps in the top 1/4 ROM, then a few more reps in next lowest 1/4, then the next lowest 1/4…and end with a hold near the top?

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JReps are a good the way to go. I prefer 1/3s or overlapping 1/2s are plenty. Another great method is supersets of “like” exercises, with the easier exercise(s)* following the harder ones (with the same band). [*‘Mechanical Drop Sets’ is the new term for this method] Examples:
Reverse Curls / Straight Curls / Drag Curls
Triceps Ext / CG Chest Press / MG Chest Press
Of course, partials/JReps could be incorporated into any or all of the supersetted exercises.


I think the bands are a great inclusion but I do feel like you’re missing out on the great benefits of mechanical loading, which is really the primary trigger for muscle growth that you get with free weights/machines as well as the tremendous muscle fiber activation you get from the negative portion or repetitions. If you’re traveling and in a pinch, band work taken to failure is fine for maintenance but I really think they work best in conjunction with free weights if maximum muscle growth is the goal.