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Replicating Weights With Resistance Bands

Hi coach - wondering what you think about having light weights (empty bar, trap bar/ ez curl bar) and using bands as primary resistance.

I got a hold of some empty bars and a trap bar (15/25 lbs, 50 lbs) and have been jerry rigging some compound lifts using bands.

For instance using a sturdy plywood as base (on top of bands) and looping ends across empty trap bar (deadlifts), or tying up against a swing set and doing vertical band press with ez bar (standing bench press) or 1 leg/ 2 leg front squat variations (these feel great).

Today I saw on a chair (on top of board) with bands looped on each side and did seated shoulder press (these felt amazing)

I notice the bottom ROM is very deloaded and then, depending on bands i use (have rogue set and a bunch of generic pairs) it quickly goes from easy to back breaking.

Been getting some great pumps and even muscle gains from the more intense end ROM and higher volume (5 reps min, 12-20 reps work sets usually vs. 3-5 for barbell / 8-12 work sets)

This combined with some of your bodyweight moves via calisthenics (especially for the stretch/deloaded portion where band tension is a little light) seems like a great combo

Bands used this way work. I’ve done that myself when travelling for seminars (although I do have access to a gym most of the time, after a long flight, or a seminar, I don’t feel like going out).

BUT… they have their limitations (just like free-weights and machines have their limitations too).

It will never be as effective as free-weights (or machines, or pulleys) for maximum hypertrophy. The main reasons is that, like you experienced, the resistance in the range of motion where the muscles are stretched more and more, is low. This will greatly reduce muscle damage and mTOR activation (both are dependant on the amount of mechanical tension on the muscle fibers as you are stretching them under load).

However bands still have their advantages. Among other things, you can train each muscle more frequently (because of the lower damage) which is great for mind-muscle connection and improving your capacity to recruit a muscle.

It also does seem to give a great pump. That, along with the lower mechanical tension, means that when you are using bands for hypertrophy, you should train in a zone where you will produce a lot of lactate and growth factors. Since you can’t create a lot of damage/mTOR activation, you want to use other pathways to stimulate growth.

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This is a really good point about the elastic bands. Perhaps one of the best uses. On a side note, don’t know if other people experience this when using bands, is that it somehow creates entrapment of nerve tissue. When I use bands for arm work I have tingling sensations further down the line. Don’t know if this is the result of muscle tension, swelling or perhaps both. I seem to have a sensitivity towards this kind of stuff. Though using dumbells or barbells doesn’t seem to be that much of an issue.