As athletes, our goal is to continuously push the limits in the weight room to gain strength, speed, and power. Through strength training we see not only strength gains in the weight room, but that directly correlate to speed and power on the field when we train correctly. Now this may all sound great and true, but we all know that there comes a time during training when you feel that you are plateauing or losing your edge when it comes to gaining strength. This could happen for a number of reasons from diet, sleep, recovery, and your training program among other things.
If all else fails, and you are on top of your diet, sleep patterns, and recovery then we need to take a look at the programming. If you are consistently following your program, and increasing weight at a slow steady pace; but still feeling you are lacking the gains you want to see, or not increasing your power and speed on the field; implementing an accommodating resistance cycle to your program may be the route to take.
What is Accommodating Resistance?
Accommodating Resistance refers to the use of chains or bands to develop maximal tension throughout the full range of motion rather than at your weakest point. While there are a number of benefits to using accommodating resistance, one of the most noteworthy is accommodating the strength curve in which tension is highest where we are strongest, and lowest where we are weakest.
First I want to talk about what the strength curve is to better understand why we would want to use accommodating resistance. The strength curve is the difficulty of an exercise throughout the range of motion of the movement. For example, an ascending strength curve refers to an exercise which gets harder as you extend and a descending strength curve becomes harder as you reach flexion; a bench or squat would be an example of a descending strength curve.
As lifters and athletes we can most likely un-rack a lot more weight than we can actually squat. So it's fair to say if you had a maximal bench of 315lbs, essentially means that at the weakest point of your movement you could lift 315lbs (The 1 Rep Max represents the strength of your weakest point). It's fair to say that we are leaving some strength on the table here as we are most likely not using our max effort at all ranges of motion outside of our sticking point.
When lifting free weights, the weight stays constant through the range of motion even when adding more weight and as the movement gets more difficult it still is at a constant. Adding bands or chains increases the resistance the further the weight moves from the bands anchor point thus manipulating the strength curve.
To put this in very simple terms, when we add bands to say a squat, the top of the lift (where it was once the easiest) now becomes tougher as the bands have more tension at the top, whereas now the bottom of the lift the bands have less tension on the movement (there is still some tension here) making the bottom of the lift slightly tougher but as you stand up out of the hole the band increases its tension increasing the amount of force the musculature must produce to finish the lift. When this happens, we not only are teaching our body to accelerate through the increased band tension increasing the amount of force we can produce, but additionally we are allowing the body to build more strength in some of our weaker areas of the range of motion.
So you may be wondering how this directly helps athletes; or just anyone training to get faster and more powerful. As I foreshadowed above, this type of training can help increase muscular size, acceleration, and power but how?
Bands or chains train acceleration and rate of force development which is perfect for the development of power. Rate of force development is a measure of explosive strength or how fast an athlete can produce power. As an athlete, when we accelerate on the field, in a lift, pitching, tackling etc, if you can produce more force in less time, your rate of force development has increased. This directly translates to increasing your 40 time, vertical jump, throwing velocity, bat exit velocity, shot speed overall improving your sports performance. Overall the improvements you are going to see as an athlete are increased speed, power, and overall explosive strength.
Now let's look at the difference between using bands and chains for accommodating resistance:
Will accelerate the eccentric phase of the lift; bands will pull you down faster forcing you to absorb the weight quicker and then force it back up with an equal amount of force
Eg; faster down = faster up.
Bands are going to be a bit tougher on the CNS (central nervous system) due to the increased force they will produce. Do not use these for too many weeks in a row.
Chains are going to feel more like real weight, they won’t pull down on the bar during the eccentric phase.
Keys to setting up bands or chains:
Must have tension through the entire range of motion including the bottom.
Be sure to use the correct type of band with the correct type of tension on the band for each lifter.
On squats, be sure to set the band at the midfoot of the athlete; when benching, make sure bands are set to where the bar will be when the movement is being performed
Be sure chains are not hanging in the air when bar is fully extended, allow some chain link to be touching the floor
A good key is to allow 2-3 links to be touching the floor at full extension
A great place to find this equipment is one of the larger equipment brands (Rogue, Rep Fitness, Sorinex). Spending a bit extra on nicer bands will pay off in the long run as they will not wear out as fast.
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“Manipulating Strength Curves and Accommodating Resistance.” Iron Edge, Iron Edge, 9 July 2019, www.ironedge.com.au/blog/manipulating-strength-curves-and-accommodating-resistance/.
Coler, Trudy. “Accommodating Resistance: The Benefits of Using Bands and Chains.” Accommodating Resistance: The Benefits of Using Bands and Chains, www.nifs.org/blog/bid/354027/Accommodating-Resistance-The-Benefits-of-Using-Bands-and-Chains.
Showman, Nick. “Accommodating Resistance: A Guide of Why, How and When to Use It.” Knowledge Is Power, blog.teambuildr.com/accommodating-resistance-a-guide-of-why-how-and-when-to-use-it.
Lingenfelser, Ryan. “Understanding Strength Curves.” RDLFITNESS, RDL Fitness, 16 Jan. 2020, www.rdlfitness.com/understanding-strength-curves/.
P-Themes. “CHAIN REACTION: ACCOMMODATING LEVERAGES.” Westside Barbell, Westside Barbell, www.westside-barbell.com/blogs/2003-articles/chain-reaction-accommodating-leverages.