NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Five Powerlifting Pieces to the Power Clean Puzzle

The NIFS Barbell Club is slated to start in the coming week. This will be a chance for members to learn about individual Olympic and powerlifting movements that they have experience with or may be trying for the first time. Olympic (Oly, ah-LEE) and powerlifting have become increasingly popular over recent years and will continue to grow, considering their application to functional training and athletic movement.

deadlift-2new.jpgYou may already be preparing to attend barbell club or could already be an active participant in LIFT, our small group training setting for Olympic and powerlifting. But if the group setting is not for you, I’m going to give you a solid progression that will allow you to develop a strong power clean with proper technique. The following movements can be a starting point for beginners or experienced lifters looking to get a fresh perspective on their current programs.

When I venture into any Olympic or powerlifting movements with a client or athlete, the most important factor is that their body be able to perform the movement that I am asking them to do. I get a good idea of this by using the Functional Movement Screening (FMS) and a few lower-intensity exercises (kettlebell swing, goblet squat, ground-based plyometrics, etc.) that utilize similar movement patterns to those that the Oly or powerlifts entail. If an individual is not able to perform these movements correctly or their FMS score contraindicates their participation in them, I would focus on other areas in order to better prepare that individual for these lifts. Once I believe someone is fully capable of performing the lifts (in this case with regard to the power clean progression), I could start them on the progression.

1. The Deadlift 

The first (and arguably most important, in my opinion) step in this progression would be to teach proper hip-hinge technique for a deadlift. This is the foundation of the majority of the Oly movements and needs to be perfected in order to reach the fullest potential in subsequent lifts. Learning this movement could take as little as a couple weeks, but will likely take more like 4 to 6 weeks depending on your current abilities. Take your time; it will be worth it!

Points of Emphasis:

  1. Keep your back flat.
  2. Keep the bar close to your body.
  3. Use a Hook or Pronated grip (which has a better translation to Olympic movements).
  4. Start by pulling slowly from the ground; velocity will be added later.
Recommended training time frame: 4 to 6 weeks (depending on ability level)

2. The Power Shrug

Once you have perfected the deadlift, you can implement the next movement. From the deadlift position, I usually transition to a power shrug. The power shrug is just what it sounds like, a shrug with more speed than normal. The power shrug allows for the client or athlete to feel what it is like to achieve triple extension after the deadlift. It begins with a deadlift to an RDL position (with the bar at or just below the knees). Once the RDL position is achieved, the hips are driven through to generate the upward momentum to the bar. The client simultaneously shrugs his or her shoulders toward their ears to finish the movement.

Steps to Achieve:

  1. Start with a deadlift to the RDL position.
  2. Once the RDL position is met, drive the hips through.
  3. Finish with shoulders shrugged toward the ears and on the tiptoes.
Recommended training time frame: 3 to 4 weeks

3.The Hang Pull

The next step in my progression would be to go into a hang pull. This movement is more of a “top-down” movement versus a “bottoms-up” movement when compared to the deadlift and the power shrug. The deadlift and power shrug start from the ground and move upward from there. In contrast, the hang pull starts from a standing straight up position. The ultimate goal for all of the movements will be to get to the powerful RDL position. The hang pull involves lowering the bar to the knees and then driving the hips through to generate an explosive upright rowing motion. You may integrate the shrug that you have learned in progression #2 in order to produce more of that upward drive. The movement finishes with the client coming down from their toes after the pulling motion.

Steps to Achieve:

  1. Stand up straight.
  2. Lower the bar down the legs in a hip-hinge motion.
  3. Once RDL is achieved, drive the hips through, shrug, and row.
  4. Finish on tiptoes.
Recommended training time frame: 2 to 3 weeks

4. The Hang Clean

Now the fun begins. Through the first three steps you’ve learned to properly hip hinge and how to achieve triple extension through the hips, knees, and ankles. You’ve learned to shrug and pull from steps 2 and 3. If done properly, step 4 (the Hang Clean) should be a piece of cake. The hang clean builds off of the hang pull by adding the firing of the elbows under and through the bar to achieve a front rack position with the barbell positioned across the shoulders. If you have been diligent through steps 1 to 3, this should not be an issue. The biggest problem I see with individuals in this stage would be a lack of mobility through the wrists, triceps, and shoulders. Timing is everything with these lifts, so once you know you are doing them correctly, practice, practice, practice. The less your mind has to think about any part of this movement, the more success you will see.

Steps to Achieve:

  1. Perform steps 1 to 4 for the Hang Pull.
  2. Slightly sink the hips.
  3. Pull and fire the elbows under the bar.
  4. Finish with the bar racked across the shoulders.
Recommended training time frame: 4 to 6 weeks

5. The Power Clean

You have made it this far; it’s time to seal the deal! The final progression for the power clean would be, well, the power clean. During this progression, your job will be to assemble all of the pieces of the power clean puzzle from steps 1 to 5. This movement will start with the deadlift to the RDL position, continue with a big shrug and pull, fire the elbows, and sink beneath the bar. It is essentially step #4, but we are pulling from the floor.

Sounds simple, right? Not exactly. This will introduce a whole separate challenge with regard to timing, but as always, your timing will get better with practice. Once you feel comfortable pulling from the ground and catching the bar in the upright/hips loaded position, catching into a front squat will be next (but you should perfect this first).

Steps to Achieve:

  1. Deadlift to RDL position.
  2. Drive hips through.
  3. Shrug shoulders and pull upward: get triple extension!
  4. Sink and fire elbows beneath the bar.
  5. Catch and rack the bar across the shoulders.
Recommended training time frame: 4 to 6 weeks

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Olympic and powerlifting movements are definitely the king of the fitness world jungle. They should be done with extreme attention to detail due to the high velocities of the bars (Oly lifting) and extreme weights being used (powerlifting). That doesn’t mean you need to be a fitness expert to perform them; just learn how to do them correctly. Although these pieces to the power clean puzzle lead you in the right direction, it is always beneficial to have another set of eyes on you to make sure that everything is in working order. Realize that it takes a while for your body to adapt and grasp these movement concepts, especially if you are new to this type of lifting. Remember, be patient and a stickler on details; it will pay off in the long run!

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NIFS New Barbell Club is a FREE lifting club open to all members! Learn safe and effective weightlifting techniques and have fun lifting in a club atmosphere! For times and dates click here.

This blog was written by Alex Soller, NIFS Athletic Performance Coach. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers click here.

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Topics: NIFS group training weight lifting powerlifting functional movement

Heavy Metal: Powerlifting Strategies Can Lead to Big Fitness Gains

Being the youngest of six boys is a badge of honor that I wear proudly. Growing up in my rather large family was not always easy. Most of the time money was pretty tight and we were not afforded some of the luxuries that other families may have been. Hand-me-downs and bumming lunch money from friends were standard operating procedures for a great deal of my childhood.

No matter how hard things got, there was always one constant: sport. Football and powerlifting were the two main obsessions in our household. As the youngest Maloney lad, I had many great examples to learn from andbrotherpyramid just as many expectations to live up to. You guessed it, that’s me on top of that pyramid crying my eyes out about something I don’t remember—I’m sure one of my older brothers had recently given me “something to cry about” (a phrase we heard a lot).

Look beyond the cuteness of this photo and you will see one of the messages of this post. Training to compete in powerlifting events provided a foundation on which I built my lifelong fitness. The stronger the foundation, the bigger and more impactful things you can stack on top. Powerlifting provided so many opportunities; we didn’t know it then, but we were solidifying practices that are looked on today as the first best steps in overall fitness improvement. The stronger you are, the more accomplishments are to be had.

I want to share with you some of the huge gains training as a powerlifter has provided me over the years—not all physical, either. These are results I know you can have when you implement powerlifting training ideas into your fitness program.

Discipline

Consistent with most aspects of your life, strong discipline will always lead to strong results. It takes hard work to get better at anything, and it takes discipline to consistently provide that hard work. To follow a specific program and sound plan of attack is not always easy to do. Making the decision to get better at something and taking the proper and consistent steps to get there takes discipline. I’m not referring to only the physical stuff, but also the mental and emotional stuff as well. Those days spent in the weight room filled me with proper etiquette and respect for that environment and the discipline it took to be a part of it.

Rick Huse paints a brilliant picture of the atmosphere of those days in the weight room in his post, Old-School Weightlifting Gym Etiquette. Those rules and concepts set the tone for a strong work ethic in the gym that was ingrained early and often and has served me and countless others well along the fitness path. “There are two types of pain in this world: the temporary pain of discipline, or the permanent pain of regret” is a motto I live by, and it was learned early in life.

Absolute Strength

In this post, I referenced a “bucket” analogy that I have adopted from legendary coach Dan John. Think of absolute strength as a bucket. The bigger the bucket, the more concepts or abilities you can put into the bucket. Building absolute strength will result in gains in many other fitness aspects such as power, endurance, mobility, motor control, and sport-specific skills. The specific lifts in powerlifting, Squat, Bench Press, and Dead Lift, transfer to overall fitness capabilities in many movement patterns and sport skills. We all squat to sit down, we all push something away from our bodies, and we definitely bend over and pick up heavy things. Being stronger in these lifts not only allows you to compete at a high level in this sport, but it carries over to daily life and our pursuit of feeling better, losing weight, and gaining muscle.

I have seen the shirts that read, “Strong is the new sexy,” and it might be, but strong has always been the foundation for overall athleticism and functional capabilities. I am pretty confident that without growing my “bucket” in those early days in the weight room, there are many things I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish down the road and to this day. Get strong, and stay strong! Your tomorrow will thank you for it.

Accomplishment

Implementing powerlifting strategies provides a progressive message to fitness that is so important. Unless you came from the planet Krypton and wear a red cape, it is unlikely you were able to step into a squat rack and get low on a 1,000-pound barbell-bending squat. But for most of us, that is what we wanted: for that bar to bend! We had to work up to that kind of performance or ultimately pay the price of injury. When you see the weight go up after all of the hard work, there is nothing like that sense of accomplishment. Powerlifting is full of those victories, and they can happen often. There are few things more powerful than seeing your hard work pay off in big ways. The motivation and inspiration you feel when you hit a PR (personal record) or when you add that extra 10 pounds you were unable to do last week is so impactful and will keep you striving for more.lifting_picmaloney

If you are just starting out, you can see big improvements quickly, spurring you on to get even better and stronger. Conversely, from defeat comes progress. Not getting a lift in a meet, or dropping out on that last set in the weight room, can be just as powerful as, if not more powerful than, the successes you have. You realize you have to work harder, be more disciplined, and improve that absolute strength.

Strength was stressed early and often in my early years. That has led to an ever-improving fitness level throughout my life, and it can do the same for you. Witnessing huge lifts, like the one in the photo to the right of my brother Andy, fired me up to be better and stronger, and has paid huge dividends in my athletic and fitness life. I look back on those early days in the weight room training with my brothers—the smells, loud music, and the emotions that packed each training session—and I know that because of it, I have been able to succeed not only in the physical realm, but in the mental realm as well.

Don’t miss the First Annual Powerlifting Competition at NIFS coming up on November 8 and see a showcase of strength from your very own NIFS members and individuals from the community. Early bird registration ends Sept 30th!

Compete at this event, or come be a spectator for free. Either way, you will be a part of something pretty special!

get registered for Powerlifting

Tony Maloney is the NIFS Fitness Center Manager and leads Group Training on Sunday through Thursday. Follow Tony on Facebook at ELITE.

Topics: fitness muscles weight lifting weightlifting strength power

Old-School Weightlifting Gym Etiquette

rack-your-weightIf you dont follow my rules, Ill personally drag your butt to the front door and out to the sidewalk!

Larry Been, gym owner (1963)

In recent years, there has been a lot of focus on old-time strongmen and bodybuilders, trying to discover how their training and nutrition developed high-quality physiques and tremendous strength without the drugs and expensive supplements of more modern times. This search for the secrets and wisdom of the weightlifting past spans decades, and even generations, dating back to the late 1800s and early 20th century and coming forward to the pre-steroid ’60s, my generation of lifters.

I started lifting weights when I was 10 years old in 1957. My uncle brought home pieces of scrap steel from his factory job that I used for dumbbells and barbells. When I was 12, I got my dad to buy me a 110# York Barbell set (which, of course, I added to). I made do with that until I turned 16 and was finally able to drive to downtown Indianapolis and join my first weighting gym, Larry Been’s Olympia Club located at 16th and Alabama.

Larry’s gym was the home for such characters as Peter Lupus, the actor who played the strongman on the Mission Impossible TV series; Dick the Bruiser and friends (professional wrestlers), noted local bodybuilders of the day; and strongmen who were competing in a new sport called powerlifting.

It didn’t matter your race, wealth (or lack of it), age, or lifting ability. It was a small, eclectic group of societal misfits who shared a passion for weight training and strength. Larry Been was the ringmaster.Such a group of strongmen with egos to match required rules that were fair and simple to understand. Everyone knew that they had to share the space and equipment by being conscious of how their actions affected the others around them. Here were the rules:

1. Unload your bars and re-rack your dumbbells and weight plates.

It just makes sense. For safety reasons, weights, bars, and dumbbells could not be left laying around on the floor for people to trip over. But more importantly it was a shared courtesy to not force someone to have to unload your bar or put your “toys” away. If you moved a bench, you moved it back. If you took dumbbells from their rack, you returned them to their proper spot. Weight plates had their own horns on the weight tree. This was simply the gym version of the Golden Rule.

My first day at the gym, I was used to training at home with no one else to answer to. I left 45# plates on each end of a bar and started to walk away from the bench. I felt the crushing grip of Dick the Bruiser grab my shoulder; his arm slipped around my neck and I found myself being walked back to the bench in a headlock, being told to unload the bar. Yes sir, Mr. Bruiser! Needless to say, I never left plates on any bar, anywhere, ever again.

2. Between sets, watch others lifting around you in case they would need a spot.

The experienced lifters knew that when limits were being pushed or beginners were just learning to lift, things could go wrong very quickly. The sense of brotherhood grew when you knew you could count on those around to help keep you out of trouble. Safety was a shared group responsibility. If someone didn’t assist, they would find themselves stuck under a bar for quite awhile if they missed a bench press rep. No one would help them, just to make a point, for some people have to learn the hard way.

3. Weights are not allowed to be dropped.

It was believed that if you were strong enough to lift a weight off the floor or out of the rack, you should be strong enough to return it to its place of origin. If you couldn’t, then the weight was too heavy for you and that was a rookie mistake that should never happen again. Therefore, if you dropped a weight, you were looked down upon as a lesser man in the gym. This rule served to protect the equipment, the floor, the safety of other lifters, and the lifter himself. In fact, the appearance of rubber-coated weight plates and dumbbells, and rubber flooring, occurred in gyms for those rare times a weight was accidentally dropped—not to encourage lifters to drop weights because they were either too lazy to lower them correctly or as a sad cry for attention. “Look at me, I just lifted a really heavy weight!” Don’t be that guy, for that would be headlock time.

Old-school lifters knew that lowering the weight under control improved strength and muscle growth. They couldn’t explain it, but after years of trial and error it became a “gym truth.” Arthur Jones, the inventor the Nautilus equipment and the Nautilus training system, expanded the research of “negative reps” during the ’80s. Recent research has shown that the negative portion of muscle action produces greater gains in strength and muscle size than just focusing on contraction. Therefore, the decision to drop weights makes one miss an important opportunity for greater gains for the time and effort spent lifting.

4. Do not tie up equipment. Allow others to work in.

Again, the logic is simple. If you want to tie up equipment, go home to your own gym. If you don’t have your own gym, you’d best learn to share the “toys” in the sandbox. The answer to the question, “Can I work in?” was “Sure.”Any other answer was frowned on, and good luck working in with anyone else in the future.

There were a few other rules about lockers, food and drink out in the gym, guests, and monthly payments, etc., but these rules were the biggies, which simply boiled down to respecting the lifters around you, not being a pain in the ass, and knowing what it meant to be a responsible man in the gym.

In today’s gym environment, it is amazing how a just few irresponsible people can spoil the gym experience for everyone else. In fact, they are just spoiled brats with an attitude toward others that will adversely affect them in other areas of their lives. Old school gyms had an immediate and very effective correction: headlock and out the door.

I heard something the other day that I found very interesting. The X-Box generation has their own problems with online gamers causing similar problems for others and that they have their means of chasing them off. Sort of an X-Box version of Dick the Bruiser: “Hey jerk, GAME OVER!

We can learn a lot from old school about training and nutrition. But it starts with understanding the gym culture and the individual’s responsibility to fellow lifters; to the owner, who provides the equipment and the space to train; and most important to themselves, for gym environment allows them the opportunity to grow physically, mentally, and in a sense, spiritually as well if they use it correctly.

Thank you, Bruiser!

Rick

For beginning weightlifting tips, see this post.

This blog was written by Rick Huse, NIFS Health Fitness Specialist. To find out more about Rick and the other NIFS bloggers, click here.

 

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Topics: equipment muscles weight lifting weightlifting Indianapolis

Do You Even Lift, Bro? Weightlifting for Beginners (Part 2 of 2)

Episode #2: Have a plan, ink the plan, and work the plan.

Tony-weightsIn the first episode of “Do You Even Lift, Bro?” I concluded with the notion of absolute strength as the foundation to fitness. The stronger you are, the more things you will be capable of across the fitness continuum. World-renowned coach Dan John explains this best for me with a bucket analogy: The bigger your bucket is (your absolute strength), the more room you have to put in things like mobility, power, speed, and endurance, among other things. To get stronger, you have to lift heavy things--bottom line.

So now I hope you all understand how important strength is, and the weight room is where you can really develop your strength. The key is having the proper progression in the program that will overload the system, causing adaption and ultimately strength in the major movement patterns that we live in. Now, I can talk about programming for 8 hours straight and still barely scratch the surface. My hope in this post is to give you a few super-important facets that should be a part of your weightlifting program. I’m going to work fast here, so try to keep up!

Master These Movements

Human movement can be broken down into six major movements. When planning your assault in the weight room, be sure to include these movements in your attack:

  • Squat: Bending at the knees and hips as if sitting down and standing up
  • Hinge: Bending at the hips to pick something up from the floor, like a Dead Lift
  • Push: Pushing weight away from your body either vertically or horizontally, like a push-up
  • Pull: Pulling weight toward the body, like a pull-up
  • Lunge: Lifting legs in a split stance
  • Rotary/Core: Spine stabilization and rotating

Pairing movements is one of the best ways to get the most out of your time in the weight room. To reduce residual fatigue, I recommend pairing movements that complement each other, such as a Squat with a Pulling movement. The Squat is an anterior (front) lower-body movement, while the Pulling exercise is a posterior (back) upper-body movement. Simply put, one can rest while the other is in motion, maximizing effort and making recovery time more efficient.

Plan in Four-Week Blocksweights

Again, I could spend hours discussing the different parameters of the “block system” of programming, but I’m not going to. All I want you to keep in mind when planning is to keep it to a month-long (four-week) cycle. After you have completed a workout four times, it’s time to reevaluate and progress. We can define progression as increasing the weight used in an exercise, increasing the number of reps, or adding something to the exercise that makes it more demanding. Changing all these things at once is not the best idea, but making some changes is key to providing the overload principle necessary in strength gain. You have to change it up!

Reps, Sets, and Weight Selection

I know I sound like a broken record, but there is so much that has be taken into account when discussing these three key aspects of your program. Goals, fitness level, and timeline just to name a few, are all things that need to be considered when designing your plan, and I can’t cover all these details in one small blog post. As a safe and beneficial rule of thumb, 2 to 3 sets at 6 to 8 reps of each movement will do the trick. The weight should be challenging enough to complete all reps, but not sacrifice the form of the movement. If you know your predicted 1RM (hyperlink to fitness assessment) of each movement (which you can find in a free assessment with an HFS here at NIFS), you can use percentages of that weight in your sets and reps. Use the “first and last” rule: the last rep should look like the first rep. I would also recommend starting at a lower weight for your first set, and increasing weight every subsequent set. Again, this is the overload concept that is the cornerstone of building strength.

I can’t stress enough the importance of having a plan and working that plan. Having a sound plan of attack will keep you on track, provide accountability, and show you where you were and where you are now. I urge you to seek out the advice of a qualified fitness professional when beginning or tweaking your strength-training program. I’m talking to the veteran lifter, too; you can always improve on something you are doing. Implementing the preceding strategies is a great first step.

If you are intersted in setting up a personal fitness program with Tony click the button below:

Free Fitness Assessment

Tony Maloney is the Fitness Center Manager and leads group training Sunday through Thursday. Follow Tony on Facebook at ELITE.

Topics: fitness center workouts weight lifting weightlifting strength

Do You Even Lift, Bro? Weightlifting for Beginners (Part 1 of 2)

Episode #1: 5 Game-Changing Tips for the Weight RoomTony-1

I spent a great deal of time in a weight room growing up, and still do. The “Iron Church,” “The Metal Shop,” and “House of Pain” were all names I used to reference a place where I saw so much growth in myself, both physically and mentally. I remember watching one of my brothers train to power lift with the U.S. team when I was pretty young, and couldn’t wait to get my hands on all the stuff. Flash forward a few years and I was the one on the training side preparing for high school athletics. Man, there was nothing like the weight room! The feel of it, the smells (not always pleasant, but part of the charm), and the clanking of metal on metal were all rushed to the senses, signifying that a lot of hard work was about to go down!

I learned so much during that period of my life when I was in the gym every day; I definitely thought I had everything figured out on how to get strong and stay injury free. As I got older and wiser (okay, older and after many mistakes), I needed to find a way to lift so that I could lift another day. As fitness evolves, we learn bigger and better ways to get the most out of every workout.

5 Game-Changing Tips for the Weight Room

In the first installment of this beginner’s guide, I would like to share with you 5 game-changing tips to rock the weight room like you never have before. In future episodes, I will dig a little deeper into each of these tips (along with a few extras) and outline a guide that will allow you to get the most out of it.

1. Have a plan, ink the plan, and work the plan.free

Going into a place full of things to do without a plan will usually result in meandering around and wasting time, extinguishing the metabolic fire. Get a workout log and write down your plan of attack for the week. This will keep you focused as well as give you a means to track your progress. I highly recommend consulting a fitness professional to help you set up your first program. 

2. Get a super friend.

The benefits of working out with one or more partners are substantial, emotionally, mentally, and physiologically. Find a likeminded individual and link up your training times to provide support for each other and accountability. And if you are using the room for what it is intended (to GET STRONGER), you will eventually need a spotter.

3. Pair exercises.

If you want to get the most out of your time, not only from the clock, but from your ability to get stronger and lose fat, you must pair exercises. You may know this as “super setting.” No matter what it is called, DO IT! I prefer to pair exercises in this fashion: Push/Pull/Upper/Lower. We will spend more time on this in later posts, but here is a basic example:

  • 1a. Front Squat
  • 1b. Chin-ups
  • 2a. Dead Lift
  • 2b. DB Bench Press

4. Work unilaterally.

There are many fitness pros, me being one of them, who believe you are stronger unilaterally than you are bilaterally. I jokingly say that you have nothing to hang onto when you are working one side at a time. The core stability necessary to work unilaterally is also a huge benefit of working one side at a time. So next time you are planning to do a squat, try it on a single leg. You will love the feel and the results.

5. Utilize many different modes.

Many of us can get stuck using the same tools to perform the same exercises, and wonder why you continue to get the same results. Packing your workout with many different pieces of equipment and varying the movements themselves is similar to why your salads should have a bunch of color in them. It’s because different ingredients provide different nutrients, nutrients that we need. Lifting weights is the same thing; your body needs the different benefits that come from different movements using different pieces of equipment. Some refer to this as “muscle confusion”; I think that’s an industry term made up by those who like to dance around the living room and sell DVDs. I don’t really care what you call it; you just have to do it! Change up the movements and modes of training from time to time so you can taste all that a weight room has to offer and your body can enjoy the benefits of the different ingredients.

This is just the start of what will be a pretty handy guide to getting the most out of your weight room as you begin to lift weights. Keep your eyes open for the next episode, where I show you how to put together a program. Until then, I leave you with one more piece of advice to get you going. Absolute strength is the foundation to your fitness. The stronger you are, the more things you will be capable of across the fitness continuum. Bottom line: to get stronger, you have to lift heavy things. Do it right.

Tony Maloney is the Fitness Center Manager at NIFS in Indianapolis and leads group training on Sunday through Thursday. Follow Tony on Facebook at ELITE.

Topics: fitness center injury prevention muscles training weight lifting strength core dumbbell personal training

Accommodating Resistance: The Benefits of Using Bands and Chains

NIFS has recently updated the weight room, including seven new half racks. Each rack has lower band pegs, and almost all of the racks have chains on the hooks at the top of the rack. Several people have asked why you would ever need the band pegs or chains to do your everyday squat or bench. In this post, I cover what accommodating resistance is and the benefits of using this form of chainstraining.

The Force-Velocity Curve

Before going into what the chains and bands do, I first have to set the groundwork and explain what the force-velocity curve is. As you see below, when force (weight lifted) increases, velocity (bar speed) decreases. So at the top where force is high and velocity is low, it is considered maximal strength. As you work down the graph, strength-speed is next. In the middle of the graph, you see power (the rate of force development, or RFD). As you continue down the graph, it becomes speed-strength and finishes with speed, where force is at its lowest and velocity is at its highest.

The reason this is important is that chains and bands give you the ability to develop explosive strength. So instead of benching with high weight and slow velocity (maximal strength), or low weight with fast velocity (speed), you can work in the middle of the graph and accelerate the bar in both the lowering and raising phases of the movement. Without the bands and chains, you have to decelerate the bar about halfway through the raising phase of a bench press, or the bar will fly out of your hands. Bands and chains ensure that you drive the bar as hard as you can, generating a high rate of force through the full range of motion (more on this below). The bottom line: Using bands and chains increases your rate of force development (RFD) and forces you to not let up after you get past your sticking point.

How Bands and Chains Workbands

Bands and chains do an excellent job of matching your leverage. The bar is lightest when your leverage is at its weakest, and the bar gradually increases in weight as leverage improves. Let’s break this down even further. You are getting ready to bench with 200 pounds on the bar. You add chains that each weigh 30 pounds. So now the bar total is 260 pounds. However, at the start position, half of the chains are lying on the ground, bringing you to a total of 230 pounds. As you bring the weight down to your chest, the bar gets lighter because more of the chains are lying on the ground. So when the bar is at your chest, you bring the weight down to the 200 pounds that you started with. As you press the weight up, more of the chains come off the floor, gradually increasing the bar total back to the 230 pounds at the top. This idea forces you to drive the bar out into full extension without letting up.

The Benefits of Accommodating Resistance

Bands and chains train acceleration and rate of force development, which is great for the development of power. If you are an athlete, the key to improved sport performance is producing more force in less time. This results when an athlete can absorb more force eccentrically (lowering phase), allowing you to apply higher levels of force concentrically (rising phase) in less time. Sport performance is about which athlete can absorb more force, enabling the athlete to produce more power. The biggest improvements that you will see by using this method are increased power, speed, and explosive strength.

Whether or not you are an athlete, using this method is definitely a game changer if your goal is to move a lot of weight and be explosive. I hope this post answers your questions on whether this type of training is right for you. If you are interested in trying this, be sure to ask a coach to make sure the setup is right, and always have a spotter to ensure safety.

This blog was written by Josh Jones, MS, CSCS, USAW, NIFS Athletic Department Trainer and creator of the NIFS Barbell Club. For more information contact Josh by email. Learn more about the NIFS bloggers.

Topics: fitness center equipment resistance weight lifting weightlifting