Many gyms now carry elastic bands to attach to the sides of the bench press, yet many lifters stick to the standard bench press. A major obstacle to increasing the bench press is to overcome the sticking point at the bottom of the bench press; this is where bands are most helpful. At the bottom of the bench press, when the bar is near the chest, the bands will contribute much less force to the press than they do at the top of the movement. Researchers investigated the effects of combining elastic bands with free weight on the acceleration-deceleration and velocity profiles of the bench press. Sixteen male subjects (professional rugby players and recreation trainers) were randomly assigned to complete two experimental conditions in a crossover fashion: bench press with bands or free-weight bench press. In both conditions, subjects performed one bench-press set to volitional exhaustion with a load equivalent to the 85% of one-repetition maximum (1RM). In the bench press with bands condition, the contribution of elastic resistance was approximately 20% of selected load (85% of 1RM) whereas the free-weight-resistance exercise group used 85% of a 1RM. 


At the end of the study, bands significantly increased concentric acceleration (explosion off of the chest). This increase was significantly higher in rugby players (35%) in comparison with recreationally trained subjects (13%). Maximal velocity was also increased in the band bench press (17%), when compared with the free-weight version. These results suggest that when combined with elastic band training the external resistance seems to be more evenly distributed over the full range of motion, decreasing the need for dramatic deceleration at the end of the concentric phase and a greater bench press. Don’t be afraid to start experimenting with the blue, green, and red bands that are lying next to your bench press.