Workout Routines

The Band & Chain Workout Program

Build strength and heaps of dense, quality muscle with bands and chains.

Chain Up for Chest Mass

Weight belts, chalk, straps and truckloads of iron. For decades, these items have served as the base equipment for building not only mounds of muscle but also raw, bar-bending strength. Over the years, these primitive implements have helped push the limits of the human physique, making it possible to win the battle against gravity day in and day out. But their most important contribution may be to one of the most basic mandates of weight-lifting: progressive overload.

The principle of progressive overload simply states that an increase in volume and intensity is required to achieve a targeted goal. Weight begets weight, and each workout is a step toward your objective. Bench-pressing 405 pounds one time, for example, requires a lifter to work his way up from his starting one-rep max with incrementally heavier loads until he reaches that 405-pound benchmark. How long it takes to reach a given goal is, of course, unique to each lifter. It could conceivably take one person years to hit that standard, while another may land in the coveted four-plates-per-side promised land after only months of training.

What about achieving progressive overload with each rep? Imagine the benefits you could reap from repetitions that get harder and heavier with each inch the weight is moved - challenging reps that offer no rest for muscles accustomed to recovering during lockouts or benefiting from elasticity. Weight belts, chalk, straps and truckloads of iron - they build muscle, all right. But to these things we now add chains and bands.

The Future of Strength

The secret to both chains and bands is that they provide what’s known as linear variable resistance. Linear variable resistance training (LVRT) refers to progressively increasing the resistance with the range of motion. Using the bench press as an example, the resistance gets progressively heavier the farther you press the bar toward full arm extension. The increased resistance necessitates the application of more force toward the top of the lift.

So what’s the benefit to you? More muscle, that’s what. As the range of motion lengthens and the resistance increases, the number of muscle fibers being used in the exercising muscle increases as well. The more muscle fibers being used, the greater the adaptations in muscle strength that can be achieved.

Bands also boost force during the negative part of a rep because they increase its speed. This means you have to apply more force to stop the weight at the bottom ofthe rep. Again, the more force you have to apply, the greater the sum of muscle fibers that are called into action.

Band Aid

Need more convincing? One study performed at Truman State University (Kirksville, Missouri) found that athletes who included elastic-resistance bench-press training in their regimens had a significantly greater increase in bench-press strength and power compared to those who utilized only free-weight resistance.

Another study, performed at the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse, reported in a 2006 issue of The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research that when athletes used elastic-band training in addition to free-weight training, they had significantly more leg power than when they performed only free-weight training.

Research shows that when comparing the same exercise performed with elastic bands vs. free weights, the amount of muscle fibers activated and the amount of force provided by the muscle fibers is similar. Studies also show that programs using elastic tubing, elastic bands and similar devices by themselves increase muscle strength and size and decrease bodyfat in a manner similar to free-weight training.

Chain Gang

As you’ve probably gathered by now, most of the research done on LVRT has used elastic-band equipment, a rehabilitative device and fitness tool for almost a century. Chains, on the other hand, are new implements in the weight room, and they provide similar benefits to bands. The major difference is in how they work.

Chains provide resistance through the weight of each link. As they hang off the bar and pool on the floor, the only extra weight they provide is from the links between the bar and the floor. As you lift the bar higher, more links come off the floor and add weight to the bar. Elastic bands, on the other hand, provide resistance by a restoring force, which attempts to move the two ends of each band back to their original resting positions when they’re pulled farther apart. The more you pull the bands (such as at the top of the range of motion of a squat), the greater the resistance.

Tools of the Trade

We’re not telling you to use LVRT in place of free weights; we’re telling you to consider using chains and bands with free weights. By increasing the amount of force it takes to move a weight from point A to point B, chains and bands can build denser, stronger muscle. And what bodybuilder wouldn’t want that?

One-Rep Max Calculator

No partner to help you test your 1RM? Finding your 5RM is just as good Just in case you’re afraid of getting a bar pinned across your neck on a one-rep max (1RM) test, we’ve got a pretty reliable alternative. Research shows that using a five-rep max (5RM) to determine your 1RM is about 99% accurate for upper-body exercises and 97% accurate for lower-body exercises. That’s close enough. Not to mention, it’s more important for bodybuilders to be strong with a weight they can lift for several reps than for just one - you don’t get bigger by doing singles.

To calculate your 1RM for an exercise, find a weight that permits you to get five, and only five, reps; you shouldn’t be able to get a sixth rep on your own. Take each weight and use one of these equations to determine your 1RM for the particular exercise.

For upper-body exercises

(5RM weight x 1.1307) + 0.6998 = 1RM
Example: If you bench 300 pounds for five reps, your 1RM would be (300 x 1.1307) + 0.6998 = 340 pounds.

For lower-body exercises

(5RM weight x 1.09703) + 14.2546 = 1RM
Example: If you squat 400 pounds for five reps, your 1RM would be (400 x 1.09703) + 14.2546 = 453 pounds, or 455 pounds (rounded up)

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