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Bands are very effective at helping you stretch and for performing various dynamic mobility movements (with traction) to unlock your upper and lower body. In fact, they are a staple in our program for warm-ups and pre-movement prep.
You can also use bands to attach to the bar when performing a bench press, squat and deadlift. This type of accommodating resistance is crucial for helping you improve your rate of force production and smashing through plateaus. The idea is simple; try to outrun the bands. When the tension from the bands jump onto the bar, you will have to explode into the movement to lockout the weight.
Bands can also be very effective when used with various other common bodybuilding exercises like lat pulldowns, bicep curls, tricep extensions, military presses, side laterals, barbell rows, and so on.
For example, stand on one end of the band and wrap the other end around a dumbbell. Set this up for each arm. You will perform bicep curls against the weight of the dumbbell and the resistance of the band. Choose a weight where you can typically get 15-20 reps.
Now, curl the weight and perform as many repetitions as possible with good form. You’ll notice there is a rebound effect during the transition from lowering the dumbbell to the curl of the dumbbell. That is the tension of the band working against you.
Don’t perform the curls slow, instead go more deliberate and impart force into the band/ dumbbell combo. Your arms will feel like they’re going to explode. Now superset each curl with tricep extension with bands for sets of 20, 40, or even 60 reps.
Tempo training has a significant impact on lifting for more muscle mass. For every exercise (and real-world movement) we make there are three different muscle actions; concentric, isometric, and eccentric.
In a simple example, such as a bicep curl, we can see all three in action. A concentric muscle contraction (when the engaged muscles shorten) happens when we curl the weight up, and an eccentric muscle action (muscle lengthens under tension) occurs when we lower the weight back down. The isometric (where there is tension, but no movement) occurs during the brief transition between the eccentric and concentric contractions.
When we lift weights, we damage our muscles – this is typically called microtrauma. And when our muscles repair themselves, they grow bigger. Research has shown the majority of the microtrauma from lifting occurs during the eccentric or lowering phase of the lift.
So the answer to your question is “YES”, you do want to perform a repetition slow and controlled – but only during the eccentric phase. The concentric portion – where you drive back to lockout – as in a bench press – should be done powerfully and as fast as possible.
Focus on the eccentric phase of the lift and you can maximize the training effect and build more muscle mass fast.
Meet the Lift Doctor
Jim Smith is a highly respected, world-renowned strength and conditioning coach. A member of the LIVESTRONG.com Fitness Advisory Board, Jim has been called one of the most “innovative strength coaches” in the fitness industry. Training athletes, fitness enthusiasts and weekend warriors, Jim has dedicated himself to helping them reach “beyond their potential.” He is also the owner of Diesel Strength & Conditioning in Elmira, NY.