Thursday, May 8, 2014

Squat 8% More For Your 1-RM, NOW! And Generate 200% More Power After 7 Weeks of Training With Band-Aids. Plus: Method Works For Bench Presses (+100% Power), As Well

This is how it should look like, when you are doing variable resistance warm-ups or even complete workouts.
Sometimes it's the little things that can make all the difference. Little things such as resistance bands you'd use in addition to the barbell on your back during your warm-ups to generate 35% of the tension (e.g. 32.5kg from weights, 17.5kg from bands).

In a recent study from the University of Derby the increasing resistance the bands generate on the way up from the bottom position of the squat had a statistically significant beneficial effect on the maximal 1-RM weight the subjects, sixteen physically active men (age mean = 26.0 ± 7.8 yr, range 18 to 44 yr, height = 1.7 ± 0.2 m; mass = 82.6 ± 12.7 kg) with more than three years of serious weight training experience under their belts squatted in a subsequent 1-RM max effort.
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As you can see in Figure 1 the use of the bands did yet not affect the EMG activity, which is often used as a measure for muscle activation. What did improve, though, was the form - or I should say the execution velocity; I mean, if you've squatted before you know how squatting your 1-RM max 20% slower than usual will hurt, right?
Figure 1: Mean EMG activity (difference n.s.), velocity and 1-RM during eccentric and concentric classic 1-RM squat after warming up with weight only (Classic) and with weight and resistance bands (+Band) in strength training veterans (Mina. 2014)
Unfortunately, the underyling reason of the performance boosting effects of this type of "dynamic" variable resistance workout have not yet been elucidated.

It is generally assumed that effects like the observed strength increases are a result of post-activation potentiation (PAP) which will increase the number of motor units and thus allow you to lift more weight.
Figure 2: Changes in 1RM max after 7 weeks of classic vs. band-aided training (Baker. 2009)
In the long(er) term this is assumed to induce superior increases in muscular strength and power. An effect, which appears to be substantiated by Anderson et al., Baker et al. (Anderson. 2008; Baker. 2009 | see Figure 2).
"Compared with C [control], improvement for E [elastic tension] was nearly three times greater for back squat (16.47 ± 5.67 vs. 6.84 ± 4.42 kg increase), two times greater for bench press (6.68 ± 3.41 vs. 3.34 ± 2.67 kg increase), and nearly three times greater for average power (68.55 ± 84.35 vs. 23.66 ± 40.56 watt increase)." (Baker. 2009)
Based on three times more pronounced strength gains, Baker et al. rightly conclude that "[t]raining with [combined elastic and free weight resistance] may be better than [classic free weight resistance training] alone for developing lower and upper body strength" (Baker. 2009).
Photo from the original publication (Mina. 2014)
This is something you, as an advanced trainee should try! What is particularly noteworthy is the fact that most of the studies, including the ones by Mina et al. (2014) and Baker et al. (2009), were conducted with resistance trained individuals. Men and women like yourself who are way past the weekly 10% increase in 1-RM max of a beginner.

The short and long term success the researchers observed should thus be reason enough for you to break out of your weekly routine, and get some "band-aid" in the literal sense to finally bust that damn bench press or squat plateau you've been struggling with for weeks, now. And let's be honest: What on earth do you have to lose?
  • Anderson, Corey E., Gary A. Sforzo, and John A. Sigg. "The effects of combining elastic and free weight resistance on strength and power in athletes." The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 22.2 (2008): 567-574.
  • Baker, Daniel G., and Robert U. Newton. "Effect of kinetically altering a repetition via the use of chain resistance on velocity during the bench press." The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 23.7 (2009): 1941-1946.
  • Mina et al. "The Influence Of Variable Resistance Loading On Subsequent Free Weight Maximal Back Squat Performance." Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research Publish Ahead of Print. DOI: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000000471