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How to Use Reverse Band Set-ups in Your Strength Training Programs

Today's guest post comes from Cressey Performance coach, Greg Robins.  Be sure to check out his new website, which just went live.

Reverse band bench presses and squats are becoming more and more common inclusions in strength training programs these days, as accommodating resistances – bands and chains, in particularly – have really surged in popularity.  With that in mind, I wanted to use today’s article to provide some tips on when to use reverse bands in your training, and also demonstrate how to set them up – even if you just have a regular ‘ol squat rack.

I must admit, I am not incredibly well versed on why or when people have traditionally trained with methods that allow you to “overload.” Overloading, in my eyes, is most commonly a way to get your body adjusted to heavier weights. This is done with either the help of spotters, or more commonly by using bands and chains. In the context of today’s theme, I would like to consider overloading in the context of using a reverse band set-up. 

Reverse bands should be rigged to be lax at the top of a lift, and tight at the bottom. By doing so, we unload a certain number of pounds at the bottom of a lift, and have the weight gradually increase as we move the bar and the bands lose tension.  By using this set-up, the bands are the most taut in the bottom position, meaning you’ll use the least amount of weight at the point in the strength curve when you’re the weakest.  Conversely, they’ll have very little tension at the top, where you’re stronger.

While there are many different ways to utilize reverse band set-ups, I’ll simply share my experiences with them. Let me preface the following by saying that we do not use them on a deadlift, only the squat and bench press.

1. Use reverse bands to build confidence.

First, reverse bands can serve as an excellent training TOOL. The confidence in knowing the weight will unload towards the bottom, gives you the opportunity to practice lowering weights at high speeds in order to maximize the reactive strength you have via the stretch shortening cycle.

This is most advantageous with the squat, but works with the bench press as well. The confidence in handling heavy weights will have great mental carry-over into the lifts when the bands are missing.

2. Use reverse bands for hypertrophy.

Hypertrophy is primarily the result of increased volume. Each time I have seen significant muscle gains in myself, or my clients, it has come at a time when the appropriate increases of volume occurred.

Reverse bands will allow you to add some smart volume to a program geared towards maximizing muscle gains. The reason is two-fold.

First, the overloading nature of reverse bands will allow you to handle more total tonnage. Second, the bands also play a part in stabilizing the weight for you. Therefore, I find you can train it more often, either in a single session or a program as a whole.

3. Use reverse bands for scheduled deloads.

One area I have found myself using reverse bands more often is during my “back-off” weeks. The bands make it possible to “feel” heavier weights, without it being overly strenuous on your system. This strategy works well in a few scenarios.


First off, if you are someone who trains sub-maximally, then heavy work with the reverse bands makes sense. It produces significantly less volume, and allows you to continually remember what it feels like being under a heavy loads.

Second, my training partner Jamie Smith recently commented on how our somewhat spontaneous usage of the bands in recent deloads was actually perfect for our training cycle. We train in “blocks” that move from periods of lower intensity to periods of higher intensity. Sometimes, the jump from one block to another can be pretty high (in terms of actual weight on the bar). By bridging the gap during deloads with reverse band set-ups, we both felt more prepared going into our next training block.

With these approaches in mind, here are some video tutorials on how to set up for reverse band bench presses and squats, respectively:

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