I’ve heard you say using resistance bands is hard on the joints, and I’m interested to know what your is reasoning on this. I use chains or bands with moderate resistance a la Westside for all my presses and squats and it has been a huge benefit, more than anything else I can think of that I’ve tried with no joint issues I’m aware of, but if there is a downside to watch out for I am curious to know what it is.
Bands and chains work by changing the strength curve, especially when attached to barbells in the classic powerlifts.
In powerlifting circles, this is referred to as “accommodating resistance” and you’re absolutely correct in that they’re one of the best ways to go about increasing force.
It works like this: To build kinetic energy in the body it’s best to add velocity, not mass. The bands are pulling the barbell down at a faster rate than lowering just barbell weight. This produces a greater stretch reflex, which means when the negative is complete there’s greater stored energy in the muscle available to rebound and use on the concentric (raising of the weight).
Note, however, that at the bottom of the eccentric, the tension is less (given the bands don’t stretch as much). As you come up though, the further the bands stretch the more resistance is supplied.
Essentially, bands teach you to be explosive because you learn real fast velocity is what’s needed to overcome that resistance and complete the lift.
Here’s the one problem I’ve found: Using too much band tension or using bands too frequently is tough on your joints and connective tissues.
Recall what I just said about the eccentric: The bands are pulling the barbell down at a faster rate than lowering just barbell weight.
This results in more stress on the muscle yes, but it also stresses everything else – things like tendons, ligaments and joints.
And here’s the rub: These connective tissues don’t have the same ability to adapt to that stress the way muscles do, by getting larger and stronger.
It’s How You Use Them
Now, the WAY you’re using bands is likely the reason why you haven’t had any issues, as you state you’ve been using “chains and bands with moderate resistance”. Which is smart.
Because too much band tension coupled with too much volume coupled with all of that done too frequently = big problems IMO.
The real answer then for people interesting in using bands is this: Use them but do so in moderation. Don’t use heavy bands for your speed bench work (I’ve seen it), use mini-bands.
Rotate 3 weeks of bands with 3 weeks of chains (or some other method of accommodating resistance) and don’t do too many max effort lifts using them either.
They are a tool, and a fantastic tool at that but like everything else – should be used strategically, not haphazardly
Hope that helps.