A Better Way to Bench Press


According to this study, adding the “elastic tension” of resistance bands (see Jump Stretch, Iron Woody) supercharges your bench press strength.

The Science

This study investigated the effects of training combining elastic tension, free weights, and the bench press.

Eleven college-aged men (untrained) in the bench press participated in the 13-week study. The participants were first given instructions and then practiced the bench press, followed by a one-repetition maximum (1RM) test of baseline strength. Subjects were then trained in the bench press for 3 weeks to allow for the beginning of neural adaptation.

After another 1RM test, participants were assigned to 1 of 2 conditions for the next 3 weeks of training:

  • 85% Free-Weight Tension, 15% Elastic Tension (BAND), or
  • 100% Free-Weight Tension (STAND).

After 3 weeks of training and a third 1RM max test, participants switched treatments, under which they completed the final 3 weeks of training and the fourth 1RM test.

band bench press


After 3 weeks:

  • BAND training increased 1RM strength by 10 kg / 22 lbs
  • STAND training increased 1RM strength by 7.5 kg / 16.5 lbs

That’s a difference of 5.5 lbs or 33%

Their Conclusion

These results suggest that the addition of elastic tension to the bench press may be an effective method of increasing strength.

My Conclusion

You need to add some band training into your exercise routine.

The progressively increasing strength curve provides a unique training stimulus that is superior to standard weight training.

Plus, they fold up easily into a suitcase for travel and they are great for summertime / outdoor workouts.

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  1. Hell yeah, training with bands is effective yet severely underutilized. I recommend training with bands in my highly successful Werewolf Training routines.

  2. I agree, using bands really targets those stabilizer muscles. If your chest hasn’t been sore for the last few workouts, give this a go!

  3. I’ve been doing band training on the bench press for years and I swear by it. People at the gym think I’m nuts when I hook up heavy resistance bands to the bar but then again these are the same people that are always asking me what to do to get their bench press numbers up. This kills me….they see what I’m doing and won’t copy it but rather they’ll keep looking for an easy solution and stay stuck not getting any stronger month in and month out. Band training works folks plain and simple. If you want to increase your bench you should use this technique.

  4. […] Source: Health Habits:  A better way to bench press […]

  5. So bench pressing in the garage is better than the gym? I think bench press is so overused in today’s society of the “muscle head” Why do we see EVERYONE starting their workout with the bench press? Why not finish it with this exercise? Or will that lower the ego’s? This just in: Bench press and tricep exercise CAN be done on different days than MONDAY!! Have a great day bench pressers!

  6. “So bench pressing in the garage is better than the gym?”

    At the risk of sounding like a muscle head….huh?

  7. Hey Mark,

    It’s not as simple as adding resistance.

    Using resistance bands or lifting chains creates a situation where the resistance increases from the chest to lockout. At chest height, the lifter has to control only the weight of the bar & the plates, as the bands and/or chains are slack and provide little to no resistance.

    But, as the weight is pressed off the chest, the bands stretch & provide more resistance.

    It’s as if we are adding more weight to the bar as the lifter presses from chest to full extension.

  8. Works if you can do it the opposite as well. Hand bands from hooks attached to the top of the rack. Weight is more supported by the band as its on the chest, allows for more explosive start & the bar regains its weight as you approach the top or lockout of your lift. May seem dumb, but it can really help with those final few inches of the lift.

  9. Does anyone have video or photos to illustrate? I need help knowing the set up for the bands. Just never seen anyone doing this. Thanks

  10. Greg what are you talking about. I’ll tell you why I bench. 1. Because it works out many muscles. 2 because it’s actually fun to keep adding plates and have everyone watching you 3. Bench pressing gets my blood flowing 4. Benching (especially with bands) makes all other lifts easy 5. You should probably bench, and I’m guessing you have a weak bench an are probably kind of jealous of all of the “muscle heads” throwin weight around. Enough said

  11. Our strength programming at our box is about to add in banded work once per week with various lifts, I am excited about it! We did banded DL the other day using a 25lb plate to stand on to hold band, it was amazing how tiring fighting that band can be at the later sets compared to just free weight.

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