One training modality that’s often sought out to support working through sticking points and correcting lifting postures is accommodated resistance. This additional resistance often used in the form of resistance bands or chains can also be a great way to change up how you’re loading the body through various movements.
Often times, but not all, the use of accommodated resistance will work against gravity, for example, bands and chains will weigh heaviest when working through concentric portions of a movement (the stand up of a squat & deadlift, along with the press of the bench). Speaking of bands specifically, outside of the normal overload and reverse uses of them, an athlete can change the direction in which the bands pull.
More specifically, I’m talking about forward banded deadlifts.
[New to resistance bands? Here’s how to use them & what that research suggests!]
The forward banded deadlift is a movement that utilizes a light resistance band positioned towards the middle or the sides of the barbell. This band is then connected to a rack or other anchored piece of equipment in front of an athlete to create a light pull forward.
A good way to gauge the tension on the forward banded setup is to watch how much the band pulls the barbell forward. In reality, you want the band to be taut, but not moving the barbell forward, which would leave you chasing it around the platform. Another way to check the tension is that if you’re having to put something in front the plates to stop them rolling forward, then the band is too tight.
This form of accommodated may look odd to some, as we’re not used to seeing bands pull bars out of line on purpose, although, they do have a couple useful benefits.
1. Keeping the Bar Close to the Body
Possibly the biggest benefit for the use of forward banded deadlifts is to teach and strengthen the connection of the idea behind keeping the bar close to the body. Deadlift forms will vary slightly between athletes due to characteristic differences of the body, but at the roots of every pull the bar should have a consistent bar path and remain close to the body. This is reinforced by having strong set back back/hip angle and lats & glutes that are engaged.
The bar getting away from the body can be problematic for two main reasons.
Firstly, it messes up the leverages of the pull and takes away a lot of the power that the posterior chain can help produce. For example, if an athlete lets the bar get too far in front of them, the back will become the primary mover around the middle of the deadlift, which can lead to multiple issues. Obviously, the back is one of the primary movers in the deadlift, but in unison with multiple other body parts (hamstring, glutes, etc).
[Improve your deadlift form before adding bands, check out our definitive guide!]
Secondly, a bar going out of line can increase an athlete’s chance of getting injured. As mentioned above, a bar moving away from an athlete’s body can create issues like having a “cat back” mid-pull or excessively flexed torso due to the back being the only mover.
Another benefit outside of teaching proper deadlift bar path and injury prevention is helping a lifter feel the engagement of certain muscle groups throughout the lift. For example, if you’re working against gravity (aka deadlifting normally) and pulling against a forward force, then your lats, hamstrings, and glutes are going to be need to be very engaged to prevent form breakdown.
The loss of engagement from one muscle group or another throughout the pull can be a sign of various weaknesses. Adding another form of resistance pulling the bar may be useful for someone who may be unsure where, or which muscle group is failing during various parts of the deadlift and causing their form to breakdown.
2. Improve Grip
Deadlifts by themselves inherently are one of the better exercises to work one’s grip. One way to increase the toughness of them is to add a forward directional force. This not only requires the grip to resist the bar slipping out downward due to gravity, but also a slight force pulling forward.
Whether you pull double overhand, or with an offset grip, a forward band help improve your grip’s tenacity through a deadlift. The forward pull can help an offset grip resist the bar from spinning out. And the double overhand grip will require ample lat engagement, which can sometimes be a direct reflection of one’s ability to maintain grip.
If you find yourself failing on deadlifts due to the lats or posterior chain becoming disengaged, then forward banded deadlifts could be useful training tool to focus on proper muscle engagement. In addition, if you’re working with someone who keeps losing the bar forward, then a very light band can be useful way to maintain proper bar path.
Related: Romanian Deadlift Guide
Feature image from @eazypeezly Instagram page.