Originally recorded in May of 2015

As powerlifting has evolved over time, training methods for the sport have also changed to become increasingly advanced. The effective utilization of chains and bands is an example of a more modern training technique that helps to diversify workouts, improve speed, bolster strength, and increase explosiveness.

Powerlifter Marshall “Freakshow” Johnson sat down with elitefts advisor and representative Bob Youngs to discuss how he has taken advantage of chains and bands in training to up his game – both physically and mentally.

Introduction of Chains and Bands

In the past, powerlifting training programs did not typically include strategic work with chains and bands. In fact, as Bob Youngs reflects, it was not until the late 90’s that they really became introduced as modern training tools. At this point in time, however, the usage of chains and bands was a concept that was brand new to the sport. Athletes, trainers, and coaches were still discovering exactly how to leverage them to optimize results. There were no training manuals to provide guidance at this stage of the game. According to Youngs, for early users of chains and bands, it was much more so about trial and error.

This randomized approach of testing out different combinations of chains and bands is contrasted with today’s more structured programming. Past trial and error has informed modern usage of chains and bands so that now, they are strategically and purposefully incorporated into training.

“Our science became us as guinea pigs… I think we figured some things out, but I watch these guys today train, and they really have how they are going to utilize the bands as a solid part of their program — they have it planned out.”

Training Benefits

For Marshall Johnson, the use of chains in his training is ultimately what kept him in the sport of powerlifting. After hitting plateau after plateau and struggling to see results, Johnson was introduced to a method for using chains in his deadlift work. Since applying bands and chains in his training, Johnson has not only remained competitive in the sport of powerlifting, he has also seen the gains that he was aiming to achieve.

From a benefits perspective, chains serve as a means to incorporate accommodating resistance into training. They also provide a maximal load at the top while incurring less stress on joints. In particular, Johnson has seen promising results when it comes to speed and explosiveness. He continues to train explosively with bands and different lift angles, including deficits and varying widths on bench press work.

Eliminating the “Numbers Game”

Despite these benefits, however, Johnson sees chains and bands as being most valuable to him from a mental perspective. At times, powerlifters can become overly consumed with the weight that they are able to lift and lose sight of the strength and work involved in their training. The usage of chains and bands prompts a mental shift away from this “numbers game” and refocuses the athlete on the work at hand. 

“It took the numbers game completely out of it for me…You won’t worry about the weight, you’ll worry about the work…To me it was a way to ignore the numbers and just work hard…It’s helped me out probably more mentally than anything.”

Not only did Johnson see the physical benefits of incorporating chains and bands into training, he was also able to re-engage mentally in a more productive way. This emphasis on personal strength, as opposed to weight, is critical not only for powerlifters, but athletes in any sport.

Training Optimization with elitefts

Fortunately, athletes no longer have to employ trial and error to determine how to optimize their training programs. Today, there is an abundance of best-in-class resources that exist to support coaches, trainers, and athletes that can be easily accessed on elitefts.com. Whether its information on the proper usage of chains and bands, training equipment, educational materials, or guidance from industry experts, elitefts is a one-stop-shop for all things strength and conditioning.

By the Minute

  • (0:08) Introduction of Chains and Bands
  • (1:07) Eliminating the “Numbers Game”
  • (1:46) Training Benefits
  • (2:26) Training Optimization with elitefts