In today’s episode of the PT on ICE Daily Show, ICE COO Alan Fredendall discusses different ways to use band tension to make bench pressing easier for those dealing with pain, weakness, or stiffness, as well as techniques to add accommodating band resistance to improve bench press performance.
Take a listen to the podcast episode or read the full transcription below.
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00:00 – ALAN FREDENDALL
Good morning, everybody. Welcome to the PT on ICE Daily Show here on Instagram, here on YouTube. My name is Alan, happy to be your host today. Welcome to Technique Thursday. You may have seen this the last couple weeks. We had Paul on here and Ellie on here last week talking about some dry needling techniques. We’re happy to bring techniques back. They used to be on Tuesdays, but now they’re on Thursdays. So the goal of Technique Thursday is to show you some sort of manual therapy technique maybe a variation you’ve never seen before and likewise to maybe show you some tips and tricks with a certain exercise. The goal being something hands-on that maybe you could use in the clinic later today in front of your patients. So if you’re joining us on the podcast and you’re just listening to my voice, you’re not going to get a lot out of this episode. So go on over to the Ice YouTube channel and find this episode so that you can watch the video. Before we get started today, it’s Technique Thursday, which means it is Gut Check Thursday. This week’s Gut Check Thursday, five rounds for time, a 400 meter run, 50 double unders, and 15 burpees. Much more cardio focused, body weight focused than last week. So last week we had an EMOM of calories on the bike and some bench press. So if strength and power is not really your thing, then maybe some lighter, long-duration cardio this week is your thing. You’re thinking maybe 3-5 minutes around there, a relatively fast 400, ideally an unbroken set of double-unders or single-unders, and then a relatively fast pace on those burpees, trying to get that workout done, maybe somewhere between 15 and 25 minutes. Courses coming your way today, I wanna highlight our Extremity Management Division. The last three courses coming your way this year are coming up in November and December. So the weekend of November 11th and 12th, we’re gonna have Mark Gallant, aka Mark Gallant, aka Mark Lanz. He’ll be down in Woodstock, Georgia, the weekend of November 11th and 12th. And then the weekend of December 2nd and 3rd, you can catch Extremity’s newest Lee faculty member, Cody Gingrich. He’ll be out in Newark, California. That’s gonna be in the San Francisco Bay Area. And then Lindsey Huey, the very next weekend, the weekend of December 9th and 10th, she will be out in Fort Collins, Colorado for the very last extremity management course of the year. So if you’re looking to catch that course, check one of those three courses coming your way in November and December.
02:29 – BANDED BENCH PRESS TECHNIQUES
Today’s topic, we’re going to talk about some banded bench press tips. So you might be thinking, Alan, this seems like a topic for Fitness Athlete Friday, and you could be correct. But I hope by the end of today’s episode that I get you some buy in that bench press is really appropriate for almost all of our patients. And today we hope to explain why and show you how you can introduce this movement to everybody. So when we think about bench press, we mainly think people who are already active, who are in the gym, either bench pressing, recreationally because they like it, they like to have a big puffed up chest, maybe they’re doing it competitively, maybe they’re a powerlifter or a strongman type athlete, and bench press is one of their events. And bench press does show up occasionally in CrossFit, so we do, not as often as powerlifters or strongmen, we do bench press in CrossFit as well. What’s really cool about bench press is it’s one of the four primary movement patterns of our upper body. If we think about our shoulder and chest complex, our upper body in general, what movement patterns can it fundamentally do? It can move things vertically. We can vertically pull, right? That’s our pull-ups, our muscle-ups, our toes-to-bar, that’s getting out of the pool functionally, jumping over a fence or something like that, some sort of vertical pulling pattern. We can press things overhead as well. the turnover of a snatch, things like that, moving weight overhead in a vertical pressing pattern. But then probably the more neglected patterns across fitness, recreational or competitive, is horizontal movements. We have our horizontal pulling, things like bent over rows. And finally, we have our horizontal pressing, things like bench press, but also more functional movements like pushups and burpees, right? Getting off the ground. So we like to use bench press here a lot with our older adults. It’s a great way to load the shoulder complex, especially somebody with a painful or stiff shoulder that maybe can’t even begin to initiate vertical pressing, maybe not even prone with body weight on the table, maybe not even in a landmine press, they have a really hard time due to stiffness, due to pain, whatever, even lifting any sort of weight vertically overhead. We know there’s some carryover from horizontal pressing to vertical pressing. We’re working primarily the pecs with the bench press, but we are getting some delt as well, and we’re able to lift in a horizontal press pattern to maybe 115 degrees. So this is a great way to reintroduce load to the shoulder complex, even if we can’t vertically press. Now today, I want to show you some ways to make the bench press easier for folks, whether strength is limiting them, range of motion is limiting them, or pain is limiting them.
04:57 – MAKING THE BENCH PRESS EASIER
So we’re going to show you two techniques to make the bench press easier, and then we’re going to show you a technique to make the bench press harder. So the easiest way to offload a bench press is a banded bench press like I have set up here in the rig. So I have two bands, half-hitched over the pull-up bar, the upright of the squat rack. onto the bench press in the center of the barbell so that I can still grab whatever grip width I want and now the bands are offloading that barbell for me. if I have pain maybe above a certain percentage I’m already bench pressing in the gym this can make bench press feel a little bit lighter so that it’s more comfortable and tolerable and I can still get into the gym and maybe I can’t bench at 75 or 80 or 90 percent of my max like my training has me doing but I can go in the gym at 60 percent with some bands on the bar and maybe I can move some weight at 60 percent so at the very least I’m maintaining or maybe a little bit incrementally increasing my strength as we calm pain down and build tissue resiliency back up. So pretty simple, half hitch the bands, put them over the barbell, lay back down in your normal bench press pattern, and then what you’re going to feel is with no plates on the bar, you’re going to feel almost like you have to pull the bench press down, and then the bands, if you have no weight on the bar, are really going to pull the bench back up for you. So you’re able to really move through the movement pattern efficiently. So this can be great to train the bench press as well. And now we can put plates on there. What’s great about this is we can get plates on the bar for maybe somebody who just the empty bar is challenging. By being able to put maybe even 10 pound plates on the bar, it helps them feel really successful, like they moved some weight around the gym. even if all they can normally lift without the bands is the empty barbell. So they get to go home and tell their spouse or their kids that they lifted a bench press today with the greens on or the yellows on, right? So it can help build success with that novice athlete. Folks who have pain or stiffness, we’re now able to load at least in a partial range of motion of the shoulder, begin to strengthen within that range of motion that will hopefully now also allow us to transition to a vertical pressing pattern. If you don’t have a way to set this up, another great tool is the slingshot. So this is from Mark Bell and colleagues. Anytime you’ve used a hip halo, maybe to do some monster walks, if you’ve used one of the official hip halos, that’s also a Mark Bell product. If you have one of those, you probably recognize this looks very similar. So there’s really no difference here and what I’m about to show you from what you get with the banded unloaded bench press, except now I don’t need a squat rack with uprights to hang bands, but this is going to come up on my upper arm. I’m going to put both sides in. and now this is the slingshot. So now, as I sit down on this bench, there’s going to be a tension that’s created at the bottom of my bench press that’s going to push me back out of the bench. So I’ll lay back and show that to you all. If I were to pull a barbell back down, that band would stretch and help me out of the bottom. Now, what’s great about the slingshot that you can’t do with the barbell and the rig is I can translate this now and I can do push-ups or burpees with this on as well. What’s really, really, really cool in the literature is how correlated maximal bench press strength is to push-up and burpee capacity. That is to say that the stronger your bench, it tends to track that you can do more push-ups. The reverse is also true. The more push-ups you can do, the likelihood is that you have a stronger bench press, and you can train one or the other to improve the other one. you can just do push-ups for a year and as long as you’re progressing, how many push-ups you do, you’re progressively overloading your push-ups, you will see an increase on your bench press and vice versa. So same thing, maybe somebody’s not bench pressing at all but they come in and they have pain with push-ups or burpees, we can use the slingshot to offload that bottom position and make them feel more comfortable so they can continue to doing push-ups or burpees in their training program that we know that will translate down the road to bench press strength and vice versa. So two different ways to make the bench press a little bit easier, whether somebody’s new, whether somebody needs to learn the range of motion, whether they have stiffness that prevents vertical pressing, or they just have a painful bench press and they currently can’t lift as heavy as they would like.
07:53 – USING BANDS TO IMPROVE BENCH PRESS PERFORMANCE
Now we can also transition, we can use bands to make lifts a little bit harder. So now, instead of these bands over the barbell offloading, We’re going to put these down on the floor to this pair of dumbbells you see down on the ground. Key here, really heavy dumbbells. I’ve got 50s here. If you try to do a banded bench press with like 25s, the resistance of the bands is going to pull the dumbbells off the ground. So keep that in mind that you need some heavy dumbbells to anchor for you. Setting these up, don’t overthink it. Loop it halfway through, underneath the handle of the dumbbell, and then loop it up and over the barbell, right? You can see this is even challenging the 50-pound dumbbell. If I had even 45s or 40s, it would be lifting this dumbbell off the ground. Same thing on this side. Half loop on each side. up and over the inside. There we go. So now, the resistance is going to be coming out of the bottom. Because it’s an elastic band, it’s going to give us the least tension in the bottom, and it’s going to give us increasing tension as we drive out of that bench press. Now, there’s some criticism of this, of the weakest point of the bench press is the bottom, so why am I doing a training method that makes the weakest part, the easiest part to train with a banded bench press. The answer is that when I have accommodating resistance out of that bench press, I need to activate more and more and more and more and more muscle fibers to drive out of that bottom. So yes, It will never improve the dead stop where the bar is touching my chest at the bottom. The only way to train that is to go through full range motion bench press more often. But the benefit I’m going to get is I’m going to activate more muscle fibers, which in the future is going to translate to being able to recruit those more easily when I bench press in the future. And also I have to continually increase my velocity out of the bottom of the bench press to overcome the steadily increasing resistance from the band. That band is going to get tighter, tighter, tighter, tighter as I get out of the bottom. I’m going to have to continually increase my velocity out of the bottom or I’m not going to be able to go anywhere. That’s really helpful for anybody that’s maybe stuck at a certain weight at their bench press. They can go to the bottom and they can drive out, but it’s really slow and grindy and maybe they’re stuck at a weight like 315 and they said, hey, I haven’t added weight to my bench press in a year. This can be a great way to break some plateaus. It can also just be a way to overload the bench press. If my max bench press is 315, I can put 275 on here. Yes, the bottom is going to feel easier, but as I drive out, it’s going to feel as hard as 315 maybe coming up. And now I can get more volume in, in a way that my speed is maintained, that’s going to translate into having an overall stronger bench press down the road. So pretty simple, bands on the barbell, on racket. A lot of tension at the top, right? This is super tough even with no weight. As I come down, easier, easier, easier, and now I really have to focus on increasing speed continually to get out of the bottom of the bench press. With an empty barbell, that would be pretty difficult for maybe even a set of five. So don’t knock it till you try it. There’s a lot of criticism about bands and chains. Obviously the most important thing is the weight on the barbell over time, but this can be a great way to just change up variance in your bench press, to break through a plateau, and even to overload your bench press, to be able to lift a weight Maybe you use a bench block, you come down to maybe 80% of the range of motion and drive out, and now you’re working at a weight that’s maybe heavier than your one rep max bench press. Again, the goal, recruit more muscle fibers and kind of overload that bench press pattern. So banded bench press, why? Folks who maybe have a lack of range of motion or lack of strength overall in the chest and shoulder complex, who maybe not right now are able to show you any sort of vertical pressing pattern. It is a great way to offload a bench press for somebody that maybe is already training the bench press that has pain, and then we can flip the resistance. Now we can give resistance as we drive out of the bench press. Why? Accommodating resistance, help improve our barbell velocity, help break through plateaus, recruit more muscle fibers. So play around with banded bench presses. I hope this was helpful. Have a fantastic Thursday. If you’re going to be on a live course this weekend, I hope you have a wonderful weekend. Thanks for listening. Bye, everybody.
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