Lift with Chains and Bands

strength training

If you want more speed and power, lift with chains and bands. If you want faster gains, lift with chains and bands. In this post we’ll talk all about why doing your lifts with chains and bands is in your best interest and how you should go about it.

Use Chains and Bands for CAT

Compensatory acceleration training (CAT) is basically where you train to move the weight as fast as possible. It can be done by using a light weight and accelerating the bar as fast as possible. This is known as training for power. Or you can use chains and bands to force yourself to accelerate the bar throughout each rep.

This is something I touched on in my post “How to Train for Explosive Power.” We’ll go into greater detail here.

So let’s make sure we understand why using chains and bands is different from just adding plates to the bar. Using chains and bands makes the resistance greater as you lift the weight higher.

Chains do this by having the chain links rest on the ground at the bottom of the rep (so you’re not getting their resistance) and having them hang off of the bar at the top of the rep. To do this properly, you’ll need to have the chains hang an appropriate length. We’ll cover more of that later.

lift with chains and bands
Video from EliteFTS

By attaching elastic bands to the bar, you get added resistance as you progress through each rep because the bands offer more resistance as they stretch. A lot of people are still using bands by themselves for strength gains. Unless you’re doing it for rehab, you’d be much better off using them in combination with weights.

lift with chains and bands

EliteFTS has the best price on chain sets. To start out, I recommend their complete chain pack that comes with two 3/8″ chains, two snap hooks and two 5/8″ chains with snap hooks for a total of about 50 pounds. You can get them here:

lift with chains and bands

As for the bands, you can get good ones on Amazon:

lift with chains and bands

Why You Should Use Chains and Bands

Studies show that CAP with chains and bands is effective at increasing strength, and it’s a good way to change up your training. Here’s one study that tested NCAA baseball players.

Here’s another study that looked at football players between the ages of 18 and 30. The studies show that incorporating chains and bands with your normal training improves your 1 rep max strength faster than just weight alone.

The reason for this is that certain lifts have what’s known as an ascending strength curve. What that means is you have better leverage near the top of the lift than in any other position. Better leverage means you can lift more weight, and chains and bands are an excellent way to match that strength curve.

Using chains and bands for CAP will offer you the ability to train for better speed and power because you’ll be training for constant acceleration throughout your movements. If you need to be fast, you need to lift with chains and bands.

Which exercises are appropriate for chains and bands?

So these certain lifts that have ascending strength curves are pressing exercises (including squats) and deadlifts. Most of the pulling muscles, i.e. biceps, lats, upper back muscles, etc. have a descending strength curve. So you are very weak near the end of the movement, compared to the mid-range of the rep. Chains and bands are not appropriate for lifts that focus on these muscles.

Bench press, overhead press, skull crushers, back squats, front squats, deadlifts and dips are all great exercises for using chains and bands.

How To Set Up Your Bands

Bands are pretty simple to use. You take two of them. Wrap one end of each on the sleeves of your bar, and anchor them either below or above you. Most power racks and some deadlift platforms have somewhere you can loop onto. Some come with pegs at the bottom for just this purpose. You can also anchor the bands to heavy dumbbells if necessary. If there are no pegs, just find a sturdy cross beam on which to loop one end of the band.

lift with chains and bands

Alternatively, you could use one band where you have each end of it one the sleeves of the bar, and have the center of the band anchored underneath the bench (or under your feet for deadlifts).

lift with chains and bands

lift with chains and bands

How To Set Up Your Chains

Chains require a little more thought to get set up properly. They need to hang a certain length from the bar, depending on which lift you’re doing. This is where the smaller 3/8″ chains come in.

They serve to suspend the heavier chains at the correct height so they come off of the floor at just the right time. You want the chains to come up when you’ve just passed the sticking point of the lift. The sticking point is where the rep is the most difficult. For most of these exercises, that’s about (or a little less than) half way up.

Once you pass that point, the rep gets much easier. That’s where you want the added weight of the chain links to take effect. The added weight will force you to continue to accelerate the bar until you’ve completed the rep.

As you progress, you’ll want to add more links, but you have a limited amount of space in which the bar moves since you can’t lengthen your limbs. That’s where the extra snap hooks come in.

Like in the image above, you’ll want to fold the chains so that the added links will still come off the floor.


So you’re ready to start making insane gains in power and speed. Get yourself a set of chains and bands if your gym doesn’t have them. Anyone who needs to be strong or fast should incorporate this type of CAT. If for nothing else, it’s a great way to work though a plateau in your training.

You may not want to use these techniques every day though. You might find they can be hard on the joints after a few weeks.

Give one of these methods a shot in your next workout and let me know how you like it in the comments.

Thanks for reading,



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