Reverse Bands Revisited

Reverse bands can be a valuable tool to your training arsenal. In fact, I did a quick little post on Eric Cressey’s site awhile back highlighting how to set them up, and a few ways I have used them.

Check it out here.

With that said, I would like to revisit a few more things on using them appropriately.

  • Make sure you set them up properly. Ideally, the bands will not unload very much – if any – weight in the lockout position. They will unload a variable amount of weight as the bar is lowered, depending on the distance the bar travels and band tension. I mentioned this in the article posted above, but it’s worth repeating as I see them rigged up inappropriately all the time.


  • Reverse band lifts have no business being used as a main lift, in my eyes. They should be used as a supplementary lift to straight weight variations and the competition or main lift.


  • The reverse bands should be used to intelligently over reach your present capabilities. This can be done through the addition of load on a single repetition, or through addition of repetitions at a load you are already capable of moving. More on this later.


  • I have seen the best carry-over in using less band tension, not more. This may because I’m not strong enough to benefit from higher tension, but for a raw lifter I would stick with 1/4-1″ bands.


  • I would not over reach your training max by more than 5%. Again, I don’t see a lot of carry over to going past that amount. So if your 100% is 575lbs using the bands to load a bar to about 600lbs would be 105%, as an example.


  • Reverse band PR’s are basically garbage. They are a definite indicator of progress, but there is no reasonable way to equate a reverse band PR to what you may be capable of with straight weight. Use them as a tool only.


Programming thoughts:

Everyone sequences their training differently, but the reverse bands would be best placed in a spot within your training that takes place just before you will reach loads near or equal to what you are doing with the bands. They will help you feel the weight, and build confidence.

For example:

In a training block where you are moving loads between 80-95% you will use reverse bands in two ways.

In my training I work off the concept that a 5RM is about 87.5% and 3RM is about 92.5%, and of course a 1RM is 100%. I wouldn’t likely take any of those percentages for their intended rep max amounts. Instead I would try to hit the total volume, or just under or over that amount over the course of more than one set.

I want to do the work necessary to realize those numbers, without testing my strength.

Say multiple sets 1’s, 2’s or 3’s at 80-85%, 1’s or 2’s at 87.5-90%, and multiple singles at 92.5 – 95%. Either way the total amount moved would be around the total amount moved if I were to do a set of 5 at 87.5% or set of 3 at 92.5%, and in the case of 92.5-95% it would be just over the total volume of 100%.

Now enter the reverse bands.


Essentially I can add to my volume goals and the bands can be used to do work closer to the actual the rep amounts, and even surpassing them.

With the 80-85% I may do a few sets of 3 straight weight at the bottom end of the percentage, and then add the bands and do a few more sets of 3 at the top end.

Same idea at 87.5-90% just with smaller rep counts.

At 95% I can hit a few singles straight weight, and then actually add weight to the bar to feel 100+% and do another single.

I hope this sheds some light on how reverse bands can be used within a training program as whole.

For more information you can check out my training log to see this in action.

Additionally, you should check out my training partner James Smith’s log at www.theuofstrength.com as his programming strategies have been paramount in forming my training approach as well.

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