Progressing Athletes with Resistance Bands

The Most Effective Way for Progressing Athletes with Resistance Bands in 4 Key Areas of Training

Dave Schmitz is an expert in resistance band training.

By Dave Schmitz

When it comes to progressing athletes with resistance bands, we need to first identify the 4 elements of performance that resistance band training targets the most effectively:

  1. Acceleration
  2. Deceleration
  3. Agility and footwork drills
  4. Strength and Power development training

Depending on which one of these elements of training your session is going to focus on will dictate the resistance bands you use and how you will progress. That said, let me briefly take you through my thought process as it relates to choosing bands to train these elements of multi-directional speed and first step explosiveness with resistance bands

Choosing the correct bands is very important because it will be that first experience that sets the stage for making sure your athletes have a positive experience training with bands. It will also dictate how you progress athletes to stronger bands as training continues. Most athletes want to go heavy, but understand that overloading too much only inhibits the neuromuscular system and leads to compensation.

Progressing Athletes with Resistance Bands on Acceleration Training Days

On an acceleration day, my preference is to move towards using higher level resistance bands once drills are mastered because I am focusing on getting athletes exploding out and there is minimal concern with them handling the return phase of the running drills. As a result, I am not concerned about their ability to decelerate safely because we keep that aspect of training very controlled.

With acceleration training, we will do drills like:

  • Partner run variations
  • Repeat Starts
  • Tug of war
  • Towing Drills

All these drills primarily focus on force production versus force reduction. As a result, I can ramp up band resistance using black bands with my middle school athletes and purple and green bands with my high school athletes without putting them at risk of being overloaded.

One important thing to remember with acceleration drills is that you always want movement to look good and be explosive. I want pop and burst. If athletes begin to labor or start looking like they are towing the exercise bands versus exploding with the band, you want to increase rest time or decrease band resistance. Obviously, I am not referring to grinding-type drills like partner towing or tug of war drills. These are low velocity drills designed to only work on acceleration strength not neuromuscular reaction.

Progressing Athletes with Resistance Bands on Deceleration Training Days

To me, deceleration training in bands is what sets training in bands apart from any other training device. No other tool can speed up deceleration momentum the way exercise bands can. However, deceleration training in bands is where as a coach you must err on the side of caution until athletes really start to show good body control. That said, I will train in black or purple bands for my male high school athletes and red or black for my middle school or female athletes.

Deceleration drills are pre-loaded elastic band drills, which means the first movement will transfer the kinetic energy from the band into the athlete on the fly. I want athletes to feel confident and not be concerned or anxious that the band could overpower them as they are pulled into having to decelerate. It is similar to doing over-speed training for acceleration: If you make it too much of an overload, the body will inhibit the movement, and you will get too strong of a breaking effect instead of quick transition.

Deceleration drills include:

  • 1-Step Drills
  • 2-Step Drills
  • Run and recover drills
  • Acceleration Stop Drills
  • Partner Reaction training
  • Visual or Verbal Reaction training

I highly recommend you allow athletes to remain fresh during these drills by:

  • Keeping Reps at 3-4
  • Do all drills off whistle starts
  • Keep drill very short amplitude (1-2 Steps) early in training
  • Keep band tension low

By keeping athletes fresh it will allow you to maximize band strength without inhibition occurring. The goal with deceleration drills is to slowly build up deceleration neuromuscular strength and transition speed. That takes making sure everything is well integrated and timing is perfect.

Also keep in mind that these drills are done well within the 2-yard band stretch parameter. Actually, when you see your athletes exploding out of a decelerated stop, it is a strong indication that they are ready to move up to the next level of band.

Progressing athletes with Resistance Bands

Progressing Athletes with Resistance Bands in Agility and Footwork Training Sessions

Agility and footwork training is typically done in conjunction with either an acceleration or deceleration session. It is how I get my athletes’ CNS excited and prepared for advanced training. These drills are characterized as very short amplitude or small-space drills designed to teach athletes how to keep their hips or center of gravity over their base of support.

Agility and footwork drills include:

  • Low Box drills
  • Ring Drills
  • Cone Drills
  • Short ladder drills
  • Line drills

The key to choosing the correct band for these drills obviously comes down to not overloading the athlete but rather providing them with a small overload so they can still be training at 80% of maximal quickness with optimal balance. Often, I will do many of these drills in partnerships where I have 2 athletes in red or black linked up bands. The distance is always less than 2 yards, so putting a 200-pound athlete in a linked-up black band setup and going 2 to maybe 3 yards should be easily controlled by the athlete and not overstretch the band.

All my middle school athletes use red bands while my high school athletes (male and female) use either linked up black or purple bands. Make sure you teach the drill without bands first before applying the bands, regardless the age of the athlete.

Progressing Athletes with Resistance Bands in Strength and Power Development Training Sessions

When it comes to strength training with bands, you are looking at developing the ability to handle high levels of resistance at the end range of motion. That said, the key to choosing the correct band is to make sure the athlete has tension on the band at the beginning of the movement and is still able to push throughout the full range of motion.

Since most of my strength training in bands is done for either a set time or low reps, I will watch the athlete, and if he or she is not able to push consistently with constant tension on the band at both points of the range, I will adjust band size. The main thing is to not allow the band to snap back on the deceleration phase of the movement. This can result in soft tissue micro trauma or, worst yet, tendon damage. Movements should remain slightly faster on acceleration as opposed to the deceleration phase.

Strength drills that I key in on with athletes include:

  • Standing Chest Press
  • Overhead Press
  • Squat Pulls
  • Single leg Bench squats
  • Single Leg Dead lifts
  • Front Squats
  • Multiple variations of single arm push-pulls

When it comes to power training, it is all about speed of movement both concentrically (or unloading) as well as eccentrically (or loading). My biggest cue when it comes to power production is how fast an athlete can get through the “point of transformation.” In other words, how fast can they go from a decelerated eccentric loading phase to an accelerated concentric unloading phase without shortening up the range of motion?

I will typically err on the side of a smaller resistance band with power training because I want fast movement with no visual lag time seen at the point of transformation. That means red or black are what I will use with my high school athletes. I do not train power in bands with middle school or low strength level high school athletes. They must first show good strength as discussed above before I will even consider power reaction training.

Athlete Power Reaction Drills include:

  • Speed Squats (double and single)
  • Standing Reactive Chest Press
  • Reactive overhead press
  • Deadlifts
  • Chops
  • Hop drills

Hopefully this will provide you a guideline for progressing athletes with resistance bands.

Getting BETTER with BANDS!!

Dave Schmitz


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