In powerlifting, there are no shortages of tools and methods that claim to get you stronger in the gym. However, the banded deadlift has been a staple of many top powerlifters for good reason. The four reasons you should consider implementing the banded deadlift in your training are:
- It teaches you how to accelerate the barbell through the mid and top portion of the lift
- It allows you to build strength in the lock-out
- It reinforces proper movement mechanics
- It helps cue your lats to stay tight and engaged throughout the lift
Using resistance bands for deadlifts is a tool. Like any tool though, you need to know how to use the tool properly and understand if it's the right tool for the job. Otherwise, it will be a waste of time and it will delay your progress. In this article, I'll dig deeper into the four reasons why you should implement banded deadlift and whether it's worth your time to implement into your training.
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What Is The Banded Deadlift?
The banded deadlift is an exercise where you attach resistance bands to the barbell. As you pull the barbell off the floor, the bands will add resistance so that the movement is much harder at the top of the lift compared with the bottom. This will require you to produce more force than you otherwise would need as you lock the weight out.
How Do You Hook Up The Banded Deadlift?
There are two ways that you can attach the bands to the barbell:
- If you have a platform rig that has hooks or carabiners fixed into the platform, then you can attach one band to either side of the barbell.
You'll notice in the video below that the lifter has also placed a rubber padding where the bands sit on the barbell. This can protect the bands from fraying if the knurling on the bar is sharp. However, this extra step is not necessary as most used gym barbells don't have sharp knurling.
- If you don't have a fancy platform rig, then you can simply wrap a single band over the center of the barbell and stand on it. This is actually my favorite way to set up the banded deadlift because it's just easier. Mark Bell, the owner of the Slingshot, demonstrates this set up perfectly:
4 Reasons Why You Should Do Banded Deadlifts
Let's dig deeper into the 4 reasons why you should consider using banded deadlifts in your training.
1. It teaches you how to accelerate the barbell through the mid and top portion of the lift
One of the biggest faults of many powerlifters is ‘being lazy' with the application of force.
What this means is that the lifter only applies the minimum force required to overcome the external resistance. Instead, lifters should be developing the habit of applying the maximum force at all times.
For example, let's say you have a workout that is 5 sets of 5 at 70% of your 1 rep max. A lifter will apply the necessary amount of force in order to overcome the 70% external load, but likely not much more than what is required. This means that they're not pulling the barbell as fast as possible, only as fast as what's required to lock the weight out successfully without failing.
This creates a bad habit of ‘being lazy' under the barbell.
You want to train yourself to apply the maximum force and greatest bar speeds regardless of the load or rep range. Training in this way will actually help break through your sticking point.
A sticking point is characterized by a deceleration of bar speed, and once the bar slows down or stops it's much harder to regain upward momentum.
If you can generate more speed going into the sticking point, then there is a higher chance of being able to get further into your sticking point before the bar slows down. This is referred to as the Dynamic Effort Method.
Let's say your sticking point is the last 5-inches of your deadlift lockout. If you enter the lock-out with slower bar speed you might get two or three inches into the sticking point before the bar really slows down of you fail. However, if you enter the lock-out with faster bar speeds you might get four or five inches into the sticking point before the bar slows down or the lift is finished.
This is where bands can really help. The band forces you not to be lazy through the mid and top-end range of motion because there is greater resistance at those phases of the lift. You will need to accelerate faster and apply more force to complete the lift.
Band training was mentioned as a “special method” in my article on 10 Special Exercises To Improve Your Powerlifting Movements.
2. It allows you to build strength in the lock-out
If you struggle to lock the weight out, the banded deadlift will allow you to have greater resistance in the exact range of motion required to build strength.
Adding a band to your deadlift will allow you to overload the top end range of motion. Since the glutes are responsible for extending the hips, if you’re failing at lock-out then it’s most likely the case that your glutes have a weakness. Training with a band could produce positive results in overcoming this muscular deficiency.
Read about the muscles used in the deadlift.
The reason why the banded deadlift is better for targeting your hip extensor muscles is because of the principle of ‘training specificity'.
The idea is that you want to train your glutes and other hip extensors specific to the adaptation that’s required. In order to do this, you’ll want to load your glutes at lock-out in the deadlift range of motion so that the length of the muscles are adapting to the mechanics of the movement. This is why endless amount of glute cable kickbacks won't necessarily transfer to your deadlift.
Another great exercise for working the deadlift lock-out is the block pull.
Training with chains is a similar modality to training with bands. Check out our guide to training with chains in powerlifting.
3. It reinforces proper movement mechanics
Using a band while deadlifting can provide an external cue to keep you in the correct bar path and positioning.
If you find yourself getting out of the optimal bar path or position, then attaching a band to the barbell will force you to have better technique.
Why is this?
Put simply, the lift will become a lot harder when you have the forces of the band acting on the barbell. The optimal bar bath for deadlifts should be a vertical line from floor to hips. Any travel in front or behind this vertical bar path will amplify the direction the bar wants to travel. If the barbell shifts forward, the weight will pull you off balance and make the lift harder.
For example, without bands, you might be able to get away with the bar coming off of your thighs, but with the bands, the lift will automatically become harder and you might even fail the lift as a result.
Over time, the banded deadlift forces you to be more strict with your technique. The idea is that once you become more strict by using the band, then without the band you'll achieve greater success.
Related Article: 18 Exercises To Improve Deadlift Technique
4. It helps cue your lats to stay tight and engaged throughout the lift
In the deadlift, the barbell is going to naturally want to pull you down and forward. Attaching a band to the barbell will only amplify this effect, especially as you lock the weight out.
It's your job to generate force in the opposing direction. You need to take control of the barbell and make sure it travels straight up and stays as close to your shins and thighs as possible. The primary role of the lats is to accomplish just that. When your lats are engaged, you are able to control the barbell from coming off of you. When the lats are loose, your upper back will round and the barbell will pull you down and forward.
By using a band, you have no margin for error by having unengaged lats. So if you struggle with getting your lats tight in the bottom position, or if you find that as you fatigue your lats start to relax, then incorporating the banded deadlift will be a good reminder to cue your lats ‘ on' before you pull the bar off the ground or as you cycle through reps.
How Much Extra Resistance Will You Get From Doing Banded Deadlifts?
The band tension will vary depending on the size of the band and the range of motion of the lift. As you get stronger, you'll want to use heavier resistance bands.
Light Resistance Band
If you deadlift between 100-300lbs I would suggest using this band for deadlifts. It will provide approximately 15-35lbs of additional resistance at the top end range of motion.
Medium Resistance Band
If you deadlift between 300-400lbs I would suggest using this band for deadlifts. It will provide approximately 30-50lbs of additional resistance at the top end range of motion.
Heavy Resistance Band
If you deadlift between 400-500lbs I would suggest using this band for deadlifts. It will provide approximately 50-80lbs of additional resistance at the top end range of motion.
Max Resistance Band
If you deadlift between over 500lbs I would suggest using this band for deadlifts. It will provide approximately 70-100lbs of additional resistance at the top end range of motion.
Using the banded deadlift can help increase performance by teaching you how to apply maximum force at all times, breakthrough sticking points in the mid and top-end range of motion, maintain proper bar path and positioning, and keep your lats engaged throughout the movement. The banded deadlift is an intermediate or advanced training tool and should be implemented by lifters who already have sufficient practice at the deadlift.
Take a look at my other article on Reverse Band Deadlifts, which attaches the bands from the top (not the bottom).
Feature image by @taylorslift_official
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