Louie Simmons and the Westside Barbell powerlifting team have used accommodating resistance for decades to smash powerlifting world records.
If you want to use bands and chains with the Westside Barbell training program then this article is for you!
- Part 1: Bench Press Accommodating Resistance
- Part 2: Squat / Deadlift Accommodating Resistance
- Part 3: Accessory Exercises Accommodating Resistance
In this comprehensive guide I will show you how the Westside Barbell powerlifting team uses accommodating resistance to blow up their strength in the squat, bench press and deadlift.
Accommodating resistance is an advanced training method where you add bands and chains to an exercise to make the top half of the exercise more challenging.
If you want to purchase your own bands or chains then here are your best options:
Accommodating resistance is so effective because it allows you to overload different points in the strength curve and it teaches you to lift explosively and recruit as many muscle fibers as possible on your sets.
There are three different types of accommodating resistance that you can use in your training:
The Three Types Of Accommodating Resistance
All three of these methods have their own advantages and disadvantages.
Louie Simmons first started using chains as a form of accommodating resistance in the early 1980s. He began by adding chains to the back squat to make the top half of the exercise more challenging.
Here is an old-school video of the Westside Barbell powerlifting team performing chain squats:
Westside Chain Squat
In this video the Westside Barbell powerlifting team is performing chain box squats. When they sit down on the box the chains pile up on the floor. This means the chain weight decreases as you reach the bottom position of the squat.
Then when you squat up the chains are lifted off the ground and make the exercise feel heavier.
Normally the squat is hardest in the bottom position and easiest in the top position. The chains make it so that every part of the exercise is equally challenging and force you to explode the weight all the way up to lockout.
Louie Simmons also likes to use chains for the bench press. Bands are the second form of accommodating resistance.
Here is a classic video of the Westside Barbell powerlifting team performing some band squats. Check it out:
Westside Band Squat
The bands add more tension as they are stretched. This means they add much more tension to the top half of your exercises than the bottom half.
Louie Simmons says that bands are a more advanced form of accommodating resistance than chains. They are actually pulling the bar down faster than the speed of gravity which creates an enormous amount of eccentric stress on your muscles.
Bands create more muscle soreness and are harder on your connective tissue than chains but they are slightly more effective for stimulating size and strength gains.
Another option is to use reverse bands. Louie Simmons loves to use this method on the bench press. Check it out:
Westside Reverse Band Bench
With the reverse band bench press you attach bands to the top of a power rack and then loop them around either side of the barbell. Instead of pulling the weight down to the ground the bands are actually lifting the weight up off your chest.
Bands still make the exercise feel lighter in the bottom position and heavier in the top position. However, they have a totally different feel from other forms of accommodating resistance like chains and regular bands.
It almost feels like the weight is floating in your hands!
Reverse bands are very easy on your joints and are a great option for minimizing the risk of injury.
It is also possible to use bands and chains on the same exercise. Louie Simmons and the Westside Barbell powerlifting team loves to use this option on the squat and bench press. Check it out:
Westside Bands And Chains
Using bands and chains at the same time is a very effective training method.
The chains create a degree of instability on the bar and the chains have their own advantages including over-speed eccentrics and maximizing your force output.
When you use both methods at the same time you get the best of both worlds!
Finally it is also possible to use bands and chains on different accessory exercises to make them more challenging and to overload different points in the strength curve. Louie Simmons is especially fond of using bands on different accessory movements.
Here is a perfect demonstration of the band pushdown for triceps:
Normally tricep pushdowns are hardest when your elbows are bent and easiest when you lock out your arms. The bands add a ton of tension when your arms are locked out so the entire movement becomes challenging!
There are many other exercises besides the triceps pushdown where the Westside team uses accommodating resistance to make the exercise more challenging.
All of these exercises will be covered in part 3 of this article.
I hope you found this overview helpful. Now let’s take a closer look at how to use accommodating resistance, Westside style…
Part 1: Bench Press Accommodating Resistance
The Westside Barbell powerlifting team uses accommodating resistance like bands and chains almost every bench press workout. To them these are must-have tools if you want to build a world-class bench press.
Bands and chains make the exercise feel heavier at the top of the movement and lighter at the bottom part of the movement. The amount of tension they add at the top varies depending on which bands you use or how many sets of chains you use.
Here are some general guidelines:
Chain Weight On The Bench Press
- 1 pair of chains = 20 pounds at the bottom, 40 pounds at the top
- 2 pairs of chains = 40 pounds at the bottom, 80 pounds at the top
- 3 pairs of chains = 60 pounds at the bottom, 120 pounds at the top
- 4 pair of chains = 80 pounds at the bottom, 160 pounds at the top
- 5 pair of chains = 100 pounds at the bottom, 200 pounds at the top
The Westside Barbell powerlifting team loves to mix things up and use different amounts of chains on the bench press. The more chains you use the more you will overload the top half of the exercise and the less you will overload the bottom half of the exercise.
For example here is the Westside Barbell powerlifting team performing the max effort bench press with 5 pairs of chains:
Each pair of chains adds about 40 pounds at lockout so 5 pairs of chains adds 200 pounds at lockout. Now that is a crazy amount of chain weight!
The Westside Barbell powerlifting team uses a similar strategy on the bench press. They use different amounts of band tension on their dynamic effort and max effort bench press workouts to constantly force their body to adapt to a new type of training stimulus.
Here is how much tension different types of bands will add on the bench press:
Band Tension On The Bench Press
- Mini Band = 40 pounds at the bottom, 85 pounds at the top
- Monster-Mini Band = 60 pounds at the bottom, 125 pounds at the top
- Light bands = 100 pounds at the bottom, 200 pounds at the top
Louie Simmons calculated these numbers using advanced equipment that can accurately measure band tension.
You don’t need to worry about the exact numbers too much. The important thing is to make sure that you are making progress over time.
Just take a look at the Westside Barbell powerlifting team performing a max effort bench press workout with monster-mini bands:
Do you think the Westside team is thinking, “OK, if I have 275 pounds on the bar then that’s 315 at the bottom and 360 at the top…” NO!
They’re thinking my old record is 300 pounds plus monster mini bands. That means I need to hit at least 305-310 pounds plus the monster mini bands today!
If you start worrying about how much tension the bands add rather than smashing weights then you are lost in the sauce.
The Westside Barbell powerlifting team performs 2 bench press workouts per week. Check it out:
The Westside Barbell Bench Press Program
- Sunday: Dynamic effort bench press
- Wednesday: Max effort bench press
On the dynamic effort bench press day they perform 8-10 speed sets with moderately heavy weight.
Louie Simmons says that you must use bands or chains on your dynamic effort workouts because they will teach you to accelerate the bar faster and produce maximum force on the bar.
The max effort workouts are a little different: Louie Simmons likes to use accommodating resistance but he also likes to use regular straight weight. Your best option is to use a combination of both methods to keep your body off balance.
Let’s start by talking about the dynamic effort bench press.
They use 3-week waves where the weights increase each week and then drop back down on the 4th week. Here are some sample 3-week waves that you could use:
3 Week Wave With Chains
- Week #1: 8-10 sets of 3 reps @ 50% of your 1-rep max
- Week #2: 8-10 sets of 3 reps @ 55% of your 1-rep max
- Week #3: 8-10 sets of 3 reps @ 60% of your 1-rep max
3 Week Wave With Bands
- Week #1: 8-10 sets of 3 reps @ 40% of your 1-rep max
- Week #2: 8-10 sets of 3 reps @ 45% of your 1-rep max
- Week #3: 8-10 sets of 3 reps @ 50% of your 1-rep max
3 Week Wave With Bands And Chains
- Week #1: 8-10 sets of 3 reps @ 30% of your 1-rep max
- Week #2: 8-10 sets of 3 reps @ 35% of your 1-rep max
- Week #3: 8-10 sets of 3 reps @ 40% of your 1-rep max
Louie Simmons is especially fond of using bands and chains at the same time. For example:
When you use this method you have to be very careful with how much weight you have on the bar.
I recommend you stick with 30-40% of your 1-rep max in straight weight and the rest of the weight coming from chains and band tension.
This may not sound like enough weight but many Westside gurus like Matt Wenning never use more than 35% on the bar for their max effort work. Check it out:
“I rarely go above 185 pounds on the dynamic effort bench press and I’m a 600 pound bench presser! The rest of the weight comes from bands or chains.”
Matt Wenning says that whenever he goes heavier on his dynamic effort bench press workout he has a hard time recovering in time for his max effort workout.
By keeping the weights lighter on his dynamic effort workouts he is able to recover faster and avoid overtraining.
Now let’s talk about the max effort bench press workout.
The Westside Barbell powerlifting team uses a ton of different max effort bench press exercises. Here are some of their favorite movements:
Westside Barbell Max Effort Bench Press Exercises
- Option #1: Bench press
- Option #2: Pin press
- Option #3: Board press
- Option #4: Floor press
- Option #5: Foam press
- Option #6: Cambered bar press
- Option #7: Incline press
- Option #8: Overhead press
All of these exercises can be performed with chains, bands or reverse bands.
You can also mix things up by using different amounts of chains or band tension in your workouts. As you can she possibilities are endless!
Here is a great video of the 2-board press with chains:
Westside Board Press With Chains
This is a great exercise for overloading your lockout strength on the bench press. The combination of the chains and the 2-board is a great way to mix things up if you have been training for a long time.
Here is an even crazier combination: the slingshot bench press with reverse bands. Check it out:
Westside Reverse Band Slingshot Bench
The slingshot is a tool invented by Marc Bell. It acts like a mini bench press shirt and helps to lift the weight up off your chest in the bottom position of the exercise.
The combination of the slingshot and the reverse bands makes the exercise dramatically harder in the top position of the exercise.
The bottom line is the Westside Barbell powerlifting team uses bands and chains for all of their bench press workouts.
They are great for improving your explosive strength on the dynamic effort bench press workouts and for improving your maximal strength on the max effort bench press workouts.
Part 2: Squat / Deadlift Accommodating Resistance
The Westside Barbell powerlifting team loves to use bands and chains for the squat and deadlift. In fact Louie Simmons says that bands have done more to improve his squat and deadlift than any other training method.
Let’s start by talking about the dynamic effort squat / deadlift workout.
For this workout the Westside Barbell team performs speed squats, speed deadlifts and accessory exercises in that order. For example:
The Dynamic Effort Squat / Deadlift Workout
- Exercise #1: Speed squat
- Exercise #2: Speed deadlift
- Exercise #3: Accessory exercise
- Exercise #4: Accessory exercise
Louie first started experimenting with chains on the squat in the 1980s. He especially likes to use them for his dynamic effort workouts.
Here is what a 3-week wave with chains could look like:
Squat 3-Week Wave With Chains
- Week #1: 6-12 sets of 2 reps @ 50% of your 1-rep max
- Week #2: 6-12 sets of 2 reps @ 55% of your 1-rep max
- Week #3: 6-12 sets of 2 reps @ 60% of your 1-rep max
Here is a perfect video demonstration of the speed squat with chains:
Louie Simmons says that chains are still OK for the squat and you can get good results with them. However, if you are serious about blowing up your squat then you want to start using band tension.
The calculations for band tension on the squat are a little more complicated than the calculations for the bench press.
Louie likes to hook his bands up to the base of a monolift with the bands choked on additional 2×4 boards to increase the band tension.
Louie’s general recommendation is to use a pair of “average” bands if you squat less than 400 pounds and a pair of “strong” bands if you squat more than 400 pounds. Some Westside athletes have used as much as 3 strong bands per side in extreme cases!
Here is what a 3-week wave with bands might look like. Check it out:
Squat 3-Week Wave With Bands
- Week #1: 6-12 sets of 2 reps @ 40% of your 1-rep max
- Week #2: 6-12 sets of 2 reps @ 45% of your 1-rep max
- Week #3: 6-12 sets of 2 reps @ 50% of your 1-rep max
Here is a perfect demonstration of the speed squat with bands:
The bands add a crazy amount of tension at the top of the exercise vs the bottom.
If you perform this exercise correctly it will feel like your body is a slingshot and you are exploding out of the bottom position of the squat.
This is the overspeed eccentrics kicking in which increases the strength of the stretch reflex. In other words the bands speed up the lowering phase of the lift which in turn speeds up the lifting phase.
Some Westside athletes will even perform speed squats with bands and chains at the same time. In that case you want to lower your training percentages to maintain optimal bar speed. Check it out:
Squat 3-Week Wave With Bands And Chains
- Week #1: 6-12 sets of 2 reps @ 30% of your 1-rep max
- Week #2: 6-12 sets of 2 reps @ 35% of your 1-rep max
- Week #3: 6-12 sets of 2 reps @ 40% of your 1-rep max
Here is a perfect video of the speed squat with bands and chains:
In this video the Westside Barbell powerlifting team is performing 5 sets of 5 reps on their speed squats. This is an interesting variation that Louie Simmons sometimes uses with his more advanced athletes to build muscular hypertrophy.
The Westside Barbell powerlifting team performs their speed deadlifts immediately after they are finished with their speed squats.
Louie Simmons believes that using chains on the deadlift is a waste of time. Instead he uses bands for speed deadlifts 100% of the time.
Here is what a 3-week wave could look like for the deadlift. Check it out:
Deadlift 3-Week Wave With Bands
- Week #1: 6-10 sets of 1 rep @ 40% of your 1-rep max
- Week #2: 6-10 sets of 1 rep @ 45% of your 1-rep max
- Week #3: 6-10 sets of 1 rep @ 50% of your 1-rep max
Here is a perfect demonstration of the speed deadlift against bands:
This is exactly what you want your speed deadlifts to look like! These guys are just ripping the weight off the ground.
Accommodating resistance is so effective on your speed deadlifts because it forces you to accelerate the bar all the way to lockout.
There is no “I got the bar up to my knees, I guess I can take my foot off the gas pedal now.” NO! If you stop accelerating the bar then the bands will rip the bar down to the ground faster than you can say “Put the cookie down! NOW!”
Louie Simmons has another way he likes to perform speed deadlifts with accommodating resistance: he performs speed rack deadlifts with quadrupled bands.
Louie likes to use mini bands which add 220 pounds of tension at the top or monster-mini bands which add 280 pounds of tension at the top.
Here is what your 3-week wave could look like:
Rack Deadlift 3-Week Wave With Bands
- Week #1: 6-10 sets of 3 reps @ 30% of your 1-rep max
- Week #2: 6-10 sets of 3 reps @ 35% of your 1-rep max
- Week #3: 6-10 sets of 3 reps @ 40% of your 1-rep max
And here is the training video of speed rack pulls against bands:
The quadrupled bands add a terrifying amount of band tension in the top position but very little tension in the bottom position.
Quadrupled bands on rack deadlifts is easily one of the most extreme forms of accommodating resistance ever invented!
Louie Simmons says that he likes to use speed rack deadlifts with bands for anyone who needs to build muscular hypertrophy on the key deadlifting muscles.
Now let’s talk about the max effort exercises. Here are some of Louie’s favorite special exercises to use on the max effort squat / deadlift day:
Squat / Deadlift Max Effort Exercises
- Floor Deadlift (sumo or conventional)
- Deficit deadlift (sumo or conventional)
- Block pull (sumo or conventional)
- Rack pull (sumo or conventional)
Good Morning Exercises
The Westside Barbell powerlifting team maxes out on one of these exercises every Monday. Then they perform 2-4 accessory exercises for their lower body.
Louie Simmons says that you can add different forms of accommodating resistance like bands or chains for any of these exercises.
Your goal should be to constantly mix things up to keep your body off balance and in a constant state of adaptation.
Part 3: Accessory Exercises Accommodating Resistance
Accommodating resistance isn’t just for the squat, bench press and deadlift! Louie Simmons also likes to use bands for various assistance exercises for the squat, bench press and deadlift.
Bands are so effective fro assistance exercises because they help you overload all parts of the strength curve and they have eccentric properties which is great for strengthening connective tissue and building muscle mass.
One of the most common band assistance exercises is the band pushdown. Here is a perfect video demonstration of this exercise:
The Band Pushdown
Louie Simmons loves this exercise for improving the bench press.
The bands make the exercise harder at lockout which is where you are naturally strongest. This means the bands make the exercise equally hard at all points in the range of motion!
Louie says that many Westside Barbell powerlifters have increased their bench press by as much as 50 pounds in 6 months by incorporating this exercise in their program.
One of his favorite ways to use the band pushdown is to perform 100 reps 3 times per week. You could perform 3 sets of 33 reps on your off days to build muscular size and endurance in your triceps.
Louie calls these “extra workouts” and they are extremely effective for building muscle and increasing work capacity.
Another one of Louie’s favorite band tricep extensions is the rolling dumbbell extension with bands. Check it out:
Rolling Dumbbell Extensions With Bands
With this exercise you are using a combination of regular free weights and band tension. It is like the best of both worlds!
The rolling dumbbell extension is almost like a hybrid between a regular dumbbell extension and a neutral grip dumbbell press.
Louie Simmons says this is one of the best exercises you can do for the medial head of your triceps. This is the part of the triceps on the inside of your elbow that inserts down near the elbow joint. If you are in the mood to murder your triceps then you have to give this exercise a shot!
One of Louie Simmons’ favorite squat / deadlift exercises to use bands is the back attack machine. Check it out:
Back Attack Machine With Bands
The back attack is almost like a good morning machine. The big difference is the machine pushes your back forwards rather than straight down like a regular barbell. This gives the exercise a completely different feel from a regular free weight good morning.
Adding bands to this exercise as a form of accommodating resistance takes this exercise to a completely different level!
The bands increase the eccentric stress of the exercise and make the top part of the exercise much more challenging. This is important because you are normally much stronger at the top of the exercise vs the bottom.
Many strongman competitors like the 4x World’s Strongest Man Brian Shaw are also big fans of this exercise.
Another one of Louie’s favorite squat / deadlift exercises to use accommodating resistance is the belt squat. Check it out:
Belt Squat Machine With Bands
The belt squat is basically a machine squat where you have cables pulling down on a belt around your waist.
The belt squat lets you overload your glutes and hamstrings without having to load a heavy barbell on your back. Instead of increasing the compression forces on your lower back this exercise actually decreases them!
The Westside Barbell powerlifting team has several different ways to add band tension to this exercise.
One of their favorites is to wrap a band under their feet and over their neck. This makes the exercise almost like a good morning. Another option is to add band tension to the machine itself so the cable is being pulled down faster than the speed of gravity.
Whichever option you use I am sure you will be happy with the results.
The Westside Barbell powerlifting team loves to use accommodating resistance like bands or chains to boost their squat, bench press and deadlift.
They don’t consider bands and chains to be gimmicks or a distraction. Instead they believe they are some of the best tools that you can use in the gym.
If you train with the Westside Barbell powerlifting program then I strongly recommend you start using bands and chains in your workouts.
If your gym does not have any then you should get some online. Here are my recommendations:
If you learn how to use accommodating resistance in your own Westside Barbell training program then you will be such the better powerlifter for it.
Here is one more quote by Louie Simmons to pump you up even more:
“There are people who will fight and people who won’t. You can’t build heart and you can’t build nuts.”
Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of luck on your strength training journey!
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