The Hanging Band Technique (HBT) is done using a barbell with weights hanging from bands on each side.
This is one of the few stability exercises that'll make you stronger and more skilled, which is why elite athletes and lifters use it.
Use HBT to make gains. It recruits more muscle fibers and increases time under tension.
You can do HBT using most standard barbell movements. You won't need any specialty bars, gear, or equipment.
Stability Training Gone Bad
Besides looking like a geriatric circus act, most stability exercises do very little in terms of improving stability.
But not all stability exercises are worthless. One method that works is the Hanging Band Technique (HBT).
Simply hang plates or kettlebells from bands and attach them to the outside collars of the barbell. This produces numerous oscillations and perturbations (irregular deviations in movement) to the barbell, thus creating a very unstable environment for the lifter.
The benefits of this advanced training technique are numerous.
Video: HBT Training
3 Training Methods in One
HBT is a combination of three unique training methods:
Whole-body vibration training (WBVT)
Studies have demonstrated the limitations of most stability training methodologies, particularly the inability to overload and fully tax the primary muscles.
HBT, on the other hand, will tax larger muscle groups. Why? Because more load can be placed on the barbell and applied to the most basic lifts. Plus, you get the three benefits above.
The stabilization benefits actually outweigh other stability training protocols because the lifter must manage three-dimensional instability from the weights bouncing up and down, back and forth, and side to side.
In comparison to WBVT, the effects are quite similar since the barbell has a tendency to continually move making the lifter feel as if his or her whole body is quivering throughout the movement.
You'll also notice the similarities to perturbation training as the weights seem to have a mind of their own. In most studies, perturbations are produced either from a specialized device or from another individual manually creating these disruptions.
In the case of HBT, the perturbations are produced from the weights moving freely and unpredictably from the barbell.
All these features induce significantly heightened levels of motor unit recruitment in both primary and secondary muscle groups.
The amount of motor control required also elicits improvements in both intramuscular coordination (within a muscle) and intermuscular coordination (between different muscle groups).
The instability and oscillatory effects of the barbell do wonders for waking up proprioceptive mechanisms, as sensory receptors such as muscle spindles must work overtime to continually adjust to these erratic movements.
Powerlifters and Strength Athletes
More and more elite strength athletes and powerlifters are experiencing the benefits of properly applied stability training.
Various powerlifters, including Westside Barbell founder Louie Simmons, use a similar method when incorporating something called the Bamboo Bar. The Bamboo Bar is designed to shake and oscillate as the lifter hangs kettlebells from bands attached to the outer portions of the bar.
Another similar training tool known as the Tsunami Bar is becoming more commonplace in powerlifting and strength training circles.
Unfortunately these training tools typically have fairly low to moderate weight capacities, making it difficult to maximally overload the muscles, especially for heavier movements such as squats.
It should also be noted that few training facilities actually have these types of specialty bars. Fortunately, using a standard barbell with normal plates and bands is effective and practical.
Technique, Movement Mechanics, and Joint Centration
HBT is one of the most joint friendly variations of barbell training you can do.
First, the instability and unpredictable oscillations of the barbell literally force the lifter to tighten up every muscle in his or her body and maintain this throughout the set.
Not only does this have an incredible effect on muscle activation, but it almost involuntarily causes the lifter to centrate his or her joints – aligning them optimally to support the body in the most biomechanically efficient position – or else face disaster.
In fact, professional powerlifters have used a similar approach with the Bamboo Bar to recover from shoulder injuries and promote centration of the shoulder joint during the bench press.
Besides enhancing technique and forcing the lifter into the most biomechanically advantageous position, HBT eliminates a significant amount of momentum during the lift.
The first thing you'll notice when trying this technique is how you'll naturally want to slow everything down and use smooth motions.
Bouncing, losing tightness, collapsing, or relaxing your muscles even momentarily will almost immediately cause the bar to shake and waiver uncontrollably. To offset this, everything from technique, rep speed, and motor unit recruitment has to be dialed in.
The benefits of HBT training go beyond fitness geek terminology. The effects on strength, size, and muscularity are significant because it allows you to capitalize on all three mechanisms of muscle hypertrophy.
In terms of mechanical tension, HBT training forces the lifter to fully engage all available fibers within a given muscle. This is evident even during lighter sets as anything short of near-maximal contraction will cause further disruptions to the barbell.
During heavier sets, the amount of intramuscular tension escalates, making it difficult to replicate this type of mechanical tension any other way.
HBT training also induces significant metabolic stress and metabolite accumulation as the lifter is forced to maintain constant tension throughout the set. The moment this ceases and the lifter relaxes, the barbell becomes almost unmanageably shaky.
This mimics a form of occlusion training as the muscles are continuously contracting at high threshold throughout. The amount of lactic acid accumulation, cellular swelling, muscle volumization, and overall pump you'll get from just a few sets will satisfy even the most ardent bodybuilder.
HBT training also causes muscular damage, which is the third key for inducing hypertrophy. The distinguishing factor is controlling the negative/eccentric, which happens almost involuntarily.
In fact, the way to master HBT is slowing down the negative. The lifter is rewarded for controlling the eccentric phase because the barbell will become more manageable.
Use eccentric isometrics (slow negative followed by a pause in the stretched position) in conjunction with HBT. It will maximize all facets of motor unit recruitment and muscular hypertrophy.
So, if you're looking to maximize growth with high levels of mechanical tension, metabolic stress, and muscular damage, then HBT fits the bill.
The Hanging Band Technique can be applied to almost any standard barbell exercise with the exception of Olympic lifts. However, there are certain movements that seem to fuse particularly well with this method. Here are a few of them.
Not only does it require focus and tightness, but you'll notice almost immediate improvements in technique and form.
Although HBT training is a fairly advanced technique, I can almost guarantee improvements in your squat pattern. Just remember to keep a neutral spine with the hips back, knees out, and a tight core, and avoid collapsing at the bottom.
Using HBT with a barbell lunge or split squat is one of the most physically and mentally challenging exercises you can do for the lower body. If your form is slightly off, it'll be impossible to perform them. You won't be able to control the movement.
Make sure to stick your butt out and hinge slightly at the hips. Here's one of my NFL athletes and wide receiver Marcus Davis prepping for the pre-season:
You can also perform these in a more dynamic fashion that challenges stability and coordination even further:
Horizontal Chest Press Variations
Few exercises can match the pectoral activation of HBT bench press variations.
Out of necessity the lifter is forced to centrate the glenohumeral joint in order to eliminate instability, which packs the shoulders right where they need to be for maximal pectoral recruitment.
In fact, to sufficiently target the chest muscles, the shoulders have to assume this position whether it's for this movement or any other chest exercise.
Fortunately with HBT training, the lifter has no choice but to comply with the laws of optimal human mechanics as anything less will result in an attempt worthy of the greatest YouTube fail compilations.
Here's another one of my football players experiencing the effects of HBT training:
Splitting the load up across more bands is another way to increase the oscillatory effect of the barbell:
If you could only choose one exercise for the entire upper torso that targeted stability, strength, and size, this would be it. Combining the overhead press with the HBT is one of the more strenuous upper body movements you'll ever do.
If there's a weakness anywhere in the core or upper torso, this will immediately expose it. Focus on tucking the elbows during the eccentric phase and driving the weight up and slightly back for the concentric motion.
Overhead Power Holds
This is a great isometric exercise for building strength, stability, and postural alignment. By combining these holds with HBT, you'll experience a lift where literally every muscle in your body from head to toe has to be dialed in.
This is an excellent drill for overhead Olympic lifts. It reinforces a tight and stable lockout/slot position – teaching you to finish behind your ears with the hips pushed back. The carryover to Olympic weightlifting is huge.
And if you can stabilize the HBT overhead power hold, then catching a snatch or locking a jerk into the slot position will become second nature.
Deadlifts and Hinges
Although HBT training can be employed on standard deadlifts, RDL's, and good-mornings, the greatest value can be accrued with single-leg variations. If you're looking for something to light up the glutes and hamstrings, try HBT single-leg RDL's.
Bent-over barbell rows can also be combined with the HBT. Similar to the hinging movements, single-leg variations are the epitome of strength, stability, and symmetry.
Besides devastating the entire posterior chain in both upper and lower body, single-leg bent-over rows performed in the HBT fashion are one of the more challenging exercises you'll ever perform.
If you have a tendency to use excessive momentum on your rows, here's your cure.
The constant tension you'll have to create throughout your targeted muscles during sets of HBT work elicit incredible pumps as the muscle is semi-occluded throughout the set.
As a result, combining this method with isolation movements such as curls, skull crushers, and front raises is both agony and ecstasy as the level of pain is great but the results even greater.
9 Things to Know About HBT
Distributing the same load between more bands will cause smaller but more frequent oscillations. This emphasizes something I refer to as reactive stabilization as the lifter must react quickly to continuous changes in movement.
Loading more weight onto a single band creates fewer yet larger oscillations. This emphasizes transitional stability. The lifter must learn to adjust his recruitment patterns to control for large shifts in sway and weight distribution.
The severity of 3-dimensional instability experienced during a given set is strongly predicated on how well the lifter can lock his body into the proper position. The better your form is, the less the bar will oscillate, thus allowing you to handle greater loads with more control.
You should be able to handle 80-90% of the load you can normally handle on a given lift. If you're unable to do this, then your form or technique likely need improvement.
Going faster causes more oscillations to the barbell but less external feedback to the lifter in regards to form and positioning. Slower movement lets you know if you're locked in immediately because any deviation to the barbell is due to faulty mechanics rather than excessive movement produced from faster motions.
Most bands will work, but there are subtle differences depending on the type and tension. Thinner bands oscillate more and create more instability, but they're more likely to hang closer to the ground, potentially limiting range of motion.
Try using this technique once every three or four workouts with any particular barbell movement. If you squat twice per week, then you'll perform HBT approximately once every two weeks.
Don't overcomplicate this in terms of programming. HBT can be done like any other variation of your standard barbell movements. If your training routine calls for 4 sets of 5 barbell squats, then use the same set and rep scheme in conjunction with HBT training.
This is an advanced technique, but it can be effective for teaching proper technique to intermediate and some beginners. HBT leads to proper positions and forces the lifter to control the load while staying incredibly tight.
Build the perfect back workout with these 20 supercharged muscle-building exercises.
“Out of sight, out of mind.”
The grizzled former amateur bodybuilder, still well built and one of the strongest guys in the gym well into his 60s, had been a fixture at the club for years. John didn’t speak to others that often — his focus on the task at hand was always intense — but he couldn’t help but to take a moment to offer his advice to the trio of college-age teens learning their way around the equipment.
The conversation, which I had unwittingly eavesdropped on as well during a set of preacher curls, had been about training splits. The guys were discussing whether they should double up on their weekly arm training. “We could do back and legs in one day, and that would leave us Saturdays for more arms,” one of them suggested.
That’s when John ventured into the fray. “Sorry to listen in,” he started, “but I couldn’t help but overhear. I’ve been right where you all are now, and yeah, it was a long time ago, but if I could go back, the one thing I’d change when I began training was to make sure my back always had its own training day.”
He went on to explain why. As he recalled, his arms, shoulders and chest were showstoppers (which wasn’t hard to believe considering his condition all those years later), but his first few competitions ended in bitter defeat as soon as he turned around. “Once the judges saw my back,, I didn’t have a chance,” he said. “It was only then that I got serious about training it.”
Out of sight, out of mind — it’s a common mistake in bodybuilding. People trend to concentrate on the muscles they see most often in the mirror. It’s not that back doesn’t get any attention … just not the same level of fixation on the flaws and correcting them with tenacity.
Here, however, is your opportunity to change all that. The tools to turn your back into a powerhouse follow, with a breakdown of its key muscles, followed by the 20 best exercises (plus a number of great alternatives), capped with two complete workouts — one designed to increase your thickness, the other your width. Follow this lead, and you’ll be able to create the perfect bodybuilding physique, coming and going.
ANATOMY OF A HUGE BACK
The back is a relatively complex array of muscles aligned around the spinal column and spreading outward to the edges of your torso. The key muscles from a bodybuilding perspective, in order, from the neck to your hips, are:
Muscle(s): Trapezius and Levator Scapulae
Location: Upper to middle back, starting at the neck
Movement: Elevates the scapula (shoulder blade)
Best Exercises: Shrug, Upright Row
Muscle: Latissimus Dorsi
Location: Fans out from the upper and mid-back to the outer edge
Movement: Extends and adducts shoulder blade, and also rotates it inward
Best Exercises: Pull-Up, Lat Pulldown, Straight-Arm Pulldown, Straight-Arm Kickback, Kettlebell Swing
Muscle: Rhomboids, Teres Major
Location: Inner middle back (rhomboids), outer middle back (teres major
Location: From upper to lower back along the spine
Movement: Flex and extend spinal column, support vertebrae
Best Exercises: Stiff-Legged Deadlift, Back Extension, Superman
Muscle: Lower Trapezius
Location: Lower back around spine
Movement: Lowers shoulder blades
Best Exercises: Stiff-Legged Deadlift, Back Extension, Superman
THE 20 BEST BACK BUILDERS
These exercises, along with the alternates provided with each, make up the upper echelon of back movements. We present them in the top-to-bottom order they were introduced in the “Anatomy” section. (And by the way, if you want to jump right to it, below the list of 20 you’ll find two sample workouts, one that emphasizes more width and the other that targets thickness — choose one based on your current goals, or rotate between the two every time you hit back in your split.)
1. BARBELL SHRUG
To Do: Stand holding a barbell directly in front of your quads. Keeping your chest up and abs tight, shrug your shoulders straight up toward the ceiling, squeezing your traps at the top. Slowly reverse the motion to lower back to the start.
Alternatives: Dumbbell Shrug, Smith-Machine Shrug
2. BARBELL UPRIGHT ROW
To Do: With your feet shoulder-width apart, stand holding a barbell in front of your thighs with a wide, overhand grip. With your core tight, pull the barbell up toward your chin, keeping the bar close to your body. In the top position, your elbows will be high and pointing out to your sides. Hold for a second before slowly lowering to the start position.
To Do: Grasp a fixed overhead bar with a wide overhand grip. Hang freely, arms fully extended and ankles crossed behind you. Contract your lats to raise your body upward, concentrating on keeping your elbows out to your sides and pulling them down to your flank to raise yourself. Hold momentarily as your chin crosses the level of the bar and then lower yourself down to the dead-hang, elbows extended position.
To Do: Sit at a pulldown machine so the bar is directly overhead or slightly in front of your body, your thighs snug under the stabilizer pads. Grasp the angled ends of the bar with a wide, overhand grip. With your core tight and feet flat on the floor, pull the bar down to your upper chest, your elbows back and pointed outward in the same plane as your body. Slowly return the bar along the same path, stopping before the weight stack touches down.
To Do: Stand a few steps back from an upper pulley station and grasp a short straight-bar attachment with your hands shoulder-width apart. Keeping a slight bend in your elbows, contract your lats to pull the bar straight down toward your thighs. Hold that contraction for a moment, then return the bar to a point just above parallel, stopping before the weight stack touches down and begin the next rep.
To Do: Stand next to a flat bench, putting your non-working arm and knee on the bench for support. Hold a dumbbell in your free hand, allowing it to hang straight down perpendicular to the floor. Keeping your elbow straight, lift your arm back until it reaches a point parallel with your torso. Squeeze your lat, then lower the dumbbell back to the start.
Alternatives: Straight-Arm Cable Kickback (with one-arm hammer-grip bar attachment)
7. KETTLEBELL SWING
To Do: Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width, holding a kettlebell by its handle with both hands, allowing it to hang in front of your hips. Squat as you lower the kettlebell between your legs, then swing it up and out in front of you as you extend your knees to drive it up. At the top, your arms will be outstretched in front of you and the kettlebell will be around shoulder height. In one continuous motion, allow the kettlebell to come back down to the start position as you bend your knees to position yourself for the next rep.
Alternatives: Dumbbell Swing, Cable Pull-Through with Rope
8. BENT-OVER BARBELL ROW
To Do: In a shoulder-width stance in front of a barbell, lean forward at your hips until your torso is just above parallel to the floor. With knees slightly bent, grasp the barbell with a wide, overhand grip — it should hang straight down in front of your shins and clear the floor in the bottom position. Without raising your upper body, pull the barbell up to your abdomen, bringing your elbows above the level of your back, hold for a one-count, then slowly lower along the same path.
To Do: Place one knee and the same-side hand on a flat bench, your other foot planted alongside. In your free hand, hold a dumbbell, arm hanging straight down toward the floor. Pull the dumbbell up toward your flank — your elbow should bend and extend above the plane of your back as you shift your shoulder blade inward for a complete contraction. Then lower the dumbbell along the same path. Repeat for reps, then switch arms.
Alternatives: One-Arm Cable Row, One-Arm Barbell Row (fixed bar, holding it in the middle)
10. T-BAR ROW
To Do: Step onto a T-bar platform, bend at the hips and grasp the handles with an overhand grip, clearing the bar from the supports with your arms straight. Keep your chest up, back flat and head in a neutral position as you pull the handles toward you — do not raise your upper body, all motion should take place in the arms, back and shoulder blades. Hold the peak-contracted position momentarily before slowly lowering the weight to the starting position.
Alternatives: Barbell T-Bar Row
11. HAMMER-STRENGTH ISO-LATERAL ROW
To Do: After loading the plates on each side, adjust the seat to a height at which your elbows will come straight back as you pull. Sit with your chest firmly against the front pad and reach forward to grasp both handles with a neutral or overhand grip. Lift the weight from the supports, and then bend your elbows to pull the handles straight back, squeezing for a one-count at full flexion before slowly re-extending your arms. Don’t let the weight touch down between reps.
To Do: Sit at a selectorized row machine with your feet flat on the floor and your chest pressed against the pad. Grasp the handles with either a neutral or overhand grip, and pull them toward you, squeezing your lats for a one-count. Then return to the start and repeat. Don’t let the stack touch down between reps.
Alternatives: Any of the Hammer-Strength Rows mentioned above, Seated Cable Row
13. SEATED CABLE ROW
To Do: Attach a close-grip handle to the seated row cable machine and sit upright on the bench, facing the weight stack. Place your feet against the foot platform with your legs slightly bent, then reach forward to grasp the handles, leaning back until your upper body is erect and your arms are fully extended. Keeping your elbows close to your sides, pull the handle toward you by bending your arms, squeezing your shoulder blades together as the handle reaches your midsection. Hold for one second before slowly returning to the start position, not letting the weight stack touch down between reps.
To Do: This move, which resembles an upside-down push-up, can be done with a barbell set in a power rack or a Smith machine bar racked about waist high. Position yourself under the bar at a point where it lines up to your mid-chest, holding it with an overhand grip just outside shoulder width, arms extended with your upper body elevated. Your body should be in a “plank” position, torso and legs aligned and only your heels in contact with the floor. Contract your lats and bend your elbows to pull your chest to the bar, then extend your elbows to return to the start.
Alternatives: TRX Row
15. RACK PULL
To Do: Inside a power rack, place the barbell on the safeties set just under knee level. Grasp the bar just outside your legs so it rests flush against your shins. Keeping your abs tight and back flat, raise the bar explosively, pulling it up your quads with a powerful extension at the ankles, knees and hips until you are in a standing position, finishing the rep with a forceful shrug at the top. Lower the bar along the same path, allowing it to settle on the safety bars, then repeat.
Alternatives: Smith-Machine Rack Pull
To Do: With your toes beneath the barbell, squat down and grasp it with a slightly wider than shoulder-width grip. Allow the bar to rest flush against your shins. With your chest up and back flat, lift the bar from the floor by extending your hips and knees to full extension. Be sure to keep your arms straight throughout as you drag the bar up your shins and thighs until you are in a standing position. Lower the bar downward along the same path until it touches the floor. Allow the bar to settle for a couple seconds before beginning the next rep.
Alternatives: Dumbbell Deadlift
17. DUMBBELL RENEGADE ROW
To Do: Place two dumbbells on the floor in front of you and get down into a four-point position, your lower body balanced on your toes behind you, legs splayed, and one hand holding each dumbbell. From this position, alternately row one dumbbell up to your flank and lower it to the floor. One lift with each arm equals one rep.
Alternatives: Standing Dumbbell Bent-Over Row, One-Arm Dumbbell Row off rack
18. STIFF-LEGGED DEADLIFT
To Do: Stand upright in a shoulder-width stance holding a barbell in front of your upper thighs with an overhand grip. Maintain a slight bend in your knees. Keeping your chest up and core tight, lean forward from your hips, pushing them rearward until your torso is roughly parallel to the floor. As you lean forward, keep your arms straight and slide the bar down your thighs until it reaches your shins. From here, powerfully lift your torso while pushing your hips forward until you bring the bar back to the start position.
Alternatives: Dumbbell or Smith-Machine Stiff-Legged Deadlift
19. BACK EXTENSION
To Do: Position yourself on the back extension bench — often a piece of equipment that puts your body at a 45-degree angle to the floor (versus the old-school roman chair, which puts you in a horizontal position) — so that your ankles are behind the pads and your feet firmly on the platform. Your body will be in a plank, from head to feet, your hands folded over your chest. Hinge at the hips to lower your torso as far as you can, then flex through your lower back and glutes to lift yourself back to the plank position.
Alternatives: Barbell Good Morning
20. LYING SUPERMAN
To Do: Lie facedown on the floor in a superman position, which is legs straight and together, arms straight overhead with your upper arms running alongside each ear. Simultaneously lift your legs and arms up off the floor a few inches — as high as you can — for a two count, then lower yourself back to the floor.
Alternatives: Swiss Ball Back Extension
- See more at: http://www.musclemag.com/article/20-moves-jacked-9944#sthash.H6x5SLii.dpuf