The Need for Speed

Speed work is most often used by those wanting to build power and explosiveness. When it comes to upper-body power training with bands (dynamic effort) a lot of non-powerlifters copy what they see powerlifters doing – attaching Superbands to each side of a bar and doing fast bench presses.

That's fine. However, you don't need to just use a barbell to do power training with bands. In fact, it makes more sense to do multi-angled speed work for both pushing and pulling actions. Here are a variety of banded power training exercises for non-powerlifters:

1 – Speed Press

These are JC Bands, but you can do these exercises by anchoring regular bands or bands with handles to a stable piece of equipment. This allows you to keep the bands longer, which creates a smoother, less drastic resistance change as they lengthen.

Using a split-stance provides a better base of support so you'll be able to generate maximum force. Press until just before your elbows fully extend, and allow your elbows to travel just beyond your torso on each rep.

Sets and reps: 3-5 x 8-12 seconds of as many reps as possible (AMRAP)

Use a band tension and stand at a distance that allows you to move at a pace of at least 3 reps per second.

2 – Alternate-Arm Speed Press

Press until just before your elbow fully extends, and allow your elbow on your back arm to travel just beyond your torso. Be athletic by using a little rotation at your torso and even your lower body. Make sure they work together in a smooth and coordinated manner.

Sets and reps: 3-4 x 6-8 seconds AMRAP, per stance

Move at a pace of at least 3 reps per second.

3 – Speed One-Arm Press

If you're pressing with your right arm, stand in a split-stance with your left leg in front. Be athletic by using a little rotation, shifting weight at your torso and lower body to work together in a coordinated manner.

Sets and reps: 3-4 x 8-12 seconds AMRAP, each side

Perform at least 2 reps per second.

4 – Speed Incline Press

Keep the bands in contact with the top of your arms. You want the pressing action of your arms to be in line with the angle of the bands, which should be set at roughly 45-degrees.

Switch lead legs on each set, but it doesn't matter if you end up doing one more set on one stance versus the other. (That goes for most of these exercises.) The lower body is doing less than when doing the alternate-arm versions because there's no rotational element involved.

Sets and reps: 3-4 x 8-12 seconds AMRAP

Move at a pace of at least 3 reps per second.

5 – Speed Incline Alternate-Arm Press

Press each arm at the same angle as the band. Press until just before your elbow fully extends, and allow the elbow of your back arm to travel just past your torso.

Sets and reps: 3-4 x 6-8 seconds AMRAP, per stance

Do at least 3 reps per second.

6 – Angled Barbell Speed One-Arm Press

In my Ultimate Guide to Landmine Presses, I talked about using a band to perform presses. You can also use the band for dynamic effort reps by performing angled barbell presses as fast as you can.

Sets and reps: 3-4 x 8-12 seconds AMRAP, each side

Use a band for tension and stand at a distance that allows you to move at a pace of at least 2 reps per second.

7 – Angled Barbell Speed Leaning One-Arm Press

This variation is more like an incline pressing action, whereas this leaning torso version is more like an overhead press. For both versions, make sure the band is anchored on your same-side foot directly underneath your pressing arm. Same sets and reps as above.

8 – Speed One-Arm Overhead Press

You can use a Superband for this but here I'm using an NT Loop because I designed it to be a far more comfortable and stable band to place around your limbs, waist, or hips.

Sets and reps: 3-4 x 8-12 seconds AMRAP, each side

Move at a pace of at least 2 reps per second.

9 – Speed Row

Make sure not to alligator-arm this. Using a split-stance provides a better base of support. Pull until your elbows travel just beyond your torso, and extend your arms just before your elbows fully extend on each rep. Switch lead legs on each set.

Sets and reps: 3-5 x 8-12 seconds, AMRAP

Do at least 3 reps per second.

10 – Speed Alternate-Arm Row

Pull until your elbows travel just beyond your torso, and extend your arms just before your elbows fully extend on each rep. Use a little rotation at your torso and even your lower body so they work together in a smooth manner.

Sets and reps: 3-4 x 6-8 seconds AMRAP, per stance

Do at least 3 reps per second.

11 – Speed One-Arm Row

If you're pulling with your left arm, stand in a split-stance with your right leg in front.

Sets and reps: 3-4 x 8-12 seconds AMRAP, each side

Do at least 2 reps per second.

12 – Speed Overhead Pull

Anchor the bands at around bellybutton height and hinge forward at your hips so your torso is roughly parallel to the ground. This allows you to use a vertical pulling action like a lat pulldown.

On all of these overhead band speed pulls, use a neutral grip with your palms facing one another. Keep your elbows by your sides as you pull. You can take either a parallel or split-stance, whichever you prefer. If you take a split-stance, switch lead legs on each set.

Sets and reps: 3-5 x 8-12 seconds, AMRAP

Do at least 3 reps per second.

13 – Speed Overhead Alternate-Arm Pull

Pull with each arm until your triceps make contact with your same-side ribs. Extend your arms just before your elbows fully extend on each rep. Keep your forearms parallel with the floor throughout.

Sets and reps: 3-4 x 6-8 seconds AMRAP, per stance

Do at least 3 reps per second.

14 – Speed One-Arm Overhead Pull

If you're pulling with your left arm, stand in a split-stance with your right leg in front.

Sets and reps: 3-4 x 8-12 seconds AMRAP, each side

Do at least 2 reps per second.

15 – Speed Compound Row

You can do these with bands anchored either at knee level or at mid-torso level. The lower the bands, the greater the challenge for your lower back and hip musculature since you're standing up on each rep. Make sure to get a good rhythm going.

Sets and reps: 3-5 x 8-12 seconds, AMRAP

Move at a pace of at least 1 rep per second.

Programming Tips

So, how do you add these to your workouts? There are few ways.

Use them at the beginning of your workouts after your warm-up. If it's a chest or pushing day, do one of the horizontal pushing options. If it's a shoulder day, do one of the incline or overhead pushing options. Or if it's a back or pulling day, do one of the band pulling options. Whichever exercise you choose, do 2 to 3 sets with 2 minutes rest between sets.

Here's another way to use them: If you're doing an upper-body day, pick one pushing and one pulling option to do at the beginning of your workout. Do them as a paired set where you alternate between pushing and pulling for 2 to 3 sets of each with 90 seconds to 3 minutes rest between exercises.

If you're doing a total body day, do the same thing, but just add an explosive lower body exercise such as a squat jump (for max height on each rep) and make it a tri-set.

Of course you can also throw these exercises into the meat and potatoes of your strength workouts if you want to emphasize power training more than just a few sets to start your workouts. These exercises can be draining since you're going as hard and as fast as you can, so do no more than two different band speed exercises per workout.

If it's a pushing day, you can pick one vertical or diagonal, and one horizontal pressing option. If it's a pulling day, you can pick one vertical, and one horizontal pulling option.

Upper body or total body day? Pick one pulling and one pressing option. Regardless of the workout setup, do each exercise for no more than 5 sets with 90 seconds to 3 minutes rest between sets.

The Science

Speed training exercises focus on improving your rate of force development – how quickly you can use your strength. Remember: power = strength × speed. The heavier the load you're working against, the slower your movement becomes.

For this reason, the principle of specificity dictates that, in order to do all you can to improve power, you don't just do exercises that involve moving against high loads (strength exercises). You also do exercises that require you to move at high speeds.

That said, although power is related to strength, it's a separate attribute that may exert a greater influence on physical performance (1). And it's not just for athletes. Power-based exercises increase the ability among older adults to perform activities of daily living more than standard strength training (2).

This makes sense when you consider that between the ages of 65 and 89, explosive lower-limb extensor power declines at 3.5% per year compared to a 1-2% per year decrease in strength (3).

In short, if you don't use it, you lose it. Especially as you age. So, it makes sense for everyone to add some power training into their weekly workouts.

Related:  Do Something Fast Every Day

Related:  Training Speed to Get Strong

References

  1. Bean JF,. et al. The relationship between leg power and physical performance in mobility-limited older people. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2002 Mar;50(3):461-7.
  2. Haff, G. H. (2012). Resistance Training Program Design. In J. W. Coburn, M. H. Malek, J. W. Coburn, & M. H. Malek (Eds.), NSCA's Essentials of Personal Training (2nd ed., pp. 347-388). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
  3. Skelton, D.A., et al. 1994. Strength, power and related functional ability of healthy people aged 65-89 years. Age and Ageing, 23 (5), 371-77.