Chains and Bands with the Olympic Lifts

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Chains and Bands with the Olympic Lifts

My friend, Sean Waxman, made a post on Facebook yesterday about the use of chains and bands with the Olympic lifts. Here’s what he said:

“Bands and chains may be effective tools for improving force production in power lifts but I discourage their use for the snatch and clean & jerk. The accommodating resistance alters the speed, acceleration, timing, and coordination of the Olympic lifts in a negative way.”

Before I go on, I want to first say that I love and respect Sean, and I am not saying that he’s wrong. I just have some questions. Have there been any studies on the use of bands and chains? Last night I emailed my two go to PhD’s Dr. Andy Galpin and Dr. Mike McKenzie asking them that very question. I am anxiously waiting on their responses.

I wasn’t really upset with Sean’s comments. That’s his opinion, and I am totally cool with that. Coach Waxman is a brilliant man. Coach McCauley, my mentor, totally agrees with him, and I am cool with that. It was the comments made that I actually disagree with:

1. People throwing around the word “science” as if they were Einstein reincarnate.

2. If the Russians, Bulgarians, or Chinese haven’t done it, then it is stupid.

I am definitely not 100% on bands for cleans and snatches, but I can’t say that it’s science causing my doubts. I need studies done with bands and chains before I can make a decision one way or the other. Here’s the only thing that I do know. I watched Jacky Bigger perform 5 sets of 3 reps of banded cleans. Then she took the bands off, and she set a very easy 5k PR Power Clean of 100k at 63k bodyweight.

In observation (noticed that I am saying only in observation) it appeared that her timing on cleans improved. While the bands were on, she met the bar quicker out of necessity. When the bands were off, she accelerated through the second pull at a faster rate, and met the 5k PR with her knees barely bent. This PR was set after performing 5×5 on the Back Squat and 5×3 on the banded cleans. It was also 7am, and the day after driving 7 hours to Columbus, OH. I watched Frank Volrath do the same thing, and also set a PR.

Now I have a counter to my own argument above. There are athletes that have trouble with timing and movement specificity, so that could be problematic. However when performed with the contrast of bandless cleans, I didn’t notice anything but positive.

Here’s the thing. I don’t want any of you conjugate people shouting “science” towards this article. This is just an observation. However, I am going to perform some studies of my own with my much smarter PhD friends, and then maybe all of us can have a better idea.

I went to Westside simply looking for one or two ideas that might help my athletes. I came away with several. Even I was skeptical about the banded cleans, but then I witnessed Jacky and Frank kill it before my very eyes. It definitely made me curious.

Here’s where I totally agree with Coach Waxman. I would never use bands for snatches or jerks. If an athlete were to miss a snatch or jerk, the bands would actually accelerate the bar causing a massive impact on the body. If the bar were to hit the athlete in the head, it could be catastrophic. I wouldn’t even go to a maximum effort in the clean, but at a submaximal load it appeared totally safe. Once again, I am using the words “it appeared”. There are just my observations.

I am definitely sick of people using the studies and actions of the Russians, Bulgarians, and Chinese as the gospel for American weightlifting. At the 2016 Olympics in Rio, America earned 121 medals compared to 2nd place China with 70. Obviously American coaches know a thing or two.

Why can’t we start leading from the front instead of always staying in the rear? Why can’t we do our own studies? Why do we want people trying new ideas to fail?

The other coaches in America are turning out medalists. The other coaches appear to be looking for knowledge leaving no stone unturned. Brilliant strength and conditioning coaches from Division I and Professional programs are constantly looking for new ideas that might give them an edge. We need to do the same thing in weightlifting.

We can’t continue to do the same thing and expect a different result!

Maybe there is a study out there that totally discredits everything that Louie Simmons is doing. If so, I want to read it. Until then, I will try to learn from him and anybody else that is producing champions. I have said it before, and I will say it again. Strength and Conditioning coaches with a much higher pay grade listen to him. Maybe we should get some ideas from him as well.

My friend Coach Kenn, Head Strength and Conditioning Coach for the Carolina Panthers has taken several ideas from Louie. Coach Kenn has been voted Coach of the Year by the NSCA two years in a row, so he is kind of smart. However, I suppose a lot of you throwing around the word “science” are a lot smarter.

I don’t want to come off negative. I just want us all to realize that we all have our opinions on things and be careful not to call an opinion “science”. I don’t know if bands and chains are good for the clean or not. All that I can go off of is a one-day observation that turned up some pretty good results. That’s far from science.

I want to leave you with this. Maybe performing a clean with bands will change the timing and coordination in a negative way. There needs to be some studies performed to see exactly what goes on while the bands are on, and then what goes on immediately after they are off. How is the movement altered with bands on and off? How is the acceleration altered bands on and off? I definitely don’t know, and I won’t have my athletes trying it out until these questions are answered.

There is a lot more to Westside and the Conjugate Method than bands and chains. Put your egos to the side, and then maybe you can learn something. All of us need to put our egos to the side. There isn’t a coach in USAW that knows everything. If that’s the case, we should all stop acting like it. Don’t be afraid of new ideas. If someone has an idea that is working, that doesn’t make he or she better than you. The only thing that makes a bad coach is stubbornness.

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