What They SAID About Bands
Compete the way you train.
My Current Training State
Six weeks ago I had a torn ACL repaired. The ligament was completely ruptured and looked like it was folded back up into itself. Before I got an MRI to confirm the injury, an orthopedic surgeon performed the Lachman Test on me. He sounded so matter of fact when he proclaimed, “Yeah, there’s nothing here.” Nothing in this room other than my rapidly onsetting depression, I guess.
The weird thing about the injury is, it just kind of went on its own. There was no major traumatic accident, no uncommon movement, and I was warming up when my body just said, “We’re not hanging on to this thing anymore” - POP! It sounded like someone snapped their fingers from inside my knee. It was so loud my partner jumped off of me, “What was that?!”
I could barely get around for the first couple of weeks after my surgery, let alone leave my home to go exercise. That is unacceptable.
Generally, I’m fully addicted to exercise, but specifically, I choose jiujitsu to get my fix. Like most of you reading this, moving, training, and being regularly active levels me out. I’m not going to say jiujitsu saved my life, but I’d be way more on edge and tough to be around without regular exercise.
For fear of sedentary-induced psychosis scaring my girlfriend away, I had to find an exercise modality that I could perform safely while I recover from surgery. I needed to find a tool that would allow me to safely move while still making gains, or at least prevent degradation so when I do return to jiujitsu I don’t get completely mopped up by all the blue belts. Bands seemed like an obvious logical solution to this problem.
Bands Will Do What?
Before I invested heavily into resistance band training, I decided to do a quick search of Pubmed to see if this was at all a bad idea. Most of the available literature I found was on elderly or diseased people. However, I did find two papers whose net effect made me feel reasonably comfortable about working out with only bands until my surgeon & PT tells me I’m good to start loading my body more aggressively.
Effects of training with elastic resistance versus conventional resistance on muscular strength: A systematic review and meta-analysis
Elastic Bands as a Component of Periodized Resistance Training
Note - I’m just some writer on the internet, I’m not a scientist, and I’m hardly even a bro scientist! I highly advise you to speak to a trained medical or health professional before starting any exercise routine, especially if you have specific goals in mind.
Bands are relatively inexpensive, especially compared to weights and barbells. I bought two packs of $24 resistance bands on Amazon. That totals less than one-third of a highly-rated Olympic Lifting Barbell, and then you still need to buy the weights! You also don’t need much space to store the bands and they’re very light. The net effect is they’re extremely convenient and much safer for someone who is injured like me.
Unfortunately, convenience comes at a price. While bands are easy to store, you do need a specific anchor point to push or pull away from. That can make performing certain movements challenging. While bands can be used to create resistance, it’s not a constant load. That actually might not be a bad thing.
What They SAID May Shock You!
I studied kinesiology at the University of Texas. I was fortunate enough to pick-up a minor in Strength & Conditioning Coaching where we actually learned from the CSCS textbook. In my classes we learned one major principle that has guided much of my training to date; SAID.
SAID stands for Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand. This principle tells us that your body will adapt to the stressors it’s placed under.
No pain no gain? No real utility for that logic anymore.
If you want to be strong, practice moving bigger and heavier loads. If you want to be explosive, practice moving against resistance quickly. If you want better endurance, practice moving more, with relatively less load and rest periods. Now, what can we reasonably say about SAID and resistance bands?
Like we said earlier, resistance from bands is not constant. Bands allow us to change where the force is at its greatest. This is known as accommodating resistance. Broadly speaking, accommodating resistance is when we make a movement either more difficult or easier during different phases of an exercise using specific tools, like a resistance band, in this case.
Because bands create additional tension when they are fully stretched out, this gives us three main results:
We can actually put less weight on barbells and supplement the overall resistance with bands, potentially reducing some of the wear and tear on our joints while still allowing us to work against large loads
Because there is added resistance at the end, lifters need to start a banded exercise more explosively to overload the added resistance at the end, otherwise, they can’t complete the movement
Because the bands want to snap back into place, lifters need to squeeze at the end of the lift to prevent the band from moving out of control
I don’t know about you, but exercise tools that require people to move quickly and control the movement at the end sound like they have a lot of carryover for grappling. Said another way, the specifically imposed demand of resistance bands seem like they will make us adapt to have physical characteristics required for grappling.
There’s a longer conversation to be had about using SAID to guide all of our jiujitsu training. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t adjust our work-to-rest ratio in sparring to change how our body adapts, thereby reducing some of the overall load we’re subject to. When I’m cleared for more aggressive forms of exercise, I’ll certainly be using accommodating resistance to augment my strength and conditioning training. When I’m back on the mat coaching, I certainly plan on changing my rolling intensity in addition to the work-to-rest ratio of my sparring sessions. For now, I’m stuck in my garage pulling on bands to prevent pulling my hair out.
William is a BJJ black belt that runs openotegrappling.com, where he releases blogs and curates free resources to help you understand grappling. His most recent article looked at Islam Makhachev's ground game and what Alexander Volkanovski could do to beat it ahead of their fight. You can read it here.
William also created two tools for studying and teaching jiujitsu:
1. The Jiujitsu Notebook - a simple system for recording what you learned in class
2. The Jiujitsu Coach Operating System - a simple tool to plan lessons, manage your students, and organize your jiujitsu schedule.
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