What is Variable Resistance Training

What is Variable Resistance Training?

Variable resistance training, also known as accommodating resistance, is a simple exercise technique you can use at home to improve strength, power, and conditioning. You can use variable resistance training without any home gym equipment.

Variable resistance training, in its simplest form, is the use of resistance bands to vary the resistance of a motion of exercise. Variable resistance training is very useful and frequently used, to break through training plateaus, as it creates resistance when the muscle is moving through the optimum range. 

Where Does The Name Variable Resistance Training Come From?

Due to the elastic nature of the resistance band, the effort required to move said band changes throughout the exercise movement. This is where ‘variable resistance’ originates.

When you’re training with a free weight the resistance is consistent and constant, which means your muscles get used to the resistance. This is normally when you would increase the weight of the dumbbell or barbell, but when that no longer works, this is when you add variable resistance with a resistance band.

How Does Variable Resistance Training Work?

We’ll use an example here. When you’re bench pressing, on a bench press rack, you might be very strong on the initial push, but then struggle when you need to need to complete the movement. This last movement is where you would add resistance with a resistance band. This way you will strengthen the part of your lift that is relatively weak and round out your whole range of movement. It helps to drop the overall weight first, then add resistance and then increase overall weight when the weak part has been strengthened.

When To Use Variable Resistance Training?

Variable resistance training can be used to strengthen weak parts of your lift or to increase the overall strength of your lift. This can be applied to almost any lift, such as the deadlift, bench press, or squat, but also to several popular Olympic lifts

Variable resistance training also helps to improve explosive power by increasing acceleration throughout a lifting movement by applying more force during that lift due to the use of a resistance band or chain.

A resistance band can also be useful when you’re starting off with bodyweight exercises such as chin-ups, on a chin-up bar. The band will take some of the weight during the initial pull, but provide less support as you get higher in the movement. Once you can do a certain amount of reps with the support of a resistance band you can try a lower amount of reps without the band.

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A resistance band can also be useful when you work with physical limitations or you’re trying to avoid injuries. Instead of using a dumbbell for a bicep curl, for example, you can use a resistance band. As your arm is only taking the load from the resistance you are creating against the band, you should be able to complete the bicep curl as well as avoid any injuries.

How to Train With Variable Resistance Training

You can do variable resistance training with a machine, resistance band, or chains. 

There are several machines built for resistance training, such as the leg press and hamstring curl machines. A machine however is generally harder to use than just a resistance band, so if you’re starting out we recommend starting with a resistance band.

A resistance band is probably to most popular variable resistance training option you have available. It’s affordable, really easy to use, and obviously doesn’t take up much space. You can add resistance to almost any exercise with a resistance band, as discussed previously, but it’s especially useful at home for exercises such as squats, chest press, tricep extension, and more.

You can combine resistance bands with dumbbells or barbells to improve power and overall strength. To improve your power and strength in these types of exercises, it is recommended that free weights make up 65-80% of the total load, with resistance from bands providing the remaining 20-35% (where the total load is the 1RM or the one-rep max).

The last option is the addition of chains. Chains add variable weight to exercises such as chin-ups, pull-ups, squats, and more. Remember to keep at least one part of the chain on the ground to avoid injury.

As with resistance bands you can also combine chains with barbells of dumbbells to improve power and overall strength.

The Benefits of Variable Resistance Training

We’ve mentioned the benefits of variable resistance training throughout this article, but we believe it’s worth repeating. Variable resistance training improves your overall lift performance and strength without increasing the risk of injury during a lift.

This article was last updated on November 18, 2021 .

Written by
Staff Writer

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