Dynamic Upper Body Training Method

Eian Birtcher


As Louie Simmons says time and time again, lifting is physics, plain and simple. While you can typically get away with relying on brute strength early on in powerlifting, eventually you are going to have to work on accelerating the bar faster. One of the most common methods used to increase bar speed is by using accommodating resistance, specifically bands. This is commonly referred to as speed benching or dynamic effort training. The idea is to use a lighter weight, yet move it with the same force as if it were your one rep max. Simply put, Force=Mass x Acceleration (F=MA), If you are decreasing the weight (mass) yet trying to keep your total force the same, your acceleration has to increase to make this possible. Even in some commercial gyms these days, it is common to see someone benching using bands. What is uncommon, is to see someone using it in the correct manner to actually increase bar speed. I want to share a few points that will help you dial in your dynamic training.


Don’t overcomplicate the setup. Ideally, you have a bench or rack that has pins for attaching the bands. If you do not, you can easily set the bands up using some heavy dumbbells. There are two keys to the setup. The first is to make sure there is tension throughout the entire lift, although it will not be a lot at the bottom portion, it is important that the band does not go completely slack. The second key is to find a setup that you can replicate from week to week, keep it consistent.


In the gym, on instagram, you can see it, someone claiming “speed bench” or “dynamic upper” but the bar is moving slow, or they are even struggling to finish their reps. A majority of the time, there is just too much weight on the bar. They set up the bands, threw some random weight on the bar, and got after it. There is plenty of information available out there about what percentages and rep schemes you should be using for speed bench. Westside typically calls for 50-65% bar weight plus bands, while others, like Matt Wenning recommends closer to 30% bar weight plus bands. Prilepin’s chart is a great resource for the determining reps/sets. It bases the reps/sets off of how close you are to your one rep max. Being below the 65% range, the chart calls for a total rep range of 18-30. Speed bench is most commonly broken down into 8 to 9 sets of 3 reps, totaling 24-27 total reps.


Along with determining proper bar weight, you should also measure your band tension. While they have devices made specifically to measure the tension, you can also measure the tension by bringing a bathroom scale to the gym. First weigh yourself, then attach the bands to the rack or dumbells as you normally would. Instead of attaching the band to the bar, hold the band where it will be at the top of the lift. Step back onto the scale, holding the band in position, and weigh yourself again. Subtract your initial weight from the new weight, then double it. This will tell you your approximate band tension.


Consistent setup and a little bit of math will allow you to have a process that is repeatable, and trackable. Stop guessing on your speed work!

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