Accommodating resistance: the deadlift

Deadlifts -

Accommodating resistance: the deadlift

'Accommodating resistance' was originally described in the 1980s by biomechanist Dr. Vladimir Zatsiorsky. It was later popularised by Louis Simmons of the legendary Westside Barbell, and has since been used throughout the strength training world to build elite level squats, bench presses, and deadlifts.

How it works is rooted in the principles of biomechanics. Anyone who's ever struggled to lock out their deadlift, or struggled to break it off the floor only to sail through the top of the lift, has experienced these principles in action. Due to joint angles, muscle elongation, and other factors the human body can produce different amounts of maximal force at different points in a lift – this change in strength throughout the lift is known as the strength curve.

Accommodating resistance works by adjusting the resistance of a lift up or down in line with the strength curve, usually by using resistance bands and/or chains. And the results are incredible: champion powerlifter Dave Tate credits it with making a 500lb bench and an 800lb squat 'a joke' at Westside.

For a more detailed explanation of the science, check out part one of Accomodating Resistance, which focuses on the bench press. Read on to learn how to use the method to build a bar bending deadlift.

Bands for deadlift speed and power

One reason accommodating resistance works is that in order to maintain balance at the top of a deadlift lifters need to actively decelerate before lockout, meaning they can't maintain maximal force production or speed throughout the lift. By using bands to overload the top portion of the deadlift, athletes force their bodies to increase velocity and force production there, rather than decreasing it.

A 2015 study conducted at California State University's department of Kinesiology tested the effects of deadlifting with and without bands. The researches had 12 men with previous training experience deadlift at 60% and 85% of their respective 1 rep maxes, using bands to make up either 15%, 35%, or 0% of the total weight in both conditions.

The researchers found that at 60% of 1 rep max the amount of band tension made no significant difference to power, force, or velocity during the lift. But when they increased the weight to 85% of 1 rep max things changed – more band resistance led to greater power production, and decreased the time to hit peak force production during the lift. Time between peak force and peak power production, as well as between peak force and peak velocity, also decreased as bend tension increased (Galpin et al. 2015).

These results back up what high level lifters and coaches already knew: that using bands to overload the deadlift is perfect for speed and power training – essential components in any deadlift program.

How to: the banded deadlift

Now you know why and when to use bands in your deadlift training, here's how to do it.

  1. Set up on a deadlift platform with band hooks. If you don't have access to one of these you can use heavy dumbbells to hold the bands down, or even stand on them (see 2. below)

  2. Loop the middle of the bands over the barbell, inside the sleeves, and the ends over the hooks/dumbbells. If you have neither then you can loop the ends under your feet.

  3. Make sure the total weight you're lifting is 85% or more of your normal deadlift 1 rep max, with about 35% of the total weight made up of band resistance. You can use multiple bands to make up the right number: from greens with 16kg of resistance, all the way to whites with 68kg. If you plan to train seriously grab a full set of bands to make life simpler.

  4. Lift, and watch your deadlift grow.

More to come

Keep an eye out for the next article in the Accommodating Resistance series, which looks at the squat. In the mean time grab some bands and get to work.


Galpin, A., Malyszek, K., Davis, K., Record, S., Brown, L., Coburn, J., Harmon, R., Steele, J. and Manolovitz, A. (2015). Acute Effects of Elastic Bands on Kinetic Characteristics During the Deadlift at Moderate and Heavy Loads. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 29(12), pp.3271-3278.

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