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I don't have a bar with heavy weights at home but want to incorporate deadlifts into my workout program. I experimented a bit with dumbbell deadlifts, but the 10 kg dumbbells I used feel very light for me (I just read that a beginner woman could deadlift her bodyweight) and I don't want to buy new dumbbells. So my idea was that I could do the deadlift with resistance bands.

I took a pull-up bar and some strong bands and made something like on the following video but without the weights: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=poyrLz6GpEk

Here is a slightly different image of this:

enter image description here

And here is another simple setup: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=jwD211uLXBs (though the guy on the video is performing stiff leg deadlifts)

Now I have some questions about this:

  • Is it possible to get the same benefits from the deadlift using this setup as from a regular deadlift?
  • Is there any risk of doing it this way instead of a regular deadlift?
  • Since the force of the bands increases monotonically with the elongation of the band you have a significantly smaller force at the initiation of the lift compared to the top of the movement. Does this lead to any problems concerning risks or training effects and does it imply changes in technique compared to the normal deadlift?
  • For travelling I can take the bands with me but not the bar. Is there and reasonable way to do deadlifts with bands only? How is the proper technique in this case?

Edit:

Here is a more complex setup of how to use resistance bands for deadlifts:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=HztKutgiim0&pxtry=1

There is also a more simple version of this but it seems to lead to bad form:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lonkJjBeFKg

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2 Answers 2

The concept of using bands and chains with any lift is to make the lift more difficult at lockout. That's fine if lockout is actually your sticking point, which is often the case if you use powerlifting gear like squat/deadlift suits or bench shirts.

For many people who don't use powerlifting gear, the most difficult part after getting the bar off the floor is getting it past the knees. Bands force you to work harder through that range than if they weren't there.

  • While bands do change the feel of the deadlift, it doesn't change the basic technique required. As a result the benefits are pretty close to the same.
  • Assuming your technique is correct, the only risk is not putting more training stress where you need it.
  • The biggest problem with bands is properly estimating the additional force they give to the bar, for precisely the reasons you listed. The band manufacturers give a range of resistance based on how stretched the band is, but there is no real way to know how close to which number it is.

If your sticking point is above the knee, bands will provide the best training benefit. If your sticking point is somewhere to just below the knee to just above it, block pulls (deadlift on blocks so the bar is just below the sticking point or below the knee) will give you a better training benefit. If your sticking point is about mid-shin, hamstrings are probably the weak link and Romanian Deadlifts would be a better training benefit. If you simply can't get the bar off the floor, you probably don't have one area weaker than any other--you simply need to get stronger overall.

As to deadlifting with just bands, Charles Atlas made a good amount of progress with similar dynamic tension movements. You would probably be better served by doing banded squats. The band would go under your foot, and loop around your shoulders while you are at the bottom. Then perform several squats. But even more, you would be best served by finding a local gym with daily or weekly rates while you are on travel. Or just take the time off.

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Thanks. I am not sure if you understood my question correctly. I want to replace barbell deadlifts with pure resistance band deadlifts (and a light bar without plates). I don't want to add bands to a barbell deadlift. –  Sarah May 15 '13 at 14:49

Using bands seems like a fine alternative, but it will never be the same as a barbell deadlift. Different exercises are different. For instance, one of the benefits of barbells is the ability to load the bar with a tremendous amount of weight. Overcoming this resistance requires enormous effort and a demand for proper alignment that cannot be replicated with other training equipment.

Applying maximal force from a dead stop is a key element of the barbell deadlift. (Hence the name, dead lift.) In addition, as you suspect, the fact that the bands produce more resistance at the top is the opposite of the deadlift, and will produce a different training effect.

So with using bands instead of barbells, you're not going to get A) the same magnitude of resistance, nor B) the same kind of resistance, with the maximal effort at the bottom. However, the bands are a real exercise and I wouldn't see any particular danger in doing them the way Steve Maxwell shows, though it appears more akin to a Romanian deadlift.

I'd recommend taking the leap and buying a barbell, squat rack, and plates. It's usually a couple hundred bucks for a used one on Craiglist. If not, keep kettlebells in mind--you can use swings, a KB deadlift, cleans and so on to work the posterior chain with a piece of equipment that takes up only a tiny amount of space.

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Thanks. I don't have the place for a barbell and plates at home. What is different with a KB compared to dumbbells? –  Sarah May 15 '13 at 14:46
    
@Sarah Oops, I forgot you'd mentioned DBs. Sorry. Well, a KB handle is usually higher up, which makes proper DL form easier. Not much else is really different from DBs. For you, I'd get a 20kg KB for deadlifting, or a 15kg KB for swings and cleans. Also, I don't know if you're athletic, but I wouldn't expect to deadlift your bodyweight right when you start. It might take a few weeks or a few months. –  Dave Liepmann May 15 '13 at 15:03

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