Meditations on Resistance Band & Restrictive Training (diary entry)

Screen Shot 2023-08-10 at 11.41.43Sarka restrictive training & resistance bandimage00006


This morning brought my client up to hour six of what has become a course on restrictive training to aid her Muay Thai and in preparation for an operation recovery.

After a gentle warm-up of mobility and muscle activation exercises we began the first of four phases of today’s lesson.

Resistance Bands – We performed several sets of negative action punches using a light resistance band. I had my client adopt a fighting stance and retain her guard. My emphasis here was on developing a fast retraction from the punch.

Restrictive Punching – These punches were performed from my clients back and whilst performing a sit-up. We isolated straight punches and performed them as combinations.

Bare Knuckle Speed Punches – These were performed extremely lightly to the palms of my hands. I aimed to grab her hands every time she made contact and her objective was pull back before I could do this.

Relaxed Heavy Punches/Pulls/Shell and Return – The relaxed heavy punch training began with my client hold her gloved hands at her sides and then throwing a power punch every time I raised the pad. This was trained to encourage more relaxation in punches to develop greater force. We then trained the pull, a technique more common in Muay Thai and once unheard of in Boxing. She used the pull to generate an immediate counter combination. The same principle was was applied when she took the teep, shelling and then firing back.

Thoughts on Resistance Bands

There is a fair amount of debate behind the use of resistance bands to develop striking power. My guess, at present, is that this type of training goes back to judoka using bicycle inner tube to train throwing entries. Just as karateka took their grading system and gi wearing from Judo it would appear they were also earlier appropriators of using rubber to strengthen their techniques. These days resistance band training in Judo is a fairly common and respected form of solo training. There isn’t a lot of controversy although – and this is pertinent to today’s lesson – caveats are raised regarding setting the band up right so that every repetition is on point and the band being used isn’t too long so that it is pulling the user backwards after every entry. What you do most is what you do best, including what you do bad, if that makes sense.

Even in the throwing circles there is a concern for a martial artist ruining their form, body mechanics and ultimately their technique. This is more so in the world of the striker. For every new gimmicky piece of resistance band kit being sold to boxers, kickboxers and nak muay there is an article being posted where a certain coach will be berating its use. They go beyond the Judo concern, stating that the band makes a person decelerate with their strike, that they load their limb rather than the body behind it and overall clumsiness that comes from trying to strike with a band screws up technique. Furthermore, they argue that trying to mimic a technique starts on a faulty premise. A strike is an explosive technique, requiring the arm to be relaxed and whiplike, but loading the action changes this dynamic.

However, there are some teachers – and I note that these tend ones who have a strong background or parallel occupation in strength and conditioning – who come somewhere in the middle of the argument. They note using resistance bands to develop strikes should not be done with thick bands and, in fact, good form when using a band encourages an individual to load behind the limb just it does with supplemental resistance band aided strength lifts.

I first went to resistance bands after reading Geoff Thompson’s “Weight Lifting for the Martial Artist” or, more specifically, Dave Turton’s introduction to that book back in the mid-1990s. Neither Geoff nor Dave advocated using resistance bands for striking in the book but Dave’s critique of punching with weights made sense to me. With the exception of pure uppercuts, when punch with a weight gravity pulls your arm in a contradictory direction to there you are loading your power line i.e. downwards rather than along the path to and from the target. I figured a way around this might be through switching the position of the lifter and having them perform exercises like single arm dumbbell bench presses. In fact, this type of exercise might be in alignment with the argument of not trying to mimic the technique. Already an individual’s positioning on a bench changes the environmental setup of a typical strike, even when striking from compromised positions. Anyway, resistance bands and cable machines appeared to be another solution to this perceived problem. If set up correctly, a band would provide resistance along the power line forcing a user to power forward.

However, over time I realised the problems with using inner tubes and thicker resistance bands when striking. Even if I was following the rules of physics with hooking and circular strikes by ensuring the band was set in a straight line to the target and not wrapped around my body, the mechanics of the technique were off. Interestingly, I was also seeing arguments being made by the same resistance bands critics for wearing heavy boxing gloves. On the surface this appeared to contradict Dave Turton’s argument. Even the great boxing coach, Brendon Ingle was famed for having his students throw punches at the heavy bag whilst holding light dumbbells. To this day, arguably his most famous protege, former world super-bantamweight and featherweight champion Prince Naseem Hamed, swears his immense knockout power was enhanced by this training practice. This is not an isolated case. However, it has its respected detractors including MMA coach Ramsey Dewey.

My current position is that heavy gloves are good for helping to keep your hands up and can be a decent supplemental uppercut development tool. I am undecided about using resistance bands in the positive face of throwing a strike but advocate their use at the negative stage, provided correct body muscle activation is observed and the resistance bands are light.


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