Master Your Bodyweight Movements With The Anti-Chaos Band Method
Dr. Joel Seedman, Ph.D.
Want to learn how to master your bodyweight exercises such as pushups, inverted rows, dips, and pullups? Try incorporating the chaos and anti-chaos band method. And just in case you were wondering I refer to these as the anti-chaos method primarily because you have to eliminate all of the chaotic energy and bouncing by moving incredibly slow and smooth.
This anti-chaos band method is one of the most challenging protocols I've ever used as it requires unbelievably strict mechanics and smooth form otherwise your body will literally begin to bounce and oscillate out of control. Although it’s similar to the traditional chaos pushups that have recently gained quite a bit of popularity thanks to Tony Gentilcore and Jim Smith there are some distinct differences.
First, with the traditional chaos pushup there will be small yet quick and continuous oscillations similar to a vibration platform. Although this is very effective for waking up muscle spindles and other proprioceptive mechanisms, there is rarely any threat of completely losing control of the movement as there is only so much the band can deviate and shift from it’s anchor point.
In contrast the anti-chaos method doesn’t necessarily provide quick oscillations but instead the bar and lifter will have a tendency to bounce, shift, and sway, out of control with large deviations, unless he or she performs these with incredibly strict, smooth, and precisely dialed in mechanics. In other words, you’re forced to do these correctly.
Because the instability and potentially large oscillations can be so extreme it literally forces the lifter to perform the movements in the most effective method possible, namely the eccentric isometric fashion. In fact, each time I attempt these or have clients perform them I notice that the eccentric isometric method is used out of pure necessity as anything less will result in an inability to control the load not to mention a potential face plant. The concentric portion of the movement also requires incredibly smooth and controlled tempos to avoid any additional bouncing. Needless to say this is an advanced protocol so use common sense when applying.
Another factor that differentiates the anti-chaos method from the traditional chaos pushup is that most lifters tend to find the barbell version much easier on the joints and ligaments of the hands. In fact a common complaint many clients and athletes will make about traditional chaos pushups is that it places strain on the hands. That’s because the stretching of the taught bands against the hands tends to pull against the connective tissue and various joints making it feel quite uncomfortable. In addition, when placing the hands on a stretched band it's difficult to squeeze your grip and activate the various muscles of your hands and fingers maximally as there simply is not enough circumference area to allow a crushing or squeezing grip method.
As a result the muscles in the hands are not as activated and therefore cannot absorb the force, resulting in more stress against the connective tissue. The combination of these factors can produce significant discomfort in the hands and fingers. This is something I’ve personally noticed as well particularly with weighted variations. Fortunately the anti-chaos method eliminates that as the lifter is able to firmly and aggressively grasp a traditional barbell rather than simply placing their hand on the surface of an ultra-stretched and taught exercise band.
The final differentiating point is also related to grip and hand activation. I’ve found that using the barbell has even more transfer and specificity of movement to other barbell exercises due to the similar dynamics of the exercise such as grip positioning. Simply put, the lifter not only employs the same general grip positioning for both, but he or she can also implement similar cues used on the bench press such as “pull the bar apart” and “crush the barbell with your hands.” As a result these variations, particularly the pushup and row, have a tremendous carryover effect to the bench press helping to dial in mechanics and maximize motor control.
What About The Traditional Chaos Pushup?
It’s important to point out that this method is not necessarily superior to the traditional chaos method nor should it completely replace it. Instead it simply provides a slightly different and unique stimulus. In fact I have and will continue to use both protocols in my training arsenal for my clients and athletes as each variation (the chaos method and anti-chaos method) has its own unique attributes and benefits. As previously mentioned the chaos version shown below by my awesome client Leslie Petch involves more micro-ossilications and unpredictable perturbations similar to a vibration platform or the Hanging Band Technique. This also does wonders for waking up smaller stabilizers and improving proprioception via increased muscle spindle recruitment.
What About Overload?
Although you won’t use much overload on the anti-chaos or chaos methods you can still expect some significant muscle growth and strength gains. That’s because the metabolic stress, overall pump, and mechanical tension produced in the upper extremities from this is quite intense. So be prepared to feel a huge burn. In addition, your body will thank you as your shoulder stability, horizontal pressing mechanics, and motor control will be markedly improved.
The Isolateral Hanging Band Method
Some lifters may find the isolateral hanging band method without the barbell more shoulder friendly as the hands are placed into a neutral position rather than a pronated position.
The neutral grip often allows improved shoulder retraction and external rotation of the shoulder joint making it easier to centrate the shoulder and depress the scapula. The stimulus to the musculature is similar to the chaos and anti-chaos barbell version however the transfer to other barbell movements such as bench press won’t be quite as strong.
As previously mentioned the chaos and anti-chaos band method can be applied to a number of bodyweight movements including rows.
In fact, the inverted row performed in this fashion is unbelievably intense as the entire posterior chain from head to toe including the upper back, lats, rear delts, neck, glutes, hamstrings, biceps, and grip get absolutely pummeled. As a result this is one of the single most effective exercises for improving posture and spinal alignment as every segment of the body is forced to be perfectly aligned with no energy leaks or movement aberrations. Just like the pushups the goal when performing these is as little bouncing as possible as this will require the most rock solid mechanics and the highest level of motor control.
Anti-Chaos Trap Bar Variations
The anti-chaos method can also be applied to the trap bar as demonstrated in the video below by one of my awesome clients Leslie Petch and myself. Besides providing a slightly greater level of instability that the lifter must learn to control, it also allows the lifter to assume a neutral grip for bodyweight movements such as pushups and inverted rows.
This can place the glenohumeral joint into a more structurally sound position and help the lifter pack and centrate the the shoulder. Just like the barbell the key is to go incredibly slow as a means of reducing any and all forms of chaotic energy and bouncing. In other words try to keep the bar as still as possible.
Here are 2 incredibly challenging eccentric isometric chaos dip variations I perform alongside my awesome client and national figure competitor Leslie Petch.
Although both variations are incredibly challenging and unstable, each version provides unique features that can help improve upper body mechanics.
1. The first one I demonstrate with one band using a pronated grip produces more anteroposterior instability. This teaches the lifter how to centrate and pack their shoulders while also creating ample forward torso lean/hip hinge and dialing in their entire core musculature. That’s because an overly upright position will cause the bands to oscillate out of control.
The neutral grip with 2 band straps performed by Leslie tends to be a bit more shoulder friendly (a common benefit of neutral grip positioning) while also giving more immediate feedback regarding symmetrical loading. That’s because there is mediolateral instability as too much tension on one side will cause the lifter to tilt as one side of the bands will dip more than the other. Simply put if you have a tendency to favor one side of your body, push more with one arm, or tilt to one side with poor symmetrical alignment, this provides immediate feedback about your dip technique.
2. It may be quite obvious but, both dip variations are exponentially more unstable than traditional dips. That’s because the bands oscillate with subtle yet frequent perturbations similar to oscillating kinetic energy (i.e. hanging band technique) making these some of the most challenging upper body movements you’ll ever attempt.
3. Many lifters over-stretch with an excessive range of motion on dips. Besides placing undue stress on the shoulders and pectoral tendons it actually reduces tension to the targeted musculature as the chest and triceps have to relax to allow the collapsed position to occur. These instill optimal 90-degree joint angles (approximately) as anything else destabilizes the shoulder joint creating uncontrollable instability on the bands. Read more about chaos dips here.
Single Arm Variations
Performing anti-chaos barbell band inverted rows in a single arm fashion as shown in this video not only exponentially magnifies the overload effect to the upper back, but your entire core musculature will be forced to work overtime to resist rotation and maintain semi-neutral alignment. As a result this is one of the single most effective exercises for improving posture and spinal alignment as you’ll be forced to eliminate all energy leaks and address any imbalances or movement aberrations.
Just like the other movements in this article, the goal when performing these is as little bouncing as possible as this will require the most rock solid mechanics and the highest level of motor control. The degree of mechanical tension and metabolic stress not to mention mental concentration during these is inordinately high. Just be prepared to focus your mind like a master Jedi.
Chaos Renegade Rows
Besides representing some of the most challenging core variations in existence, chaos renegade rows are incredibly effective at cleaning up form aberrations commonly witnessed during renegade rows and single arm planks. Here’s one of my awesome bodybuilding clients Ben Lai showing 2 very advanced variations. Read more about the benefits of chaos renegade rows here.
If you’re looking for an incredibly challenging pullup variation while also looking for a way to clean up your vertical pulling movement pattern it doesn’t get any better than the chaos pullup.
In fact these have 8 unique benefits as well as many progressions and variations. Read more about chaos pull-ups here.
Chaos Glute Bridges
The chaos method is also incredibly effective when applied to glute bridges.
Here’s one of my awesome athletes Leslie Petch showing how its done with an incredible challenging single leg variation. Read more about the benefits of chaos glute bridges here.
Chaos Bulgarian Squat
The chaos band method is also incredibly effective when applied to Bulgarian squats and split squats as shown here by two of my NFL athletes including Jarius Wynn and Taylor Heinicke.
Besides improving lower body motor control and stability it’s also very comfortable on the back foot/ankle which is a common issue on traditional Bulgarian squats (when using a bench). Also shoutout to Meghan Callaway for developing this variation.
Neutral Grip Chaos Drills
Here are 4 unique neutral grip, eccentric isometric chaos drills I demonstrate alongside my awesome athletes & clients including MLB pro baseball player Austin Meadows & NPC national figure competitor Leslie Petch. As previously mentioned, most chaos drills often involve an overhand pronated grip which tends to be a bit more difficult for most folks to dial in their shoulder mechanics. Fortunately using a technique I refer to as the neutral grip chaos method which involves 2 sets of bands instead of 1 helps remedy this as the neutral grip is more conducive for dialing in upper body mechanics via enhanced packing and centration of the glenohumeral joint. Additionally the levels of instability & oscillations are in many ways more challenging than the traditional chaos method.
Additionally the independent band stations give more immediate feedback regarding symmetrical loading. That’s because there is mediolateral instability as too much tension on one side will cause the lifter to tilt as one side of the bands will dip more than the other. Simply put if you have a tendency to favor one side of your body, push more with one arm, or tilt to one side with poor symmetrical alignment, this provides immediate feedback about your technique.
The neutral grips also tend to be much more joint friendly on the elbows, wrists and hands which is one common issue for traditional chaos drills such as chaos pushups. Similar to the traditional chaos setup, the neutral grip protocol can be applied to pullups, pushups, dips, & rows.
Finding the appropriate band setup for the user’s height and bodyweight will take a bit of trial and error but generally speaking 1-2 thicker bands or 2-3 moderate tension bands should do the job.
To successfully complete a proper eccentric isometric rep on any of the chaos and anti-chaos band exercises the lifter will need to use a much slower cadence with each rep lasting 7-10 seconds. Because of the extended time under tension I recommend using much lower reps than normal by performing several sets of 3-6 repetitions.
If you’re looking to learn more about eccentric isometric training protocols and why they’re so effective for mastering your body mechanics check out my 600 page book Movement Redefined.