May 25, 2014

The Jettison Technique - How To Use The Resources Available To Maximize Tension, Thus Results

Meet the Jettisons

The Jettison technique is where two different forms of resistance (free weights, cables, machines, resistance bands, lifting chains, etc) are combined during the same exercise to create a variation of a mechanical drop set/improved leverage set aimed at maximizing muscle recruitment and fatigue. An example would be a barbell with a resistance band wrapped around it (which you would be standing on to anchor the band), curled till failure, remove the band, pick up the bar and curl to failure once more, put the bar down, pick up the band and curl that till failure.

While performing exercises with two forms of resistance coming from different planes may not be practical, it is extremely beneficial, regardless of your goal (building muscle, increasing strength, etc), because of the enhanced effect that it has on the nervous system, specifically motor unit recruitment.

Something’s missing here

When lifting a single form of resistance, whether it is a free weight, cable, machine, resistance band, or lifting chain, the nervous system has a much easier time formulating the most efficient motor pattern to produce the movement and generate force. Because of this, it can end up putting things on ‘cruise control’, or ‘autopilot’, once it’s figured out how to take the path of least resistance. This is why most will generally experience quick improvements in terms of strength gains when trying something new, or going back to something they haven’t done in a while, before seeing those gains taper off, almost as quickly as they came. The nervous system is always adapting, pretty much instantaneously from rep to rep, and set to set (until fatigue becomes a limiting factor), as it finds a way to make things easier so it doesn’t have to work so hard.

When the resistance increases and/or decreases throughout the range of motion, as it does with a resistance band or lifting chains, not only does the nervous system have to process the actual movement you are doing, but it also has to keep up with the demand of the varying amounts of force that need to be applied in opposition of the resistance to do the movement. This in itself leads to an increased level of motor unit recruitment.

Pair that with also having to adjust to resistance being applied from different planes, and you have a very effective technique for building muscle or increasing strength by way of forcing the nervous system to learn to recruit more motor units.

Due to practicality, the most popular variations of the Jettison technique involve curling or upright rowing a barbell, while standing on a resistance band that is also wrapped around the barbell, or performing those same exercises, along with front and lateral raises, with dumbells and bands. Upon reaching failure the set is discontinued, the lighter form of resistance is removed, and the set restarts. When no further reps are possible, you switch back to the piece of resistance that was removed, and perform as many reps as you can from there. Once you have an understanding of the principle at play here, you can take the Jettison technique and apply to whatever exercise you choose.

2 for the price of 1

Exercises like free weight chest presses/flyes (any angle), and free weight triceps extensions fail to keep the tension on the targeted muscles throughout the full range of motion (primarily in the end range with the arms extended), making them ideal candidates for implementing the Jettison technique. With these exercises, the tension is all but removed from the targeted muscles as the arms reach full extension and the weight is held over the body. In these cases, having a resistance band or even cable pulley, placed at your side, or behind your head, can create a more well-rounded movement and increase the effectiveness.

One way to apply the Jettison technique to a dumbell press of any angle would be to place a bench (adjusted to the angle of your choosing – flat, incline, decline) between a cable crossover station (with the pulleys appropriately adjusted to the right height) and wrap the ankle wrap attachments around your wrist, pick up your dumbells, lay back on the bench, and perform presses, or flyes, as the cables try to pry your arms apart while the dumbells are drawn towards the floor because of gravity. This ensures that tension remains on the pecs at the top of the movement where it would otherwise be removed. Upon reaching failure, you can easily drop the dumbells and continue performing presses, or flyes, with the resistance from the cable pulleys still attached to your wrist. For those looking to label this exercise, you could just call it a ‘dumbell-cable combo press/flye’.

To apply the Jettison technique to triceps extensions you could wrap a band around a couple of really heavy dumbells (the heavier the better, as you don’t want them to move during the set), or even a power rack, and loop it around a barbell and perform lying triceps extensions. This way, in the top position the weight is being pulled back, as well as gravitating towards the floor, which results in a more thorough contraction of the triceps, especially the long head (which also acts as a shoulder extensor).

Curiosity killed the cat

Because of the assortment of training equipment, and the versatility of the Jettison technique itself, the only factor preventing one from practically applying the Jettison technique to any exercise would be their imagination. To go over each and every exercise, and how to practically apply the Jettison technique to it would be exhaustive. So for now, here are a few pointers instead:

-          Free weights can generally be paired with bands pretty effectively. After reaching failure the bands can easily be removed, and the set can easily be continued without the bands. Upon reaching failure the free weights can be set down, the bands can be picked back up, and the exercise can generally continue. Depending on the strength discrepancy (how challenging it is to perform the exercise with just the bands), the way in which the reps are performed can easily be modified to make the exercise more effective (basically slow things down and hold the bands still at various joint angles to maximize muscle activation, or perform as many reps as you can in as short a time as possible). Lifting chains can generally be substituted for bands when applying the Jettison technique to most free weight exercises (the same sequence applies – take off the chains upon reaching failure, finish off by performing reps holding only the chains).
-          The major difference between bands and chains is that chains are obviously fighting against gravity, whereas bands are resisting against whatever it is they’re anchored to. This creates endless possibilities to apply the Jettison technique, as well as subject the muscles to multiple planes of resistance. This makes bands the most versatile piece of equipment, as they can be stood on, or anchored to an immovable object like a power rack, or could even be held down by other free weights (tied around heavy dumbells, wrapped around another heavy barbell, or looped through barbell plates).
-          Cables can be paired with free weights in multiple ways as well. Using the ankle wraps allows you to attach the resistance from the cable stack to your wrists while holding onto a dumbell, or could even be wrapped around a barbell. Barbell plates, or lifting chains, could also be thrown onto a bar (straight bar, or EZ-bar) attachment.

To infinity, and beyond

There’s no right or wrong with the Jettison technique, so feel free to experiment with it. Ask yourself – Can I wrap a band around this beam, or machine? Can these chains be applied to this exercise? Can I add some weight to this cable attachment with barbell plates? If the answer is yes, do it! Keep your eyes open, and look for ways to use every part of the gym. The lat pulldown cable doesn’t just hang from the ceiling, it’s supported by a steal beam. You think you can’t wrap a band around that? Of course you can! Just don’t be that guy who is holding the lightest barbell in the gym with chains hanging off the end, standing on a pair of colourful bands that are wrapped around it, screaming bloody murder as if your muscles are going to explode as you struggle to lift the bar. For the love of God, don’t be that guy! Nobody likes that guy.

If you have any questions about the Jettison technique, or how to apply it to a certain exercise, feel free to contact me at I'm available for online consulting and personalized program design, as well as one on one training if you are located in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).

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