It’s fair to say that resistance bands are one of the least expensive and most versatile pieces of gym equipment available. It doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner or someone who’s been working out for years, resistance bands are really effective at challenging your muscles in new ways and from all sorts of angles. They offer a great alternative to free weights, or can be used in tandem to really fire up your workouts and create new strength and fitness gains (you can read more on this in one of my previous articles).
Here are a few useful things to know about resistance band training and some ideas for exercises to help you create the best resistance band workouts tailored just for you.
Target Any Body Part
Whether you’re targeting your upper or lower body, firming your glutes, toning your arms or trying to stoke new muscle growth you can use resistance bands for any body part without putting pressure on the joints.
If you strength train then you likely focus on targeting the bigger muscles groups such as the pectoral muscles in the chest, the lats, trapezius and rear deltoids in the back and the quads and hamstrings in the legs – to name a few. Resistance bands are not only good at supplementing this training but can also be great for targeting smaller muscle groups that function as stabilisers.
Different Shapes, Sizes And Colours: Take Your Pick
Resistance bands come in a multitude of shape, sizes and colours which indicate the level of resistance they provide so you are able to adjust the difficulty and challenge of your workouts and, ultimately the kind of results you want to see.
Here’s a quick summary of the main categories:
Sizes and shapes:
Looped: These can either be shorter and thinner (also known as mini or ‘thera’ bands) or longer and thicker.
Non-looped: These come with handles or without.
Resistance and colour:
Resistance bands are available in many different colours, but they don’t all follow the same colour to resistance ratio so it’s always worth checking with the manufacturer.
When purchasing your resistance band, check which other bands are available and make your choice based on your ultimate goal(s). If you’re using one for general fitness then typically for lower body training you want to choose a stronger one, and for upper body training choose a lighter one. If you’re unsure then go for an intermediate resistance – which is often green – but again check when buying.
Levels of resistance vary from light to heavy:
Thinner/smaller bands: 2-40 Ilbs (1-10kg) of resistance
Longer/thicker bands: 10 – 200 Ilbs (5-90kg) of resistance
If you’re looking for a better idea of the types of resistance bands available, along with some awesome training tips and videos, then GarageGym.net is a really great website. Their products are all excellent quality and come with a lifetime warranty too.
Your Bands, Your Goals
As I’ve mentioned, resistance bands are highly versatile and will give even the most seasoned bodybuilder a tough workout. You can use any resistance band exercise in one of two ways:
A strength workout – Whether it’s total body or you’re focusing on a specific part, generally you’ll want to choose three to five exercises and perform 10 – 20 reps of each in a circuit that you can repeat for between three to five rounds. Obviously the number of reps and rounds will depend on your level of fitness and the level of resistance you’re using. So to challenge yourself over time you can either start with fewer rounds consisting of less reps and work up, or increase the level of resistance with a thicker band, or both!
A warm-up – You can use resistance bands to activate certain muscle groups. So for instance, if you find it difficult to feel your glutes working, perform a couple of rounds of side squats before you start your leg workout and do as many reps as you need until you start to feel your muscles activating.
The Best Exercises To Help Make The Best Resistance Band Workouts
Here’s my pick of the best resistance band exercises that you can use to make your own workout and adapt to either increase your general level of fitness as a toning and cardio workout, or increase strength and muscle mass as a challenging strength-based workout. Just adjust the level of resistance to suit.
Muscles targeted: Thighs and glutes
How to perform the exercise: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and toes facing either forward or slightly outwards. Place the resistance band above your knees. Squat down and then rise up with force into a jump before landing softly on your feet. Repeat this for as many reps as you can.
Wall Lateral Pulldown
Muscles targeted: Lats and upper back
How to perform the exercise: Standing with your back to a wall, place the resistance band around your wrists and stretch your arms up over your head. Bend your elbows to 90 degrees and pull your arms down while stretching the band and bringing your shoulder blades together. Return back to the start and repeat for as many reps as you can.
Muscles targeted: Hamstrings and glutes
How to perform the exercise: Get yourself into position on all fours on the floor and place one end of the resistance band above your knees and the other end around one of your feet or ankles. Keeping good alignment in your neck, back and hips, kick the heel of the foot you have placed the end of the resistance band around upwards to stretch the band and then return to the starting position before repeating for as many reps as you can. Make sure you keep your hips level and your back neutral and not rounded throughout the exercise.
Muscles targeted: Biceps
How to perform the exercise: Place one end of the resistance band under your left foot and hold it with your left hand. Pull your left hand up towards your left shoulder and keep your elbow in to your side and stationary as you move your hand upwards. Count one second at the top of the exercise to really feel the contraction and then lower. Do as many reps as you can on your left side before switching to your right side and repeating.
Muscles targeted: Hamstrings and glutes
How to perform the exercise: Get on the floor on all fours and place the resistance band above your knees. Keeping your neck, back and hips in good alignment, move your left leg out to the side to stretch the band whilst ensuring the rest of your body remains firmly planted – don’t turn to the side. Return to the start position and then repeat. Continue with all repetitions on one side before switching to the other side.
Muscles targeted: Triceps
How to perform the exercise: Hold the resistance band in your hands with both elbows bent. Place your right elbow over your head making sure your right forearm is parallel to the floor. Your left hand should be in front of your left shoulder. Extend your right arm, keeping it close to your head. As it straightens you should feel the band stretch and the muscles contract. Return to the start position and repeat for as many reps as possible before switching to the other side.
High Plank Leg Lifts
Muscles targeted: Abdominals, hamstrings and glutes
How to perform the exercise: Get into a plank position on the floor with your hands and feet all touching the ground. Ensure your hands are underneath your shoulders and your body is straight. Place the resistance band around your ankles. Making sure you engage your core and glutes, lift up your left heel against the resistance of the band – as you’re doing so ensure your body remains aligned and your back doesn’t become rounded. Return to the start position and repeat for as many reps as you can before switching to the other side.
Shoulder External Rotation
Muscles targeted: Shoulder and upper back
How to perform the exercise: Place a mini band around your wrists and bend your elbows, keeping them close to the body. Then move your forearms out to the side to stretch the band whilst rotating your palms at the same time so that they are facing upwards when the band is stretched. Return to the start position and then repeat for as many reps as you can.
Squat With Side Raise
Muscles targeted: Glutes and thighs
How to perform the exercise: Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and your toes pointing either forward or slightly outwards and place the resistance band above your knees. Lower yourself into a squat and as you stand back up lift your right leg up to the side making sure you squeeze the outer part of your glutes whilst doing so. Step back whilst lowering yourself into a squat again. Perform for as many reps as you can before switching to the other side.
Muscles targeted: Glutes
How to perform the exercise: With one hand on a wall for support, place the resistance band around your ankles – if you want less resistance you can move it up above your knees. Lift your right leg to the side and squeeze your right glute whilst keeping your body straight. Return to the start position and repeat for as many reps as you can before switching to the other side.
Mix And Match To Suit Your Goals
These ten exercises are designed to give your whole body a thorough workout, but how you incorporate them into your workout routine is up to you. Either add them all into one session for a complete body workout or split them up into upper and lower body workouts and perform them on different days.
If you want to focus on building strength and muscle then slowly increase the resistance by choosing a thicker band, or increase the number of reps and try to fatigue your muscles. You could even incorporate some of these exercises into your free weights routines to really challenge your muscles from all different angles. There are any number of different ways you can use these exercises and add them into your fitness regime – so be creative with how you use them.
I use a range of resistance bands from Garage Fit and I find the quality superior to almost any other I’ve used. I’ve recently written a review on all three types of band they offer, so feel free to check it out.
If you’re new to using resistance bands, or you need some inspiration for how you can include them in your daily workouts, get in touch and let me know. Comment below and tell me what success you’ve had in using them, or if you’re not a fan and prefer an alternative form of resistance training then I’d love to hear what that is too!