Apart from the minimal space they take up and the ease in which you can set them up and be ready to go within seconds, the added range of motion and sustained level of muscle contraction (flex) they provide really helps to push your body to achieving greater strength and muscle gains, particularly when used in conjunction with free weight routines.
So if you’re looking for an upper body workout with resistance bands that will work every major muscle group from your waist up, then check out this 20 minute workout below.
It’s worth me quickly touching upon why I think resistance bands are so good at maximising strength and muscle growth first, so here are my top three reasons…
The Benefits Of Using Resistance Bands In Your Training
Resistance bands are a home gym’s best friend. Despite their potential at helping you increase size and strength vs the big space-sapping machines you’ll come across at the gym, they are small, easy to set up pretty much anywhere and easy to carry around with you – meaning you can work out at home, outside, whilst on holiday, or travelling with work.
They are great at improving your mobility, particularly with the shoulders, and also really handy at warming up muscles before heavy lifting
3. They help increase strength
Resistance bands produce something called linear variable resistance meaning as you stretch them they get heavier – putting greater tension on the muscle you are working. Couple this with the fact that they adjust the strength curve so you’re having to exert more energy at the beginning of each rep, and this means greater contractions when compared to a free weight meaning potentially greater progression over time.
A Couple Of Things Before You Start
1. Go slow and controlled
When working out with resistance bands it’s key to move and stretch the band in slow, controlled movements and keep a constant tension which will not only help prevent injury but also improve stability and endurance within your muscles.
Before any workout, it’s always a good idea to warm-up first to get the blood flowing to the muscles you will be working and get them supple. For this upper body workout, I recommend doing a couple of minutes of light jogging or marching on the spot followed by some jumping jacks to get the blood oxygenated and your muscles warm, especially those upper body muscles you’ll be using throughout this workout.
Try and incorporate this workout into your weekly routine at least once, or even twice a week, alternating with lower body work. If you already train with free weight and you’re doing this in addition then once a week may be more than enough.
You’ll perform each of these six exercises three times. Work your way through them one by one to equal one circuit. Then repeat the circuit twice more. It should take you about a minute to perform each exercise but if you finish before the minute is up, use that time to rest before moving on to the next one.
I’d recommend using a medium resistance band or tube for this workout, but if you’re a beginner you may want to start with a light weight resistance and work up. Either way, try to progressively increase the resistance over time to ensure you continue to make strength gains. If you only have one band then to increase the resistance, try looping the band around your hands once or twice more for any of these exercises.
1. Front raise
Muscles targeted: Shoulders including anterior (front) deltoids, lateral (side) deltoids, and serratus anterior
How to perform it: Standing with the resistance band positioned underneath both feet, pick up both handles/ends of the band in both hands and rest your arms by your sides. With your back straight, raise both arms up and straight out in front of you until they are level with your shoulders and parallel to the floor. Pause here for a second before lowering back down to the start position. Repeat for a total of 10 to 12 reps.
2. Triceps extension
Muscles targeted: All three heads of the triceps (back of the upper arm) especially the long head.
How to perform it: Standing on one end of the resistance band with one foot, with the other placed out in front of you for balance, hold the other end/both handles in both hands and position them behind your head, ensuring your elbows are bent and pointing towards the ceiling. Now straighten your arms, pause at the top for a second and lower back to the start. Repeat for a total of 10 to 12 reps.
Muscles targeted: Pectorals (chest), deltoids (shoulders) triceps and abdominals.
How to perform it: Get on the floor on all fours as if going into a plank position, with your hands placed apart – slightly wider than shoulder-width. The band should be wrapped behind your upper back and held to the floor under your hands. Now bend your elbows to lower your chest to the floor and keep your abdominals tight. If you can touch your chest to the floor then great, if not go as low as you can, hold for a second if you can, and then push yourself back up to the start position. Repeat for a total of 8 to 10 reps.
To make it easier: Instead of keeping your legs straight, rest your knees on the floor and don’t pause at the bottom of the rep.
4. Biceps Curl
Muscles targeted: The brachialis and brachioradialis (biceps and forearms).
How to perform it: Position the resistance band underneath both feet and pick up both handles/ends in your hands. With arms down at your sides and palms facing inwards, tauten the band so there is no slack. Now bend your elbows and lift your hands, rotating your palms upwards as you do so, towards your shoulders, keeping your elbows pointing towards the floor. Pause at the top for a second before lowering back down to the start position. Repeat for a total of 8 to 12 reps.
5. Lateral Raise
Muscles targeted: Shoulders, specifically the medial/middle deltoid.
How to perform it: Position the resistance band under both feet and stand up with both handles/ends of the band in your hands and resting down at your sides. Keeping your back straight, and with a slight bend in the elbows, raise your arms out to the sides until your elbows are level with your shoulders. Pause for a second before returning to the start. Repeat for a total of 10 to 12 reps.
6. Seated Rear Flye
Muscles targeted: Back muscles including trapezius and rhomboids, and rear deltoids (shoulders).
How to perform it: Get in a seated position on the floor and stretch your legs out in front of you. Loop the band around your feet and grab the other ends in both hands (if this is a resistance tube then hold the handles, otherwise wrap each end around your hands).
Now hold out your arms in front of you ensuring a slight bend at the elbows. Gradually pull back the handles/ends of the band so your arms move from out in front of you to your sides. Pause for a second and then return to the start. Repeat for a total of 10 to 12 reps.
Give It A Go!
If you’re a beginner to strength training, or you’re looking to mix up your workouts and combine resistance bands with free weights to develop greater size and strength over time, then look to start incorporating resistance band workouts into your weekly exercise routine. This workout is a great way to start gaining strength and mobility in your muscles, or to supplement your free weight routines, so give it a try. And if you’re looking for a great lower body resistance band workout to combine with this one then take a look at my Lower Body Workout with Resistance Bands.
What do you think about resistance band training? Is it something you already do, either on its own or together with your free weight training, or are you a newbie and looking to give it a go? Comment below and let’s talk!