Versatile, compact, and convenient, resistance bands are a great workout alternative if you’re on the road or can’t make it to the gym (of course, you can also use them at the gym!). If you’ve never tried resistance band training before and want some great exercise and workout options, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, you’ll learn more about different types of resistance bands, how resistance bands can be used, and some of our favorite resistance band training exercises. We’ll finish the article with a sample resistance band workout that you can try at home or at the gym.
What Are Resistance Bands?
In a nutshell, resistance bands use elasticity, rather than gravity, to create resistance. They work a lot like free weights, except instead of lifting a weight, you pull against the band. The heavier the resistance of the band, the more difficult the movement.
What Are the Different Types of Resistance Bands?
Exercisers looking to purchase their own resistance bands have several options to choose from. Figure eight resistance bands, ring resistance bands, and lateral resistance bands are specialized and somewhat limited in how exercisers can use them.
If you want a set of resistance bands that will let you perform a wide range of resistance band training exercises, then you should choose either compact resistance bands or fit loop resistance bands.
Understanding Compact Resistance Bands
Compact resistance bands (also known as tubular bands) are a set of cord-like bands that come in different colors and resistance levels. Compact bands typically come with a selection of handles and sometimes wrist or ankle cuffs. The set also comes with an anchor system, which lets you anchor the bands to a door in your home.
Understanding Fit Loop Resistance Bands
Fit loop bands, which also usually come as a set of bands with different levels of resistance, are a singular connected band. While compact bands are tubular in shape, fit loop bands are usually flat. Exercisers use fit loop bands by standing inside the bands or looping the band on a sturdy object, like a bedpost or the leg of a weightlifting rig, to create an anchor.
You can perform many of the same exercises with compact or fit loop bands, though you may need to make small adjustments to work with your particular band.
How to Use Resistance Bands
The beauty of resistance bands is that you can use them for many different things. Originally, they were primarily used for injury rehabilitation, and you can still find them in most physical therapy and chiropractic offices. These days, however, exercisers also use resistance bands for:
Using a light fit loop band, exercisers can warm up their shoulders, hips, and knees before their workout. For example, hold onto both sides of the band and move your arms forward and backward over your head.
A fit loop band can help you get extra leverage as you work on increasing your mobility. For example, you can lie on your back, loop the band around the center of your foot, and then use the band to gently pull your leg toward your face, giving you an excellent hamstring stretch.
It can be incredibly difficult to learn bodyweight movements, like pull-ups, dips, and pushups. Fit loop bands can help. For example, an exerciser can loop the band around the center of the pullup bar. Very carefully, the exerciser steps inside the band and grabs the pull-up bar. The band can then offer a little extra boost as the exerciser pulls themselves up. By gradually using bands with lighter resistance, the exerciser can learn to perform pull-ups on their own.
Resistance bands can be a great strength training tool and can even sub in for dumbbells for many of the exercises you already know and love.
Our Favorite Resistance Band Exercises
Using either compact or fit loop bands, step on the middle of the band. Grab the handles of a compact band or the top of the fit loop band. Start with your arms down at your sides, palms forward. Pull the band up and toward your body, bending your elbows until your knuckles are at your shoulders.
Stand on the middle of your compact or fit loop band. Grab the handles of your compact band and bring your hands up until they are at your shoulders. If you’re using a fit loop band, grab the top of the band so that it sits across your palms. Bring your hands up to the front of your shoulders with your elbows pointed downward. Keeping your core tight and back straight, raise your arms until they are fully extended and your shoulders are near your ears. You should feel the burn in the front of your shoulders.
Stand on the center of your compact or fit loop band. Grab the handles of your compact band or the top edges of your fit loop band. The fit loop band should rest in the center of each palm. Next, point your elbows to the sky with your hands pointing toward the back of your shoulders. Tighten your core and extend both arms. Make sure you feel the activation in your triceps (the muscles in the back of your arms).
Now it’s time to hit your lats and mid-back muscles. Secure your compact band to a door at chest height or loop your fit loop band around a sturdy piece of equipment at chest height. Facing the anchor point, step back until you feel tension in the band. Stand up tall, grab the band by the handles or the sides and pull the band toward you, keeping your elbows tucked into your body. Squeeze your shoulder blades together at the end of each rep. To work your back muscles in a slightly different way, you can lower the anchor point for the band or raise it up higher.
Standing lateral crunches
Stand on one end of your compact or fit loop band and hold the handle or end of the band in one hand. Lean over sideways and position the band so that you feel tension in the band. Now, slowly stand up tall. Think of this as doing a side crunch standing up. The resistance on the band will try to pull you down. Use your oblique muscles (the muscles on the side of your abs) to stand up. Switch sides after each set.
Anchor your compact band or fit loop band near the floor. Lay on your back and turn so that the anchor point is behind you. Grab both handles of your compact band or the ends of your fit loop band. Your elbows should be pointed to the sky, your knuckles pointed toward your shoulders. Engage your abs and lift your shoulders off the floor. You should feel like you are fighting against the resistance of the band with each crunch.
Stand on the center of your band. Grab the handles of your compact band or the ends of your flat loop band. The flat loop band should rest on your palms. Bring your hands into the “front rack position” so that your knuckles are hovering above your shoulders. Choose a band that is heavy enough that you feel strong resistance when standing tall. Now, perform a squat keeping your arms tight in the front rack position. You should feel the resistance every time you push up from your squat.
If your compact band comes with an ankle cuff, strap it to your ankle and anchor the band low on a door. Stand so that the band is connected to the leg furthest from the anchor point. Loop your flat loop band low on a piece of sturdy equipment and step inside the band. Make sure the edge of the band is against the ankle of the leg furthest from the anchor point. Stand sideways and kick your leg laterally (sideways). You should quickly feel the burn in the outside of your glute. Switch sides after each set.
A Fast, Simple, and Sizzling Resistance Band Training Workout
Now that you know all of our favorite resistance band training exercises, it’s time to put it all together for a quick and effective workout that you can do anywhere. Here’s what we recommend:
Three rounds of:
- 10 bicep curls
- 10 shoulder presses
- 10 tricep extensions
- 15 standing rows
- 20 standing lateral crunches on each side
- 30 banded crunches
- 20 front squats
- 20 lateral kicks on each side
Choose a moderate level of resistance and make sure you complete the full range of motion of each rep so that you hit the maximum level of resistance from the band. Keep your core tight and perform slow, smooth reps to increase your time under tension. You should feel a good burn for the last few reps of each set. If you don’t, choke up on the band to create more resistance or choose a band with heavier resistance. If you fail to complete a set, consider using a lighter band or cutting down the reps.
And there you have it, a great resistance band training workout you can do almost anywhere, almost anytime, including your favorite gym! Make sure you keep reading our helpful fitness blog for more informative and interesting workout articles.