Just because you're without the gym doesn't mean you can't get a solid workout in. And I'm not talking Pilates. I'm talking the same exercises you use in the gym. We're just swapping out iron for some latex rubber resistance bands. These 16 resistance band exercises can help keep you big and strong while you're out of the gym.
Studies have shown that adding resistance band exercises to your regular weight training routine can increase your strength more than weight lifting alone. So, incorporating some of these movements now can help you add them later when you return to the gym. You'll have a new weapon in your arsenal for strength and size.
The Big Lifts... With Resistance Bands
We'll start with the big lifts, which of course are:
- Bench Press
- Overhead Press
I'm certainly not suggesting that you abandon these lifts in exchange for using resistance bands. But, you are activating the same muscles with both forms of resistance. You have the same range of motion and ability to use variable speed in the movement. That said, there's no doubt these can be effective at getting you bigger and stronger.
Disclaimer: 1. Check with your doctor before performing any exercise routine. 2. This article may contain affiliate links.
The Deadlift is rightfully known as the king of all lifts. It uses the entire body in unison, forcing the legs, lower back, lats and traps to work hard to pull the body into an upright position against resistance.
Remember to keep a flat back. Flex your abs and push through the floor, just like you would picking up a barbell.
While you probably could rig a resistance band to press similar to a bench press, it's easier and just as effective to utilize a push up movement instead.
Wrapping the band behind your back, you'll be pushing up against the resistance of the band. Control your descent and push up explosively, activating the most motor units (muscle fibers). Keep your body in a straight line. This version places more emphasis on the core than a traditional bench press.
The overhead press is the best exercise to build your shoulders.
Using resistance bands, you can overhead press two ways. You can do it standing, with the band under your feet. Or you can perform it kneeling.
With either version, keep your abs tight and flex your glutes. This keeps your core tight and protects your back. Press up explosively, or do slower tempo style reps without any pauses.
Behind the Neck Press
If there's a contender for the "king" of all lifts, it is definitely the squat.
Arguably the best overall muscle building exercise, the squat is one movement you definitely want to include in your training.
Place the band under your feet, in the middle of the foot. Then bend down and wrap the band around the back of your neck. Stand up, then sit back into the squat position. Keep a flat back, abs tight (as with all big lifts).
The overhead squat is a little more challenging. It's easier with bands than with a barbell, so it could be a good way to practice the movement with some resistance.
Bent Over Rows
Rows essentially work your entire back. When you perform the row, try to hold and squeeze for a quick second, then lower the bands.
Sit back slightly until you feel like you're activating your hamstrings. This establishes a strong athletic position so you can lean forward without putting too much stress on your lower back.
When you perform the row, try to turn your hands in so your palms are facing up (like a reverse grip row). This will allow more activation of the back muscles and the biceps.
Shoulders - Banded Front, Lateral and Rear Delt Raises
Along with the overhead press, you can also use resistance bands to target the shoulders with front and lateral raises. Both are great options to build strength and size in the shoulders.
Lateral raises primarily work the lateral deltoid, along with the traps. They are great for building wider, broader shoulders.
Front raises focus on the anterior deltoids. The anterior delts are responsible for raising the arm forward. This part of the shoulder usually takes a beating with all the pressing movements people do, but isolating it can help strengthen and build the muscle.
Rear Delt Flyes
Most people overwork the front (anterior) delts with all the pressing they do in the gym. This can result in imbalances in the shoulder, and can lead to injury.
Strengthening to rear delts is essential for shoulder health, and for getting stronger. They also make your back look good when you build them up. Hold a one second squeeze on each rep.
These can be an excellent movement to incorporate into a warm up for your pressing days in the gym, or as a finisher to any upper body workout.
Chest flyes get a good "squeeze" of the pectoral muscles. They are a great way to isolate the chest. Using bands, we can perform a low chest fly. As in previous exercises, hold the top position for a one second squeeze on every rep.
Banded good mornings are a really amazing way to hit the low back and hamstrings. These are an excellent option as a warm up for squatting or deadlifting, or for getting some lower impact volume in for the back and hamstrings. Do these for 15-20 reps and you won't be disappointed!
Keep a flat back with a slight bend in the knees and lean forward until you feel a good stretch in the hamstrings before returning to the upright position.
You can definitely build your arms up with resistance bands. They allow you to get a really good squeeze of the muscle, and you can really perform a good amount of volume (reps) without the same stress you'd incur using weights.
Hitting these for high reps will give you a huge pump, and you know that's never a bad thing.
You can perform these as regular curls, turning your hand in at the top, or as hammer curls with a neutral grip. Both are great and I recommend mixing it up.
These are performed as overhead extensions. If you have something to hand the resistance band from, you can also do regular extensions similar to the cable pulldowns at the gym. Both are great.
Try to keep your elbows high (pointed at the ceiling), and try not to swing your arms.
The split squat does a great job of isolating the quad muscles. Try to perform these in a rhythm, with no pause at the top or bottom, for 15-20 reps per leg.
Last but not least, shrugs. Traps are one muscle that all strong people seem to have.
While I prefer to hit the traps with high pulls, farmer carries and deadlifts, the shrug is always a good option to build them up, and we can still get it done without weights.
Hold the top of the shrug for a one second squeeze, and don't rest at the bottom. Keep the muscle under constant tension.
Some tips on using resistance bands
If you're going to use resistance bands to work out, there are a few things you can do to make your workouts more effective.
- Try to focus on each rep and get a good squeeze.
- Shoot for higher rep ranges (15-30). You can build up a lot of volume this way and stimulate some muscle growth.
- Shoot for short rest periods (30sec - 1min).
- Perform the workouts in a circuit. Choose 3-5 exercises and follow the above rep and rest period guidelines.
- If it feels too easy, use a heavier band. If it feels hard, use a lighter one. Seems obvious, but worth mentioning. Lose the ego.
A lot of people view resistance bands as inferior, but most of those people have never worked out with them. You can build muscle and strength with bands. Research has proven that, and incorporating them along with traditional resistance training can improve your gains.
Try some of these exercises out. Make the most of your time away from the gym.
I hope you liked this article. Leave a comment, or shoot me an email and I'll respond as soon as I can. Thanks for reading, and as always, I hope this helped you in some way to get a little bit closer to that best version of you!