Resistance Band Workouts are a great option. You can gain muscle, burn fat, and challenge yourself without the use of expensive equipment. Resistance bands are inexpensive, easy to use, easy to pack and travel with, and extremely versatile.
If you’ve never used a resistance band before, you are missing out on an entire world of bodyweight exercises. It will challenge your fitness level and improve your health! When you think about working out, you probably imagine a room full of treadmills. Or a weight room full of bulky, heavy equipment. If you travel often or want to work out from home. You don’t need to invest money into buying your own weights or cardio machines.
Using Resistance Bands
There are five main types of exercises that resistance bands are used for:
- Stretching and range of motion
- Warm-ups and activation
- Resistance band strength training
- Resistance Band Core Exercises
- Developing a mind-muscle link
You can use the bands in a variety of ways and the possibilities are endless. With a few lightweight, simple tools, you can really make strides in your fitness routine.
Resistance Band Stretches and Range of Motion Work
Some folks love stretching, some hate it. Regardless of how you feel about it, if you are active, you must stretch. Stretching will help prevent injury. And ensure that you have the range of motion in your joints to continue working out the way you want to. Resistance bands can help you stretch. Increase your reach and provide movement from different angles.
For example, let’s look at a basic hamstring stretch. Lie on the floor on your back and put a leg up toward the ceiling. If you are very flexible, you may be able to grab your leg. And pull it toward your face, thereby increasing your stretch. Not everyone can do this though, and this is where the resistance band comes in.
Loop the band around your leg and pull the band down toward you. This will help you to increase your stretching range. It can also help you change which part of the muscle you are stretching. In fact, even if you are flexible, using resistance bands to stretch can still help you. Below are two examples of different stretches that everyone can enjoy.
Supported Lat Stretch
Loop your resistance band around a pull-up bar above your head. With one hand only, grab the band and step back so that you angle the band at about 45-degrees from parallel. Put your legs in a lunge position and drop one knee down so you are kneeling.
Lean forward and you should feel a stretch in your back. The lats are a difficult muscle to stretch without help. A resistance band is a perfect helper. Hold this position for at least 30 seconds, and then switch to the other side.
Supported Leg Stretch
Lie on the ground on your back with both your legs up and the soles of your feet pointing to the ceiling. Wrap a resistance band around one of your feet. The band should hit in the arch of your foot; any higher or lower could cause injury, so be careful. Make sure you keep your muscles activated here.
Lower the leg that does not have the band on it. Keep your core activated and your lower back flat against the ground. You might not be able to go all the way to the floor without your lower back rising up; that is fine. As soon as you feel your back starting to curve, pull your leg back up. Use slow, even movements; about 2 seconds to lower your leg and 2 seconds to pull it back up. Repeat 5 times on each leg.
Resistance Band Warm-Ups and Activation
Resistance bands are great for hitting muscle groups that are hard to work out any other way. It can be hard to isolate the muscles of the shoulders and outer thighs. But resistance bands make it easy. They are a great way to work those supporting muscles. Because they provide tension through the entire range of movement.
Resistance Band Pull-Aparts
A wonderful warm-up for the shoulders Loop the band around your forearms and bring your arms in front of you with elbows bent and palms facing one another. Slowly pull your arms apart into a wide V shape, focusing on squeezing your back and shoulders.
This is a great warm-up for the shoulders but can also be used if you sit at a desk often and tend to slump. Because you are focusing your attention on your back and shoulders, the Band Pull-Aparts should help you pull your shoulders back and work the muscles that help keep them there. Over time, you’ll notice that you slouch less.
Lateral Band Walks
You can warm up your outer thighs and glutes with a resistance band too. Step inside the band and position it slightly above your knees. You don’t want the band directly on the knee joint. Squat down slightly. Step sideways with one leg and then bring your other leg back in to meet it. Walk sideways like this for 10 to 15 steps, and then repeat in the other direction.
Resistance Band Strength Training
In order to build muscle, you need tension and resistance. The classic way to provide this is dumbbells and other weights, but it isn’t the only way. If you don’t access to or interest in weight training, resistance bands can be a great alternative to build muscle.
Put the band around your legs again, a few inches above your knees. Squat down so your thighs are roughly parallel with the floor. As you squat, push outward with your knees slightly so you can feel the tension of the resistance band. This will help prevent your knees from caving in, which is a common cause of injury related to squats. Lower yourself slowly, pause slightly at the bottom, and then slowly come back up.
With the band still around your thighs, sink into a squat. Take a big step forward with your right leg. Now, take a step forward with the left leg, but step past your right, as if you are walking forward. This will look awkward, more like a waddle than a squat. But it is a great exercise for hitting supporting glute and quad muscles, as well as your hamstrings.
Tie the resistance band to something low or put something heavy on one end. Standing straight up, grab the free end with both hands. Keeping your elbows into your sides, curl the band up to your shoulders, squeezing your biceps. Lower down slowly and repeat.
Resistance Band Core Exercises
We couldn’t talk about resistance bands without mentioning resistance band core exercises. Bands are fantastic for working your core. There are more options and variations that you could possibly imagine. Below are a few of my favorite resistance band core exercises.
1. Knee Tucks
Loop the band around your ankles and stand hip-width apart. Put your hands behind your head (think of the standard sit-up position for your arms). Crunch your left shoulder down as you bring your right knee up to meet it. Return to start and repeat on the other side.
2. Bicycle Crunches
Bicycle crunches are great for your core without a band. But when you add in a resistance band, the core burn is definitely turned up! Sit on the floor with the band around the arches of your feet. With your hands behind your head and your elbows out, crunch the opposite elbow to knee.
3. Russian Twists
Russian twists are my favorite resistance band core exercise. Loop the band around your arms a little above your elbows. Keep your arms bent at a 90-degree angle. Sit on the ground with your knees tucked in. Pulling your feet off the floor, twist your core to one side. Keep the tension on the band with your arms the entire time. Return to center and twist off to the other side.
Resistance Bands for Developing a Mind-Muscle Link
Working out isn’t all about your body. If you forget to focus on the muscle group you are working, you’re going to lose a lot of benefits. Resistance bands help you to feel your muscles working. Which helps you to develop the habit of focusing on your muscles. You’ll notice a difference right away.
For example, put your hands in front of you and pull back like you are rowing a boat. Don’t worry about working against yourself or creating tension; just pull back. You probably won’t really feel your muscles working. Now perform the same motion again. But really focus on squeezing your back and shoulder muscles together.
Feel the difference? Focusing on your muscles working can increase the intensity. And benefit your workouts immensely. This can be especially helpful in those resistance band core exercises. Focusing on your core will noticeably increase the burn you feel.
Limits to Resistance Bands
While resistance bands are a great tool, they shouldn’t be the only tool in your workout kit. Bands can only take you so far in your fitness journey. You should always explore other forms of training to help you form a well-rounded routine. Resistance bands are great. Use them more and gain strength.
You’ll likely gain enough strength that they aren’t as effective in some ranges of motion anymore. Try out classic weight lifting, yoga, and other forms of exercise to find the mix that works the best for you.
If you do hit a plateau with resistance bands but don’t want to stop using them, there are a few things you can do. Increase the resistance on the band- if you are using a “light” band, try the “medium” resistance. If you’ve been doing an exercise with both arms, bicep curls, for example, try them one-handed.
You can also mix different training forms together. Try adding dumbbells to your squats or holding a weight plate as you do your Russian twists. There are no rules and the sky’s the limit- play around and find what works for you!
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