When people talk about the benefits of workouts that can be done anywhere, they imply that high-powered gym equipment is bulky such that only those who confine all their workouts to the gym or have extensive home systems can benefit from. However, one of the greatest tools for exercise is small enough to fit in your pocket and powerful enough to rival heavy weights.
Olivers is here to delve into the virtues of resistance band exercises and highlight some great exercises to improve any workout.
What Does a Resistance Band Do?
Bodyweight exercises pit you against the weight of gravity, whereas free weight exercises make you work against a set amount of weight. Resistance bands, on the other hand, become more difficult the further you engage with them. Much like a slingshot, the tighter you pull the band, the more force it exerts on the things keeping it in place - in this case, your muscles.
Resistance bands were developed in the 1900s as a medical tool to assist with injured muscles. Much like high-performance fitness gear, resistance bands are made to stretch and are constructed from highly durable synthetic materials.
Resistance bands become more difficult to work against the tauter they become; this also means that they can be used lightly if the individual needs gentle interaction with muscles. This early medicinal usage may give resistance bands a reputation as an athletic assistance device rather than a standalone workout tool. This all changed in the 1990s when these bands were introduced as an elite athletic workout device.
From a medicinal standpoint, resistance bands can help with muscle recovery, whether from serious or temporary illness. High-intensity resistance band workouts can be an effort in themselves, or you can use lighter intensity as either a training warm-up or a recovery cooldown. However, for those looking to use resistance bands for athletic purposes, the benefits are there for the taking.
The greatest strength of the resistance band, bar none, is the versatility this piece of gear offers. Resistance bands can come in thin, flat varieties, as well as designs that resemble lengths of rope with handles. These bands are often color-coded by the degree of resistance they give to the user, making it easy to find the ideal tension for your fitness level.
Bodyweight exercises pit you against gravity. The drawback of these exercises is that they usually require an extensive gym setup, excluding many people who do home workouts. Changing up the resistance on a band is as simple as changing up the fulcrum you’re using to wrap it.
High-quality exercise gear is worth the price and can be worn even outside of exercise content. Weights, however, can be a pricey expense for the individual. Resistance bands, even high-quality ones, are fairly cheap compared to other exercise gear, making it easy to invest in them.
Grab a resistance band suitable to your setting, and go to your favorite spot, whether that be at home, in a gym, or in your local park. To use your resistance band, place it against a fulcrum, which you’ll pull against.
Your “fulcrum” can be a body part, like your knee or foot, or a static fixture in your surroundings like a tree or pole. Generally, the heavier the fulcrum and the further your move from it, the more intense your workout will be for the target muscle group.
The versatility of resistance bands extends far beyond the below workouts. They can be used to enhance or replicate nearly any workout and can also be used for stretching before a workout to prevent injury or after a workout to reduce soreness and aid the recovery process.
The first workout we recommend is the bicep curl:
To perform the bicep curl, stand up straight with one foot on the center of your resistance band, feet shoulder-width apart. Holding one end with each hand in the proper position to do a regular bicep curl, arms down and turned out, proceed to do a curl with each hand as far as is comfortable.
Make sure to keep your muscles tense and release slowly with control. Do this for as many reps and sets as is comfortable based on your current progression. Then, perform the same exercise with your other foot standing on the band to avoid an uneven build. For added intensity, try standing with both feet parallel on the band.
Next, try the tricep extension:
For the starting position, hold the resistance band in both palms, with one hand slightly over your head in an upside-down L. The other hand should be bent with your forearm against the relevant shoulder.
Hold the shoulder-adjacent hand in place while extending the upper arm as far as you can, then return to the L position. When you’re ready, reverse positions with your hands and repeat the routine.
Chest and Upper Body
A great chest and upper body exercise is the resistance band fly:
In order to do this workout, you’ll need a stable object behind you to tie the band. This can be a workout machine in a regular gym or a tree or other fixture if you’re outside.
With both hands holding the band outstretched as with a normal fly, move your arms downward and inward horizontally to engage your upper body. If you want to add an extra bit of tension without changing bands, you can either complete the horizontal motion by crossing your arms before moving out of the rep or tie off the band so that it’s tighter to the fulcrum.
If you liked that one, try the resistance band bench press:
Much like a regular bench, start by laying on your back. The band should be under your back. For maximum intensity, the band should be centered under a bench or other surface you lay on while you grip the ends of the band.
Extend your arms above you in a straight line the same way you would with a regular bench press, hold, then lower in a controlled position. As with the fly, you can add to the workout by starting with the band in a stretched position. This is great for the triceps, biceps, and elbows.
To really engage your core, try bicycle crutches:
Be sure to use a loop band if going for this workout (as with most leg, glute, and calf exercises). Bicycle crunches are a notoriously high-powered variation on the crunch, but loop bands kick them into overdrive.
Assume the regular crunch position, with your legs bent in the usual manner, then do crunches while bringing one leg in and fully extending the other. Wear the bands on your feet, stretching them with the bicycle motion of the crunch to add to the tension.
For a modified version of a favorite, try the resistance band Russian Twist:
Put a spin on the Russian Twist by attaching your band to an anchor ahead of you. Make sure your fulcrum is centered to ensure an even workout. If symmetry is impossible, alternate your position so that the overall effect is equal.
When you twist, pull the band in the same direction to continue keeping tension in the band. For an extra challenge, start with the band pulled tauter (do this by moving away from the fulcrum to create a higher degree of intensity).
Lower Body Workouts
We can’t forget to work out the lower body. Start with a squat:
Squatting with a loop band forces you to maintain proper form. It also can give you extra tension to work against for a great workout when you place the band along your mid-thighs. Some loop bands are adjustable, and this trait can be used to up your intensity.
If you are an extremely trained squatter, you can combine resistance bands with free weights for a truly powerful workout for your major muscle groups that’s not for the faint of heart.
Try this spin on the iconic lung:
Lunging impacts your hamstrings and quads, while also integrating some core strength as well, making them great for improving overall strength and balance. A looped band is important here, though rather than a mini band, you’ll want one long enough to stand on while fitting it behind your body.
You’ll be lunging in reverse here: Stand on the band with your forward leg, with the rest of the band sitting along the back of your shoulder blades. Move backward with your opposite leg, and you’ll feel the resistance band kicking in for a lunge that fights against you. Repeat on the other side for as many reps as you desire for a challenging lunge that can be done anywhere.
Kickstarting Your Routine
The resistance band is a handy multi-tool, capable of aiding when you’re ailing or pushing you to your limits when you’re healthy. Because the force of a band changes as you go through the motions of an exercise, and as external factors impact the tension placed on the band, it also creates a unique sensation compared to traditional weights.
The ease of switching the position of a band also makes it ideal for circuit training, where a quick changeup is of the essence. Whether you’ve been dubious about how well resistance bands work and needed proof to begin using them or sought better workouts to keep your progress linear, you’re now ready to work out your body while working out your band as well.