Band-resisted exercises don’t always garner the respect they deserve. Often considered inferior to using barbells, dumbbells, and kettlebells, band-resisted exercises tend to have a reputation for being only for beginners or inexperienced lifters. Even more disappointing, in some circles, resistance bands are perceived as tools used strictly for rehab or physical therapy.
I want to challenge those perceptions. Yes, resistance bands are undoubtedly a great tool for beginners, inexperienced lifters, and those rehabbing an injury or coming back from surgery, but don’t underestimate their effectiveness and versatility beyond those realms!
Resistance bands are not only convenient, allowing you to perform challenging and effective exercises anywhere, anytime, they can add another dimension of difficulty to your training whether you’re a beginner or an advanced lifter. If a gym membership isn’t in your budget, you don’t have time to go to a gym regularly, you spend a lot of time traveling, or you simply prefer to train at home, band-resisted exercises expand the options available to you. Adding band resistance to many exercises you are already doing can offer new challenges and increase the difficulty of those exercises, whether they’re bodyweight or you’re using other training tools like barbells, dumbbells or kettlebells.
Here are three of my favorite band-resisted exercises that give your whole body a workout.
*Always remember to listen to your body and work within your fitness level, particularly if trying progressions described below.
This band resisted deadlift variation is a fantastic way to make your make single-leg deadlifts a little (or a lot!) tougher, as it really forces your muscles to work harder during the sticking points of the exercise. The initial lowering, or eccentric portion of the exercise will require significantly more control, as will the lock-out at the top. This exercise strengthens and develops the muscles of your posterior chain, including the hamstrings and glutes. It also strengthens your core muscles.
You will need a band to perform this single-leg hip hinging exercise. Once you have developed the adequate strength, stability, and mobility, and mastered the technique, you can add more resistance using dumbbell or kettlebell.
Note: Do not allow twisting of the pelvis, torso or spine. Focusing on breathing, bracing, and tucking the ribs, and keep the back leg close to the center of the body. Also avoid looking up by keeping the chin tucked so the neck is in neutral alignment.
You can make this exercise more challenging by using a thicker band with more resistance, or using a heavier weight (or both). You can also perform negative reps and can make the eccentric phase three to five seconds long.
You can make this exercise easier by using a thinner band with less resistance, or by performing a double-leg band-resisted deadlift.
I picked up this challenging and very innovative push-up variation from Tony Gentilcore. The chaos push-up can help you strengthen and develop the muscles of the chest, shoulders, and triceps. It also forces the anterior core muscles, scapula and shoulder stabilizers to work big-time, providing a whole lotta bang for your buck.
You will need a resistance band and a squat rack. Watch the video below to make sure you've set up the resistance band correctly.
Note: Keep the core and glutes engaged when you reach the bottom point of the push-up to prevent technique breakdown and maintain efficiency. Make sure that you’re keeping the core and glutes engaged and the ribs tucked down toward the pelvis throughout the entire movement to prevent the hips from collapsing or twisting, the spine from hyperextending, and the rib cage from flaring.
You can make this exercise easier by performing a traditional push-up without the challenging band set-up. If you are not yet able to perform an unassisted traditional push-up, elevate your hands onto a bench or onto a barbell positioned on a rack at an adequate height for your ability level, or perform a modified push-up or a band-assisted push-up.
You can make this exercise more challenging by elevating your feet onto a bench or a box. You can also perform negative reps, taking three to five seconds to lower yourself down, or perform pause reps, holding the bottom position for three to five seconds before returning to the starting position. You can use additional resistance, like a weight plate or chains on your mid back. (I don’t recommend placing the weight over the shoulder blades because it will interfere with proper movement of the shoulder blades.) Lastly, you can hit slightly different muscle groups by performing diamond push-ups.
This band-resisted core exercise strengthens the muscles of the anterior core and helps improve lumbo-pelvic stability. This fun and effective plank variation will help you develop the strength and stability necessary for resisting excessive extension of the spine. If you are performing this exercise correctly, aside from the arm movement, your body should remain completely still. This exercise is brutally challenging, particularly with the added band resistance.
You will need a resistance band and a stability ball to perform this anti-extension core exercise. The greater the band tension, the more challenging the exercise will be.
Note: Throughout the entire exercise avoid collapsing the neck or hips, hyperextending the lower back, flaring the rib cage or allowing the hips, torso or spine to twist.
You can make this exercise easier by not using a band, using a band with less resistance, or by shortening the movements and not extending the arms as far out.
You can make this exercise more challenging by using a band with more resistance, extending your arms even more, placing a weight or chain across your mid-back, performing negative reps and slowing down your speed, or elevating your feet onto a bench or box.
When you are performing any band resisted exercise, make sure that you select a tension of band that allows your client to perform every single rep correctly. In many instances, people dramatically decrease the overall effectiveness of the exercise, and sometimes increase their risk of injury, by working with too much tension. Start your client out with very little band resistance, and only increase the overall tension when they are able to own every reps.
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