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Best Resistance Band Work

These band workouts for cardio and strength training will own you. No gym membership required. 

We surveyed our Health forum members and found some of the best workouts to make resistance bands feel like resistance "bams!" Follow these workouts for cardio, strength training, and even mass building and you'll soon be these bands' biggest fan.

and had the winning workouts!

First Place:

The Best Resistance Band Routine

In the past, resistance bands have gotten a bad name in gym circuits through their association with middle-aged women doing aerobics with 5 pounds of resistance—not that there's anything wrong with that—but the truth is that bands can be worked for serious strength training, too.

Advantages of Resistance Bands

The mechanical advantage to resistance bands is priceless, as true resistance is maintained through every part of a motion.

While resistance training, the muscles are prevented from "maxing out," but are nevertheless fully activated throughout both the concentric (lifting) part and eccentric (lowering) part of an exercise. This leads to better range of motion, overall strength, total burn, and even cardio if you go for long sets with little rest or try supersetting.

Plus, resistance bands are a snap to store!

Using the Right Resistance Bands

Resistance bands should be chosen based on your existing strength in the muscle groups being targeted. When performing the exercise, the band should be secured so that the length of the band is adjusted to give resistance even at the bottom of the exercise.

Chest Exercises With Resistance Bands

Exercise 1: Bench Press

For this, you will need a bench of some sort. Secure the band under a rear leg of the bench, nearest your head. Lie down on the bench and press up like you would during a barbell bench press.

Exercise 2: Cross-over

Secure the band around a stationary post. Stand facing away from the post with arms raised to sides, palms forward. Then, step forward for tension. Keeping your arms straight, bring them across your chest as with a standard cable cross-over.

Exercise 3: Curl

Stand on the band with both legs, feet shoulder-width apart or closer. Holding the handles palms up, curl as you would with dumbbells.

Exercise 4: Triceps Extension

Again, stand on the band with both legs, feet shoulder-width apart or closer. Holding the handles with your arms overhead and elbows bent (hands are now behind your head), extend your arms as you would with a regular triceps extension.

Exercise 5: Skullcrusher

Set up the band as you did with the bench press. Point your elbows forward and up, and perform skullcrushers as you would with a barbell.

Shoulder Exercises With Resistance Bands

Exercise 1: Shoulder Press

Stand on the band with your feet together. Hold handles at shoulder height with palms facing up. Press upward as you would during a dumbbell press.

Exercise 2: Lateral Raise

Stand on the band so tension begins with your arms at your sides. Keeping your arms straight, raise your arms out to your sides until they are parallel with the floor.

Exercise 3: Upright Row

Stand on the band so tension begins with your arms at your sides. Pull upward, toward your collar bone area, as you would with a barbell upright row.

Upper-Back Exercises With Resistance Bands

Exercise 1: Row

Fix the band around a stationary post (or your feet). Sitting down with your feet extended in front of you, pull back as you would with a cable row.

Exercise 2: Back Fly

Fix the band around a stationary post. Stand back so tension begins with your arms raised in front of you. Keeping your arms straight and feet planted, fly your hands backward so that they are fully extended out. Your body should be T-shaped.

Lower-Back Exercise With Resistance Bands

Exercise 1: Good Morning

Stand on the band and hold the handles with your hands clasped behind your neck. Keeping your legs straight or slightly bent, slowly lean forward at the waist until your torso is parallel to the ground. In a controlled manner, straighten back up again.

Quad Exercise With Resistance Bands

Exercise 1: Squat

Stand on the bands in a squat position with the handles by your shoulders. Squat in a controlled manner, just as you'd perform a barbell squat.

Calf Exercise With Resistance Bands

Exercise 1: Calf Raise

Stand on the band with your toes, keeping your hands by your shoulders. Rise onto your toes as you would with a barbell calf raise.

Ab Exercise With Resistance Bands

Exercise 1: Weighted Sit-up

If you have a decline bench, you can fix the band around the base of the bench and perform decline sit-ups while holding onto the handles. Otherwise, fix the band around a stationary post and lie on the floor facing away from the post. Holding the handles by your head, perform sit-ups or crunches.

The Routine

Using the exercises given above, you can set up a workout routine like the ones below:

Example 1: Monday/Wednesday/Friday
  • Bench press 3 sets of 8 reps
  • Cross-over 1 set of 10 reps
  • Row 3 sets of 10 reps
  • Back fly 1 set of 15 reps
  • Squat 3 sets of 15 reps
  • Curl 2 sets of 10 reps
  • Skullcrusher 2 sets of 8 reps
  • Triceps extension 2 sets of 10 reps
  • Shoulder press 2 sets of 8 reps
  • Lateral raise 2 sets of 8 reps
  • Upright row 1 set of 10 reps
  • Good morning 3 sets of 8 reps
  • Calf raise 3 sets of 10 reps
  • Weighted sit-up 3 sets of 20 reps
Example 2: Monday/Thursday
  • Bench press 4 sets of 8 reps
  • Cross-over 2 sets of 10 reps
  • Squat 3 sets of 15 reps
  • Squat 2 sets of 10 reps
  • Skullcrusher 2 sets of 8 reps
  • Triceps extension 3 sets of 10 reps
  • Calf raise 5 sets of 10 reps
  • Weighted sit-up 2 sets of 20 reps
Example 3: Tuesday/Friday
  • Row 4 sets of 10 reps
  • Back fly 2 sets of 15 reps
  • Shoulder press 3 sets of 8 reps
  • Lateral raise 3 sets of 8 reps
  • Upright row 1 set of 10 reps
  • Good morning 4 sets of 8 reps
  • Curl 3 sets of 10 reps
  • Weighted sit-up 2 sets of 20 reps

Warm up, use an appropriate tension, and keep about a one-minute rest between sets. The routine can be tailored to fit your schedule and training preferences, changing the sets and frequency as you please.

I wouldn't alter the rep range too much, though, as resistance bands aren't as optimal for very low rep sets, and much higher rep ranges are less effective.

Benefits of Resistance Band Training

As with any exercise routine, resistance bands will increase the strength of your muscles and stimulate growth. What they will also do is hit the full range of motion, working many parts of a muscle often underworked when using free weights.

For anyone who needs a way to work out on vacation, periodically can't get to the gym, or wants something extra to add to their regular workout, resistance bands are well worth their extremely low cost!

Second Place:

Going on vacation and need a convenient way to get a good workout in? Or, do you want to take a new approach to resistance training and ditch the dumbbells? Look no further than training with resistance bands!

Resistance bands have been around for a while, but many fitness fanatics and bodybuilders are hesitant to actually use them. If you happen to be one of those people, it's time to take a new approach!

What Makes Resistance Bands Different From Free Weights?

The working muscle actually shortens during the concentric (lifting) phase of a movement and lengthens during the eccentric (lowering) phase of a movement. Most lifters completely neglect the eccentric phase of any particular movement.

For example, while most lifters are performing a standard barbell curl, they often lift the weight up explosively and lower it back down at an incredibly fast rate.

However, with the use of resistance bands, the muscle is provided with constant tension and the concentric phase and eccentric phase of the movement is more controlled. This results in a completely new challenge for the muscles, which in turn forces the muscles to adapt—which is how growth occurs!

Picking a Resistance Band

Choosing a resistance band is simple. If you're an experienced lifter, then a thicker band is the one for you. If you're a beginner or intermediate lifter, then a band that's thinner and provides you with less resistance is suitable.

Resistance Band Workout

This is a full-body workout using only resistance bands. It can be used for one workout while on vacation or during a work break at the office, or it can even be established as an actual routine. I suggest using a three-day split with this routine. Below is a general outline that you can alter to meet your needs.

Option 1
  • Monday: Resistance band workout
  • Tuesday: Off
  • Wednesday: Resistance band workout
  • Thursday: Off
  • Friday: Resistance band workout
  • Saturday and Sunday: Off
Option 2
  • Monday: Off
  • Tuesday: Resistance band workout
  • Wednesday: Off
  • Thursday: Resistance band workout
  • Friday: Resistance band workout
  • Saturday: Resistance band workout
  • Sunday: Off

The Workout

Perform all exercises in a controlled manner, keep constant tension on the muscles, and really emphasize the concentric and eccentric movements.

  • Squat 3 sets of 15 reps
  • Overhead press 3 sets of 15 reps
  • Standing side raise 3 sets of 15 reps
  • Standing low row 3 sets of 15 reps
  • Band kick-back 3 sets of 15 reps
  • Standing arm curl 3 sets of 15 reps
Notes:
  • Be sure to properly warm up before beginning this or any workout.
  • Rest 30-90 seconds between each set.
  • Perform each exercise in a slow and controlled fashion.
  • Perform each exercise with a resistance level suitable for you. Once the particular exercise becomes less difficult, it's time to add more resistance by using a thicker band.
  • Remember to stay hydrated during the workout, as even the slightest bit of dehydration can impair your performance dramatically!

Benefits of Resistance Bands

Resistance band routines will strengthen and elongate the muscle fibers, increase your flexibility tremendously, and stimulate the muscles in a manner that is impossible to do with the use of free weights alone. And with the recommended short rest periods between sets, expect your endurance and stamina to increase, which will also improve your cardiovascular health!