Here are my top 5 resistance band exercises I use daily with my clients. I find them to be a great tool for increasing work capacity, rehab, recovery, and increasing muscle activation. I am not saying these are the best for doing the above. Bands are a great tool to have in your locker, they can be used for a wide variety of goals.
Along with the text and pictures below, ill put a link at the bottom of the article to a very quick demo of a YouTube video going through the execution of the exercises.
Band Pull Downs
HOW: First you need somewhere to hang the bands up. They’re called ‘pull downs’, so you’ll be pulling them down. I attach mine to either the wall mounted rig which is 10ft tall, this makes the exercise slightly harder as it’s high up, so you have further to pull it down, the more you stretch the band, the more resistance/tension you’ll get. Or I attach it to the power-cage, which is only 8ft tall, so it doesn’t have as much stretch so there is less resistance/tension.
Now the bands are set up, stand directly under them and grab the bands. Keeping your elbows tucked in, so you’re isolating the triceps. Pull your hands down towards your hips, fully extending the elbow joint, and flexing the triceps as hard as you can. Control the band tension as you start go back to the start position. Stay in control of the band, and keep the tension on the muscles throughout all of the reps.
WHEN: I like to use these at different times in training, and it depends on my client’s goals. You can use them as a tool to pre-fatigue the triceps in a bench press, as part of a superset with biceps, or as simple as adding in more reps towards to the end of a training session.
I also like to use them as recovery tool, so if my arms are feeling pretty heavy, fatigued, I’ll blast out 50 reps or so to get some blood pumping in that particular area, warm the muscle up, and active the nervous system.
They’re perfect for increasing volume on the triceps, it’s a very simple move, and is very difficult to train incorrect, and comes with very little, to no potential injuries.
Band Pull Apart
HOW: Grab one band, for a beginner use a thinner band, and, for a more advanced use a medium band. You won’t need any thicker than that. Hold the band at either end with your palms facing down, and your arms outstretched in front of you, at shoulder width apart. Imagine the band is your muscle, if the band is all droopy, there’s no tension, and then your muscles aren’t activated. If the band is pulled so that there is constant tension, then your muscles are active.
Holding it out in front of you, standing up nice and tall, keeping your arms straight and palms facing down, you’re going to retract your shoulders blades, and finish with your arms, still straight, but out by your sides. Squeezing the muscles in your upper back. Then under control, return back to the start position.
WHEN: This is an exercise I feel is very important. We all know that due to demands of everyday life, most people’s upper back and shoulders are slightly rounded (Thoracic Kyphosis). This can lead to problems such as, pressure on the spine, which may cause pain and fatigue, as well as breathing difficulties.
I like to use this exercise in most of my clients warm ups. It’s a simple movement, and promotes good posture at the start of the session. I do like to use these with beginners a lot to build up volume in upper back training. As with all band exercises it is also great to use as part of a post fatigue exercise, straight after cable rows, or dumbbell/barbell rows, the muscles are fatigued to a point that they can’t move the weight without technique breaking down, but they can still add in more reps with bands.
HOW: You will need to securely anchor these down. I have a power cage I can tie them around, or band attachment pegs to loop them over. If you don’t have these, tie them around a heavy enough dumbbell that it won’t move.
Once secured in place, grab the bands, stand close to them, and hold them palms facing up, and hands by your side. I like to have tension on the bands already in the starting phase as it makes the exercise smoother. Keep your elbows tucked in, and start to flex, curling the band up, squeezing your bicep at the top of movement, and returning to the start position.
WHEN: For my clients, it’s important that we do assistance work, but also important that it doesn’t take up too much of the session. I’d be pretty disappointed if I’d paid for a trainer, and we spent 30 minutes out of a 60-minute session doing bicep curl variations. So I use this exercise after the big compound moves, you could say as a finisher. It’s a great way to get plenty of volume and direct work to the biceps, and makes the client feel good, and without spending a lot of time doing so.
Band Leg Curl
HOW: For this one, you need to be sitting down on a box, or a bench. I usually use a 24” plyometric box. Tie the band around something around the same height as the top of the box. I use my power cage, or wall mounted rig. It has to be something sturdy that isn’t going to get pulled over.
Once set up, distance the box around 4ft away. Sit on the box, and loop the band around your ankles (word of warning, if you don’t have socks, leggings, or trousers on, expect friction burn).
With your legs straight and hanging off the box, there should be some tension in the band at the start. Curl your leg by pulling your heels underneath your butt, squeeze your hamstrings as hard as you can, and slowly let your legs straighten back up keeping tension on the band throughout the movement.
WHEN: I use these fairly late on in sessions, but they could be used as a warm up, and, or, as part of a superset. In my gym as its only 1000sqft, I don’t have room for machines. So I’d get a client to hit some RDL’s, or some heavy sled work, and then finish with some high volume blood pumping band work. A great way to increase the amount of work, and isolate the hamstrings with limited equipment.
Band Hip Abduction
HOW: Open the band up, and stand on the bottom with your feet spread out, putting tension on the bottom of the band. With your hands pull up on the top part of the band, almost pulling it in to a triangle shape. There should be tension on the whole band throughout this movement.
Keeping your legs wide, take a side step, and keeping tension on, catch up with the other leg, keeping the movement controlled, and continue to do this for 10ft, and then go in the opposite direction.
*If you have a Hip Circle, from Mark Bells Slingshot, then this is easier use.
WHEN: This is a movement I like to do as a warm up, and as a separate exercise. It’s a great tool for activating the glute muscles. So I like to get clients to do these prior to squatting or deadlifting, or movements that will need a large amount of glute activation. For instance, when squatting, if your glute muscles aren’t firing, causing knee valgus (knees caving in), and ultimately leading to bad technique, which will likely follow with injury.
If a have clients that play sport, I will drill this as a separate exercise, as almost all sports involve some lateral movements.
LINK FOR YOUTUBE VIDEO: