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Resistance Bands Exercises-Great for Travel and Serious Fitness

Updated on March 27, 2012

Exercises for resistance bands can seem flimsy, especially when compared to a barbell loaded with iron on the back of a well-muscled tree trunk. But if you know what to do with them, you can get a serious strength training workout anywhere you happen to be.

Resistance band workouts are especially useful for someone who travels or for one reason or another does not visit the gym. With their light weight, easy to take with you construction and cheap price, this is one piece of exercise equipment you will glad you bought.

Even a strong individual can put together a good program with a quality set of bands of varying thicknesses. For these people, another option is to buy power bands (or powerlifting exercise bands) and loop/tie them to adjust the resistance. These are closed loop exercise bands which offer resistance up to 200 pounds resistance and beyond while remaining compact and light.

If this is your first time with this equipment, there are some key differences from traditional workout equipment like barbells, dumbbells and weight machines.

Key Differences

1.) When doing a resistance band exercise, adjust your body to keep the tension on the resistance bands at all times; in this respect they are similar to a cable machine. The difference lies in the additional stabilizer muscles which are incorporated in a resistance band workout (for many of the exercises.)

For example, if you are doing standing rows with the exercise bands anchored on a fixed point, back up far enough to begin the movement with tension in the bands. Always remember to maintain correct posture and good exercise form.


Standing rows from fixed anchor point.
Standing rows from fixed anchor point. | Source

2.) Even if they are labeled with the amount of weight on the band, it may be necessary to experiment with the tension in order to arrive at a good ‘weight’ to use through the full range of motion.

3.) Resistance bands exercises allow you to go through endless planes of movement. This is good and bad. Good-you can create exact movement patterns. Bad-Be sure to define those patterns and stay within them during a particular set!

With the following resistance band exercises, it helps to have a set of shorter and longer bands, but if you have to choose one, buy the longer to allow for squats and other movements with a greater range of motion. It is also a good idea to buy a set which holds several cables for easy adjusting.

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Be sure to warm-up before starting any serious resistance training!

Best Resistance Band Chest Exercises:

-Push-ups:

Drape the cables around your back, or if using a closed loop, slip it on. With hands on the handles or the band, execute push-ups. Use explosive movements to increase power, or slow the cadence down to really fatigue the muscles. Be sure the cables sit just under your shoulder blades or in that area. If flat pushups are too difficult, go to your knees, do them on a counter, or drop the resistance.In pushup position, the butt should be down, the belly pulled in and tight and the shoulders 'packed in' so they don't shrug.

-Standing Horizontal Press and Flye:

Here is a workout resistance bands were made for. The cables are placed around your back as in the pushup, and the hands are placed on either side of the chest as if you were about to execute a bench press.

Press straight out or at a 45 degree angle to simulate a flat or incline press. Immediately following or before doing the press, straighten your arms out to the sides (do not lock the elbows though,) and bring them together in front as if clapping. Keep the arms straight throughout the movement. Now you’re burnin’!

Best Resistance Band Leg Exercises:

-Squat and Deadlift:

Just as it sounds and straight out of a boot camp workout! Stand on the bands with feet about shoulder width or wider. Bring the handles up to shoulder level, or if they reach, stretch them overhead. If you are using a closed loop band, simply place it over your head to rest on the trapezius muscles. Squat down with the back arched until the legs are parallel to the ground. Press up while arching the back.

For the deadlift, stand on the heaviest resistance band you have and simply squat down and up with your hands holding the cable handles at your side.

Best Resistance Band Back Exercises:

Standing or Seated Rows:

Find a solid anchor point. if you are using a resistance band system with a built-in anchor this should be easy. If not, wrap the bands around a pole, fence, railing or similar object.

This rowing exercise can be done from the standing position or while sitting, so long as the body position is adjusted to keep constant band tension, and you are able to keep the lower back flat. Full arm extension to begin the movement and pull until the elbows are at 90 degrees to the body.

Upright Rows:

Anchor the resistance band by standing on it with one or both feet (preferably both.) The handles should be shoulder width apart, knees unlocked and back straight. Pull the handles straight up to the chin, or until the elbows are level with the shoulder line. A great exercise for the trapezius and anterior deltoids.


Resistance band upright rows.
Resistance band upright rows. | Source

Best Resistance Band Arm Exercises:

Curls, Curls, Curls:

This exercise tool was made for arm tension, in my opinion. In fact, I prefer arm workouts with cable tension. The tension can be kept constant and the muscle pump is impressive. When the muscles begin to fail, make it easier with a different angle and continue moving.

There are several ways to curl cables that are not practical with dumbbells or barbells.

Standing Curls: Stand on the bands and curl straight up and down.

Concentration Curls: Use a waist high attachment point or stand on the cable and curl one arm towards the chin.

Vertical Grip Curls: Stand straight with your resistance cable anchored to one side (or on both sides.) Take a vertical grip on the handle (so thumb is on top) and flex the arm at the elbow, reaching for the shoulder.

Horizontal/Pronated Grip Curls: These have a similar effect on the brachialis as hammer curls. Attach the resistance band to one side (or both) and grip them palm down. Flex the arm at the elbow, reaching towards the shoulder.

Alternatively, just do Hammer Curls. Stand on the band and use a vertical grip to curl the handles upwards.

Triceps Extensions: Experiment with various tricep extension positions. This could be extending overhead from a standing position, extending outward from a kneeling position, or laying down and extending as in the French Press. For this last, you would use a low anchor point, or loop the band around your back.

Close Grip Pushups: As with a resistance band pushup, the close grip pushup is well-suited to this exercise tool and will really work your triceps.

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Of course there are dozens more exercises resistance bands are excellent for, including Russian Twists and other ab shredding exercises like reverse crunches (see the hub Ab Workouts with Resistance Bands for more.) This simple piece of equipment is a multi-dimensional workout tool, and inexpensive as well.

No need for a fancy attachment. In my garage I have simply screwed in an eye hook to a wall stud with my hand and attached the cables with a cheap carabineer. As with any exercise program, start slow until using resistance bands becomes comfortable. After that, have fun playing with your new toys! Be consistent and follow a structured routine for best results.

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