Resistance Bands: Your Total Body Workout
Resistance bands are becoming a popular way of working out.
Maybe you’ve seen them advertised or even seen them used at the gym.
But what’s all the fuss about? Are they really a viable alternative to weights, and why would you bother?
Turns out there are lots of reasons to get excited about resistance bands. So, if you want the lowdown on all the benefits of using them and a workout designed to hone and tone your whole body, keep on reading.
Resistance bands – are they as good as weights?
There’s no simple answer to this as it depends what you mean by ‘good’.
If you’re looking to get pumped like an iron-man, then weights are definitely a better bet. But if you’re looking to slim down, develop lean muscle or tone up, then resistance bands will definitely do the job and do it well.
So, are they better than weights for slimming and toning? Again, not necessarily. It very much depends on your goals, personal preference, and budget, amongst other things. Let’s break it down.
Advantages of resistance bands
At the end of the day, resistance bands are just super-stretchy single lengths of rubber. When you compare that to big lumps of shaped metal with fixings and grips, it’s obvious that there’s going to be a big difference in cost. A set of resistance bands can be as little as 5% to 10% of the price of a full set of dumbbells or kettlebells.
Portable and easily stored
Resistance bands are very lightweight and a single can be folded up to more or less fit in your pocket. This makes them ideal if you’re pushed for storage space at home or you want to take them travelling. They’ll easily fit in your suitcase and won’t put you over the extra-baggage weight limit on a flight!
For such a simple piece of equipment, resistance bands are remarkably versatile. You can get light, medium, heavy and very heavy resistance levels, or a set containing one of each, meaning you can adapt them to suit your goals and progress. You can also adjust the amount of slack you allow when exercising with them to vary the challenge.
You can combine resistance bands with other exercise equipment such as weight training machines or dumbbells. For instance, a simple bicep curl can be done with a dumbbell in your hand and a resistance band attached to it for extra strength training.
Whole body workouts
One of the great things about resistance bands is that you can quickly and easily exercise every muscle group in the body. If you’re pressed for time, they are ideal as you can complete a full body workout in less than 20 minutes, far quicker than using weights. Also, due to their versatility, you can learn several different complete body workouts, so you’ll never get bored. It’s never been easier to do a full workout at home with minimal equipment.
Weights are fairly safe as long as you follow sensible guidelines and don’t overdo it. But there is always a risk of injury, especially if working out alone with nobody to spot you. Resistance bands, on the other hand, are very safe and highly unlikely to result in injury. The only minor risk is that they may snap and whip back to slap you. Painful? Yes. Serious injury? No. Besides, it’s highly unlikely to happen as long as you look after them.
Disadvantages of resistance bands
The good thing about weight training is you can set exact loads, building them up as you progress and adjusting amounts depending on the exercise. Resistance bands are usually available in three or four resistance levels, which means you can’t get the same level of precision.
Weights will pretty much last forever. Resistance bands are made from rubber, so they will show signs of wear over time and eventually split or lose their elasticity. If they are used on sharp or rough surfaces there is a small chance of them snapping, so be sure to inspect both the condition of the band and the surface you’re using it on before working out.
No good for serious bulking up
If you’re looking to get super-pumped, don’t rely on resistance bands. They’ll help you to get toned and stay in shape, but when it comes to serious bodybuilding there’s really nothing better than weight training.
How to choose the right resistance bands
Before going out and buying the first set you see, it might be worth trying some out first. If they have any in your local gym, give them a go and see what they’re like. Ask around in the gym too, as quite often the instructors will be able to advise you on the best brands to buy. Some sports shops will let you try them out or at least see and feel them in the shop.
Generally, resistance bands are colour coded according to resistance level, with red often being the heaviest resistance. Once you’ve found a brand you’re comfortable with, it’s probably worth getting a set of them, so you can chop and change the resistance you use for different exercises.
Finally, there are a variety of different style bands you can get these days – figure of 8, circular bands, double bands, etc. To begin with, you’ll probably want to stick to a standard long single band with handles. That will be enough to perform all of the exercises in the full body workout we created below.
Full body resistance band workout
The following workout will exercise every major muscle group in the body and can be repeated up to 3 times a week, or daily as warm-up routine using less than the recommended reps and sets.
The only equipment you need is a standard resistance band and your own body.
1 | Push ups
10 to 20 reps, 3 sets
Exercises the chest and tricep muscles.
- Get into a push-up position (on your knees if you’re a beginner) and place the band across your upper back, under your armpits and place each handle under your hands.
- The band should feel taut across your back, so adjust if needed by stretching the band slightly and placing your hands over the band itself rather than handles.
- You can use wider hand positioning to focus more on the chest, or a narrower one to target the triceps.
- Lower yourself until your chest is close to the floor.
- Contract your chest, then push back up through the chest and arms.
- Repeat as required.
2 | Glute kick
10 to 20 reps, 4 sets
Exercises your glute muscles (backside).
- Get onto all fours on the floor with the band handles held under your hands.
- Wrap the middle of the band under your right foot.
- Shift your weight slightly over to your left while engaging your core.
- Push your right leg backwards, straightening out your knee and raising your leg until it’s parallel with the floor.
- Steadily bring your right knee back until it touches the floor again.
- Repeat, alternating sides with each set.
3 | Upright row
10 to 20 reps, 4 sets
Exercises your upper back, shoulders and biceps.
- Assume a standing position with the band under your feet placed hip-width apart.
- Cross the band over to make an ‘X’ shape and hold each handle at the top of your thighs.
- Keep your back straight and draw your shoulder blades as far down your back as possible.
- Raise your hands upwards in a vertically straight line, aiming for your armpits, with your elbows bending and your upper arm becoming parallel with the floor.
- Lower steadily back to the start position.
4 | Bent-over row
10 to 20 reps 4 sets
Exercises the biceps and upper back muscles (the delts).
- Step on the middle of the band with your right foot, standing upright.
- Step back with your left foot and bend your right knee slightly into a slight lunge position.
- Try to keep your neck, back and left leg in a straight line, with your left toes in contact with the floor and heel raised.
- Extend your arms fully down toward the ground (they should be roughly level with your right knee). Make sure the band is fairly taut, if necessary move your grip up the band on both sides away from the handle to increase tightness.
- Begin to bring your elbows back and up, keeping them alongside your body, with your hands raising up towards your armpits.
- Make sure you contract your shoulder blades together as you lift and go as far as you can.
- Lower your arms and elbows back to the start.
- Repeat as required.
5 | Squat with overhead press
10 to 20 reps, 3 sets
Exercises the leg muscles and shoulders.
- Begin by standing on the band with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Pull both handles up to around shoulder level with your palms facing in and elbows tucked in.
- Begin to bend your knees, lowering into a squat position.
- Tighten your glutes and thighs, and push up to standing with your weight focused over your heels.
- When the handles reach your shoulders, continue to force your arms up over your head until they are fully extended in a straight line.
- Lower your arms, and without pausing, when they reach your shoulder level, drop into another squat.
- Repeat this fluid motion for the required number of reps.
6 | Lunge with lateral shoulder raises
10 to 20 reps 3 sets
Exercises glutes, hamstrings, quads and shoulders
- Stand with your right foot on the middle of the resistance band, holding both handles at your sides.
- Step back with your left foot, lowering your left knee to the floor and simultaneously bending your right knee. Keep your upper body straight. Lift your arms up directly in front of you as you lower your body.
- When you reach a 90-degree bend in both knees, begin to rise back up out of the lunge.
- As you rise, lift both hands out to the side, away from your body until your arms are fully extended in a straight line.
- Repeat on one side for one set, then switch to the other leg for the next set.