10 Resistance Band Exercises You Need To Be Doing
26/04/2021 | Andrew Tracey
Andrew Tracey is a long time collaborator with Bulldog Gear. A coach, writer and current fitness editor of Men’s Health Magazine, he has been in and around the fitness industry for the past 16 years. Having enjoyed and endured a number of disciplines from endurance racing, to strongman, to Crossfit AT enjoys getting neck deep in the practice just as much as the theory.
With an almost unparalleled cost to benefits ratio, resistance bands are an incredibly versatile tool that are often overlooked by trainees once they’ve cast off their ‘beginners’ plates, ironically though bands can be the perfect tool for advancing certain movements, adding additional resistance, or creating instability.
It really is an absolute no-brainer to add them to your home gym arsenal or chuck them in your kit bag before you head off to the gym.
If you’re looking for inspiration for some new banded movements to add to repertoire, or simply want to craft a quick fire home workout (or the perfect pre-pool hotel pump *ahem*), then we’ve got 10 banded movements that you need to be doing.
1. Band Pull-Apart
A big hitter in shoulder longevity, strengthening the postural muscles of your upper back and a quick and easy win for creating a healthy ratio of pushing to pulling movements. A set of twenty pull-parts between sets of bench and overhead press is the ultimate hack for a balanced upper body.
Hold your band in front of your body, slightly below chest height. Adjust your grip until there is tension in the band when your hands are inside of shoulder width apart. Keep your arms straight and shoulders down. Explosively pull the band apart, squeezing your shoulder blades together, until the band touches your chest. Reverse the movement and repeat in quick succession. Avoid shrugging your shoulders or bending at the elbows and keep it moving for the full thirty seconds.
The Z-press is a killer shoulder movement, whatever kit you decide to use. Taking all lower body involvement out of the equation and forcing your upper body into strong, anatomically correct ‘stack’. A great exercise in it’s own right- it’s also an impressive teacher of mechanics for other forms of pressing. Executing with a band is a great way to not just warm-up your shoulders before overhead pressing, but also to practice, prime and reinforce your positioning before hitting the heavy weights.
Sit inside of a band with your legs open and outstretched. Hold the top of the band across the top of your chest with your elbows up, mimicking a ‘front rack’ position. Brace your core, drawing your rib cage down towards the floor as you press the band up above your head, to full lockout. Keep your ribs down, avoiding extending your spine forwards. Slowly lower and repeat.
3. Band Resisted Push-Ups
Push-ups have lasted the test of time because they’re both effective and portable. By adding something only marginally less portable in the form of a resistance band, we can drive up the stimulus, helping you to develop a powerful chest and explosive shoulders and triceps
Cross a band across your back and loop your thumbs through each end. Assume a press-up position, creating a strong ‘plank’ from foot to head, resisting the pressure of the band resting against your lower back. Slowly lower yourself until your chest touches the groin then press up, hard –pushing explosively against the extra resistance of the band, squeezing your chest hard at the top of each rep.
4. Single Arm Row
Let’s face it, with limited equipment pulling movements can be difficult to perform, especially if you have’t unlocked the mighty pull-up just yet. This effective band movement won’t just build the muscles of your lats and upper back but both the anti-rotational and anti-flexion muscles of your core (you know, those ones that stop you from getting folded up like a pretzel under heavy weights).
Stand with a wide stance, with both feet inside a heavy band. Turn both feet to face away from your body, hinge down and grip either one or both sides of the band between your feet. Brace your core and keeping your torso parallel to the ground, row the band up towards your hips, pause here for a second before slowly lowering. Switch sides each set.
5. Tricep Press-Down
It’s a great accessory movement for pressing exercises, it’s a great recovery movement for driving blood flow into the arms with minimal load, it can be great for elbow health if you regularly press with heavy weights. But all of that aside, you know why we do these- the pump.
Loop a band over an anchor above head height. Stand beneath the band, grip both sides and pull the band down until your upper arms are tight against your body, with your forearms parallel to the ground. Press against the band tension, straightening out your arms and squeezing your triceps hard at the bottom of each rep. Slowly release the band tension, lifting your upper arms until they’re parallel to the ground again and repeat, keeping your upper arms tucked, and still.
6. Banded Squat
If air squats at home are beginning to lose their charm, banded squats aren’t only a fantastic way to add resistance, but the nature of the bands themselves (the resistance increases as the band stretches), forces you to accelerate hard against the tension, building explosive strength.
Step both feet into a band, pulling the top of the band over your head and across your shoulders. Push your hips back and bend at the knees, slowly descending into a deep squat. Once the crease of your hip passes below your knees, pause, before standing back up explosively.
7. Zercher Squat
A great ‘drop set’ to perform with the above banded squats, lowering the resistance to continue repping out, the zercher squat also hits your core, hard, whilst building on the postural muscles of your upper back, great for both runners and those stuck at a desk all day, alike.
Stand inside a medium to heavy resistance band, feet more than shoulder width apart. Squat down and pull the top of the band onto your arms, working it into the crook of your elbows. Stand back upright. Push your hips back and bend at the knees, slowly descending into a deep squat whilst keeping your shoulder blades back and torso upright. Once the crease of your hip passes below your knees, pause, before standing back up explosively.
8. Good Mornings
A twist on a classic hinging/ hamstring movement that repositions the loads for extra leverage and to build the structural muscles of your back.
Step both feet into a band, pulling the top of the band over your head and across your shoulders. Push your glutes back, maintaining a flat back and hinging at the hips until you feel a pinch in your hamstrings, pause here before standing back up explosively.
9. Pull Throughs
Another golden hinging variation, this time taking the pressure off your spine whilst helping to reinforce proper hinging mechanics. This movement also places the line of resistance behind your body, helping you to really explore a full range of motion.
Anchor a band to something sturdy on the ground and step forward, facing away from the band. Reach down and pull the band up between your legs, to waist height. Take a few more steps forward until you feel a good deal of tension on the band. Push your glutes back, maintaining a flat back and hinging at the hips until you feel a pinch in your hamstrings. Allow your hands to travel back between your legs, keeping your back straight and core braced, but really pushing that range of motion. Step further forward to increase the tension at the bottom of the rep.
10. Banded Split Squat
Everyone’s favourite movement just got even better! As with it’s two legged cousin, using the band doesn’t just add resistance, but builds explosive strength as you accelerate hard against the growing tension of the band.
Step one foot into a band, pulling the top of the band over your head and across your shoulders.
Take a long, backwards lunge with the opposite leg, until your back knee lightly contacts the ground. Shift your weight onto the middle of your front foot before extending at the knee, straightening out your front leg, whilst your back foot remains in the same position. Reverse this motion for reps, before repeating with the opposite leg.