The elastic exercise band tends to get lumped in with the corner not being used as it’s the so-called “wussy” equipment, while the barbell and dumbbell are beyond reproach. But this isn’t a fair judgement, especially if you’re using them with the correct workout.
What bands provide that no other equipment (except cables) can is accommodating resistance. Take the push-up, for example. The closer you get to locking out your elbows, the easier the exercise feels.
The movement feels hardest when your chest is close to the floor, adding resistance to the push-up with a band will intensify the last few inches of the move—as the band gets more stretched out—making you work harder, and there’s nothing wussy about that.
Resistance bands are more than just stretchy pieces of rubber. Not only are they effective for getting in a full-body workout when time is short and equipment is sparse, but different bands can enhance your flexibility and mobility and help you push past sticking points.
Mini bands activate your glutes, which helps prevent other muscles from coming into play during exercises like deadlifts and squats to compensate for mediocre glute activation.
When to use: Before working sets, especially on lower-body days.
How to use: Step through the loop and secure the mini band just above the knees.
- Lateral Shuffle: Stay in an athletic stance and keep tension on your glutes; don’t allow your feet to touch.
- Split-stance Walk: With one foot staggered, walk forward while maintaining a split stance.
- Glute Bridge: Lie supine with your feet planted on the floor and the band looped just above your knees. Thrust your hips into the air, focusing on pressing your knees outward.
This band variety can help assist with pull-ups and dips and move you past sticking points—weak portions of the lift—by increasing resistance on compound movements to strengthen the weak area.
When to use: Before or during a training session.
- Band-resisted Push-up: Wrap the band around your upper back and hold each end in your hands. Rep out your push-ups.
- Pull-up/Dip Assistance: Loop the band around a pull-up/dip bar and place one foot on the looped band.
- Band-resisted Back Squat: Loop two bands on either end of a barbell and secure the other end to the top of a squat rack (pull down) or to heavy dumbbells placed on the floor (pull up). These are best used with compound movements like the squat, bench press, and deadlift.
Gray Cook Band:
The Gray Cook Band is used for stretching, reinforcing proper form, and improving functional movement patterns. Having a partner hold the band increases the number of moves you can perform.
When to use: Before you work out or during your first lift as a means of active recovery.
How to use: Use the band as a stretching tool and to perform mobility exercises before or between sets. You can also secure it around certain body parts, which forces your body to stabilise itself, enforcing better form.
- Bird Dog: On all fours, secure the band around both feet while holding the ends in each hand. Simultaneously extend your left leg and right hand. Repeat both sides.
- Half-kneeling Lift
- 90/90 Thoracic Rotation
Stackable Resistance Bands:
A door, some space, and a band is all you need for a full-body workout. The thinner bands are perfect for pull-apart, thrusters, and light stretching. Break out the thicker bands for pull-ups, added resistance on barbells, and stretches that require a greater degree of resistance.
When to use: Pre-, intra-, or post-workout to get a pump, as a standalone exercise in your current routine, or as a high- volume finisher.
How to use: Find a sturdy anchor point—door frame, pole—or stand in the middle of it for curls and extensions. Perform exercises, supersets, add moves into your routine, or end your workout with a high-volume finisher.
- Overhead Extension: Stand on the middle of the band; grasp the ends in each hand; press overhead. Keep your arms in place; lower your hands behind your head until your forearms break 90 degrees. Press back up.
- Band Row
- Standing Chest Flye