As discussed in our accompanying article, resistance bands are an increasingly popular form of resistance training. It’s major benefits are that its:
1) Cheap (as little as $100 will get you a pair or two);
2) Portable (can travel with them – take them to your event or race for warm up etc);
3) Highly specific (can be used to train in movements specific to your sport);
4) Highly functional (because load increases/decreases proportionally across a movements range of motion).
While resistance bands are commonly used in conjunction with weights, this article will focus on exercises where resistance bands are used exclusively to work major muscle groups of the body. It also assumes that individuals' have access to a range of resistance bands that include both medium and heavy duty types -capable of generating close to 100kg force.
The exercises described below are designed to work the body’s major muscle groups; namely legs, back, chest, shoulders as well as providing a degree of stability/balance training. A combination of these and/or similar exercises can be performed in your hotel room or gym and therefore offer the benefit of convenience especially when travelling or working a hectic schedule. The leg-based power lifts such as the deadlift and squat are better suited to thick bands that provide heavier resistance, while the chest-based exercises may be better served by medium thickness bands.
To double the resistance of any given exercise, individuals can simply choose to use two sets of bands.
An extremely practical, yet effective version of the deadlift, this exercise requires absolutely no other equipment than a single band and because you are stretching two layers of band at once, you will be surprised just how much resistance it generates; particularly when using thicker bands.
2. Double Band Squat
Afraid you won't be able to go heavy when having to rely solely on resistance bands? Don't be! This gem of an exercise uses two resistance bands and you'll be surprised just how intense this variation of the squat is. The other major benefit is that it is more functional, in that the barbell is not resting on the shoulder blades, which allows for better kinetics. That ultimately translates into greater strength and power on the playing field for those athletes engaged in competitive sport. For added variation and power/speed training, try incorporating jump squats with a slightly thinner band.
3. Military Press
If you've struggled to attain the strength and balance required to perform the traditional overhead military barbell press, you'll love this exercise. It provides a much smoother resistance as one is not required to balance the barbell. Try bending from the knees and extending arms for added variation and practical transfer to the traditional barbell military press.
4. Split Stance Press
Perhaps your a crossfit junkie who loves the clean and jerk, but there's no way of practicing the exercise when busy travelling. This resistance band variation of the jerk part of the clean and jerk power lift can be performed a number of different ways. Individuals' can start with hands resting on shoulder blades and foot back and then accelerate to extend arms upwards while simultaneously bringing foot forward. Alternatively, the arms can remain extended and the movement be peformed simply like a reverse or forward single leg lunge.
5. Resisted Push Up
No bench? No worries! With a couple of resistance bands, you will be amazed at just how few reps you will squeeze out of the traditional push up. Again, the great benefit of the bands is that they provide the most reistance at the top of the movement near full extension when strength is also most optimal due to the position of the joints. While at the bottom of the movement, when just starting the concentric phase, resistance is least. This helps avoid decelaration at the sticking point.
6. Reverse Lunge
Love a bit of agility/balance training as part of your legs workout? Then you'll love this resistance band exercise. Perform it either as illustrated above or as a forward lunge or even a reverse to forward lunge. You can also perform it as a pile lunge and/or diagonal lunge.
7. One Arm Row
Loop your resistance band to the door handle or towel rack in your bedroom/bathroom or hotel room and you're off. One of the most simple, yet effective exercises for working the back and biceps. Just throw another band or two (or three!) on to up the intensity.
8. Double Band Chest Press
This exercise is best suited to the more novice athletes who may not have the strength to perform any significant number of push ups using resistance bands. With the double band chest press, individuals can start lightly and build strength gradually by changing width of bands and/or incorporating additional bands.
9. Single Band Chest Press
Great for the travelling footy player engaged in contact sport; just loop the band up to a towel rack or appropriate door handle and you're set. This will help build strength in any sport that involves contact and resisting/pushing opponents.
10. Good Morning
Perhaps the most odd looking of all the exercises, but nonetheless useful. This exercise mimicks the movement of the stiff-legged deadlift, but also effectively works the hip and butt muscles. It's also a great rehab form of the stiff-legged deadlift for those individuals coming back from an injury or fall.