Are you trying to lose fat, increase strength, or gently find your way back into working out after a long break? If this applies to you, consider getting into resistance band workouts. Bands are easier on your joints than free weights, but there are also some unique benefits you can’t get from weights.
For example, with free weights, gravity is always pulling the weight down, which puts pressure on your joints when you’re not engaging the weight. With bands, you have tension on the way up and tension on the way down, and you control that tension completely.
This is not only ideal for your joints, but it actually helps you work your muscles more completely.
Whether you’re new to banded workouts, or just looking for some new exercises, check out these four workouts.
1. Band shoulder press
Shoulders are most often the weakest muscle group, and if that sounds familiar, you’re going to love band shoulder presses.
Let’s be honest – doing shoulder presses with dumbbells can be a struggle. It’s hard to keep heavy dumbbells even and straight in the air, and you’ll end up working your stabilizing muscles hard.
For instance, you’ll use your biceps to raise the dumbbells, and your entire arm will likely be sore after your workout. You’ll hit your shoulders, but your arms may give out before you’ve worked your shoulder muscles completely.
With bands, you’ll get even tension on the way up and down, which makes the movement easier to stabilize. Also, when you use a flat band with a bar and a footplate instead of a tubular band with handles, you’ll be able to lift heavier. When it comes to shoulders, being able to lift heavier means getting stronger shoulders faster.
2. Band deadlift
Establishing perfect form is essential for preventing injury, but poor form is especially bad with certain exercises. Deadlifts are one of those exercises that requires mastering perfect form to avoid injury.
There is definitely a time and a place to deadlift with free weights, or even a machine. However, deadlifting with bands is beneficial in many ways.
For instance, with bands, you can lift heavier and reduce the risk of injury associated with heavy lifting. Bands also make it easier to develop proper deadlifting form, since you won’t have to battle the weight of a barbell as it dips toward your non-dominant side.
Perhaps the best reason to use bands for deadlifting is the ability to strengthen your wrists with less risk. If you’re familiar with wrist straps, you may have heard that using straps actually makes your grip weaker.
This can be true if you always use straps and never lift without them. However, when used in a specific way, straps can actually increase your grip strength. Here’s how:
- Identify two band strengths for deadlifts: one you can lift without straps and one you need straps to lift.
- For 3-4 workouts, use the heavier band with straps. However, try not to rely on the straps. Put all your focus on gripping the bar and give it your all each time.
- For your next 2-3 workouts, use the lighter band without straps.
- Alternate like this for a few weeks to a month.
- Then, move to the heavy band and don’t use straps. By this time, you’ll notice your lighter band becoming easier to lift, and you’ll be able to lift your heavier band without straps.
For deadlifting, be sure to use extra-strength looped, flat bands with a bar and footplate for the best results. Tubular bands don’t cut it for deadlifting compared to flat bands. Also, you can lift much heavier when the band isn’t curling under your feet, and with a bar, you won’t hurt your hands.
Alternatively, you can use the Clench plastic handles for deadlifting, and you’ll get similar results to a bar. However, a bar will give you more stability and won’t cater to your weaker side.
3. Band chest press
Band chest presses can be done with any type of band, but ultimately, you’ll get the biggest benefit from using a bar to push a flat band away from your chest while standing upright. It won’t be an isolating move, but you’ll still hit your chest pretty hard.
Another benefit to doing chest presses with a band and a bar in the upright position is that you’ll also be working your biceps. Over time, this exercise will help you gain the arm strength required to push heavier bands to hit your chest harder.
When you do band chest presses standing up, you’ll be able to push a heavier weight than if you were to lie on your back on a bench. However, don’t try lying on the floor because your elbow movement will be too restricted to get full reps.
4. Band front squat
Front squats are easy with bands, and it’s a great way to progress upwards from bodyweight exercises without having to invest in a barbell or go to the gym.
As usual, front squats with bands are ideal when done with a footplate and a bar. It’s more stable that way. Once you position your band under the footplate, and get it situated on your bar, you’ll squat down to lift the bar up against the front of your shoulders. Squatting with good form is essential.
If you struggle to position a heavier band, try using a lighter band and do holds instead of full squats. As you keep working out, it will get easier to position the bar to do front squats. You can also use a thin squat pad to cushion the bar against your body.
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Nathan DeMetz holds degrees in Exercise Science, Business Administration, and Information Technology as well as certifications in strength and conditioning, sports nutrition, run coaching, and other areas. His credentials come from organizations such as Indiana Wesleyan University, Ivy Tech College, Utah State University, and the ISSA College of Exercise Science.
Nathan has 20 years of personal and professional experience in the health and fitness world. He works with people from across the globe, including locations such as Kuwait, Australia, and the USA.
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