If there's one piece of exercise equipment you need it's resistance bands. Although free weights, like barbells and dumbbells, are ideal for those strength training, not everyone has access to them. They are pretty expensive, and if you're not working out from home consistently then it's not worth the investment. But it's always good to have some type of workout equipment at home, in case we're hit with another pandemic that shuts gyms down... It's far fetched, but the point is, home workouts sometimes have to happen. Having resistance bands can help you workout from home when you need to, but also can be used in addition to your gym workouts - so you get more for your money!
With that being said, these bands make for a versatile piece of fitness equipment that can maximize your lower body workouts and upper body! So, to help you maximize your gains at home here's everything you need to know about resistance bands, their benefits, and how to use them and create full-body workouts at home!
What are resistance bands?
These bands are also known as mini loop bands, hip bands, exercise bands, workout bands, booty bands, etc. But they all do the same thing - Provide external resistance that your muscles work against. But before we get into how they work, let's talk more about what they are...
Resistance bands come in various shapes and sizes, the most popular being the short ones that are used for glute activation or lower body exercises. There are also long resistance bands that are used for upper body and flexibility exercises. These types of bands come in various resistance levels: extra light, light, medium, heavy, and extra heavy. They are also available in two different materials: rubber/latex and fabric. Latex bands are the ones you commonly see on Amazon or at stores like Target. They usually come in a set with various resistance levels. Fabric bands are mostly sold online, typically only have three resistance levels, and are sold individually or in a bundle of three. They both work the same, but they have a few differences that might sway you to like one more than the other. Latex/rubber bands are slightly cheaper than fabric ones, but the material makes them less durable. They tend to roll up during certain movements and rip easily. Fabric bands are still inexpensive, but they are slightly higher priced than latex bands. But for just a few bucks more, you'll get a durable band with a more comfortable non-slip material. It's really a matter of preference when it comes to the type of resistance band you want to use, at the end of the day, they work the same way.
How do resistance bands work?
They work similarly to free weights, but with one huge difference. Dumbbells add an external resistance that your muscles have to work against, but they rely on gravity. With resistance bands, instead of gravity, you push against the force of the band which sounds easier... But it's not. With a resistance band your muscles have to engage to fight the tension. So you're working against the resistance throughout the entire range of an exercise!
Let's take a squat for example.. If you loop a band around your quads, just above your knees, you have to press out towards the band when lowering into a squat, and again when standing back up. So your legs are pretty much always pressing against the resistance of the band, which means your muscles are constantly working and under tension for an extended period of time. This goes for any exercises performed with resistance bands! That's what makes them so great, they really challenge your muscles to work harder!
Resistance bands make your muscles work harder, but what are some of the other benefits of using them? Well here they are...
- Effective at toning and strengthening muscles
Resistance bands provide tension throughout the entire exercise being performed, this makes the targeted muscle groups work harder which helps build muscle and strength. In fact, a study conducted by The Sports Journal found that resistance bands paired with free weights resulted in better results, opposed to just training with free weights. Here's what they said, “Experienced power lifters and strength and conditioning professionals have claimed elastic band resistance combined with traditional training produces strength gains for several years”. 
- Great for warm-up and activation exercises
Warming up is a crucial step to any good workout routine - Specifically dynamic warm-ups. This is a slower, lighter version of whatever exercise you are warming up. And one good way to do that is by doing bodyweight exercises and adding a light or medium resistance band to challenge your muscles a little bit before heaving lifting. Plus, they are great for activating your glutes! The muscles in the glutes are often weak and not activated from sitting all day, so if you go straight into your leg workout without activating your glutes, you'll end up forcing other muscles groups to help with the heavy lifting.
- Versatile and add variety to your workouts
Having a resistance band set can add variety to your workout routine, which is needed in order to make progress! Your muscles adapt quickly to the exercises you consistently perform. Combining exercises with bands and free weights will give your muscles that extra challenge they need to continue making progress!
Workout bands are small, which makes them perfect for when you're on-the-go! You can easily put them in your gym bag or even take them with you traveling. So you're always prepared to have a quick workout even when you don't have time to go to the gym.
- Great for all fitness levels
Many might think that these bands are only good for beginners, but they're not - Anyone can use them! They come in different resistance levels that range from extra light to extra heavy. So you can start with a light band and work your way up to a heavy resistance. The heavy resistance is pretty intense, any experienced lifter would benefit from adding these bands into their routine.
How To Use Resistance Bands To Sculpt Legs
One of the benefits of bands is their versatility - There are many different resistance band workouts you can create! You can create a total lower body workout using long and short resistance bands, create an upper body workout using long resistance bands, or create a full-body workout. You can also use them in addition to your gym workouts to make them extra challenging.
If you want to start resistance band training at home or at the gym, we'll go through the four ways you can start using them.
For warm-ups and glute activation
Before you hit the heavy weights at the gym you have to warm-up your muscles! Aside from static stretches, add a few banded exercises to help warm-up and activate the muscles.
For example, short resistance bands are often used for glute activation. You can do this by picking 2-3 glute activation exercises and performing at least 2 sets, and 10-15 reps for each set. Doing this will wake and fire up your glutes so they're ready to perform any leg exercise! The key is to perform the exercise slowly and in control so you can really focus on your glutes to do most of the work.
Here are a few glute activation exercises you can try with resistance bands:
- Glute bridge: Start by lying on your back with your feet pulled towards your buttocks. Put a resistance band around your legs (above your knees). Stretch your arms out to the sides with your palms and toes facing the ceiling. Pull your belly towards your spine and lift your hips up as far as you can. Hold for a few seconds and return to the starting position.
- Fire hydrant: Loop the band slightly above your knees. Position yourself on your hands and knees on the ground. This will be your starting position. Keeping the knee in a bent position, abduct the femur, moving your knee away from the midline of the body. Pause at the top of the motion, then slowly return to the starting position. Perform this slowly for 10 repetitions and repeat on the other side.
- Donkey kicks: Put the resistance band around your legs (higher than your knees). Keep your hands lined up underneath your shoulders, your spine neutral and naturally straight, with thighs at 90 degrees to the ground. To begin, slowly lift one leg back, keeping your knee bent, until the sole of your foot faces the ceiling, and your thigh is parallel to the floor. Keep holding the position for a few seconds then release, and return the leg down to its starting position. Do 10 reps with each leg.
- Standing kickback: Loop the band around your ankles. Stand facing a wall or chair, in case you need help balancing. Flex your right foot and extend it behind you, squeezing your glute to lift your leg to the back (don't move forward to get your leg higher). Pause for 2 seconds. You should feel the tension in your hip and glutes. Bring the leg to the starting position. Perform 10 reps with each leg.
- Lateral walks: Step inside of a resistance band. Separate your feet to shoulder-width. Set a slight bend in your knees while you keep your chest up. Slowly step to the side with the right foot while doing a squat. Pause then step with the left foot in the same direction as the right. Do the same with another leg. Perform 10 reps on each side.
You can also use them to warm-up for your upper body workouts by using a long band to stretch. You can do this by doing some lat stretches with a long band, or mimic the exercises you're going to do with a heavier weight, like performing bicep curls with a long band or bent-over rows.
For lower body exercises
Another way to use resistance bands is by adding them to bodyweight exercises or incorporating them into the leg exercises you normally perform at the gym. This will help take your home and gym workouts up a notch.
Here are the best lower-body resistance band exercises:
- Squats w/ added side raise: Place a short band around your thighs, slightly above the knees. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, and have your toes parallel or pointing slightly outward. Perform a squat, but as you come up lift your right leg up to the side and squeeze the outer part of your glutes. Step back, and lower yourself into a squat position again, but switch sides and lift your left leg. Switch side with each repetition or perform a set amount of reps for each side.
- Deadlifts: Wrap a long band around your feet and stand with feet hip-width apart. Hold onto the top of the looped band with both hands, and stand up straight. Bend knees slightly hinge forward from hips until your chest is almost parallel to the floor, keeping back straight and core engaged. You should feel a stretch in your hamstrings. Pause and hold for a few seconds then engage your glutes to slowly bring your body back up to the starting position.
- Reverse lunges: Place a short band around your legs just above your knees. Stand with feet hip-width apart. Start the exercise by stepping back about two feet with your right foot, keeping your hips facing forward. Then allow your knees to bend and descend until your knee is about to touch the floor. Your torso should still be upright and core engaged, don't lean forward or allow your back to round. Press back up by pushing through your back foot, maintaining balance as you return to the starting position. Repeat on the opposite side to complete one rep.
- Hamstring walkouts: Place a short band around your thighs, slightly above the knees, and lie down on your back facing up. Bend your knees, and lift your hips into the ground. Begin to lift and move your left foot a couple of inches forward, followed by the right. Reverse the movement to the start
- Single-leg Romanian deadlift: Stand up straight with feet slightly staggered and loop a long band around your front foot. Hold the other end with both hands. Begin to hinge at the hips leaning forward and with a slight bend in your knees. Lower down until your hands go just below your knees. Pause, then slowly make your way back up to the start. Complete the desired amount of sets and reps, then switch to perform the exercise on the other side.
You can even use them when you're using weight equipment like the leg press, or when doing hip thrusts, adding a band above your knees will add intensity!
For upper body exercises
Although short bands are more popular, long bands are just as important! They'll help you keep up with your arm strength at home, and as you know now, a perfect tool for warming up your arms!
Here's are the best long resistance band exercises for your upper body:
- Seated single-arm bicep curls: Sit on a chair or bench with your feet wide. Loop one end of your band under your right foot and hold the other end (top of the band) in your left hand, lean forward to rest your left elbow on your left thigh. If the band is too long, wrap it around your hand so it's taut enough that you feel the tension. Rest the hand you're not using at your side or place it on your right thigh. With your core engaged and back straight, perform a bicep curl by pulling your left hand toward your left shoulder. Focus on engaging your bicep, and pause for a moment at the top of the movement. Then return slowly back to the starting position. Complete the set amount of reps, and switch to perform the exercise using your right hand.
- Bent-over row: Loop the band under your feet, stand with both feet on the resistance band hip-width apart. Bend your knees slightly and hinge forward at the hips. Make sure to keep your back flat and hands under your shoulders. Grab the band, palms facing in toward each other. Pull up the band so it coming toward your chest, keeping elbows close to your body. Hold for a few seconds to feel the contraction on your back. Slowly straighten your arms and lower your hands back to the starting position.
- Floor chest press: Place the resistance band on a mat, or the ground, so that it lays underneath your shoulders. Lay on it to make sure it's in the right position, once it is grab both ends of the band and get into a chest press position. Begin to extend both arms so they're pulling the band up, once your arms are in a straight position, pause, and lower them back to the starting position.
- Overhead tricep extensions: Stand with one foot slightly in front of the other and place the center of the band under the back foot. Take the opposite end of the band with both hands, the band should be behind you (not in front), and extend your elbows above your head, your arms should be up towards the ceiling. Slowly lower the band behind the back of your head until your elbows are bent at a 90-degree angle. Make sure to keep elbows close to the side of your head. Press hands back up overhead slowly. And repeat.
- Front raises: Loop the band under your feet and stand on it hip-width apart. Hold the band in each hand with your arms at your side. Raise your arms straight in front of you until they're parallel to the floor and perpendicular to your torso, your arms should be at shoulder level. Hold that position for a few seconds then slowly lower back to the start.<br>
You can even use them in addition to HIIT exercises! Combining cardio exercises with resistance bands will not only elevate your heart rate, but have your muscles burning (in a good way)! 🔥
The bottom line is, there are a ton of easy ways to incorporate them into your workouts! So, if you are looking for a strength training tool that doesn’t break the bank and will help activate, tone, and strengthen your muscles more effectively for better results then invest in a resistance band set! There are various different bands to choose from, but if you want high-quality bands then look for fabric resistance bands. If you prefer something on the cheaper side, try latex bands, plus once you get used to them you can always buy a new set of fabric bands to replace them!
Just an FYI, for those that don't know, Iulia is the founder of UPPPER, a premium fitness gear company - and our sister company! UPPPER has high-quality fitness gear like resistance bands, wrist wraps, lifting straps, barbell pads, and lifting belts! The fabric resistance bands are made with a non-slip material so they won't roll up, and they come in cute, unique designs and various colors! They also come in two sizes - Small/Medium and Large/X-large, and three resistance levels - Light, Medium, Heavy. Plus, you can get a bundle of 3 bands for $45! Not only are they cute, but they will help maximize your workouts for better results 💪