A personal trainer shares with us the best resistance band workouts to do at home, and the equipment you need to do them
- You can get a full-body workout at home using nothing but a pair of resistance bands, so long as you know how to use them and what workouts to focus on.
- Resistance bands create more tension than dumbbells, can be easily stored around your home or apartment, and are relatively inexpensive compared to the cost of free weights.
- We talked to Don Saladino, personal trainer and owner of the gym Drive 495 in New York City, and he outlined a resistance band circuit to help you break a sweat and keep fit all in the comfort of your home.
Updated on 11/3/2020 by Rick Stella: Added more to the section on how resistance bands work and added links to relevant resistance band guides and explainers, updated each workout explanation, checked the availability and pricing of the recommended resistance bands, and updated the links and prices where necessary.
Whether access to a gym is limited or you just don’t want to trek outside, you can always get a good workout indoors — and you don’t need a set of dumbbells or a squat rack to do it. Don Saladino, owner of Drive 495 in New York City, tells us that anyone is able to get an effective full-body workout at home using nothing but a set of resistance bands.
“Making progress is all about creating a stimulus for your body to adapt to,” he told Insider. “Just because you can’t use heavy weights or fancy equipment doesn’t mean you can’t stimulate your muscles and cardiovascular system.”
How resistance bands work
One benefit of using resistance bands is that, unlike dumbbells or barbells, they provide tension throughout the whole exercise. For example, when you’re curling a dumbbell, it’s heaviest towards the bottom of the curl and lighter at the top. With bands, it’s equally as difficult for the entire range of motion. According to Saladino, training with elastic bands also challenges your core.
“I like the convenience of bands,” Saladino said, referring to the fact they’re easily stored in a closet or a corner of your apartment. “I also like the instability they provide. When you press a band, there’s a lot of movement, so it creates more of a challenge.”
Though some bands are harder to lift than others, there’s no real way to measure the weight you’re lifting. For that reason, you’ll want to increase the difficulty of your workout in two distinct ways:
- Perform more sets or reps: This ensures you’re accumulating more volume over time. Since bands are easier on your joints than heavier weights, don’t be afraid to do higher reps than you would with weights, even up to the 30 to 50 rep range.
- Tempo training: Do a single rep in a set amount of time. Say you’re squatting, you can lower yourself to a count of five seconds, hold the bottom position for five seconds, and squat back up in two seconds. One rep accounts for roughly 12 seconds of muscular tension. You’ll generally want to do fewer reps with this style of training, too — three sets of 5-8 reps is a good start for most people.
Equipment: Resistance bands
Reps per exercise: 10
Rest between rounds: 1-2 minutes
Rounds: 3-5, depending on your fitness level
You’ll do 10 reps of each move and then move on to the next with little to no rest. After you finish the last exercise (the Pallof press), rest for one to two minutes. Complete three to five rounds of this complex.
The goal is to complete this quickly, with as little rest as possible. That said, if you have more than one band, switching to another band counts as your rest. So does securing it to a sturdy object for the Paloff Press.
Stand in the center of the band with your feet shoulder-width apart. Loop the other end across your shoulders, right over your collarbone, and cross your arms.
Keep your elbows out and up and then squat down, ensuring your torso is straight. Once the bottoms of your thighs are parallel, drive up.
Split stance band row
Loop one end of your band around a sturdy object — like a radiator or the leg of a heavy couch or bed — and lunge one leg back. Hold that position and grab the band with the same-side arm of the leg that’s behind you.
Keep your body tall and row the band towards you until your elbow passes your torso. Do 10 reps on both sides, switching your leg and arm position.
Banded pushup (or bodyweight if the band is too hard)
Grab either side of the band in each hand and wrap it around your back, right below your shoulder blades. Now get into a standard pushup position and lower your chest, so it’s about an inch from the ground. Then, drive yourself back up until your elbows lock out.
Banded Romanian deadlift
Set up as you did for the squat but instead grab the other end of the loop in each hand and stand tall with your arms fully extended. Hinge at your hips and drive your butt back until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings.
The lower you grab the band, the more resistance you’ll have.
Loop a band to a sturdy structure that’s roughly level with your stomach (if possible). Grab the other end with both hands, stand parallel to the anchor point, and walk out until the band is taut.
Now, hold the band against your stomach and then drive your hands out until your arms are extended. You should feel the band pulling your sideways towards the anchor point — fight this by staying tight and stable. The further you are from the anchor point, the harder you’ll work your core.
Our resistance band picks
Undersun Resistance Band Set
Started by James Grage, a fitness expert and former supplement company owner, Undersun is a resistance band geared toward serious trainees. The entire set comes with five bands ranging from X-Light (5 to 15 pounds) to X-Heavy (50 t0 120 pounds) and is enough for you to get a serious workout.
The lightest band is great to warm up and stretch with, while the medium bands work for most pressing and high-rep pulling work. The two heaviest bands for very heavy pulls and squats. Just because you don’t know exactly how much weight you’re using doesn’t mean your workout will be ineffective, either.
The set on Amazon comes with just five bands, which is all you need to get started. If you opt for the set from Undersun, it costs $186 for all five bands, a door anchor for setting the bands at different heights, and an app that gives you access to guided workouts.
SPRI Xertube Resistance Bands
This style of resistance band is likely the more traditional bands you’re used to seeing. They come equipped with handles, which is always nice since it makes holding them more comfortable. They’re also quite durable.
Compared to the looped Undersun bands, you may have to change how you perform the exercises mentioned above with this SPRI model. The handles are a set gripping point, so if you want more resistance for a routine like Romanian deadlifts, you’ll have to grab the rubber tubing itself or find another way to shorten the band’s length.
Also, these don’t come in a set, so if you don’t want to buy all five, we recommend the red band since it’s the most versatile. They aren’t terribly expensive, so you may want to buy a few different bands in order to have both a lighter and heavier pair.
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