Resistance bands are a gym bag necessity! Anyone and everyone can benefit from using them. Working similarly to free weights, they provide an external resistance that your muscles work against, but they have one big difference... They engage the muscles being targeted to fight the tension throughout the entire exercise being performed. This means that your muscles are working harder, which leads to better results!
Resistance bands are lightweight, portable, and come in various shapes and sizes. The most common ones that you've probably seen at the gym or on Instagram are short resistance bands used for glute activation and lower body exercises. We have covered these bands extensively, and we cannot recommend them enough, but we want to focus on long resistance bands...
Maybe you've seen them, maybe you haven't. They are exactly like short bands, except they're longer and can be used for lower and upper body workouts! These bands work just like any other resistance bands, but a lot of people are still not familiar with them and may not know how to incorporate them into their gym or home workout routine. So we're going to give you all the information you need on long bands and how to use them!
What are long resistance bands?
It's a long looped band (usually 40 inches long), made from either rubber or fabric, that comes in various resistance levels typically extra light-extra heavy. These types of bands are meant to add an extra challenge to bodyweight exercises, but without putting too much pressure on your joints like free weights do. One other advantage these bands have over free weights is that they are lightweight, and although they are long, they can be stashed in a small space or bag so you can take them with you traveling or to the gym!
The real question is... Why should you use long resistance bands?
The answer to this question can actually be answered by telling you the many ways you can use them!
How to use long resistance bands
These looped bands are a great tool used in strength training for many reasons, starting with the fact that they are used to stimulate muscles which in turn help tone up your upper and lower body. Plus, one of the best things about them is that the various resistance levels make them perfect for all fitness levels! If you're just starting out, you can use a light resistance band and then work your way up to a heavier resistance as you make progress. But they can also be used by advanced gym-goers who are looking for new ways to change up their workout routine to drive progress.
There are four common ways to use long resistance bands for beginners and advanced gym-goers:
Use them for home workouts! If you have limited gym equipment, invest in a set of resistance bands that you can have at home in case you can't make it to the gym. You can take them with you on the go if you want to have quick, yet effective workouts when traveling. Getting a 20-30 minute workout in is better than no workout at all, so better be prepared!
Use them as a warm-up tool! Everyone should be warming up before strength training or any type of training. The best way to warm up is by doing a combination of static and dynamic stretches. So, before you hit the weights perform a few exercises with long bands like band pull apart, lat raises, or triceps extensions to fully warm your muscles up.
Use them in combination with free weights! This technique is for advanced lifters who are trying to maximize muscle growth at home or at the gym. This can be done by either using a long band while performing a dumbbell exercise like biceps curls, chest press, etc. To learn more about how to use long bands with free weights, read our tips on how to combine free weights with resistance bands.
Use them to create supersets! Exhausting a muscle to failure is the best way to promote hypertrophy (aka muscle growth). Lifting heavy is the best, and most popular, technique, but another creative way to promote better growth is by implementing supersets. This means doing two exercises in one set with little to no rest in between the exercises. For example, doing a dumbbell shoulder press as you would, and right after completing your reps jumping into a banded shoulder exercise like upright rows. This will help exhaust your shoulder muscles to the point of failure to achieve better results. You can do this for any particular muscle group you're trying to grow.
As you can see, resistance band workouts are just as effective as training with free weights like dumbbells, kettlebells, or barbells. You just need to know how to use them! Unfortunately, these exercise bands aren't as common as short resistance bands so not a lot of people know how to use them or what exercises to do with them. Now you have a better insight on how to use them, but what exercises can you do with them?
Upper body resistance band exercises
There are so many upper body exercises you can do with a resistance band, but to keep things simple, we chose five that don't require the band to be looped around a hook. All you'll need is your body and your band!
How to do it: 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 the band 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.
How to do it: Loop the band under your feet, stand with both feet on the resistance band shoulder-width apart. Grab the band and hold it palms facing forwards. Lift your arm toward your shoulders until you get a good contraction on the biceps, hold for a few seconds, then lower slowly back to the start.
How to do it: 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.
How to do it: Loop the band under your right foot, keeping both feet hip-width apart. Grab the other end of the band with your right hand, palm facing inward. Stand tall with your back straight with left arm at your side and the right hand with the band on your hip. Slowly lift your right arm up to shoulder height. Pause, then slowly return back down to the starting position. For this exercise you'll need to do 10-15 reps on one side, then switch sides and do the same amount.
How to do it: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Grab the resistance band with both hands and place them shoulder-width apart, make sure the band is flat. Hold the band in front of you at shoulder height. Keeping your arms straight, pull the band out and back until your shoulder blades contract. Pause for a few seconds and slowly return to the start.
Lower body resistance band exercises
These lower body exercises are simple to do, and do not need to be attached to a hook or anything. Don't forget to grab a short/mini resistance band and do some glute activation exercises before doing these (or any) lower body exercises!
How to do it: Loop the band under your feet and stand on it with feet hip-width apart, hold onto the other side of the looped band with both hands. 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.
How to do it: Loop the band under your feet and stand on it with feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Bring the top of the band up to rest on the front of your shoulders, secure it in place by crossing your arms at your chest. Lower into a squat, keeping your back straight and chest up. Pause, then push up to the starting position.
How to do it: Loop the band under your feet and stand on it shoulder-width apart. Grab the band and wrap one end around your neck. Grab the band at roughly shoulder level and pull up slightly to reduce the tension on your neck. Bend your knees slightly, hinging back into the hips while keeping your back neutral. Pause for a few seconds then extend hip back to the starting position.
How to do it: Loop the middle of the band under your right foot as you step the other foot behind you in a split squat position. Bring the band up and behind your shoulders and grasp the band at the sides at chest level, elbows should be pointed towards the floor. Bend both knees and lower into a lunge position, left knee should be close to touching the floor. Pause, then straighten your legs. Do 10-15 reps and then repeat on the other side.
- Single leg romanian deadlift
How to do it: Lay the band flat on the ground. Step the right foot in the middle of the band and place your left leg in a staggered position behind you. Grab the end of the band, use the looped ends as handles. Bend your right knee slightly, and hinge back at the hips while keeping your back neutral. Pause, then slowly make your way back up to the start. Do 10-15 reps on one leg then repeat on the other side.
These are just 10 full body exercises you can do, but there are more and with different variations to help you target different muscle groups.
Having a few long and short resistance bands handy is a good option for those who prefer home workouts, but have minimal equipment, or for those just short on time or traveling! The bottomline is that resistance band workouts are a good way to switch up your workout routine, effective, and will help you tone and build muscle!