Gone are the days when a strength workout only meant hefty gym equipment. What if we told you that a weight training regime is more than possible with just an elastic resistance band? A 2020 meta-analysis by the journal SAGE Open Medicine suggests that the effectiveness of resistance bands can be compared to conventional free weights (dumbbells, kettlebells, barbells) in terms of strengthening muscle and losing body fat-in fact, it’s a cheaper and portable piece of equipment that you can pretty much carry around in a pocket for a quick and easy travel workout.
Though an ideal strength workout would include both elastic resistance and free weights, body recomposition and transformation specialist Avinash Mansukhani believes that resistance bands are an effective and adequate tool for getting a workout in and hitting all the muscle groups-even when you’re on the go or don’t have access to a gym. “Ideally, I would recommend two resistance bands-one for the bigger muscle groups (leg, chest and back) and one for the smaller ones (biceps, triceps and shoulders),” says the man behind Fight The Sunrise (FTS) fitness. “If you can only take one, I suggest you take the lighter one and hit more reps instead of taking the heavier one and being able to perform none,” he adds.
Want to get started? Here is a great list of resistance band exercises that you can try, as directed by Mansukhani himself. Starting with the chest and ending with the calves, this full body routine can be done regardless of your gender. “Perform between 3 to 6 working sets for each move, depending on how advanced you are,” suggests the trainer. “Do repetitions till failure if you’re doing a full body workout. If you are splitting them into upper and lower body days, you can do 5 to 8 sets of each,” he adds. Build your reps as you build your strength and endurance, and remember to get adequate rest, nutrition and hydration.
Resistance band exercises for all muscle groups
1. Pec press
- To start off with a chest exercise, wrap the heavier resistance band around you.
- Grab its two ends, get your arms at 45 degrees and push via your pecs.
- You can also do this move while performing a push-up.
- If you’re performing this outdoors, you can take the resistance band, hook it up to a pole, grab the free end and then perform a single-handed pec press.
2. Bent-over row
- To work your back, step on the middle of the heavier resistance band.
- Grab the two ends and bend forward.
- Pull the two ends towards your chest with a full contraction (lengthening and shortening of muscles to generate tension).
- If you’re doing this outdoors, you can once again tie one end of the band to a pole and perform a cable row—one side at a time.
3. Single-arm shoulder press
- Use the lighter resistance band for shoulder work.
- Step on one end of the band with one foot.
- Grab the other end with the arm on the same side and push upwards.
- Repeat the same for the other side.
Variation: Double-handed overhead press
- Step on the middle of the band
- Spread your feet apart and grab both ends of the band.
- Push the band over your head with both your arms.
4. Tricep overhead extension
- Using the same lighter band, grab the middle with one hand and hold it against the side of your waist.
- Bring the other end over your head and near your ear on the same side with your performing hand.
- Pull the band upwards with your performing hand.
- Switch sides and do the other side as well.
5. Bicep curl
- For the final upper body exercise, step on to one end of the lighter band with one foot and take the other end of the band with your opposite hand.
- Keep your upper arm steady and pull the band up to your shoulder to perform bicep curls.
- If you want to increase resistance, you can curl the band around your hand a few times.
- Switch sides to work the other bicep.
Variation: Hammer curls
- Using a heavier resistance band, step on the middle with both feet.
- Spread your legs apart and hold the band with both hands with a neutral grip.
- Keep your upper arms steady and bring your hands up to your shoulders to perform hammer curls.
- Though legwork is going to be a little more challenging to do with resistance bands (as the load won’t be much), you can see more results as you increase your reps.
- Step into the heavier resistance band and loop the other end around your neck.
- Spread your legs a little apart and then squat down past parallel.
- Stand back up while keeping your spine straight and fully extend yourself.
- Hamstring deadlift
- Using the same arrangement as for squats, hinge your hips backwards, lengthening your hamstrings.
- Bring your torso down.
- Fully extend your hips forwards again and repeat.
7. Resisted lunge
- Step on to the heavier band with one foot in the middle and grab the two ends.
- Perform a normal lunge as you kneel forward with one leg.
- Pull the band towards you as you lunge and repeat on the other side.
8. Calf raise
- Finish off this resistance band workout with calf raises.
- Step into the heavier band with your legs closer this time.
- Get the band over your neck like with squats and hamstring deadlifts.
- Get on to the balls of your feet and extend your feet upwards.
- By pushing with your calves, pause on this top position for 2 to 3 seconds and then bring your heels all the way back down.
- You can also support yourself on a wall.