Why use a training band?
The training band (otherwise known as a resistance band) is a highly versatile exercise tool. They can be incorporated into a general workout, or you can complete a training band-only routine.
Training bands can be used to enhance bodyweight exercises, such as air squats and press-ups. Also, you can apply training bands to other resistance exercises, such as kettlebell swings or dumbbell chest press.
Using training bands in this way adds a dynamic resistance to the exercise. In addition, unlike conventional weights (dumbbells, barbells and machines), the tension – or the ‘weight’ – of the resistance band increases across the range of movement. This helps to develop strength in the muscle at the weakest contraction points.
Benefits of the training band
There are loads of benefits to using training bands. But I’ll just quickly outline a couple.
For how much the cost training bands are arguably the most versatile piece of exercise equipment you can buy. TOMSHOO’s superbly rated training bands will set you back less than £35. Yet, for that comparatively small investment, compared to an Olympic barbell and a set of bumper plates, you’ll have access to innumerable different exercises.
A training band can be taken anywhere
As well as being relatively inexpensive, resistance bands boast another unrivalled quality. That is, they are both sensitive and eminently portable. These attributes can’t be said of other training equipment – ever tried lugging a 24kg kettlebell on holiday?
It’s these qualities that make the training band a must-have item of exercise equipment. They can be taken to the gym to spice up that bland routine. Also, when you complete this outdoor workout, you can bring your resistance band along to turn up the heat on those bodyweight exercises. Oh, and don’t forget, next time you go on holiday pack your resistance band so that you can keep trim on the beach.
How to use a training band
We’ve already considered the manifold ways that training bands can be applied: gym sessions, circuits, and/or CrossFit-style AMRAPs and EMOMs. And in truth, this is just a handful of the basket of ways you can use training bands – there are loads more to explore.
Resistance band basics
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. If you’re a beginner or training band first-timer, it’s sensible to master a couple of simple exercises first. This way you will get a feel for what is an unconventional training tool.
Two of the best exercises to start with include the training band deadlift and bent-over row. These compound exercises enable you to engage the major muscle groups. By doing so you will better be able to maintain control of the movement while also enjoying an engaging workout.
Remember, when using a training band for the first time, start with a light resistance.
Expand your repertoire of resistance band exercises
Once you can confidently and competently perform two core training band exercises, you’re ready to start expanding your exercise repertoire. It’s advisable to do this progressively, learning and perfecting the technique of one training band exercise each week.
Having developed a broad range of resistance band exercises, you can start to include them in your general training routine. Also, there’s the option of formulating resistance band-only workouts.
Best training bands
There are loads of quality training bands on the market, and they pretty much all meet the same standards – that is, they’re stretchy and durable.
You have the option of buying bands singularly or in packs. Though slightly more expensive, buying a pack of training bands makes more sense. It won't be long until that single 20kg band is no longer heavy enough for you and you’re looking to raise the resistance.
Also, different weighted bands are used for different exercises. For example, you’d use a heavy band, say between 30- to 50kg, for deadlifts, and a light band, less than 30kg, for press-ups or lateral raises.
One of the best bands, and the ones I use in the video demonstrations below, are TOMSHOO’s pack of 5. In addition to being a superbly well-rated product, they include a range of resistances and attachments that will explode the number of exercises you can access.
When you get your training bands, put them to use and master the four essential exercises below.
Related: check out more great resistance bands
4 essential training band exercises
#1 Resistance band squats
The resistance band front squat is a great all-round leg developer. And while it primarily targets the quadriceps, the front squat also engages the glutes, lower back, core, and upper body muscles.
Key front squat teaching points
Step on the band ensuring that it runs under the arch of your foot.
Space your feet along the band slighter wider than shoulder-width.
Bending at the knees, grasp the band and enfold it over the anterior deltoids.
With elbows raised keep the thumbs hooked under the band as this secures it in position.
Stand up and adjust your position if needs be.
Proceed to perform a squat ensuring to maintain correct postural alignment: back straight, bending at the knees, eyes fixed forward.
#2: Resistance band deadlifts
The deadlift is the quintessential strength-building exercise and one that promotes whole-body growth. When deadlifting the primary muscles engaged include the gluteus maximus, erector spinae, upper back, shoulders, and forearms.
Deadlifting with a training band brings a new dynamic to this old exercise as the resistance continues to increase until you reach peak contraction. At this point, it feels as though all Earth’s gravity is trying to pull you down. But in resisting, and perhaps adding a trapezius shrug, you’ll enjoy some serious strength gains.
Key deadlifting teaching points
There are two resistance options with the deadlift. You can either opt for a single band or double fold. In this video tutorial, I opt for the double fold as this increases the resistance. The following teaching points apply to both options.
First, position your feet on the band ensuring that a) the arch of the foot is over the band, and b) that there is an equal length of band protruding either side of your feet.
Bending at the knee grasp the loops (or length of the band).
Before executing a deadlift, adjust your position and take the slack out of the band by applying a bit of resistance.
Keeping your fixed on an indefinite point to your front, stand up driving through with the hips.
#3: Resistance band bent over row
Much like the above two exercises, the bent over row is a classic compound exercise celebrated for its strength-building qualities. Basically, if you want to build a strong back and augment your pulling power, include the bent over row in your routine.
But which muscle groups does this indomitable exercise engage? Primarily the latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, and infraspinatus. However, I would be doing the bent over row a disservice if I didn’t inform you that it also builds strength in the lower back (which supports the position), biceps, and forearms.
Key deadlifting teaching points
Again, same as the deadlift, you can opt for a single band or double fold.
To get in position for the bent over row, perform the deadlift but stop when you are standing upright.
Maintaining a shallow bend in the knees, hinge forward at the hips until your torso is nearly parallel to the floor. Remember, the angle of the knees remains the same. Basically, you are performing a stiff leg deadlift.
The arms are outstretched, and you should already be able to feel the tension of the band.
In one smooth contraction pull the band until your hands are in line with your chest. Here you can ‘squeeze’ for the peak contraction.
Return the arms to the start position and repeat.
#4: Resistance band press-ups
I’ll prewarn you, getting into position for resistance band press-ups is a bit of a fiddle. But it’s worth it because few other exercises engage the pectoralis major like this one. Also, the resistance band press-up is also a killer core, hip flexor, and triceps developer. And, if you practice them regularly enough, you’ll be amazed at how easy normal press-ups become.
Key deadlifting teaching points
Okay, for the fiddly bit, begin on your knees (it’s best to use a training mat) and, before adopting the press-up position, secure the training band around your back. Applying a double fold will create loops through which you can put your hands.
As though praying to your messiah, bend forward and position your hands on the training mat slightly over shoulder-width.
When you feel the band is secure and won’t ping off, raise your knees.
Now you’re ready to press-up – hurrah!
Under control, lower down until your nose is within an inch of the floor.
Firing through equally with both arms return to the start position.