Resistance band workouts have seen a growth in popularity over the last two years, largely due to the fact that so many of us have been forced to train from home.
But, the appeal of resistance bands isn't only because they're cheap and easy to use ‚Äď although that alone is a great reason to get some. Exercising with bands offers a host of training benefits outside of using equipment or doing bodyweight workouts.
The most important benefit is the fact that you can easily use them to replicate the majority of exercises carried out in the gym. Whether that's a deadlift, a squat or bicep curls, you can mirror the same movement patterns and receive similar benefits to using barbells and dumbells.
Another plus point is the versatility when it comes to modifying the resistance of the bands. As well as being able to increase you're training level by purchasing a thicker band, you can also modify the resistance by making slight adjustments to the positioning when carrying out an exercise.
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In our Real Workout series, we work with fitness professionals around the world to find the best workouts being used in gyms and studios to train real people. We‚Äôre not looking for quick fixes like ‚Äėhow to get killer abs‚Äô, instead we want to give clear honest advice on functional exercises that can be done by anyone, with a focus on developing the body in the right way.
We headed over to Sweat It, one of London‚Äôs most popular functional studios for HIIT and strength and conditioning, to run through some of the best resistance band exercises for the lower body with Zack Mills, an experienced trainer who specialises in fat loss, strength and conditioning and an overall healthy, balanced lifestyle.
Muscles worked: Hamstrings, glutes and core
How to do it: Deadlifts are by far one of the best and most fundamental compound exercises you can do to build strength. They‚Äôre not easy to get right though and people spend years working on their form to perform them safely and effectively. Using a band to carry out the movement is a great way to start developing the movement as it‚Äôs significantly safer than using a barbell, but also adds on a level of resistance that makes the exercise challenging.
Place the band on the floor and step onto it with the centre of the feet about shoulder-width apart. Reach down by pushing your bottom and legs backwards (it‚Äôs not a squat), whilst keeping your upper body straight, and grab the ends of the band loop with both hands. Pushing the hips forward, lift the bands as your body straightens to a standing position. Hold for a second then lower down into the base position.
Safety tip: Keep the shoulders pinned back throughout the whole movement and the chest proud.
Banded bear walk
Muscles worked: Glutes, shoulders, core
How to do it: Placing both hands on the floor directly below your shoulders and your feet hip-width apart, your knees should be bent and held a couple of inches from the floor and the resistance band looped around your waist and attached to a static object. With a completely straight, table-like back walk your hands and legs forward whilst maintaining your core and back position. Take a few steps forward until the resistance of the band is too much, then walk backwards.
Safety tip: Start with the feet hip-width apart and don‚Äôt let your feet come together.
Banded squat press
Muscles worked: Legs, core, shoulders
How to do it: When it comes to working a vast amount of the body, there are few movements as effective as the squat and press. Step onto the band with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold the top part of it over the shoulders. Squat down with your back as straight as possible keeping your heels firmly on the ground then push up to a standing position. As you reach the top of the stand, push your hands up above the shoulders. To reset, lower the arms back down to shoulders then drop back into the squat with a controlled movement.
Safety tip: Keep the feet hip-width apart, engage the core and sit back into the hips.
Banded donkey kicks
Muscles worked: Core and glutes
How to do it: Adopt a table-top position and hook the end of the band around the foot and place both hands above the other end. Drive the right foot back behind you extending as far as you can. Focus on activating the glute muscle as you push the leg back then slowly control it back to the start position. Perform the movement for 60 seconds before switching over to the other leg.
Safety tip: Make sure your shoulders are directly above your outstretched hands for the whole motion.
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Banded good morning
Muscles worked: Back of legs and lower back
How to do it: Stand on one end of the band with feet hip-width apart, hook the other end of the band behind the shoulders, holding in place with your hands. Hinge at the hip with a small bend in the knee to activate the hamstrings and the lower back.
Safety tip: Ensure that your back stays completely straight throughout, if you lack mobility (which is common) then only move to the point where you can maintain this back position.
Lying leg extension
Muscles worked: Legs
How to do it: A great option for people who are struggling with squats or need to work on imbalances or recovery. Lie on your back then bend the knee, hooking the band under the foot. Holding the band firm with tension, extend leg to straight and return to the start position with a controlled movement.
Safety tip: Make sure the band is hooked firmly into the centre of the foot to avoid unwanted band whipping.
Banded broad jumps
Muscles worked: Legs and core
How to do it: Attach the band to a solid structure behind you and position it around the waist. From a squat position, jump forward with both legs and land comfortably with the full length of the foot. Quickly speed step back into the start position and repeat.
Safety tip: If you‚Äôre jumping too far and landing on the forefoot or with one leg before the other, pull back an inch.
Try this workout
Carry out every exercise with only 15 seconds rest between each one. At the end of the full workout rest for two minutes then repeat. Complete the whole series of exercises three times.
Note: The majority of exercises focus on good form and controlled movements, not speed.
- Banded deadlift x 10
- Banded bear walk x 8
- Banded squat press x10
- Banded donkey kicks x 8 on each leg
- Banded good morning x 10
- Lying leg extension x 8 each leg
- Banded broad jumps x 8
- 2-minute rest
Get the right resistance band
The popularity of resistance band training in recent years has meant there's a whole load of long pieces of rubber to choose from. But, although it may be the simplest piece of kit you're ever likely to buy, you still need to make sure you get the best one for the job at hand. Here are some of the best value options out there to get your training on point.
Tomshoo Resistance Loop Bands
The most difficult thing when buying resistance bands is getting the right tensile strength for the workout you're doing. Each band offers a different level of resistance, so what works for a bicep curl is going to be significantly less effective if you're training larger muscle groups like the back or legs.
This set offers a selection of the major resistance band levels so you can switch the one you use for each workout depending on your strength. In addition, the set also comes with some handy accessories that can easily be added to a workout to include new exercises.
The other great thing about this set is the prices as buying individual resistance bands is likely to cost you a lot more money.
Sunpow Pull Up Assistance Bands
Another good option if you want to pick up a range of resistance strengths at an affordable price, these 100% natural latex bands offer 5lbs of resistance all the way up to 170lbs. They also come with a 1-year warranty ‚Äď although we've never found a resistance band that didn't last many times longer than that ‚Äď and have a handy little carry pouch.
Are you a trainer or studio who would like to feature in an exercises series? If so we‚Äôd love to hear what training experience you can bring to our readers. Send us an email at [email protected].