You’ve probably seen people doing workouts using resistance bands as an alternative to lifting weights. However, have you ever seen anyone using resistance bands in conjunction with the weights? For example, have you seen a lifter bench pressing with bands attached to the bar or curling dumbbells and bands at the same time? Though these variations might seem more of a novelty factor than anything, they could be welcome additions to your training.
Types of Resistance Bands
Before digging into why you should be using resistance bands, you have to first know which kind you should be using. There are actually many different types of resistance band products on the market, but the main discussion here is the bands themselves. There are some that look like surgical tubing – single elastic cords with a handle or apparatus on either end. Then there are some that are giant loops that look like grossly oversized rubber bands.
While the former can be good as a standalone piece of equipment, it’s the latter you should be using with the weights. This is because they’re the most versatile and one end can be easily anchored in order to stretch it while lifting.
Dumbbell Exercises Using Resistance Bands
Virtually any dumbbell exercise that has you standing to perform it could be done while using resistance bands. This could be a good alternative for someone training at home or on the road when bigger dumbbells may not be available, yet you still want to go heavy. Below are a few examples to get you started:
- Curls – Grab a band and a dumbbell in each hand. Stand on the other end of each band with either foot so that the band is slightly taut when your hands are at your sides. Then perform your dumbbell curls as per normal, stretching a band each time you curl a dumbbell up.
- Upright row – Your setup is similar to that of the dumbbell curl, only instead of curling each hand to your shoulder, you’ll perform upright rows, simultaneously pulling the dumbbells to your shoulders while stretching the bands.
- Overhead press – Step on one side of a band with either foot similar to the dumbbell curl above, then position the dumbbells at your shoulders in the starting position of an overhead press. Ensure your band doesn’t provide so much resistance that you’re not able to comfortably press the dumbbells all the way up.
- Double dumbbell row – Take a narrow stance with your feet, standing on the middle of a single band. Then grab a dumbbell in either hand while gripping either end of the band. Get into a position as if you wanted to do bent over barbell rows, only using dumbbells. As you row the dumbbells simultaneously to your torso, you’ll also be stretching the band.
Barbell Exercises Using Resistance Bands
Barbell curls, upright rows, and bent over barbell rows could all be done in similar fashion as their dumbbell counterparts just described. However, there are other barbell exercises that could easily be done while using resistance bands:
- Deadlift – The setup for this would be similar to the double dumbbell row described above. Drape each end of a band around the center section of a bar while you stand on the middle of said band. If the band isn’t taut before pulling the bar off the floor, “bunch” up some of the band between your feet so that there’s tension in the section of the band that runs from outside of your foot to the bar.
- Bench press – This is one of the absolute best exercises to do while using resistance bands. All you have to do is loop one end of the band around the bar (outside of the weight plates), run it underneath the bench itself, then loop the other end over the other end of the bar.
- Squat – Cinch one end of a band to the bottom of your squat rack, then loop the other end around the bar outside the weight plates. Repeat this on the other side. The big benefit here is that since a band’s resistance increases as it stretches, you can overload the top end of the rep where you’re much stronger to better work the legs.
- Lying triceps extensions – Grab a free standing bench and set a loaded EZ curl bar on one end. Loop a band around either end and under the bench similar to how you would for bench press. The only real drawback to this is that because the bar will already be under tension, you’ll probably need a training partner to pick the bar up and hand it to you as you lie down on the bench.
The only limit to the weight training exercises you can do while using resistance bands is only your imagination. While many strength and performance coaches prefer using resistance bands with big, compound strength movements such as the bench, squat, and deadlift, you can still use them to add a new level of difficulty to other exercises, too. When you feel like your program needs something new, try adding any of the above in place of their otherwise “regular” counterparts.