Advanced Resistance Band Exercises

Grab those resistance bands you use for pull-aparts and start considering them essential pieces of training equipment. Because they are... at least if you want to take your workouts to the next level.

Test out these four training methods. You'll see results (pretty quickly) with your technique, strength, and even size.

Reactive neuromuscular training (RNT) will improve your technical ability to do any exercise pattern. When the bands pull you in one direction, you'll automatically resist them, putting you in a better position.

You're essentially getting pulled into or toward a poor position. When you resist that pull, you'll naturally correct the problem. This works as a teaching tool. It's perfect if you're feeling a bit rusty on a lift. If you're already proficient, you can use it to overload a specific muscle group.

The Setup

Choose an appropriate tension level. An ultra-mini or mini band is more than enough tension with this method. Remember, the band will stretch quite a bit, increasing the tension.

Setup will depend on the exercise, but it'll be similar regardless. Make sure the bands are even and secure. Ensure that they're pulling you towards a direction you're trying to resist.

Powerlifters typically use this method to overload a lift and spare their joints. But this method is also great for sneaking in more reps and increasing volume. Even just using a light resistance band for assistance can create an opportunity to get several more reps. The benefit from the assistance will depend on the band you use and your abilities.

It'll also give you a sense of comfort, so you can go through each rep with more focus. For example, when bench pressing with a reverse band, you actually have to lock your upper back into the bench and pull the bar down towards your chest to initiate a rep. This will end up feeling much different from a regular bench press.

The Setup

Make sure the bands are tensioned evenly. One band may be older than the other and throw everything off. You also need to make sure the bands are even (length-wise) and secure on both sides. The last thing you want to use is a defective band.

The setup will vary between lifts and how much assistance you want, but make sure the band runs in a perfectly vertical line from its anchor to the barbell collar.

The band you choose will depend on the exercise and how much you want it to be unloaded. If you're going to squat or deadlift heavy, use a pair of strong or thick bands. If you're using the bands to just assist in a few extra reps on a bench press, a single mini-to-average band looped around the center of the bar does the job.

Stick to the major compound exercises since these lifts can be overloaded the easiest and will offer the most benefit.

Accommodating resistance is the most common way to use bands. This method alters the strength curve, giving you a better mechanical advantage to accelerate through the top portion of the lift. It lets you place more tension on target muscles through the full range of motion, leading to muscle growth and strength.

While it's more common to use this method with compound lifts, you can also use it with accessory work and even machine-based exercises. Just be cautious when anchoring your bands down.

The Setup

Setting up is similar to the other methods. Your bands MUST be even in tension, and the setup will dictate which ones you select. A little goes a long way with band tension.

There are several ways to set up bands. You could double them up, looping one through itself, forming a triangle, or use other options. Pick one and keep using it the same way, so you know if you're progressing on an exercise.

You might've done this before with a heavier load, but try doing it with higher reps or short, timed-based sets to keep your training fresh.

You can add bands to your plyometric training in two ways: extensively or intensively.

Doing plyos "extensively" means you'll do each rep submaximally. This may sound counterintuitive, but it's where most lifters should begin. It helps create rhythm and timing. More importantly, it builds tendon and lower-body strength.

The resistance bands are unloading your bodyweight on impact. Then they allow you to jump higher at less of an energy cost. This is powerful but can also be dangerous if you haven't already built up the ability to handle the load.

Do extensive sets for 10-20 jumps or 10-20 seconds with ample rest between. Slowly raise the volume over time.

Intensive plyometrics are the opposite. Do these maximally to fire up the CNS before a workout or big lift, which is game-changing! Do the intensive exercises for lower reps: 3-6 reps focusing on max power.

The Setup

Make sure the bands are tensioned evenly. Loop or tie the bands securely around a pull-up bar or power rack. The band you need will depend on the type of plyo you're doing and possibly even how much you weigh. If you're heavier, you may need a band with more tension.

When doing rhythmic extensive plyos, you just want to pull gently on the bands with your hands, giving yourself enough pull to complete the exercise unloaded. When performing the intensive variations, pull more aggressively, almost holding an isometric row at the armpits before initiating the jumps. This will give you the greatest carryover into assisting the jump.

Regardless, it's important not to rely on the band solely without ample drive and engagement from the lower body.

This method is also great in assisting plyo or clap push-ups. Loop a band across the safety pins of a power rack and get into the push-up position with the band across a comfortable spot below your chest.

Drop down explosively before pushing away from the ground and rebounding your body into the air. Follow the same guidelines as the intensive plyos.

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Brandon Holder is the strength and conditioning coordinator of the Fairfax County Police Department. He has a diverse coaching experience working in the private sector, along with stops in the collegiate setting. He's competed in powerlifting and strongman competitions and holds certifications through US Weightlifting and US Track & Field. Follow on Instagram