Resistance bands are some of the finest exercise equipment around, be it for their versatility or their ability to offer greater range of motion. While weights are superior in that they allow you to add as much resistance as you want to your movement, bands prevent the use of momentum, leading to stricter form and fewer injuries (which can be especially helpful if suffering from back or shoulder pain). Another advantage is that you can use bands to isolate muscles you want to target in ways that are not possible when using free weights.
So if you’re stuck with nothing more than a pair of resistance bands to your name, we’ve outlined 10 exercises you can do at home.
1. Bench Press
Wait a second — you can bench press without using weights? No, this isn’t a parallel universe: you can perform the bench press or incline bench press without the use of dumbbells or a barbell, and the way to do that is by grabbing a resistance band and wrapping it underneath your shoulders while lying flat on the ground. This will activate the entirety of your chest and strengthen it.
2. Chest Press
The chest press, like the bench press, targets the whole chest and can be done via the use of bands. It’s a great alternative to benching if you’re prone to any kind of shoulder pain since unlike benching, it does not incorporate the shoulders. In order to perform the chest press, you put the band under your back foot and press the band straight in front of your chest while lunging.
3. Bent-Over Row
The bent-over row is an esteemed full body movement that works all of your back muscles at once. It’s hard to go wrong with an exercise like this, and when you do it with resistance bands, the risk for injury will shrink as fast as your muscles will grow. By strengthening your back muscles, you in turn will reduce the likelihood of developing back pain in the future and improve your posture over the long run. To perform this exercise, you will stand on the band with your feet shoulder width apart, and with a slight bend you will pull the bands to your hips.
4. Lat Pulldowns
Whereas the bent-over row has you pulling your band up, the lat pulldown mixes things up by having you pull your band down, meaning the band must be attached to something above you rather than beneath your feet. This movement does an excellent job of isolating the latissimus dorsi, which will help form the “V-shape” in your back. The way you perform this movement is by attaching the band to an object such as a door, and sitting on a bench or chair. Once in this position, pull the band downwards and back until your hands are at chin level.
5. Front Squat
Performing a front squat would seem to be challenging when using bands rather than weights as your main form of resistance. But as is the case with the other exercises on this list, there is a way to emulate a gut-wrenching squat without even touching a weight. First, stand on the band with your feet shoulder-width apart. Then, place both hands over your shoulders and squat down while moving your hips back until they are slightly lower than your knees. Once in this position, push back up to your original position and repeat.
6. Calf Raises
Strong calves may not jump out at you in the mirror but are functionally useful, as they help stabilize your knees and prevent some of the nagging joint pain that is often experienced later in life. Luckily, there is no better way to strengthen your calves than performing calf raises, which can be done easily and efficiently with a quality set of resistance bands. Simply stand on the band and keep your arms at ear level, then push your feet up until standing on your toes, at which point you will lower your feet slowly until your heels are near the ground.
7. Bicep Curls
Curls are an essential arm-building exercise that isolate the bicep, the front part of the arm. Aside from being the most aesthetically pleasing muscle, strong biceps go a long way towards improving performance in other exercises such as pull-ups and rows and thus can be rendered useful. In order to perform bicep curls, you must have both feet on the band and pull your arms toward your shoulders until squeezing the biceps.
8. Overhead Tricep Extensions
It is said that triceps form two thirds of the upper arm. So while curls will fill out those aesthetic biceps, overhead tricep extensions will gets your arms looking bigger, stronger and fuller, while simultaneously working your core. To perform this movement, you must bend your elbows so as to start with your hands behind your neck, then extend them upwards before lowering into the initial position. In order to get the most out of each rep, you should keep your biceps at ear level while flexing your abdomen.
9. Overhead Press
The overhead press is the consummate full body exercise, working your chest, arms, upper back, and most notably your shoulders. What’s more, it can be done via the use of resistance bands! To master this exercise, place both feet on the middle of the band and position your hands at the height of your shoulders. Then, while tightening your core, push your arms up to extension before slowly bringing them back down.
10. Lateral Raise
The middle deltoid is an oft-neglected muscle and is left out in most commonly practiced shoulder exercises. That can, and will change if you implement the tough, yet rewarding lateral raise to your routine. The key is to do a significant number of reps under light resistance in order to obtain the optimal effect. You’ll want to place your front foot on the band, your hands at your sides and your palms facing inwards. Once in this position, lift your arms until they are parallel to the floor and bring them back down.
Now that you have a series of exercises you can perform via the sole use of resistance bands, you can churn out a workout in the confines of your own home without having to worry about aggravating any injuries.