Resistance bands have a wide variety of uses, one of which is stretching. If you have a set of resistance bands and you want to learn how to stretch with them, you’ve come to the right place. We are going to explain exactly how and why you should stretch with resistance bands. Afterward, we have a full body resistance band stretching routine featuring 12 banded stretches that together target your legs, hips, back, chest, and shoulders.
The resistance bands we use for stretching are 41” loop resistance bands. These are the most useful resistance bands you can get as you can do everything from warm up, workout, and cool down to rehab and joint mobilization.
Stretching with a resistance band allows you to create tension while moving through the stretches. What we mean by tension is that you are actively pulling the band apart and really reaching into the stretch, allowing your muscles to elongate and relax.
Stretching with resistance bands is one of the best ways to increase your flexibility and range of motion. You can think of your resistance band like a partner who is there to help you with assisted stretches. By using a resistance band, you can get deeper into a stretch. Moreover, you can do so at your own pace. You can slowly pull the band to get deeper and deeper into a stretch, which will ultimately make you more flexible and more mobile. Without bands, your ability to increase flexibility is limited as it is hard to get deep into a stretch without assistance.
And while this kind of assisted stretching can be done with a rope or a towel, the elasticity of the band grants you more control in the depth of your stretch and it makes for a more comfortable and easier stretching experience.
Overall, the goal when stretching with bands is to get deeper into stretches, and do stretches that you’d otherwise not be able to do due to a lack of flexibility. Overtime, you will see significant improvements in your flexibility and after every banded stretching session your body will feel loose and relaxed.
Stretching exercises with bands can be done before or after a workout. They can also be done whenever you feel tight or you want to work on your flexibility. This means morning, afternoon or night.
The only thing that should be noted is if you are doing the stretches before a workout, you should limit the hold time. You don’t want to elongate your muscles before a workout as that will negatively impact your muscles performance during the workout. So, if you do these before a workout, move through the stretches dynamically (move in and out of the stretches with short pauses). This will give your muscles and joints a bit of laxity to improve range of motion and mobility without elongating the muscles.
Conversely, if you are stretching with bands after a workout or at any other time during the day, you can hold the stretches for 20-30+ seconds. You can hold for as long as you’d like really, but anything less than 20 seconds won’t really improve your flexibility. It can help you feel better, but it won’t actually lengthen the muscles in any efficacious way.
Note: adding in some dynamic band stretches after a workout is also great for muscle and joint recovery. You’ll notice some of the stretches are dynamic by nature of the movement.
So, to sum it up…
Before a workout: Dynamic, short stretches.
After a workout: 20-30+ second holds + dynamic stretches for mobility.
If you don’t add stretching to your fitness regimen, your muscles can shorten and become tight. This will negatively impact your muscles performance as they will be unable to extend all the way. Tight muscles can also cause pain in your joints, most commonly the hips, low back and knees.
Sitting also causes muscles to tighten, especially the hip flexors. So, not only is stretching important for those who do resistance training, it is also important for those who sit for extended periods of time every day.
It is vital to note that you want the right amount of flexibility, as being too flexible (hypermobility) can also negatively impact your performance as your joints won’t provide enough support and control.
Essentially, you want to maintain normalcy in your flexibility and range of motion. If you don’t stretch, your muscle will become tight, without a doubt. If you stretch too much, your joints lose normal stability. Therefore, you want to stretch, but don’t overdo it.
Using resistance bands to assist in your stretching regimen is great, as resistance bands will make life a whole lot easier. With bands, you will be able to do certain stretches more effectively, and for those who significantly lack flexibility, you can do stretches that you'd otherwise not be able to do at all.
It’s recommended that you stretch around 3 times a week. Ideally, you would stretch every other day. At a minimum, you should get a good stretch in twice a week. Again, remember, just like working out, there is a happy-medium. You don’t want to overtrain just like you don’t want to overstretch.
On the flip side, stretch if you feel tight. You don’t have to do a whole routine. For example, if your hamstrings feel tight, then do a couple hamstring stretches. Don’t worry too much about over-stretching, as you really have to overdo it to become hyperflexible. Like you almost have to purposely become hyperflexible by stretching for long sessions very regularly.
Do each stretch 2-3 times for 30-60 seconds if you are training to improve flexibility. With that, your stretching routine shouldn’t be more than 20-25 minutes. If you don't have that much time, even 10 minutes is enough. Just do each stretch one time. Some stretching is better than no stretching.
If you are doing some dynamic stretches before a workout, then it can be 5-10 minutes in total. Do the stretches like reps, moving in and out of the stretch with short pauses at peak stretch.
How do you use resistance bands for flexibility?
Stretching with resistance bands to improve flexibility is just like stretching without bands, except you are using the bands as leverage to get deeper into the stretch. So, for most stretches the positions will be the same, you just have a band to add tension. You can basically think of the band as you would assisted stretches with a trainer or partner. It is there to help you get into and deepen the stretch. However, you have all of the control.
The best way to teach you how to stretch with resistance bands is to show you…
Below are the 12 banded stretches that we use at SET FOR SET on a weekly basis. We used our yellow resistance band, which is our lightest band, for these stretches since we are doing certain upper body that require the band to stretch more. Moreover, we didn’t want to have to keep switching between bands. The yellow is good for lower body too. However, for lower body banded stretches, heavier resistance bands are also very effective, like our green or blue band.
Here are the 12 resistance band stretches from the video in picture format with how to's...
1. Spinal Rolldown
Step onto the band in the middle and grab both ends and then stand up straight. Slowly roll your neck down, then your back, slightly resisting against the band. Keep rolling down, feeling each vertebrae as you bring your head towards your legs. At this point you can grab the back of your legs to deep the stretch. Once you reach peak stretch, hold the position. When you are ready, roll back up to the standing position. Repeat as needed.
Muscles targeted: Upper Back, Mid Back, Low Back, Glutes, Hamstrings
2. Standing Shoulder Pass Through
Hold each end of the band with your palms facing forward and the band on your backside. Bring your arms out to your side slightly to make the band taut. Slowly raise your arms back and up over your head and then to the front of your body. Stop when the band reaches your hips and then slowly bring it forward and up and over your head to your backside again. Repeat this for 8-10 reps. This is a should joint mobility band exercise so there is no need to pause at any point. Your shoulder complex muscles will also be engaging in a dynamic stretch.
Muscles targeted: Chest, Shoulders
3. Crossover Overhead Lateral Reach
Hold the band, palms in, at upper thigh level and about hip width apart. Cross your right leg over your left, so your right foot is on the left side of your left foot. Raise the band up directly over your head, keeping it taut in your hand, then lean to your right side and feel the stretch. This is a dynamic movement so you are doing a quick stretch then returning through the same movement pattern to the starting position and repeating on the opposite way. Do one side, then the next side for as many reps as necessary. We recommend 5-8 reps on each side.
Muscles targeted: Lats, Obliques
4. Around the World Pass Through
Hold the band at a little more than shoulder width apart, keep it taut, palms in. Get into a hinge position with your upper body bent over. Slowly rotate your body to the side then up. When you reach a standing position pass the band over your head and behind your back like a shoulder pass through. Once it reaches your glutes, bring it back up and over while rotating down and to the side, back into a hinge position with your upper body bent over. When you reach that bent over starting position, rotate to the opposite side that you started with. So each full rotation you go back the same way you came from (i.e. right to left, left to right, right to left, rather than right to left, right to left).
Note: Try to keep your hips squared forward.
Muscles targeted: Hamstrings, Low Back, Chest, Shoulders
5. Crossover Leg Reach
Step on foot onto the band with your hands grabbing each end. Bring your other foot over the foot that is on the band into a crossover standing position (so, left foot is on the right side of your right foot). Grab the band at a level that allows your to pull yourself down into the stretch. You may need to adjust your hands on the band so it provides more tension and you can hold yourself in position with it. Your knee that is in front will be slightly bent. Hold this position for 20-30+ seconds, then repeat with the opposite foot crossed over. Do each side for 2-3 20-30+ second reps.
Muscles targeted: Low Back, Hamstrings
6. Neck Stretch
Step onto the band with your right foot, at about the halfway point. Grab the outer side of the end of the loop band with your right hand and stand up straight. The band will be running vertical along side your leg. Your arm will be straight down and by holding the band your shoulder will be forced down. Using your left hand, gently place it on the side of your right temple area and slowly bend your neck to the left side. Keep your body squared forward and your shoulder should not be leaning. Hold the stretch as necessary. However, you don’t want to hold this one too long though. You can adjust your head position to target different areas of your neck. Repeat on opposite side.
Muscles targeted: Neck
7. Quadruped T-Spine Rotation
Get into a quad position with your knees hip width apart and your hands shoulder width apart. Place your left hand on the band and wrap the other wind around your right shoulder. The band should be tight from the starting position, which has your right hand at your ear. Slowly rotate your thoracic (right elbow to the sky). Pause at the top, and then lower back down (your hand should stay at your ear. The band will provide more tension as you rotate up, causing your mid to upper back muscles to be more engaged in the stretch. Do a number of reps with pauses at the top and then repeat to the opposite side. This is a t-spine banded mobility exercises so it is dynamic, not a static stretch.
Muscles targeted: Mid Back
8. Seated Forward Reach
Sit on the floor with legs extended and together. Loop the band around both feet. Grab the band at a level you are comfortable with (you may need to adjust). Use the band to help your body fall over your legs. This is a static stretch, so you can hold it for as long as you’d like. As you are holding the stretch, try to go deep and deep, ever so slightly.
Muscles targeted: Hamstrings, Low Back
9. Supine Single Leg Adductor Stretch
Lie on the floor and loop band around the right foot, grabbing the resistance band with your right hand. Grab the band at a point where you have good leverage and tension. Gently lower the right leg out to the side and towards the floor until you feel a stretch in your inner thigh. This is a static stretch so hold as long as necessary. Repeat on opposite side.
Muscles targeted: IT Band & Hip Adductors
10. Supine Single Leg Abductor Stretch
Lie on the floor and loop band around the right foot, grabbing the resistance band with your left hand. Grab the band at a point where you have good leverage and tension but you can also keep your back to the floor. Straighten the left leg out on the floor and gently lower your right leg across your body and to the left as low as you can go. Feel the stretch in the right hip and glute. This is a static stretch so hold as long as necessary. Repeat on opposite side.
Muscles targeted: Hip Complex, Quads
11. Supine Single Leg Bent Stretch
Lie on the floor and loop band around the right foot, grabbing onto the band with both hand. Bring your leg straight, then slowly using the band for tension, bend it down to a 90 degree angle at the side of your body. Keep your leg bent and down as comfortably as you can by pulling at the band. Feel the stretch in your hip complex. This is a static stretch so hold as long as necessary. Repeat on opposite side.
- Hip Complex
12. Supine Single Leg Stretch
Lie on the floor and loop band around the right foot, grabbing onto the band with both hand. Be sure to use enough tension to keep your leg as straight as possible. Straighten your right leg as much as you comfortably can while keeping your left leg bent on the floor. Gently pull your right leg towards you, feeling the stretch in the back of your leg. This is a static stretch so hold as long as necessary. Repeat on opposite side.
Muscles targeted: Hamstrings
Related: Check out these 7 resistance band leg stretches for tight or sore legs
You can use the above banded stretching & mobility exercises for both warm up and cool down (or when you are at home in need of stretch). Make note of the reps and time for the post work vs warm up stretching routine.
Post Workout Resistance Band Stretching Routine
Warm Up Resistance Band Stretching Routine
Get yourself a set of resistance bands for stretches, flexibility and mobility training!
You can also use these bands for resistance training. Check out 24 effective resistance band exercises for building muscle and losing fat.
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