strength training with resistance bands

Strength Training 101: How to Use Resistance Bands for Quick Gains

July 06, 2018 1 Comment

Learn the essentials of Strength Training with Resistance Bands and take your power and explosion to the next level.

strength training with resistance bands

Technique is everything when you're strength training. Without it, you can kiss goodbye any chance of being a muscle-bound Adonis. But, what does "technique" mean exactly?

You might think to have "technique" means just having proper posture and form during your workout. However, there is more to it than just that. Your technique also includes the equipment you use and how you use them (exercises and methods). 

You need to know how to create a better workout if you want to take your intermediate workout skills to the next level.

As you stumble into the gym, you'll notice the intense bodybuilders and heavy lifters improve their technique using chains and bands.

Chains offer an added element of stability, not to mention, it looks badass. Bands offer a way to train explosiveness. They also add resistance on the eccentric part of the movement and during the entire concentric part of the movement, as big lifts only require full power through a small range of motion (when you reach the top of the movement, tension is much less).

Unfortunately, chains are not commonly found in gyms, so you'll want to improvise a substitute for those 100 + pound chains. You can do this with resistance bands by looping a weight plate through them and hanging them on both sides of the bar.

Resistance bands come as a shocking surprise for most, as they are one of the easiest ways to increase your fitness level and technique. It's crazy how much greatness some rubber can offer. 

Before you eyeroll about the idea and give up reading, let's consider the positive effects of resistance bands.

strength training with bands

Transforming Your Workout Technique with Resistance Bands

It's easy to overlook resistance bands as a possible solution for quickly increasing your gains during each workout. Being resistance bands are typically a forerunner fitness item used in most beginner-level workout videos and programs. This is why bands have people thinking it's not suitable when you get to an intermediate level. However, resistance bands can be an addition to your daily workout in the gym that pushes you to a more advanced level of training.

Thankfully, with the rise in social media, more people are realizing this as they see pros using bands in various ways. 

HOWEVER, attaching resistance bands to a machine or barbell can add as much as 150-pounds of resistance to it, which can and will increase the intensity of your workout. Compared to lugging around chains, resistance bands give you something light that packs a huge punch in your workout.

You could even use bands on their own for a full body band workout (without equipment), especially if you are new to training...or if you are traveling and don't have access to weights.

Using Resistance Bands for Ascending Strength Exercises

Most people use fitness bands and chains to help intensify any exercise that promotes an ascending strength curve. But, what does this mean to you if you're not overflowing with bulking knowledge?

Essentially, you can breakdown exercises into three specific strength curves: ascending, bell-shaped and descending. Each one differs based on the point of stress put on the muscles during each rep.

  • Ascending Strength Curve - Any workout that feels easier and less tense on your muscles when you reach full extension, you consider it an ascending strength curve. Often, you might associate these with workouts like the leg press, squat or even bench press. When you complete the movement in full extension, you put less strain on your muscles.
  • Parabolic/bar-shaped/concave Strength Curve - Infusing both ascending and descending strength curves, this strength curve offers you relief during both full extension and full flexion. You'll begin the workout using minimal tension, use most of your muscle during the middle of the rep and decrease as you finish to the other endpoint. Arm curls are a popular example of a concave strength curve.
  • Descending Strength Curve - Any exercise that requires more tension during full flexions, such as leg curls, are considered descending strength curves. Unlike ascending strength curve, which decreases tension throughout the range of motion, the descending curve increases the tension throughout the workout, until you finish the rep.

how to use resistance bands for strength training

The Startup: Beginning Your Workout with Resistance Bands

Transitioning from weighted-only workouts to weight-and-resistance band workouts takes some practice for beginners. It might seem customary to continue lifting the same amount of weights when you first start with the resistance bands. However, this leads to a very dangerous practice of hurting and straining yourself, causing irreparable damage to your muscles and bones. So you should go down in weight when adding resistance bands to the bar.

Although they are basically giant rubber bands, don't let these seemingly weightless options deceive you. They add resistance to your workout and help remove the ease of full extension during your ascending strength curve workouts.

So, if you are a beginner, it's recommended to start with the resistance bands with no weights first. Intermediate lifters can use a lesser weight than they normally use when adding bands to their lifts.

Practice with the resistance bands to get a better feel for them first. After you do one set, determine how much tension the bands added and the amount of weight you can handle during each set. Start off with a low weight first, then slowly build your way up until you reach an ideal weight class that works for you.


Keep in mind that your resistance bands need to be balanced equally on both sides. If the band adds more tension on one side, it will cause an uneven workout. Eventually, one muscle can grow significantly larger than the other side if you're not keeping the resistance balanced on both ends. The exception is if you are trying to work stability, but in this case, you need to work both sides with the same unstable, uneven weight.

Also, remember to keep enough slack on the band during the bottom portion of your movement. Failure to do so could lead to the straps falling off your weight machine or barbell during mid-set, leaving you frustrated and without full results.

Opt for loop resistance bands instead of ones that have two handles. These are also more likely to fall off during the bottom movement of your exercise, whereas a loop resistance band looks and works like a huge rubber band.

Here are a few exercises involving an ascending strength curve that can increase your results while using a resistance band.

5 Ways to Use Resistance Bands for Strength Training

1. Leg Press with Resistance Bands

During a leg press, you'll need to have two fitness bands on you since one won't always fit the full length. Tie together two resistance bands, centering it behind the seat. Take each strap and connect them to the closest side of the plate rack. Shorter individuals may find the lower plate rack better, while those taller may need the upper plate rack pegs to attach the bands. Trying out the leg press with just the band will help you determine which one helps add the most tension to your workout.

2. Bench Press with Barbell and Resistance Bands

On the bottom of your bench press, you'll notice a little bar underneath it that curves. Use this to hold one portion of the band and bring the other end to the end of the barbell. Use another and do it on the other side of the barbell (remember, equal distribution matters).

As you move upward to full extension, you'll feel the added resistance that helps pump your muscles even more. As you work your way down to full flexion, the bands should still add some slack to the bar to keep them securely on the barbell.

4 Chest Exercises with Resistance Bands

3. Deadlift with Resistance Bands

Put the loops of your two bands on the inside of the weights for the deadlift. This will help secure the bands onto the bar without it constantly falling off since there is no way to add slack during the end movement of the deadlift. Find an anchor point that's low on the ground to attach both sides (usually two small poles near the bottom of the deadlift). For added tension, stand on any platform box.

4. Squat with Bands

This exercise involves uses dumbbells, a squat rack or kettlebells as an anchor point. If you have a squat rack, attach the ends of each band to an anchor point and then place the other ends on the bar before putting the weighted plates on. If you're freestyling your squats, run the end of the band around the dumbbell or kettlebell handle. Next, you take the other end and run it through the loop to fully attach and secure the handles. Take the free end and wrap it around the bar before the plates. This will fully secure it during the entire motion.

5. Shoulder Press with Resistance Bands

Attach one end of each resistance band to an anchor point (usually a bar below the seat). Attach the other ends to the bar and add weight as needed, keeping the bands on the inside of the bar.

How to set bands up for power lifts & strength training?


Where to Get the Best Resistance Bands For Strength Training?

Some exercises require you to have two of these bands so you have added resistance on both ends of the bar. It's important to not use one because you could risk snapping it, which may cause more harm than good to your results. Remember to use the same band resistance on both sides to avoid overworking your muscles.

SET FOR SET Resistance Bands Sizes & Added Tension:

best resistance bands for weightlifting

Yellow (1/2") - 10 to 35 Pounds (Lowest resistance)
Black (3/4") - 30 to 60 Pounds 
Blue (1.25") - 40 to 80 Pounds 
Green (1.75") - 50 to 125 Pounds
Gray (2.5") - 65 to 170 Pounds

Best Set of Resistance Bands for Strength Training, Powerlifting, Weightlifting

If you're just beginning, try with two 20-to-35lb bands, progressing to 50lbs, 80lbs and then 120lbs. Remember that two 35-pound resistance bands add 70 pounds of weight to the exercise. Likewise, two 120-pound bands equal to 240 added pounds of weight. So, it's best to start off on the smaller end and slowly increase the resistance strength as you become more accustomed to the workout.

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1 Response


November 11, 2018

It would have been nice if you had recommended a set of bands and, perhaps, showed how to attach them to a home bench or power rack. There are a lot of bands on the market but many may only be suitable for Pilates and not for bodybuilding or power-lifting.

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