May 14, 2021 1 Comment
Lifting with resistance bands is a no-gimmick strength training method used by the greatest powerlifters across the globe. By combining resistance bands with your barbell lifts, i.e. Banded Squats, Banded Deadlifts, Banded Bench Press, and Banded Military Press, you can take your power and explosion to the next level (it's all about eliminating those strength curves!).
In this article, you are going to learn why you should add resistance bands to your weight lifting sessions and we are going to show you exactly how to do it.
Before we begin, we just want to make it clear that you need a specific type of resistance band for barbell lifts. You want 41 inch loop resistance bands, aka power bands. This is the only band that you can combine with barbell exercises. These are the types of bands we are talking about:
The great thing about these resistance bands is, they are so versatile. You can use power resistance bands in so many ways.
Technique is everything when you are 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 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, protocols, and methods).
You need to figure out a way to continually progress, maximize tension and muscle fiber recruitment, and create more effective workouts if you want to take your intermediate strength and power to a more advanced level.
One of those ways is with bands and chains...
You may have noticed some intense bodybuilders, weightlifters, and powerlifters at the gym (or on IG) using chains and bands.
What's the purpose of these implements?
With chains, you get an added element of stability training, as they dangle and sway when you lift, and you get a bit of a strength curve elimination, as when you are in the lowest phase of the lift, the chains are partially on the floor, which takes away some of their resistance, then when you come up, they are completely off the floor, allowing them to add their full weight to the barbell, which adds resistance to the easiest part of the lift (the top of the movement)...looking badass is just a bonus.
With bands, you can eliminate the strength curve too, just in a different, more effective manner, you can work on explosiveness, and you can also use them for stability by looping them through a plate or kettlebell and then hang them from the sleeves of the barbell...the best part is, they are a lot more portable than some 100+ pound chains!
This will all make sense as we provide some key examples further below...
It's easy to overlook resistance bands as an effective solution for increasing both strength and hypertrophy gains, being that resistance bands are typically a forerunner fitness item used in most beginner-level workout videos and programs or for people who exercise at home. This makes some people think bands are not suitable when you get to an intermediate level.
BUT, don't let these oversized rubber bands fool you!
Resistance bands might just be the addition your strength training workouts have been missing. If used correctly, bands will allow you to achieve a more advanced level of training...
Let us explain...
Most people use power resistance bands and chains to help intensify and make more effective any exercise that has ascending strength curve.
If you're not overflowing with bulking knowledge of strength curves, you probably have no idea what this means...
Let's explain strength curves and then get into how bands come into play.
Essentially, you can breakdown free weight 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.
By adding bands to the lift, whether that's a barbell squat, bench press, deadlift, or military press, you can eliminate the ascending strength curve.
This is because bands create more resistance as they stretch (elastic tension 101). So, when a free weight lift gets easier towards the top of the movement, like all ascending strength curve exercises do, the bands will be adding more and more resistance since they are anchored from a low point. Ergo, the movement doesn't get easier as your joints reach full extension. You get consistent tension on your muscles throughout the movement. This helps you gain strength towards the top of the lift, not just the bottom, and it promotes explosive power.
Let's take barbell squats as an example. A barbell squat will be the hardest when you are in the lowest position, coming up from the squat. If you have bands attached to the barbell on both sides during the squat, from a low anchor point, there will not be so much tension caused by the band in this low position, as the band isn't stretched much. So, while the band will add some resistance in this low position, it is not significant enough to make this low phase of the squat too difficult to come up from. However, as you keep coming up from the squat, the band starts to stretch more, adding more and more resistance. At the same time, the weight of the barbell (which is caused by gravitational force) is becoming easier, because your joints are in a more optimal range (the top of the movement is always easiest with barbell squats and other ascending strength curve lifts). Thus, the bands make the top of the lift feel about as difficult as the squat did at the bottom.
Put simply, the band adds resistance to the barbell squat in the top phase of the movement, where it is most needed, creating consistent tension and force throughout the entire lift.
This helps trainees build strength in the range of motion that is normally hard to build strength in, because if you were to put a load on the barbell that challenged you in this top position (your strongest range), you wouldn't be able to come up from the squat as it would be too heavy in the lowest phase of the movement (your weakest range).
This technique allows powerlifters, and anyone who employs it, to build strength through each phase of a lift evenly. By doing so, you are sure to break new PRs and become more explosive!
Attaching resistance bands to a smith machine or barbell using a squat rack can add as much as 170-pounds of resistance to the lift, depending on the size of the band.
41 Inch Power Band Sizes and Resistance Added:
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
The low range is when the bands are less taut, the high range is when the band is stretched more. So, at peak stretch, a gray 2.5 inch wide band can add a total of 170 pounds! Thus, at the bottom of the squat, it is adding around 65 pounds, and at the top of the squat, it's adding 170 pounds.
Needless to say, start with a light band when adding resistance bands to your barbell lifts and test out how it feels.
Eliminating strength curves, adding resistance, and maximizing tension & time under tension on the muscles is not the only effective way to use bands with barbells. You can also use them for stability training.
You can improve stability with resistance bands by looping a weighted plate through the bands then hanging them on both sides of the bar, as seen below. This can be done for any barbell lift, like squats, bench press, or military press. This is a great way to strengthen your stabilizer muscles, which, in turn, will help you become stronger and more stable in your heavy lifts (new PRs, baby!).
Transitioning from free weight-only workouts to free weight and resistance band workouts takes some practice for beginners. You may want to continue lifting the same amount of weight load when you first start with banded squats, bench press, or the like.
However, this is obviously not smart since the bands change the lift in a considerable way. They don't just add resistance, they also pull you down (which is great for building strength in the eccentric phase of the lift too by the way), so you need to remain very firm at all times.
The point is, you should go down in weight when adding resistance bands to the bar.
If you are a beginner to banded barbell lifts, it's recommended to start with no plates at first, just to get a feel for it.
Practice with just the resistance bands on the barbell. It'll feel surprisingly different.
After you do a set or two, determine approximately how much tension the bands added and the amount of extra weight from plates you can handle during each set (if you've be weightlifting for a while, you intuitively know).
Start off with a low weight regardless of how confident you are, then slowly build your way up until you reach an ideal weight load 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.
So, again, it's important to test the banded barbell lift without plates first.
Also, remember to keep enough tautness on the band during the bottom portion of your movement. You don't want the band to have slack in it at any point during the lift.
Now, here are a few exercises involving an ascending strength curve that can increase your results while using a resistance band.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Here is an example of a simple set up if you have a squat rack.
Simply attach a weighted plate or a kettlebell to a band, then loop the other side of the band on the barbell sleeve. Do the same for the other side (you'll need two bands of the same size). The bands will be dangling down from the ends of barbell. Then, perform the exercise as you normally would, but we must warn you, it's going to feel totally different with the bands/plates dangling to the sides. You will really need to focus on stability (go light to start).
Check this article out to see how it's done for bench press: Barbell Chest Exercises with Resistance Bands (it also includes other cool ways to use resistance bands on chest day at the gym).
At SET FOR SET, we have high quality, heavy duty power resistance bands made for weightlifting. Our prices are as unbeatable as the quality too!
Note: Some exercises require you to have two of these bands so you have added resistance on both ends of the bar. So, you will want pairs of the same size.
SET FOR SET Resistance Bands Sizes & Added Tension:
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 (Highest resistance)
If you're just beginning, try with two 10-to-35lb yellow bands, slowly progressing to the bigger sizes. 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.
More Resistance Band Resources:
May 13, 2021
Who said you can’t look cool while working out? Maybe you’ve never seen someone working out with a weighted vest on but take our word for it, if used properly, weighted vest workouts won’t only have you looking like a badass, they help you become that badass. In this article we will cover what are weighted vests, the benefits of weighted vests and lastly some weighted vest exercises to turn your workouts up to the next level.
Overall, weighted vests are a great tool for training that can help you lose weight, increase the intensity of your workout and have you looking and feeling better. We won’t go into too many details apart from the benefits of weighted vests as you can read our ultimate weighted vest buying guide. However, after reading this article on the benefits of wearing a weighted vest you might consider adding one to your normal workout routine.
The name is synonymous to what they are; put simply a weighted vest is made of strong material that allows you to add/subtract weight usually in the form of sandbags, custom steel bars or other weighted objects.
Weighted vest training follows the same essential principle of weight training, progressive overload referring to the method of gradually increasing the stress placed on your body to stimulate muscle growth.
Weighted vests are good for adding resistance/weight to exercises in order to increase the difficulty. Wearing a weighted vest while working out has a number of benefits. Weighted vests can make the simplest activities more challenging and rewarding.
We recommend using an adjustable weighted vest so that you have the capability of increasing/decreasing the amount of weight you use. Although it largely depends on the individual, we recommend starting with a weight that’s 5-10% of your body weight until you are comfortable and ready to increase the weight without injuring yourself or negatively impacting your technique.
Like anything else in life weighted vests can be bad for you if not used properly. Make sure to buy a weighted vest that fits you and start with a weight that is challenging yet allows you to do the given exercise with good form and technique. The best weighted vests are based on a few factors that should be determined on a case-by-case basis including fitness level, size of the person and activities where you will be wearing it. It is advised that people with back or neck problems consult with their doctor before using a weighted vest as the extra pressure on the spine could exacerbate the problem. Also, people with osteoporosis should consult their doctor about the pros and cons of using a weighted vest before attempting to workout with one.
Simply put, YES! Weighted vests are the perfect tool for losing weight. They make it more difficult to complete the exercise you’re doing which results in your body expending more calories to produce enough energy to get the job done. Harder workouts require more oxygen rich blood to be pumped into your muscles which makes your heart beat faster resulting in more burned calories.
Moreover, one study in Sweden had 69 participants in the lowest obese body mass index category (30-35) wear a weighted vest from 2kgs-11kgs for 8 hours a day for 3 weeks. The results showed the people wearing the heavier weighted vest lost fat mass while retaining muscle mass.
Even wearing a weighted vest while doing daily chores or walking can help you lose weight!
Weighted vests are good for building muscle through the process of progressive overload. Adding weight to your body will force your muscles to get stronger in order to adapt to the added weight. Most importantly, you need to go hard to fatigue your muscles enough for them to take notice that they need to get stronger.
Related: How to Build Muscle Mass
Because weighted vests are worn on your upper body and apply pressure to your shoulders, back and respiratory muscles; your heart-rate will rise quite quickly which makes it harder to breathe. Just stay calm, take deep breaths and this will help to improve your autonomic nervous function. Staying cool under pressure/stress in this way stimulates your parasympathetic system enabling you to better handle the fight or flight response.
Weighted vests target and work the muscles that are resisting the added load. For example, running with a weighted vest will work your legs, doing pull ups with a weighted vest will hit your back and arms while doing pushups will work your chest and arms.
By increasing the weight you’re supporting during cardio exercises your muscles are required to work harder to provide those muscles with oxygen rich blood. The increased strain on your body forces your lungs and heart to work harder which results in better lung and heart health. This mechanism is referred to as VO2Max. Improvements in your VO2Max will aid you in sustaining longer and more intense workouts. Apart from these benefits improved VO2Max has been shown in multiple studies to reduce stress and fatigue while also staving off illnesses such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. Last but not least, improved VO2Max has been linked to reduction in all-cause mortality and cardiovascular disease in healthy adults. If you don’t know where to begin you can simply throw on a weighted vest for your running or walking sessions.
Wearing a weighted vest is similar to weight lifting in the fact you’re increasing the load that your bones are bearing. Mind you, these weighted vest exercises should be considered weight bearing where you are supporting your own weight such as push-ups or squats. Carrying this extra load causes your body to stimulate cells called osteoblasts that synthesize new bone mineral called hydroxylapatite. Over time your bones become denser and stronger to support the extra weight. The musculoskeletal system is all connected so as your muscles get stronger, so do your bones and connective tissue. Having stronger bones is always beneficial but especially so as we grow older. You might be able to mitigate potential breakages after a fall or help to slow down degenerative bone diseases such as osteoporosis. The science is out on milk for aiding in building stronger bones so should we switch up the saying now to “Weight vests do a body good”? (That's a play on a Milk advert, if you didn't know).
Running with a weighted vest or simply working out with one on will help to improve your posture. By adding weight to your upper body your body will have to engage stabilizing muscles to keep you balanced. When leaning in any direction with a weighted vest on your body will be forced to counter balance the extra weight using proprioceptors. Proprioceptors are defined as sensory receptors that receive stimuli from within the body, especially related to position and movement. Therefore, the proprioceptors in your body have to work overtime while you’re wearing a weighted vest to keep you from falling in any one direction. After removing the weighted vest, your body will have improved its ability to balance. This improved balance helps in everyday life tasks but becomes invaluable as you get older.
Workouts with a weighted vest will enable you to get stronger, build muscle and increase your power and endurance much faster compared to working out without one. Strapping on a weighted vest then doing any number of exercises like push-ups, squats, pull ups, sprints or sit ups adds stress on your body which forces all your muscles to work harder.
Just try to do 10 pushups with a 20lb weighted vest on then try to do those same 10 pushups a few minutes later without the weighted vest. You will be amazed by the difference in difficulty. Do this a few times a week and you’re guaranteed to see great improvements in the number of push-ups you can do without becoming fatigued.
As mentioned above our weighted vest buying guide goes into depth about the fixed vs adjustable weighted vests. The clear winner is the adjustable weighted vest. With an adjustable weighted vest, you can easily switch up the intensity of your workout by adding or subtracting the weight.
Instead of doing the same boring workout routine over and over try to incorporate a weighted vest. For example, you can try to increase the weight in your vest a few pounds after every 10 air squats you complete. Try to complete 10 sets of 10 for a total of 100 reps with each set increasing in intensity. With weighted vests you can reduce your workout time while increasing your productivity, the best of both worlds!
Running or walking with a weighted vest is a simple implementation into your daily regimen. There are also weighted vests for dogs and children so you don’t have to exercise alone anymore! Training with a weighted vest allows you to workout in the same amount of space that your body naturally takes up which makes it a convenient option if you live in close quarters. Any exercise you can think of, be it jumping rope, squats, push-ups, sit-ups, deadlifts, squats and more can be enhanced with a weighted vest.
It might seem counterintuitive that we are adding weight to lose weight but working out with a weighted vest on drastically increases the number of calories you burn while exercising. It’s a basic fact that the added weight will force your muscles to work harder which requires more energy to be spent in the form of burned calories. More burned calories in the same or less time results in more weight lost.
Due to the fact weighted vests make your workout more difficult there are also some after effects such as increased EPOC (Exercise Post Oxygen Consumption). This increased EPOC kick starts your metabolism making your body more efficient in burning calories even after you’ve taken the weighted vest off. Lastly, as your muscles get bigger and stronger because of your weighted vest training your body will burn more calories to power those bigger muscles. Weighted vests are a great option to help with weight loss!
The military has been using rucksacks for ages to help improve performance. Now athletes are using these same techniques with weighted vests. Whether doing cone agility drills for sport specific enhancement or adding a weighted vest to your run, the bottom line is that your muscles will become stronger. Although the jury is out on how to apply the added weight, the exact amount of weight and what exercises are the most beneficial; stronger muscles generally lead to better performance.
The last benefit of weighted vests is that by increasing the weight only to your upper body is that your body is forced to engage your core to keep you upright. The increased workload on your core muscles can help to improve your posture by straightening out your back. When wearing the weighted vest, you should focus on keeping your back straight and shoulders back.
Generally speaking, bodyweight exercises are the best exercises to do when wearing a weighted vest. Don’t be that guy/girl who wears a weighted vest to do everything just to look cool, i.e wearing a weighted vest while bench pressing. If it doesn’t add to your workout then no need to wear it.
Here are some of the best bodyweight exercises to do with a weighted vest:
More bodyweight workout resources:
5 Minute Dynamic Warmup
Perform each exercise for 30 seconds or max reps with breaks as needed between each exercise. Take a 60 second rest after the end of the circuit and repeat the circuit 3 times.
*Start with a weight that you’re comfortable with in order to do these exercises safely and properly.
There may be affiliate links in this post where we might receive a small commission on purchases you make.***
May 08, 2021
If you want to turn the intensity of your core workouts up to eleven, you need to implement resistance band core and ab exercises. Bands don’t just add resistance to your core exercises, they also give you more exercise options and allow you to properly target your core through all three planes of motion. This is what to takes to develop a truly powerful, strong, injury resilient core...and, of course, the added benefit is a six pack with shredded obliques.
Your core muscles include the rectus abdominis, transversus abdominis, external obliques, internal obliques, multifidus, quadratus lumborum, multifidus, and erector spinae.
Together, these muscles surround the front, sides and back of your mid and lower trunk.
Each of these sets of core muscles are as important as the next. They protect your spine and give you strength and balance when bending, leaning or twisting. In fact, they provide stability for every single movement you make. Moreover, they help transfer force between extremities - the stronger your core is, the more powerfully you can move.
Note: Your hip flexors and glutes also play a very important role in stability, and they are often considered part of the "core".
To have a strong core, you must train your core in its entirety. This means targeting all the various muscles with a variety of exercises that move you through all three planes of motion - sagittal, frontal, and transverse.
First, let’s go over what kind of movements are sagittal, frontal and transverse.
Sagittal: The sagittal plane involves forward and backward movements, both with your body positioned vertically and horizontally...i.e. crunches, leg raises and planks.
Frontal: The frontal plane involves side to side movements...i.e. side planks, side bends, side planks with pulse.
Transverse: The transverse plane involves twisting/rotational movements...i.e. Pallof press, woodchoppers, Russian twists.
Exercises that resist movement also fall into these categories.
The side plank is anti-frontal, which is considered a frontal plane movement; The Pallof press is anti-rotation, which is a transverse plane movement.
What’s more, some exercises can fall into multiple categories. These are multiplanar exercises. For example, a Russian twist will work both the sagittal and transverse plane.
All in all, it’s important to build core strength through all three planes of motion, targeting your entire core from all angles. By strengthening your core in its entirety, you will have the strength, power, and injury resilience needed to combat whatever life throw at you.
Each plane of motion is important, but we’d go as far as to say the transverse plane is the most important. It is also the most overlooked. Transverse plane core work is the stuff that makes you hard to kill. So, don’t neglect it like so many trainees do!
Bodyweight exercises alone can train your core pretty effectively. However, resistance bands are a great way to turn up the intensity. Moreover, with bands, you open yourself up to more options for core exercises, it is easier to target certain core muscles and planes of motion, and you can stress your muscles differently.
With just your bodyweight, you are somewhat limited. If you think about it, the resistance during bodyweight core exercises is created by gravity, and gravity works in one direction, down. Thus, you have to position your body in a very specific way to target specific muscles. Even if you add free weights into the mix, like dumbbells or a medicine ball, it’s still all about gravity.
With resistance bands, you can create resistance from any angle simply by where you anchor the band. This gives you a lot more training variables to play around with.
When it comes to the transverse plane, this is particularly important. With bands, you can work the transverse plane properly as you can anchor the band to your side to create resistance and tension through a spiral/twisting pattern. It’s a lot harder to train the transverse plane effectively with just your bodyweight alone or with free weights.
All in all, bands are great for core workouts because you can increase resistance, you have more options for exercises in each plane of motion, and you can really hone in on certain muscles. There are so many ways to use resistance bands to intensify your core and ab workouts. Pretty much any bodyweight core exercise can be modified using bands, adding resistance and making the movement more difficult (thus increasing your core strength, power, and injury resilience), and you’ll have all the exercise options that apply specifically to bands thanks to elastic tension.
Getting yourself a set of bands for core workouts is no brainer. After you see our 5 resistance band core exercises, we are sure you’ll agree. And remember, these are just 5 of sooo many.
The resistance band heel touch is a type of crunch, so it mainly ab focused.
You wrap the band around your upper back and hold each end with your hands. By doing this, you are adding resistance to the crunch. The full range of motion brings your shoulder blades from touching the ground to up off the ground with your hands by your heels. You will feel a very strong contraction in your abdominals.
Plane of motion: Sagittal
Primary muscles worked: Rectus abdominis (particularly your upper abs)
Ideal rep range: 10-15 reps
The resistance band ab twist is the perfect example of a transverse plane rotational exercise. With free weights, this movement would not work the same because the resistance would be downward, making it more of an arm workout. Whereas with the band, the elastic tension is created horizontally, allowing you to truly create resistance through the transverse plane.
Note: This can also be done with a cable pulley machine to the same effect.
We really love this resistance band core exercise because it hits pretty much the entire core and it hits those deep core muscles, especially if you focus on maximum tension.
To do this exercise, anchor the band at sternum level. Step a few feet directly to side, so that the band is taut and your hips and body are perpendicular with the anchor point. Keep your arms extended at all times. Rotate towards the anchor slowly, when your arms are aligned with the anchor, rotate the opposite way 180˚. Your hips will be rotating as you twist back and forth. Keep your core tight throughout the movement.
Feel free to be explosive as you rotate away from the anchor (but always slow as you rotate back towards the anchor) once you get comfortable with this movement and your core strength improves.
Plane of motion: Transverse
Primary muscles worked: Rectus abdominis, transversus abdominis, external obliques, internal obliques, multifidus, quadratus lumborum, multifidus, erector spinae
Ideal rep range: 10-12 reps (each side)
You may have seen this exercise being down with a cable pulley machine. With a resistance band, you can do the side bend anywhere that you can anchor the band directly above you (i.e. a pull up bar).
The resistance band side bend is an oblique focused exercise, but it will also work your low back well.
Anchor the band directly above you and move your body just to the side of the band so it is shooting straight down in line with your working side’s shoulder. Bend to the side, leading the movement with your elbow. Your elbow should come down and touch your hip. Think of it like you are doing a side crunch. Hold the position for a second or two, then slowly come back up. Really focus on maximum contraction and move slowly. This is not an explosive exercise.
Plane of motion: Frontal
Primary muscles worked: External obliques, internal obliques, quadratus lumborum, and erector spinae
Ideal rep range: 10-12 reps (each side)
You’ll see people doing this exercise with dumbbells, and while it does work the transverse plane, it’s not as effective as it is with bands. This is because the tension is perfectly targeted in the direction of the movement (diagonal), whereas with dumbbells, most of the tension is focused on keeping the arms in position. You can still create force in a diagonal, spiral pattern, but the actual resistance is in a downward direction due to gravity. So, this exercise should be done with a resistance band for the best results.
To do this exercise, anchor the band to a low point (about ankle/feet level). Step away from the anchor until the band is taut. Your arms will be extended at the elbow at all times, so keep them straight and locked out. Bring your arms down to the side, in the direction of the band’s anchor, with your hips and trunk rotated towards the same direction. This is the starting position. With your arms straight, bring the band up diagonally to the contralateral side. You will be rotating at both your trunk and hips. At the highest point, your arms will be higher than your head and your arms will be perfectly aligned with the band. Slowly return back down to the starting position in the same path of motion.
With this exercise, you can be explosive on the way up, but be slow on the descent.
Be sure to target both ways, meaning turn your body around to work the opposite direction. Also, you can anchor the band at a high point above your head to do high to low woodchoppers.
This exercise is great for the oblique slings. The oblique slings are like an X across your trunk, so by doing both sides and both high to low and low to high, you work your oblique slings in all directions.
Plane of motion: Transverse
Primary muscles worked: This is an oblique sling focused exercise that works your external obliques, internal obliques, rectus abdominis, transversus abdominis, multifidus, quadratus lumborum, multifidus, erector spinae, as well as your shoudlers, upper back, and glutes
Ideal rep range: 10-12 reps (each side)
This exercise is very straight forward. It’s a lying leg raise with a band looped around your feet for added resistance.
Try to keep your legs as straight as possible when doing this exercise and the full range brings them from a few inches above to the ground to about perpendicular with your stomach.
Plane of motion: Sagittal
Primary muscles worked: Rectus abdominis (particularly your lower abs) and your hip flexors
Ideal rep range: 10-12 reps (each side)
Use these 5 banded core exercises to make a killer multiplanar core workout.
There’s no need to do countless reps. With the added resistance, you can treat your core like you would any other muscle, keeping reps within the 5-20 rep range each set.
With resistance bands, you will make your abs stronger and more defined. The added resistance will help promote muscular hypertrophy of your abs if you train hard and eat right. Moreover, the increased resistance makes it more difficulty, which means more calories burned, so even if they don’t grow, they will become more defined as you lose belly fat. Resistance bands are also great for making core moves, like the dead bug exercise, more challenging as your fitness level increases.
You can't spot reduce fat, so you will lose fat evenly around your body. However, the good thing is, with bands, core exercise become more challenging, which gets your heart rate firing up at a much greater degree. Higher heart rate means more calories burned, which is what fat loss is all about. If you keep at it, your belly fat will melt away.
If you want to take your core workouts to the next level, definitely get yourself of bands.
You’ll also be pleased to know that there’s so much more that you can do with bands. From warm up to workout to cool down, a set of bands will get a ton of good use.
More Resistance Band Targeted Exercises:
May 07, 2021 1 Comment
This Resistance Band & Bodyweight Circuit Workout is location independent, so save those excuses for someone else ;) It is a full body workout designed for anyone who wants to switch up their workout routine, and it's great for those who travel for work (or play) and don't have the time to hit the gym. Resistance bands and bodyweight exercises provide you with a low-cost, low-impact, portable full body workout that will kick your butt just as much as an intense workout at the gym.
Follow this effective total body resistance band circuit workout to get (or stay) summer ready. Leave your excuses at the door, but don't forget your bands!
This bodyweight and resistance band workout is for men and women who want to burn calories, lose fat, get tone, and build core strength. It's quick yet effective and it can be done anywhere!
Workout Routine: Circuit Workout
Complete 1 round of each circuit for the recommended time. Once you finish all 3 circuits, repeat each circuit for 1 more round. So, in total you will do each circuit twice. Make sure you use the rest periods wisely, this workout routine will have your muscles screaming and fat melting. If the exercise is one-sided make sure to perform the exercises on the opposite side for the second round.
Circuit 1 x 1 round
Circuit 2 x 1 round
Circuit 3 x 1 round
Repeat each circuit for 1 more round (do the single arm exercises on the opposite side for the second round)
Note: Rest 30 seconds after each round (total rest time will be 2.5 minutes)
Warm Up: Take 3 minutes to do this dynamic warm up before you start the workout.
This 21-minute full-body resistance band and bodyweight circuit workout is great for burning a lot of calories in a short amount of time. Use as much intensity as you can and focus on full range of motion with each rep. If you doing this workout right, you should definitely get a great pump and work up a mean sweat.
Make sure to stretch after completing this resistance band workout!
May 07, 2021
Have you ever seen those lifters with an excellent pair of quadriceps, and they have that little teardrop muscle right above their knee? That’s the vastus medialis muscle; one of four muscles that make up the quadricep. And yes, it’s often referred to as the “teardrop muscle.” Having a developed vastus medialis muscle is essential for strength and aesthetics but also is plays a primary role in maintaining a healthy and pain-free knee. Having this muscle developed is a true sign of one who doesn’t skip leg day. In this article, we will go over the:
Let’s get into it…
Before we get into the vastus medialis as a solitary muscle, we must look at it as just one muscle that compromises the quadriceps. This is because the vastus medialis never works alone and is always in unison with these other muscles. As mentioned, the quadriceps actually comprises four different muscles (quad=4) that function together to manipulate the legs.
All four of these muscles collectively lay on the upper thigh on top of the femur bone. The main function of the quadriceps is to extend the knee. However, it also plays a role in flexion of the hips, mainly acting by bringing the leg upwards which is seen during sprinting. This makes it essential in developing this muscle for athletic performance.
1) Vastus lateralis muscle: The vastus lateralis is the largest and most powerful muscle that makes up the quadricep. It sits on the outside of the leg and comes together inward towards the knee. This is the muscle that appears as a lump on the outside of the leg across from the “teardrop”.
2) Rectus femoris muscle: The rectus femoris is a large muscle that lays in the middle of the upper thigh between the vastus lateralis and vastus midialis. It’s shape is what’s known as “fusiform” in that it expands out into a cylindrical form and then tapers back. In addition to extending the leg, it it is also involved in the flexion of the hip/
3) Vastus medialis: The vastus medialis gets its name as it sits medially on the thigh or, toward the middle. Its main job is to help extend the knee and aid in tracking the patella.
4) Vastus intermedius muscle: The vastus intermedius lays underneath the rectus femoris on the upper two-thirds of the thigh. It is the deepest muscle that comprises the quadriceps and hardest to stretch.
These are the four muscles of the quadriceps. None of them work in unison, yet all have slightly different roles. Together, they make up one of the most powerful muscles in the human body. While each is unique, we’re now going to dive a little deeper into the vastus medialis.
The vastus medialis originates from the backside of the femur and traverses down the entire bone. It eventually reaches the bottom where it attaches to the middle of the “knee bone” or patella. While it works with all four quadricep muscles, it’s relationship with the vastus lateralis (which sits on the opposite side of the patella) is most dynamic. This is because the two of them act together by pulling the patella in opposite directions. By doing so, this keeps the patella in proper alignment.
Regardless of your goal or sport, training the vastus medialis is going to make a drastic impact on your development. It’s important to remember that it is impossible to specifically isolate this muscle as all exercises will be strengthening the quadriceps as a whole. Being that the quadriceps are the primary extensor of the lower leg, it plays a critical role in the vast majority of movements.
However, this article will try to isolate the specific importance that this solitary muscle plays. Even as part of the quad, it has a few specific attributes to the game.
1) Aesthetics: “Don’t skip leg day” is a meme in the fitness world which is generally aimed at trainees who are sporting legs that possess less than desirable development. That and “chicken legs”. That in itself is enough to illustrate that small legs aren't aesthetically pleasing. Having developed quads is a sign of time and commitment in the gym and is actually desirable by both men and women. Aesthetically, speaking the bulk of the thigh from the front comes from developed vastus lateralis and the vastus medialis.
If you were to do a quick google search, you would find that many trainees specifically look how to develop that “teardrop muscle above the knee”. They are talking about the vastus medialsi. This muscle really accents the entire thigh when you have spent the time to beef it up
2) Improved Performance: As mentioned, the quadriceps as a whole are critical to human performance. Athletes from all sports, even dancers who need to jump, benefit from having stronger quadriceps muscles. More so, if you are wanting to stay injury free during athletic events, you’ll also want developed quadriceps. Along with the hamstrings, the quadriceps make up a good portion of injuries seen in athletes.
Again, the vastus medialis is part of the quadriceps, so even if you are only concerned with the aesthetics, you will still receive the performance benefits.
3) Knee Stability: Providing a solid structure for the knee joint and mitigating knee injury is what makes the vastus medialis really stand out from the other muscles of the quadriceps. People who have a more developed vastus medialis have been found to be less likely to develop knee pain (study).
Specifically, a weak or imbalance in the vastus medialis has been found to be the primary cause of what’s know as patellofemoral pain syndrome. This makes it the main muscle that is examined and addressed in patients suffering from this pain.
So you know why you need a developed teardrop. Now let’s look at some of the best exercises (and modifications) you can use to specifically hit it. For example, some studies have shown that performing exercises with either a neutral foot position or externally rotated will result in the best activation of the vastus medialis.
Other studies have suggested that performing squat variations with isometric hip adduction will create higher activation as well. This is because the fibers at the bottom of the vastus medialis are connected to the adductor muscles. This means that their activation causes a greater base for the vastus medialis to contract from.
Hip adduction is when you bring your knees in towards each other.
One thing to keep in mind with exercise selection is that the vastus medialis has greater activation with greater flexion angles from 60-90 degrees. Therefore, selecting movements that create greater amounts of flexion will cause greater firing of the muscle fibers.
This should give you a better idea of the function of vastus medialis and some factors to employ to target it.
The wall sit with hip adduction is a great exercise for beginners or as a finisher to your leg workout. The wall sit effectively utilizes an isometric contraction in your legs to support the body in a sitting position against a wall. It burns but is a very efficient way to build strength in the legs. Still, it can be used for those just beginning their weightlifting journey or can also be used for rehab or those who have issues that don’t allow them to do squats. To create hip adduction, place an object in between the legs (i.e. medicine ball or wide foam roller) that requires the trainee to squeeze their legs together. Be sure it is of an appropriate diameter.
Tip: Sit down on the wall so that your legs are parallel with the floor. Often, trainees will “cheat” by sitting too high. Use time to adjust your load (i.e. 3x 0:30 seconds).
The squat is the king of legs. It’s the best multi-joint exercise for maximal leg development. The squat alone works excellent as you are able to put maximal load on your legs which is needed for muscle growth. However, if you want to try and activate your vastus medialis a bit more, do the same as the exercise above and add in hip adduction by placing a ball between your legs. When you begin, use lighter weight (i.e. either bodyweight squats or light dumbbells in each hand) until you become familiar with the movement.
Tip: Start with body squats until you become familiar with the movement AND you find an appropriate apparatus for hip adduction.
More squats. Just another variation of this awesome exercise. When performing squats, everyone’s foot position will vary according to their specific body structure. When wanting to focus on the vastus medialis, set up your feet with your feet rotate outwards a little more, around 40-45˚. Keep in mind that some trainees can’t do this because of their joints. Never force a movement that feels uncomfortable.
In order to activate the quadriceps to a higher degree, there needs to be a larger range of motion and flexion. This is done by using a narrow stance. The same concept applies to either a squat or leg press, making it easy to utilize in both exercises. You want to aim at getting your feet as close together while being able to still maintain balance. There is no need to have your feet actually touch, but they should be pretty close.
Having the heels elevated while extending the leg may cause higher activation in the vastus medialis. This can easily be done with squats and is actually often seen to assist trainees who have mobility issues. To perform this, simply place two small plates behind you when you squat. Once you un-rack the bar, place your heels on the plates to elevate them. Now perform squats as normal.
Tip: Be sure to also implement normal squats so that you do not overdevelop the quads while minimizing hamstring activation.
Related: Heel Elevated Squat Exercise Guide
Remember that the vastus medialis will have more activation at the lower end of the squat when there is more flexion. Therefore, you can take advantage of this by performing 1.25 squats or pulse squats.
A 1.25 squat is basically just a squat. However, with each rep, you go down, then come up 1/4th the distance then go back down before coming back all the way up (and that's one rep).
A pulse squat is the same idea but may contain 2-5 1/4th reps (within the one main rep) before coming back up.
This is a favorite exercise to do, and you definitely feel the burn right where you want it. The sumo deadlift with dumbbell or pile squats are amazing exercises to focus on the vastus medialis. You can perform this by holding two dumbbells but using one seems to work better as it’s easier to hold and allows you to use more weight. As for your stance, a sumo squat has a wide stance (approx. 1.5x shoulder width with your feet rotated outward) and a plie squat is even a little wider than the sumo (approx. 2x shoulder width with your feet rotated almost all the way out to the sides).
Tip: Use a large dumbbell and start by flipping it on one end. You can then grab the upper end with both hands. This works great with high reps.
Related: Best Dumbbell Exercises for Quads
The leg press is one of the best machine exercises that are used extensively among the best bodybuilders and lifters in the world. At the same time, it’s also a great supplemental exercise for beginners to use heavier loads while they learn the biomechanics of the squat. This is because sitting position essentially mitigates the complex biomechanics seen in a barbell squat. When performing this exercise, use a stance with externally rotated hips (feet pointing outward at about 45˚).
The Bulgarian squat is infamous for causing intense activation of the quadriceps. Due to the body's positioning, it places a tremendous stretch on the vastus medialis, making it a prime pick for those wanting to grow this muscle. If you don't know what a Bulgarian squat is, it is a split squat that has your back foot up on a weight bench (or platform of similar height).
Tip: Start sloooowly with these as they are intense. If you are a beginner, start with normal split squats before you progress.
The split squat is another great exercise for overall quad development. To increase the stretch of the vastus medialis, elevate the forward leg slightly. The range will depend on the trainee, but 2-4” would work for most people. Again, this will create a larger ROM, which is what’s needed for growth of the vastus medialis as it has more activation during ranges with a smaller joint angle.
Tip: Start with a lower ledge and then progress to increasing the height
Everyone should be doing lunges regardless of their goal as it’s great at isolating the quads. It’s a similar motion to the Bulgarian squat and split squat so you should probably see a pattern with these. Where the lunge is especially important in strengthening the vastus medialis is that it adds an element of instability as you walk. This extra stimulus will go a long way in preparing the muscle to be able to stabilize the knee during real world activity.
Still, lunge variations like stationary lunges (aka split squats) and reverse lunges can both play a role in the overall development of your quadriceps.
Tip: These work great as a finisher with only bodyweight. When you do want to add load, dumbbells are a bit safer PLUS it increases the need of stability.
If you have bad knees, you'll want to check out these lunge alternatives.
For this movement, you will need a somewhat special implement known as a slant board. This is basically a wedge that you place your foot on. This allows you to stand with the weight on the balls of your foot. To set this up, place a couple plates on the ground so that the total height is around 6 inches. Then place the slant board (or variation of it) on top. Place one foot on the board and then bring up the rest of the body. It is more or less a single leg squat with a very small range of motion and your weight towards the ball of your feet.
Because the Poliquin step-up has such a small ROM, these are done with high reps. Keep in mind that these can be used as a rehabilitation exercises or as a transition exercise to The Peterson Step Up below..
The Peterson step up is essentially the Poliquin step up but rather than a slant board you have a flat platform. It also may have a larger ROM. This is a very hard exercise but will improve the function of vastus medialis greatly. Again, this is not an exercise to use heavy loads with and your own body weight will most likely be sufficient (more than sufficient) to start.
The drop lunge involves standing on a platform (can be just several inches high) and then doing a forward lunge (or reverse lunge) so the working leg comes down to the floor from the platform while the stationary leg stays on the platform. What this does is effectively increases the eccentric portion of the movement when a footsteps comes forward. This is important as it creates more time under tension. The eccentric portion of a movement has actually been found to be more responsible for muscle hypertrophy.
Tip: Do not use a load when you first do this exercise regardless of how strong you are, especially if using a large drop (a high platform). The difference in the drop can throw you off so spend some time using body weight only.
Step ups are great to hit the vastus medialis as they can allow a very large ROM. This obviously will differ depending on how high the step is. Remember that you will get more activation when there is 60-90 degree flexion. Some people want to do these loaded but often times, it's better to just do volume with body weight. This is because a common “error” is that a trainee will push off with the back leg. This is normal and will happen to an extent. However, when the intensity is increased, the propensity to push off is increased which ruins the point of the load. (There are some versions of step ups that this is actually a part of the movement).
Now that you have a list of the exercises to use, let’s look at the best way to set up a workout routine to maximize strength and hypertrophy. The same concepts are going to apply to training your vastus medialis as to any other muscle. As you saw, the exercises above range in their specificity. Some are all-around great quadricep exercises while some are specific to hit the vastus medialis. You will train the vastus medialis whenever you involve leg extension, so don’t fall into the trap where you think you need to prioritize it every single exercise. That being said, here’s a couple of examples of great lower body workouts that’s also centric to developing a huge teardrop.
Notice that this specific workout starts with bigger exercise and then begins to utilize “smaller” exercises as the session progresses. Further, it utilizes a wide range of reps of 5-20 while mostly staying in the hypertrophy range of 8+ reps. It’s always a good idea to train for strength and hypertrophy, but since you are wanting to make the muscle more visual, you should focus on hypertrophy training.
When trying to maximize growth, the vastus medialis responds very well to volume. In a study looked at the effect of a volume equated program divided into two sessions and four sessions. Interestingly, the vastus medialis was specifically found to grow using both frequencies (study), albeit the twice a week actually had more growth. This means that going hard for two days will give you the greatest benefits.
In order to maintain continued growth, always implement progressive overload into your training. This is simply the idea that you need to continually put a greater load on the muscle for it to keep growing (check out a more detailed article on the progressive overload principle here).
One major bonus of vastus medialis training (if you are wanting to focus on it) is that you can easily perform many of the exercises above at home. As mentioned, many of the exercises can be done just utilizing the body for sufficient stimulus. This includes exercises such as:
This can include exercise like:
Still want to work these in the same manner as a normal workout. The primary difference is you will not have as wide of a selection of resistance, so the reps will vary but will generally be higher.
That being said, let’s go over some general guidelines when training at home. Aim to do 3-4 sets of each exercise. However, instead of reps, work up until you hit about an 8 RPE on each set. RPE stands for “rate of perceived exertion” and is basically a scale to judge the intensity used. An RPE of 8 means that you’re working up to about 80-85% of max reps. It’s a bit of a guessing game, but utilizing this with the concept of progressive overload as your overarching guide and you’ll be great.
Time To Make Your Legs Cry
Similar to any muscle, if you want to make it grow, all you need to do is give it a little extra attention. The above exercises now give you the tools to do that for your vastus medialis during your next leg day. Now go make your quads tear up! On your legs...
Related: Best Quadriceps Exercises
May 05, 2021
It’s safe to say that pretty much every woman who exercises wants to build a bigger butt and wider hips. A big butt with wide hips is attractive on the most primal level. It suggests good health (it’s the equivalent of a man with a broad chest and shoulders). But how wide hips need to be differs between women as it really depends on how wide your hips are in proportion to your waist. Therefore, it is really all about waist-to-hip ratio, not just having wide hips, as a good waist-to-hip ratio is what gives us women the sexy, wide hip, hourglass figure we desire, regardless of if our hips are really all that wide.
Now, there's some bad news and some good news. Let me start with the bad news...
The bad news is, you can’t change your bone structure or the way your body distributes fat.
In fact, natural hourglass figures are pretty rare. So if you don’t have one, don’t feel bad. Most women don't.
The good news is, you can build muscle and create a wide hip, slim waist look with hard work. Thus, if you have narrow (or narrowish) hips and you want to make them wider, all you have to do is build muscle around your hips (which means...your glutes!).
Of course, building muscle around the hips is easier said than done. This is why we have written this guide. We are here to teach you exactly how to get "wider hips" and a smaller waist through exercise and dieting.
Table of contents:
Wide hips are attractive because it is an indication of health, as well as youthfulness and fertility. It is a phenomenon that is hardwired into our genes, as scientists will all agree.
The attraction to wide hips is not just a preference of certain cultures and today’s modern society. It is natural. It is biological.
We know this because it is pan-cultural (meaning relevant to all human cultures) and it spans across history (you can see this in ancient sculptures from Egypt, Africa, India, and Greece).
The attraction to wider hips is an age-old, species-wide, evolutionary preference.
As a matter of fact, studies suggest our natural instincts may actually lean towards even more extreme proportions, but our modern, overweight culture subtly downplays it because having hips that are not extremely wide appears more normal.
Let's dig a little deeper into why people instinctually find wide hips attractive...
For hundreds of thousands of years before modern medicine, maternal mortality was very high, so having wide hips ensured easier birth and that genes would be passed on. Moreover, the fat that stored around the hips, butt and thighs was important during breastfeeding, so children could be fed even when food might not be available.
Studies even suggest the fat in women’s thighs and buttocks is particularly beneficial to a baby’s brain health - it's good fat.
Note: Fat around the waist has the opposite effect. It signifies unhealthiness. intra-abdominal fat is highly linked to higher rates of chronic diseases.
Hypotheses are pretty consistent that wide hips are so attractive because they advertise great health and prime fertility. This all seems to be on both a subconscious and conscious level. The curvy shape looks feminine, which is attractive, and on the deepest, instinctual level, it suggests a women is in her child bearing years (as women get older, fat starts to store around the stomach and hips tend to narrow).
While we all want to do many great things in life, evolution suggests that our main purpose is to pass on our genes. A lot of what attracts us is deeply ingrained into our DNA for the purpose of passing on our genes.
When you think about it, this is why you are here reading this guide, to learn how to develop wider hips because you intuitively know it’s attractive and you instinctually desire it.
At this point, you may be wondering - is having wide hips purely genetic or can you actually build wide hips?
The truth is, a lot of it is genetic. Some women are naturally blessed with curves because they have the right bone structure and they distribute fat to the thighs and buttocks rather than the stomach. That said, there are ways to increase the width of your hips by adding muscle as well as improving the appearance of your hip width by decreasing belly fat.
Before we get into that, let’s have look at what causes wide hips and then discuss the importance of waist to hip ratio (this is very important), because as we've established, it's not just about having wide hips.
Women’s hips start to widen naturally when hitting puberty. The hormone estrogen is responsible for this. It prompts the pelvis to widen so that it is the widest at peak fertility years, which is between 20 and 30. Obviously, wider hips makes giving birth easier (and safer).
Women also have more estrogen receptors in their thighs, hips and boobs, which causes an increase in fat cells in these areas. Large amounts of estrogen receptors in these areas naturally advertises the women is healthy and youthful. As mentioned earlier, this fat is also helpful during pregnancy and when raising an infant.
As women get older, they tend to store fat differently (more in the waist and belly) because estrogen levels decrease.
So, the hourglass curve is naturally caused by estrogen, which alters bone structure and influences where fat is distributed.
High estrogen levels = tiny waist and big hips.
What's more, some women are naturally blessed with how their body responds to estrogen during puberty.
Now, let's not forget, there are other factors that come into play too, like how active a woman is and how she diets. No matter how naturally blessed you are, if you eat terribly and live a very sedentary lifestyle, you won't have an hourglass figure.
Why are my hips not wide?
Not all women are naturally curvy, so don't worry. This is because not all women have the same levels of estrogen during puberty and early adulthood, which is when your hips widen. If a woman has lower estrogen levels or higher levels of androgen hormones (male hormones - which is perfectly natural), they will not have such pronounced hips.
Women with higher levels of male (androgenic) hormones such as testosterone will have a more straight up and down figure. If this is you, don’t despair. First of all, this androgenic effect means more stamina, initiative, assertiveness and dominance. Plus, you can still build muscle around your hips and keep your waist tight to create some curviness.
There is no changing bone structure, plain and simple. This is genetics. However, even though hip width is greatly determined by the size of your pelvic bone, you can broaden the appearance of your hips with fitness and nutrition.
If your waist to hips are straight up and down, you will never be super duper curvy, but you can create some sexy curves. The goal is to add muscle around your hips and keep your waist tight, as you also can’t control where you store fat.
Now, if you are thinking, “can I do hormone treatment to increase estrogen, and thus, make my hips wider or redistribute fat?” Potentially, depending on your age, but it would likely be ineffective and dangerous to your health. Women only do estrogen therapy treatment if they actually have an estrogen deficiency. Just because you have not-so-wide hips doesn’t mean you are deficient in estrogen.
(Non transgender - aka cisgender) women mainly do hormone therapy treatment to help with menopausal symptoms or vaginal discomfort during sexual intercourse, not for cosmetic reasons. No doctor will recommend this because you want wide hips if your levels are normal.
All in all, if your hips aren’t wide, there is really nothing you can do about it on a bone structural level. Again, what you can do is build muscle around your hips and keep your waist tight, which will create that hourglass look. And guess what, muscles are sexy (if you don't think so, just check out these female fitness models). Moreover, well-built muscles suggest good health! It's not all about curves when it comes to attractiveness. There are many indicators of good health, and being fit is one of them, regardless of if your hips are very wide in proportion to your waist.
Ok, now, assuming you want to go about widening your hips the right way (no surgery or treatments), you need to focus on building muscle around your hips (and shoulders) and keep your waist tight, as this will make your hips wider (and look wider), giving you that hourglass appearance.
Before we get into fitness and nutrition, we want to dig into waist to hip ratio, because this is very important...
It’s not all about genetics (i.e. estrogen, bone structure, fat distribution) when it comes to waist-to-hip ratio. Being active and having muscle mass in the right areas will also make a big difference.
What’s more, you don’t even necessarily need big, thick hips to have a good waist-to-hip ratio. Even petite women can have a good waist-to-hip ratio. Moreover, some women with big hips can have a poor waist-to-hip ratio. So, it’s not all about getting wider hips. You need a thin waist as well. With a good waist-to-hip ratio, you will have the curves we all desire and the appearance of good health.
The same concept applies to the attraction of men with broader shoulders. Broad shoulders are attractive, but if you have broad shoulders with a big waist, it takes away from that attraction.
Let’s get a better understanding of how waist-to-hip ratio is determined before talking about ideal proportions.
First, measure you waist circumference at its narrowest point (which should be an inch or two above your belly button).
Next, measure your hip circumference at its widest point.
Then, divide your waist circumference by your hip circumference and you will have your waist-to-hip ratio.
For example, let’s say a women has a 25 inch waist and 31 inch hips.
25 / 31 = .806.
So, her waist to hip ratio is about 0.80
Is that good?
Well, it’s in the healthy range, but it won’t give her that remarkably curvy look. Good thing is, she can improve it by putting on some lean muscle around her hips.
More on this later, let’s now go over what waist-to-hip ratios are ideal.
Most studies suggest that 0.70 or lower is the most attractive waist-to-hip ratio (WHR). 0.70 and lower is also associated with a higher fertility rate and lower rates of chronic diseases (more fat around the waist - intra-abdominal fat - is obviously not good for your health).
Other studies suggest it is 0.75 and lower, with the normal curvy WHR being 0.65-0.75.
It seems like 0.70 and lower is when the hourglass shape really shows.
That said, most doctors would suggest the ideal ratio in healthy women is anywhere from 0.65 to 0.80.
Note: this is for premenopausal women, as WHR naturally increases after menopause.
Here is a picture from a study on waist-to-hip ratio attractiveness that shows different waist-to-hip ratios to give you a better idea.
Anything in this range is perfectly fine, but if you can aim for something, you should aim for 0.70 or 0.75 and lower.
Now, the question is, how do you improve (lower) your WHR?
Let’s discuss ways to achieve a better waist-to-hip ratio, as this is what attractiveness really comes down to, not just big wide hips. Having hips that are wider than the waist (ideally wide hips and a small waist) is so desirable because it look so healthy and feminine!
Note: For men, the average ideal WHR is under 1.00.
Getting wider hips is difficult because really the only thing you can do is gain muscle. You can’t change the way your fat is distributed and you can’t widen your pelvic bone.
Nevertheless, putting on muscle can most certainly be done. It just takes time and dedication. The thing is, you need to put that muscle on in a sensible way. You can’t overeat or you will gain fat, and if you are predisposed to gaining belly fat, then you will likely gain belly fat along with your muscle. Now, if you take that route, you can gain the muscle then cut that fat later. But ideally, you want to put on lean muscle mass while minimizing any fat or keeping fat off if possible at the same time (it is possible with the right workout and diet, which we will tell you about).
Improving your waist-to-hip ratio is going to look different for different women.
If you are a skinny woman, maybe gaining a little fat will be good for your curves. If you’ve been skinny your whole life, for all you know, the fat will go to your thighs and hips.
Maybe you are overweight and if you shed off that stomach fat and tighten up your waist, you can create that curvy shape without even needing to put on much muscle around your hips.
Maybe you are somewhere in the middle, not too muscular and not too fat. In this case, you can start training hard, building muscle around your hips while losing fat. Then, you will be off the curvy races.
All in all, to improve waist to hip ratio, you need to do two things: keep your waist lean and build muscle around your hips (butt and thighs).
Another nice trick for creating that hourglass shape is to build some shoulder muscle. With some more shoulder muscle, you can create the appearance of a skinnier waist.
Moving on...now, we are going to mainly focus on how to make your waist slimmer and how to put on muscle mass around your hips.
Wide hips don’t mean anything without a slim waist. Having a slim waist will make your hips appear larger. This is why even petite women can look very curvy. It’s all about the proportions (WHR).
The best and healthiest way to get a smaller waist is by dieting and exercising.
Here are some important tips for slimming up that waistline:
Then, of course, you need to keep active and exercise.
The best exercises for shedding fat off your belly and waistline are weight training and HIIT.
Lifting weights (or at least doing bodyweight workouts) will help you build muscle, and the more muscle you have, the more of a calorie burning machine your body will be.
The reason we choose HIIT over steady-state cardio is simple. HIIT, which stands for High Intensity Interval Training, will help you burn the same (if not more) calories as steady state cardio like running but without sacrificing muscle. Yes, steady-state cardio will help you lose fat, but it will also cause you to lose muscle. HIIT training will not only help you maintain the muscle mass, it can actually help you build muscle. This is because HIIT recruits a lot of muscle fibers. To top it off, with HIIT, you will be burning calories long after your workout is over thanks to the after-burn effect (EPOC). Steady-state cardio will not.
Do core exercises help you lose belly fat?
You can’t spot reduce fat and most core exercises actually burn less fat than big compound exercises like squats. Nevertheless, you should be doing core exercises because a strong core is super important for injury resilience, balance, stability, and it makes you stronger in all of your movements as force is transferred from your limbs via your core.
Just don’t waste tons of time on core exercises. If you are doing HIIT training and big compound movements like squats and deadlifts, your core will already be getting worked pretty well (plus you will be burning tons of calories, which will help give your core a more defined look). Just do a couple quick core workouts per week in-between your main sessions.
SHOULDERS, CHEST AND LATS
A lot of women don’t take their shoulders seriously enough. For most women, it's all about the legs and booty.
Building up your shoulder muscles not only makes you look more impressive, but it also creates a greater illusion of a slimmer waist.
The same goes for your chest and lats. So, don’t skip back, chest and shoulders.
Are waist trainers effective for making my waist smaller?
Some women swear by waist trainers, but for them to actually have a noticeable or dramatic effect, you need to wear them for a long time. Moreover, you need to be ready to sacrifice your health. If you get to the point where the waist trainer has actually reshaped your waist, then your internal organs will be squished and your breathing and digestion likely compromised. Waist trainers won’t help you lose fat, they can reshape your natural bone structure if you wear them tight enough and long enough, which is obviously not smart.
All that said, waist trainers or corsets are fine to wear under garments if you want to create the appearance of a smaller waist. Just be careful that it doesn’t compromise your breathing. If it's hard to breathe, loosen it up.
High Waist Pants
Another little trick for making your waist look smaller are high waisted pants. But, we are sure you already know this. This is why they are so popular. They really emphasize the appearance of a big butt and an hourglass body shape.
Now, let’s get into the real juicy stuff. Exercises for growing muscle around your hips, as this is what wide hips and hourglass figure are made of...
While you can’t spot reduce or spot gain fat, you can create an exercise routine and diet that supports muscle growth in your butt and thighs. i.e. you can spot gain muscle! Ultimately, this will make your hips wider and it will give you an hour glass appearance, so long as you don’t overeat and gain too much belly fat.
To start, let’s go over the muscles you need to focus on to make your hips wider.
If you want to make your hips wider, you need to focus on your gluteal muscles as well as your quads (and hamstrings). These are the muscles that surround your hips and will make your hips wider hips.
Your gluteus maximus is the strongest glute muscle. In fact, it is considered one of the strongest muscles in the entire human body.
The gluteus maximus is also the largest glute muscle and the largest muscle at the hip. Thus, it is obviously the most significant muscle to focus on when building bigger hips.
On that note, you’ll be pleased to know that it has the most potential to grow! So, if your gluteus maximus is small now, no worries, it can and will grow.
To know how to grow the gluteus maximus (which, in turn, will make your hips wider), you need to understand how it functions...
The main job of the gluteus maximus is hip extension (i.e. thrusting hips forward and moving the legs backwards). Therefore, the gluteus maximus is activated during exercises like squats, deadlifts, and hip thrusts, as well as running, jumping, swimming and so on. The gluteus maximus also helps to externally rotate the hips and is a vital component of spinal stability.
The gluteus maximus responds best to big compound exercises (e.g. squats). This will allow you to stretch and contract the muscle through a large range of motion, and you can go heavy to really stress the muscle. This is what it takes to build muscle.
Now, being that the gluteus maximus is large, you need to do a variety of exercises to hit it in its entirety (essentially its upper and lower fibers). So, it’s not just about back squats, you need to do deadlifts, lunges, hip thrusts and so on.
Further below, we will show you many of the best exercises for hypertrophy of the gluteus maximus.
Gluteus Medius & Minimus
The gluteus medius and minimus are located on the sides of your hips and butt. They are your side glutes.
Both are dwarfed by the gluteus maximus, but they still play an important role in movement and developing wider hips.
The gluteus medius and minimus have the same role. They function during lateral leg movements (moving your leg away from your body). They also help with leg rotation. So, exercises like side lunges and curtsy lunges as well as any hip abduction movement will target your gluteus medius and minimus. Moreover, they are activated during big compound lifts like squats, deadlifts, hip thrusts and any unilateral exercises as they help maintain hip stability.
While big compound lifts are the best way to build your gluteal muscles, and these lifts mainly focus on the gluteus maximus, we will also give you some accessory (or glute activation) exercises (like cable hip abductions and fire hydrants) as they will help in building and sculpting your side booty, and they are great for building a mind-muscle connection, which will help you during heavily loaded compound lifts.
Building your quads will also be important in your journey to getting big hips. The bigger your quads are, the more wide your hips will appear.
Fortunately, there is a huge crossover between building your gluteus maximus and building your quads (the same with the hamstrings), as the big compound exercises that focus on your glutes will also target your quads and hamstrings.
For example, squats will build your gluteus and your quads; deadlifts will build your gluteus and your hamstrings.
The best part about building a bigger butt is that you are not just making your hips wider and sexier, but you are also becoming more athletic, powerful, and injury resilient!
To sum it up, the muscles we will be focusing on for bigger hips are the gluteal muscles, but in that, we will also be growing the muscles in our upper and lower, posterior and anterior thighs.
Before we get into the workout programs and exercises, let’s go over the “formula” for building muscle, as building muscle goes beyond just doing the right exercises.
There are four things you need to do to build muscle:
If you do the above, you will grow a bigger booty and in turn bigger hips. But if you don’t have all 4 pieces of the puzzle, you won’t see the results you want.
For the newbies out there, you are going to get some serious booty gains the first year or so. However, after that, it’s going to require more work to keep growing. So, be sure to study progressive overload techniques so you can continue to put on muscle after the newbie gain phenomenon ends.
If you want to build bigger hips, you need a workout program that focus on hypertrophy specifically, not so much strength...i.e. bodybuilding programs. Moreover, you want that program to place emphasis on the glutes and lower body.
Ideally, you will want to work your glutes and legs two to three times per week.
A hypertrophy program is going to include the right exercises for building muscle (which we have the best ones below) and the right rep ranges, overall volume and rest time.
To further touch on rep ranges, aim to switch things up to keep your muscles guessing and shocked:
You don’t have to perfectly stay in the 8-20 rep range (or the 10-15 rep range as most programs will suggest).
You’ll also be working out 5-6 days per week.
If your goal is to build bigger hips, a good workout program will include the above and have a split as follows:
Day 1: Lower Body
Day 2: Upper Body
Day 3: HIIT
Day 4: Lower Body
Day 5 Upper Body
Day 6: HIIT
Day 7: Rest
This will give you two full workouts to focus on your glutes, quads and hamstrings, as well as HIIT days for keeping fat off and your waist lean.
All in all, you can’t just follow any bodybuilding program because it may not be right for you. Although many women want to develop an hourglass figure, some women may already have big hips and they just need to lose fat, so their workouts will look different than a skinnier woman or simply a woman with poor glute development.
Since you are here reading this, we assume you are either skinny with not much muscle around your hips and/or you have been working out but not seeing the right results in your glute and hip development, whether other areas look good or not. So, we are primarily focused on building muscle.
The goal is to build bigger hips, so we must do exercises that build our gluteal muscles, as those are the muscles that surround the outer hips.
You’ll want to hit your glutes from all angles, so you need to do a variety of movements. This will ensure you are developing your glutes in their entirety.
Here are the basics:
We will now go over various exercises that fit into the above categories, starting with vertical movements then horizontal movements, as these are your main glute builders for achieving wider hips.
It’s also good to consider training variables, like load position and body position. So, we will tell you the main lifts and then variations of these lifts you can employ in your program as well.
Squats are best done with a dumbbell or a barbell. Aim to go as deep into the squat as you can without rounding your lower back. This will ensure the greatest stretch of your muscles, allowing you to build more muscle. If your range of motion is lacking when first starting out, just go as deep as you comfortably can and over time work on mobility. Eventually, you will be able to go deeper and deeper.
Squats are going to be your main booty building exercise for wider hips. It’s the king of booty exercises. Just be sure to maintain good form.
How to do a Squat:
Push yourself in terms of the weight load. This is how you build muscle. Just be careful to maintain good form. If your form is questionable, lighten the load. Form is of utmost importance as the squat, in particular the barbell squat, is high risk high reward.
Other squat variations you can throw into the mix:
These squats bring training variable like load placement and body position into the mix, allowing you to stress your muscles different.
Squats and the many variations will also build up your quads big time, which is another aspect of making your hips look wider.
The deadlift is your other main glute builder. Deadlifts and squats are the bread and butter of your glute workouts.
Unlike the squat, which has more knee movement (thus working the quads), the deadlift has more hip movement (thus working the hamstrings).
The standard barbell deadlift will allow you to put on some serious muscle mass. All you have to do is lift heavy and use good form.
How to do a Deadlift:
The Romanian Deadlift (RDL) is a fantastic variation of the deadlift that places more emphasis on the glutes and hamstrings. So, be sure to make this one a primary movement too.
Other deadlift variations: Sumo deadlifts, stiff-legged deadlifts (similar to the RDL but you bring the bar down further), single leg deadlifts, trap bar deadlifts.
All of the above options are great for building up your glutes.
The barbell hip thrust is one of the best exercises (top 3) for building gluteal muscle strength and size. The movement really hones in on the gluteus maximus. However, the gluteus medius and minimus still get significant activation, especially with single leg variations.
By adding a fabric resistance band around the knees, we can further increase the activation of the gluteus medius by forcing them to perform hip horizontal abduction to keep the legs out. The same is true for squats.
How to do the Barbell Hip Thrust
You can also use a dumbbell or a resistance band for hip thrusts, but if you are a strong individual, a barbell will be the best as you can increase the load the most.
Variation to try: Single leg hip thrusts.
The glute bridge is similar to the hip thrust. It doesn’t work the glutes from a stretched position but it does do a great job of activating the muscle fibers through contraction and the ability to use heavy loads. This is an isometric exercise, so you will be holding the contracted position rather than performing reps like a hip thrust. For example, you load up a barbell and thrust your hips into the contracted position and hold for 30 seconds.
How to do the Glute Bridge:
Never lose the contraction. When you do, the exercise is done and you can come down, rest and repeat for desired number of sets.
There are a few variations and progression to make this exercise harder or to target your glutes differently.
Variations: Single leg glute bridge, elevated glute bridge, banded glute bridge.
The split squat and Bulgarian squat are great for targeting the glutes, quads and hamstrings. Because they are single leg exercises, you will also be doubling down on your gluteus medius and minimus activation as your work your gluteus maximus.
You can use a barbell or dumbbells for split squats and Bulgarian squats. However, if you can, use a barbell via a squat rack for split squats so you can up the load.
Glute kickbacks are a good way to activate the glutes and get them pumped up. Do these as a warm up or after you do your main lifts to really hone in on and exhaust the glutes.
Note: Some gyms have machines for this, so you can use that as well if your gym has it available. If not, 41 inch loop resistance bands work great.
They are called clamshells because they resemble the opening of a clamshell.
With this glute exercise, you lay on your side with your knees bent out in front of you at 90-degrees and ankles together. You then externally rotate your hips to open your legs while being sure to keep the ankles together. When performed correctly, you can activate the glutes very well.
To get maximum activation of muscle fibers, use a fabric resistance band (aka booty band). Aim to open your legs to at least 60˚.
You can use either a cable pulley or a 41” loop resistance band for this exercise. They work in the same way. Just loop a band around your ankle or strap the pulleys to your ankle, stand tall and bring your leg to the side, really focusing on your side glutes. This exercise is fantastic for emphasizing muscle growth in the hip abductors (gluteus medius & minimus and TFL).
Perform high repetitions and really squeeze and hold the contraction with each rep.
Related: Best Cable Leg & Glute Exercises
You can do side lunges with dumbbells or just your bodyweight alone. This exercise requires good hip mobility to be performed correctly. If you have trouble performing side lunges correctly, work on hip mobility to improve your range of motion. Ideally, you want to lower down to parallel on one side while keeping your other leg straight. Your knee should not be forward past your toes.
This exercise is fantastic for building the side glutes, hamstrings and quads. Even with bodyweight alone it will be somewhat challenging.
The curtsy lunge is a great exercise to hit your glutes in a unique way. It involves rotation of the hip joint, firing off all your gluteal muscles as well as your quads in a significant way. Use dumbbells and you will really feel the booty burn.
Lateral walks can be done with just your bodyweight alone, but they are way more effective with a resistance band. You can use either a booty band around your ankle or you can do a set up with a 41” loop resistance band. These are difficult exercises that will take your breath away like squats, but they are effective for targeting the glutes (especially the sides). You are going to serious feel the burn. Move slowly and really focus on maximum tension in your glutes and we promise this exercise will help you build the wide hips you desire.
Other good exercises for building bigger hips
In summary, to grow your butt, you need to put in the time and work. There are no shortcuts. But in the long run, you will be very thankful you stuck with it, because not only will you look better, but you will move better and more powerfully. A muscular butt means strong, athletic hips.
Make sure you focus most of your time on the main lifts and play around with training variables (do variations of squats, deadlifts, etc.). However, standard back squats, deadlifts, Romanian Deadlifts, Hip Thrusts, and Glute Bridges should be the bread and butter of your training. After you finish your main lifts, throw in a couple or a few accessory movements and you’ll be good to go.
Below is an example of a couple good glute/leg workouts for building wider hips.
Lower Body Day 1:
Lower Body Day 2:
There are no foods that will go straight to your butt. It’s the workouts you do that break down the muscle so that food (protein) can rebuild them back up, bigger and stronger than before.
So, by exercising your glutes and eating properly, you can effectively spot gain muscle. Crush your workouts and crush your diet and you will build the glutes you want in no time.
Best foods for building muscle:
These foods are protein dense. You need to aim for 1 gram of protein per bodyweight per day. You can split it up evenly between meals.
You will also want to eat nutrient dense foods for vitamins and good metabolism. These foods include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds.
Basically, you can eat any healthy food you want. Just avoid unhealthy foods like white bread, junk food, sugary drinks, processed meats, and so on. You know what’s bad for you.
You want your calories to be made up from nutrient dense foods. If you do this, you can gain muscle and keep fat off.
As for how many calories. You need to use a calorie calculator to find out your maintenance level and then eat in a surplus of about 250 calories each day. How you split up your meals is up to you. You could do a few meals a day or many small meals. Just make sure you get enough calories and protein each day and you’ll be off to the wider hip races.
REMEMBER TO DO SHOULDER EXERCISES TOO!
Don’t forget to do shoulder exercises if you want to create a nice hourglass figure. The shoulders are super important for giving off that impression of curviness. And if you are worried about building big strong manly shoulders, don’t, because you won’t unless you are taking steroids.
Do exercises like shoulder presses, lateral raises, and front raises and you will definitely see some nice improvements in your shoulders, which will boost your hourglass figure goals.
Let’s recap a few things:
Now get off your phone and go build those hips! With all this information, you should have the wide hips and skinny waist you desire in no time.
And remember, don’t worry about what other women have. No two bodies are the same. If a 0.80 waist-to-hip ratio is the best you can achieve, that’s great! The most important thing is to be healthy. And if you follow the advice in this guide to bigger hips, you will surely be making yourself healthier, stronger, and more athletic, which is the ultimate goal. It’s not all about curvy aesthetics. Healthy is the most attractive feature and people recognize healthy regardless of how tight your waist is and how wide your hips are.
For more glute exercises, check out our articles on the 10 best gluteus medius exercises and the 13 best gluteus minimus exercises. There is obviously some overlap with the exercises in this guide, but you will be able to learn more about these two overlooked glute muscles and a few more exercises.
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April 19, 2021
Do you want to be the strongest guy in the gym? Or do you want to build muscle mass? Here lies the dilemma between strength vs hypertrophy. Training for strength and size are the two main goals for a good portion of the gym-goers. Unfortunately, training for them doesn’t necessarily look the same. If you are trying to train specifically for either muscle hypertrophy or strength, you need to understand the physiological differences between the two adaptations. More importantly, you need to know how to alter training variables to get optimal progress.
This article will give you a clearer understanding of why these two adaptations are different and how programing looks differently for strength vs hypertrophy workouts.
Strength training is weight training with the primary purpose of increase one’s strength. The best way to think about the goal of strength training is taking the muscle you have, and making it work better together.
This is often one of the more misunderstood concepts when trainees first begin lifting as they associate getting stronger with increasing the size of the muscle. A muscle with increased volume and a cross-sectional area indeed has more “potential” to be stronger. Also, a larger muscle can create more torque through an improved mechanical advantage (study). However, if you were to only concentrate on hypertrophy training, you would miss out on a lot of strength that could be gained by including some strength workouts in your program.
Strength training is primarily done by improving various functions of the neuromuscular system to make the existing muscle able to produce more neural strength. A few of the alterations are discussed below.
1. Increased Firing Rate: The force production of a muscle fiber is controlled by what is known as the firing rate. Every muscle fiber is controlled by a motor unit which “fires” to activate the muscle. To increase the force generated by that one fiber, the motor unit will fire faster. This process continues until the maximum firing rate is reached. By training correctly, trainees can increase this firing rate, resulting in more force production by the same fiber.
2. More Force Production: Everyone is quite literally stronger than they think they are. The problem is that they just can’t access it. Our body’s muscles are never fully activated 100% except under certain conditions. This basic premise is why there are stories of ordinary men or women performing amazing acts of strength under dire consequences, such as lifting a car to save someone. There are theories as to why this mainly revolves around it being a safety mechanism or just preventing us from pure exhaustion.
3. Selective Recruitment of Motor Units- Our muscles are controlled by little centers known as motor units. These motor units range in size. Small companies control smaller muscle fibers (capable of less force production) and larger motor units containing larger muscle fibers (capable of more force production). When we perform an action, all of our muscle fibers don’t activate at once. That would make it impossible to go to shake someone’s hand. If all your muscle fibers fired, you’d wind up hitting the person! Under normal conditions, our body starts by firing the smallest motor units and then gradually (yet in a very fast manner) recruits more motor units from smallest to largest. However, after advanced training, your body will learn to skip the smaller muscle fibers and directly start using the larger muscle fibers, thus generating more force quicker.
Everyone who has gone into a gym experiences these adaptations. In fact, this is what gives rise to “newbie gains” which is where your strength can increase dramatically when your first hit the weights. One study found that during the first 24 weeks if training, you may only increase your muscle size by 5% but can increase your strength by 21%.
To address one common misconception in the world of fitness. The singular term “hypertrophy” is often used when talking about training to increase muscle size. This isn’t necessarily wrong when said in an understood context, but technically, “hypertrophy” simply means “the enlargement of an organ or tissue”. Therefore, the correct terminology would be “muscle hypertrophy” to separate from other conditions such as hypertrophy of the heart. Not a huge deal, but it never hurts to know more!
So, what is “muscle” hypertrophy training? It’s simply training with the sole intention to create a larger muscle. In contrast to strength training which improves the efficacy of the neuromuscular system, hypertrophy training actually produces structural changes to the muscle to make it larger.
There are three main training variables which increase hypertrophy:
1. Total Volume: Total volume is by far the main driver (study) and your primary concern. This is calculated but the total amount of weight you loft with the equation:
Load X Sets X Reps= Total volume
In order to grow, you want in to increase your overall volume as you move forward.
2. Mechanical Tension: Muscle tension simply refers to your muscle actively contracting. The more time your muscle has tension means more growth. Theoretically. This is the reason behind tempo reps.
3. Metabolic Stress: This refers to causing the accumulation of metabolites and cell swelling in the muscle during exercise. Metabolic stress is thought to be the main driver for blood-restriction training (study).
1) Myofibrillar Hypertrophy
A muscle fiber is composed of chains of components known as “myofibrils”. These myofibrils are then composed of the main contractile units known as myosin and actin. It is the interaction of myosin and actin that pull on one another responsible for a muscle contraction and generating force.
Myofibril hypertrophy is the process of the body actually creating more myofibrils which include increasing the number of these contractile units. In short, myofibrils hypertrophy is the process of increasing the muscle size with the potential of being stronger.
2) Sarcoplasmic Hypertrophy
On the other end, sarcoplasmic hypertrophy merely refers to the increase in muscle volume with no additional strength gains. This occurs when the sarcoplasmic fluid of a muscle increases resulting in a “bloated” muscle. This is generally seen in bodybuilders and what most people think of when they speak of “muscle hypertrophy” (study on sarcoplasmic hypertrophy).
How these two are interrelated and affected differently still aren’t entirely understood, but it doesn’t make much difference for a trainee. The goal remains the same in that you want to create a bigger muscle for aesthetic purposes. This interest in aesthetics is what creates the difference between strength vs hypertrophy physiques.
Obviously, the adaptations for increased strength are vastly different when training for muscle hypertrophy, but now let’s talk about how altering training variables can affect these differently.
The overlaying theme of these two different training styles lies in the purpose. This is illustrated in these two sentences;
“Bodybuilder train to grow their pecs. Strength athletes train to increase their bench press”
Simple, yet this illustrates how two trainees can be doing the same movement with drastically different goals.
Best Load/Rep Range For Strength And Muscle Hypertrophy
The “load” used for an exercise refers to the percentage of your 1RM for that exercise. This is either of a true 1RM or an estimated 1RM. For example, if your 1RM for the bench press is 100kg and your program has you use a load of 85% 1RM for a particular rep scheme, you would use 85kg. (100 X 85% = 85). Simple.
Interestingly enough, different loads produce optimal results depending on if you are training for strength or hypertrophy. This is generally seen in what’s known as the 1RM or “Load Spectrum” which prescribes the best load (rep range) for different variables:
This is a very general and basic explanation that can be used, but some important caveats must be understood.
In the past, and even still today, it was believed that these are absolutes. For example, you will often hear bodybuilders claim that using heavy loads, those of 85% 1RM or more, are useless for hypertrophy. This has been debunked.
Remember, the main driver of hypertrophy is volume, and it does not seem to matter where that volume comes from. This was illustrated in a study that compared the muscle hypertrophy when using a heavy load and light load with volume equated for. Specifically, one trained performed 7 sets of 3 reps while one trained 3 sets with 10 reps, but the total overall volume was equal. The result was that muscle growth was similar for both groups, but the strength group had greater strength gains.
This means hypertrophy can technically be achieved with any load, BUT improvements in strength require heavier loads (85% or greater) using a rep range of 3-6. However, you should still use a moderate load (70-80% 1RM) with 6-12 reps for muscle hypertrophy (study). Why? Because it is a much more efficient way to get in a high amount of volume with a sufficient load to train the type II fibers.
Now, let's go over the differences between strength and hypertrophy training in regards to reps and sets, rest time, exercise selection, volume, how to progressive overload, and best splits.
There is a relatively big difference in the optimal amount of sets one uses when training for strength vs. training for hypertrophy. Strength training generally involves a higher number of sets than training for hypertrophy.
The goal is strength training is to teach the muscle how to work more efficiently. One way to do this is through repetition. However, heavier loads allow fewer reps, therefore, making more sets optimal when training a movement pattern. For hypertrophy, the goal is to create as much volume as possible while using a much more extensive exercise selection to hit the muscles from different angles.
For general purposes, someone training for hypertrophy will usually use 3 sets for their main exercises while performing maybe only 1 or 2 sets with very high volume for smaller exercises.
Strength trainees can use anywhere from 3 sets all the way up to 6 sets, sometimes even more. These higher sets are used for the main movements at the beginning of their session. Further, the higher number of sets also generally contain a small number of reps. For example, you might go in and perform 6 sets of 2 reps using 95% 1RM for deadlift.
The rest time for hypertrophy training is much shorter than for strength training which goes back to the emphasis on total volume. This means a trainee will ideally rest just long enough to be be able to get in their reps again. Having shorter rest periods allows them to do this with the least amount of time. For this, trainees will rest anywhere from a full 2 minutes for some of their larger exercises, going all the way down to 30 seconds for smaller movements.
Strength training requires a bit more rest time with 2 minutes usually the minimal amount of time between sets. Rest times can go all up to 5 minutes with 2-3 minutes being the average time needed. A strength athlete’s goal is to get the number of reps, so if that means they need to wait an extra 30 seconds or a minute, then so be it.
Check out this article for a more in-depth (study-based) take on rest time between sets for hypertrophy and strength training.
There is a bit of an overlap of some exercise selection, with the main difference being the loads used.
Pure strength training almost exclusively uses free weights, specifically compound lifts, as they use a large amount of muscle mass which is superior when training the neuromuscular system. This makes sense as you want the muscles to learn how to work together to create the largest amount of force. Further, compound movements are much easier to load with heavy weight, where it can actually be quite dangerous to do with many isolation movements. The most common machines used by strength athletes are for the lower body, such as leg presses and belt squats.
A list of common strength exercises are:
Some strength athletes will still use some isolation movements, but this is usually either for hypertrophy or mobility work.
When training for hypertrophy, trainees will still use the same compound movements as strength athletes to an extent. However, trainees will also utilize a much broader range of exercises, including isolation movements and machines. They also use more variations of an exercise in the same session. For example, a trainee of hypertrophy may train flat bench, incline bench, and decline bench back-to-back. They will use 3 sets for each exercise, increasing their volume AND variation to hit the muscle from different angles for optimal growth.
Another difference is that hypertrophy training will favor similar movement patterns that cause greater muscle activation in the muscles. This is seen with the deadlift and Romanian deadlift. Hypertrophy training will usually favor the Romanian deadlift as it elicits more activation in the glutes and hamstrings.
The Purpose Of The Exercises
It’s also important to point out the reason for why the trainees perform their exercises. As mentioned, strength athletes will still use some smaller exercises and even perform them with higher reps. Many may confuse this with hypertrophy training. While there is definitely overlap between the two, the key determinant in identifying what the type of training is can be found by asking “Why are they performing this movement”?
For a strength athlete, their purpose is almost always to increase their strength of lagging parts for their other main lifts. For example, a strength athlete may perform skull crushers to increase their triceps strength for the bench press. Compare this with a bodybuilder who may be doing skull crushers because they want to increase the size of their tricep. Alternatively, certain body types, like ectomorphs, are better served to train for strength as it can help them add more mass to their tall, lanky frames.
In this sense, it is useful to think of strength training as being much more specific with their exercise selection. If it’s not going to increase their lifts or performance, they probably won’t do it.
Your average hypertrophy session is going to have more exercises than a typical strength training session. This is primarily due to the build-up of fatigue that occurs with lifting heavier loads. Further, strength training involves more sets with longer rest periods. This can add up quickly. For example, if you perform an exercise with 5 sets and a 3-minute rest interval, you’re already at 12 minutes of just rest. In short, it just takes longer to train. Therefore, a strength session will usually sit around 4-6 exercise; some even just use 3.
Conversely, a typical hypertrophy program will always have more than 6 exercises with 12 being at the upper end. This is because these exercises have fewer sets, shorter rest periods, and may even involve supersets, command sets, or circuit training.
Both styles of training rely on progressive overload to improve. What differs is where that progressive overload comes from. For hypertrophy training, progressive overload increases the total volume of work you place on the muscle. This is can come from increasing weight, adding reps, adding sets. This can also come from performing harder, putting more tension on the muscles through things like tempo reps or performing sets to failure and forced reps.
For strength training, you still will use progressive overload, but it comes from placing weight on the bar for a specific rep range. The real difference is that the total weekly volume for strength trainees will often fluctuate week to week. For instance, a popular strength scheme is 5/3/1 where you perform an exercise for 3 X 5 one week, 3 X 3 the next week, and 1 X 3 rep the third week. The next cycle, you will try to use more weight when you perform 5 reps, more weight when you complete 3 reps, and more weight when you perform 1 rep. Even though the volume is decreasing, you are placing more weight on the neuromuscular system. Something like this seldom happens when training for hypertrophy other than for planned deloads.
One of the easiest ways to tell the difference between a strength program and a hypertrophy program is how the sessions are numbered. While not always true, a hypertrophy trainee will often refer to their days by the body part, i.e., “I’m working chest and shoulders”. A strength trainee will refer to their days by the movement “I’m going train pressing movements today”.
That being said hypertrophy trainees will typically train more days during the week than a strength athlete. For one, a strength athlete uses much heavier loads that can really tax the body to a greater extent, requiring more workout recovery time. Further, they are usually doing less exercise so there’s not as much variety to spread out. Compare that to a hypertrophy trainee who may split each day into one body part or do 3 exercises for just the biceps.
We can take all of this info and look at two training sessions; 1 for strength and 1 for hypertrophy.
Front Squat: 4x4
Romanian Deadlift: 3x6
Barbell Hip Thrust: 3x10
Glute Ham Raise: 3x10
Romanian Deadlift: 3x8
Stiff Leg Deadlift: 3x10
Leg Press: 3x10 (last set is a drop set)
Bulgarian Squat: 2x12 (per leg)
Leg Curels/Leg Extension: 3x15 (superset)
Calf Raise: 2x20
First, you should not worry about training for ether one specifically until you have been training for at least 6 months. When you first start going to the gym, you will get stronger and add muscle mass regardless of what you do, assuming you are following a progressive training program. Your body is so new to these stresses that you will be able to grow relatively consistently in with both variables for a decent amount of time.
How Long? That depends on the person, but when first beginning, you should follow a basic linear progressive program that mainly utilizes big compound movements when you first start. Linear progression simply refers to a program where you use the same rep scheme and gradually increase the load every week. A person should do this for at least 3 months with 6 months being a more realistic time frame. Again, this is considering you are following a structured program with adequate recovery time and your sleep and nutrition are on point.
Once this begins to stall you will need to start thinking about what you want to focus on as your training will need to become more specific to continue progressing. In reality, it only really matters what you want to achieve with your training. If you wish to be strong or train for performance, strength training will be the way to go. If you are merely interested in general fitness and aesthetics, muscle hypertrophy will be your primary focus. If you want t to compete in bodybuilding, you will obviously want to concentrate on training for hypertrophy.
SPECIAL NOTE: One point of concern is that many trainees find real strength training a bit boring. This is mainly because you wait a lot and aren’t engaged with as many exercises. This is part of the process, but it is often a deterring factor for some people.
Absolutely! And in fact, this is probably the best option for the vast amount of the population who are going to the gym. Over the years, a new form of training has come through with the label “Powerbuilding” which is the mixture of powerlifting and bodybuilding. An athlete will train some of their main strength movements during the first part of their session and then move into a more traditional bodybuilding rep scheme for the second half of their session.
Some powerlifting schemes have you concentrate on strength training on certain days and concentrate on hypertrophy training on others. This is seen in Dr. Layne Norton’s PHAT training (Power Hypertrophy Adaptive Training).
Powerbuilding is very useful for strength and hypertrophy training for a couple of reasons:
1) While strength and hypertrophy training are vastly different, the two different adaptations benefit from one another. A muscle with a larger cross-sectional area (increased hypertrophy) can become stronger. In return, a stronger muscle can then lift more weight to increase volume.
2) The second benefit is that this is basically a form of periodization known as daily undulating periodization (DUP). DUP is used to constantly alter the volume and load used in an attempt to produce constant progression while also mitigating burnout.
Here is a brief summary of the differences. Keep in mind these are general guidelines and by no means absolute. This just reflects what is seen most common in the real world.
|Load||85-95% 1RM||70-80% 1RM|
|Reps||3-5, 6 (on lighter side)||6-12+|
|Rest||2-5 minutes||0:30-2:00 minutes|
|Exercises per session||Around 6||8-12|
|Type of movements||Compound lifts||Compound, Isolation, Machines|
|Program Split||3-4 Days/week||5-6 Days/week|
Neither! It just depends what you want. Always remember that the goal is the actual difference between the two styles and there just so happens to be differences in the most optimal way to get reach there. And remember, you are not married to any style. Just because a strength athlete trains for strength, it doesn’t mean he can’t throw in some hypertrophy for aesthetics. Just because a bodybuilder wants to grow his muscles, it doesn’t mean he has to be weak. In fact, you rarely find people at the extreme ends of these styles where they disregard the other.
Rather than looking at these training styles as opposition to one another, they should be viewed as complementary. Now that you know how to train for each, it’s time to put get strong and put on some mass!
April 18, 2021
Resistance band tricep exercises are a fantastic way to train your triceps at home or while on the road. However, even if you have access to a gym or free weight equipment, you should still be incorporating banded tricep exercises into your workout routine. Bands are extremely versatile and they offer some unique advantages that you can’t get from dumbbells, barbells or cable machines alone, as you are about to learn.
To start, let’s go over the anatomy and function of the tricep, as a greater understanding of this will allow you to fully develop your triceps.
Your tricep, more formally known as the tricep brachii, is a three-headed muscle (hence the “tri” which means three and “cep” which means head) located on the posterior side of your upper arm. It spans almost the entire length of your humerus (upper arm bone).
“Heads” simply mean points of origin. So, the tricep is actually one muscle that consists of three parts. Think of it like a three headed monster.
The three heads of the tricep brachii are referred to as the long, medial and lateral heads.
The long head’s origin point is the scapula (it is the largest part of your tricep). The medial head, which is overlapped by the long and lateral head, has an origin point at the humerus. And, the lateral head (said to be the strongest head of the three) has an origin point at the humerus too, higher up and on the other side of the medial head. They all span the length of the upper arm’s posterior side until they insert via a common tendon on the ulna (the medial bone of the forearm, which is on the pinky side).
Note: If you want big arms, you need to hone in on the triceps as they make up 60-70% of your upper arm!
The primary movement function of the tricep is extension of the forearm at the elbow joint. They help to stabilize the elbow joint too.
The tricep also plays a role in the extension and adduction of the arm at the shoulder joint (moving your arms behind you and moving your arms towards the middle of your body, respectively).
As such, the triceps are most active in pushing and thrusting movements, as well as well as supporting the weight of your body from your hands when your elbows are flexed.
Now, there are some distinctions to note regarding the functions of each head.
The medial head is active no matter what when extending the forearm (bringing your forearm down back to 0˚). However, your long and lateral head are only active, at least in a significant way, during extension of the elbow when there is resistance.
What’s more, the long head is different than the other two heads in its functions because it crosses the shoulder joint and attaches to the scapula. With that, it is the area of the tricep that assists in shoulder extension, adduction of the arm, and shoulder joint stability.
While the average Joe and Jane’s upper arm looks like one slab of meat, fully developed triceps will have a bulge out to the side (this is the prominence of the lateral head), a thick and well-defined inner portion (that horseshoe look caused by the medial head), and a large mass up by the shoulder (where the long head makes itself known).
Fully developed triceps look impressive and very “3D”.
To achieve this, you need to train your triceps effectively.
Tricep Isolation Exercises vs Only Doing Compound Pressing Exercises?
While compound exercises like push ups, bench press and shoulder press will get you far, isolation exercises for the triceps will take you much further in the development of your triceps. If this wasn’t the truth, bodybuilders wouldn’t waste their time doing tricep exercises! So, if someone tells you compound exercises are enough, there is some merit in that, but not if you want to really build fully developed triceps.
Note: Even powerlifters do arm exercises because it helps with their strength. Bench press and other compound lifts don’t often move your triceps (and biceps) through their full range of motion, which is important for strength and hypertrophy. So, if you really want to build big and strong triceps, you need to do some isolation exercises. Not only will your arms look great in the long run, but tricep isolation exercises will make you stronger in your pushing compound lifts too!
If you only do compound exercises or you do the same few tricep exercises, you will likely find that certain areas (heads) are deficient. The easy fix is to do various exercises that change your arm position and grip, such as overhead extensions, pressdowns, dips, and so on. You need variety to target the different heads of the triceps.
Can you isolate the different heads of the triceps?
You can’t isolate a specific head of the tricep as any time the elbow is extended, all three heads will be activated. HOWEVER, you can hone in on either the lateral, medial or long head by altering the position of your arms and/or grip position.
If it sounds complicated, don’t worry, it’s not…
Lateral Head: The lateral head of the tricep is worked best with your arms at the sides and using an overhand grip. For example, pressdowns, close-grip bench press, kickbacks, bench dips, diamond push ups.
Long Head: The long head of the tricep is worked best with your arms overhead or out in front of you and neutral grips. For example, overhead extension (all variations), rope pull downs, and skull crushers.
Medial Head: The medial head of the tricep is worked best with your arms at the side using an underhand grip. For example, reverse grip press down and reverse grip bench press.
Note: Many of these exercises will emphasize not just one head. For example, while skull crushers place emphasis on the long head, they will also target the lateral head too, and the medial head will still be activated. Again, you can’t completely isolate a specific head.
All in all, if you want to fill out those sleeve, make sure you focus on training variables, which include angles (how you position your body and where the resistance is coming from), grip position (underhand/overhand/neutral), and arm position.
We love using bands for tricep exercises because they can be used just like cable machines, barbells, and dumbbells! They can also be used to make bodyweight tricep exercises harder. You can literally mimic the exact same exercises that you do with cable pulleys, dumbbells, and barbells with a 41 inch loop resistance band, as you are about to see.
We also like resistance bands as the resistance increases as you stretch the band. So, rather than having the movement get easy at the end of its range (when your elbow is near full extension - it’s optimal range) like it does with barbells and dumbbells (due to the strength curve that occurs with free weights), it gets harder.
What’s more, you can alter the amount of resistance with a single resistance band by simply moving away from the anchor point or wrapping the band around your feet or hands more times. The more taut the band is, the harder it will be.
AND, resistance bands force you to use a slow and controlled motion on the eccentric phase (when your muscles are lengthening). Slow eccentric movements are proven to be best for muscle growth and strength.
On top of all that, bands are easy on the joints, easy to learn with, and easy to transport! They're also extremely versatile. For example, ladies looking to perform women's arm workouts at home can readily use resistance bands for all of their moves.
Even if you have access to dumbbells and barbells, we highly recommend mixing in resistance band tricep exercises. They really hit the tricep muscle deep and you will feel an amazing contraction when using them.
Below you will see pictures of each of the banded tricep exercises in the video above with quick how to’s for reference and the emphasized head so you can see how variance is implemented for full development of the triceps brachii.
How to do resistance band kickbacks:
Tricep Head Emphasized:
Your lateral head will be emphasized the most on this exercise, but as your hand is in a neutral grip, so will your long head.
As this is a single arm exercise, your core and hips will be engaged to maintain stability.
How to do resistance band overhead extensions:
Tricep Head Emphasized:
Single arm overhead extensions will emphasize the long head, as well as the lateral head if you use an overhand grip.
Your core will also be engaged during single arm extensions to maintain spinal stability since the resistance will be on just one side.
How to do resistance band reverse grip presses:
Tricep Head Emphasized:
This exercise is going to emphasize the medial head of your tricep.
How to do resistance band crossbow tricep extensions:
Tricep Head Emphasized:
The crossbow tricep extension is an interesting tricep exercise as it involves resistance from across the body rather than from straight above or below. It’s going to target all three heads of your triceps as you have an underhand grip (medial head), your elbows are up and moving laterally (lateral head) and you have movement at the shoulder joint as well (long head).
How to do crossbody resistance band pressdowns:
Tricep Head Emphasized:
Crossbody pressdowns will work your long head as there is shoulder adduction and your lateral head. This is another interesting exercise as it allows for resistance from a different angle.
How to do resistance band tricep concentration extensions:
Tricep Head Emphasized:
Resistance band concentration tricep extensions are going to emphasize the medial and long head. However, it is really an all around tricep exercise that will give you amazing contraction throughout all three heads of your tricep. Just focus on maximum contraction and use a slow tempo.
Here is an example of a well-rounded tricep workout with bands…
When to do a banded tricep workout?
Do this kind of resistance band tricep workout after you do your compound exercises, whether that’s a full body workout or chest/push day. This will allow you to maximize tricep gains and fully develop your triceps.
If you have access to different types of equipment, feel free to mix up the workout with dumbbells, barbells, AND resistance bands. None of these training tools are mutually exclusive.
Have questions? Feel free to contact us anytime or leave a comment below.
More Targeted Resistance Band Exercises:
April 15, 2021
Since you’ve landed here, it’s safe to assume that you are looking for the most effective resistance band exercises for your biceps. As resistance band experts, we know exactly how to target the biceps with bands. Below you will find 6 simple yet awesome bicep exercises with resistance bands. These different types of resistance band curls are all highly effective for building your bicep muscles and achieving that mountain high peak!
Rather than just jumping right into the resistance band bicep exercises, we want to cover the anatomy of the biceps, which will help you understand how bicep exercises act on the function of these muscles and how you can better engage them during curls. We will also go over the benefits of using bands for bicep exercises, so you can see why bands are so great for bicep exercises, even if you have dumbbells and barbells at your disposal.
Your biceps are made up of two muscles (hence the “bi” in biceps) - the brachialis and the biceps brachii.
The brachialis sits on the lower half of your upper arm, under the biceps brachii. It attaches to your upper arm bone (more formally know as the humerus) and to your ulna bone of your forearm. It’s main function is to flex your elbow (bringing your hand towards your shoulder - or in other words, it bends your elbow **cough cough CURLS**).
The biceps brachii is a two-headed muscle (long and short head) that connects to the scapular and radius bone of the forearm. This means it acts on both the shoulder joint and elbow joint. The biceps brachii is also a flexor of the elbow and it helps turn the forearm so your palm can face outward (which is supination). It also helps move your upper arm forward and upward (like an upper cut movement, which is called forward flexion of the shoulder).
Because the biceps act on flexion of the elbow and forward flexion of the shoulder, the biceps will be activated during any pulling exercises - i.e. pull ups, chin ups, rows.
In fact, compound pulling exercises are so effective for the biceps that if you do these exercises with enough resistance, you could effectively never do bicep isolation exercises and still have some nice looking arms.
That said, bicep isolation exercises are great if your biceps are lagging or you simply want some super impressive biceps (which is why bodybuilders spend a lot of time doing curls!). So, while bicep isolation exercise are not necessary if you are doing an adequate amount of compound pulling exercises, they are great for building impressive arms if you have the time.
Note: Unless you are a bodybuilder, there’s no point focusing a whole workout on your arms. Just do a couple/few bicep exercises after your workout (ideally a pulling workout as they will already being somewhat fatigued so it won’t take much to exhaust them fully).
At SET FOR SET, we like to do a several sets of bicep isolation exercises (with bands and/or dumbbells) after a pulling workout - the Push Pull Leg split is our favorite.
One thing every bicep exercise has in common is they are all curls - i.e. bicep curl, reverse curl, hammer curl, and so on.
This is because the biceps are activated when curling. That is their primary moving function! The curling movement is the only way they will lengthen and contract, which is what you want for building muscle.
The biceps also act on forearm supination, so you will want to employ some forearm supination into your curls sometimes (more on this later)!
Now…it’s important to understand that not all curls are alike. By changing angles, hand position, and load placement, you can alter how the stress is placed on your muscles. These training variables are very important for developing boulder-like biceps with impressive peaks.
Bicep curls obviously work your brachialis and the biceps brachii. However, it’s not just your biceps that get activated, as your forearms always come along for the ride with bicep curls. And depending on the type of curl, you will have more or less forearm activation. Even your shoulders and core come into play. With unilateral banded bicep curls, your core has to stabilize your torso.
So, is there really any form of true bicep isolation?
Technically no, but curls are as good as it gets. Moreover, certain types of curls, like concentration curls, really do a good job of honing in on just the biceps. But again, there will be some forearm activation, and shoulder activation through isometric contraction.
We all know that bands are great because they provide freedom to train at home, or anywhere you please, as they are lightweight and portable, not to mention inexpensive.
However, the real benefit has nothing to do with that in our opinion. These are the reasons why resistance bands are so great for bicep exercises (or any exercise for that matter):
2. Single Arm Resistance Band Reverse Bicep Curl (0:35)
3. Single Arm Resistance Band Hammer Curl (0:48)
4. Resistance Band Bicep Curl (1:03)
5. Resistance Band Reverse Bicep Curl (1:18)
6. Resistance Band Concentration Curl | Anchored (1:26)
This is a standard bicep curl, but using a single arm at time.
Loop the band around your feet (more or less times for more or less resistance). Grab the band with your palms up. Curl the band up while keeping your elbow pinned to your side. Squeeze at the top and lower down slowly.
Single Arm Banded Bicep Curl Muscles Worked:
Activates the the brachialis, biceps brachii, and brachioradialis (forearm muscle also involved in elbow flexion). Your biceps brachii short head is more activated than the long head - unless you use our tip. Your core will also be engaged for stability.
Loop the band around your feet (more or less times for more or less resistance). Grab the band with your palms down. Curl the band up while keeping your elbow pinned to your side. Squeeze at the top and lower down slowly.
Single Arm Banded Reverse Bicep Curl Muscles Worked:
Activates brachialis and biceps brachii (more so the long head), but it actually turns your forearms from secondary movers into the primary mover. Also, since it is single armed, you will activate your core as well for core stability.
Hammer curls have your hands in a neutral position. So, you will be performing a bicep curl just like the previous exercise, but with your hand in a neutral position the entire time (palm in).
Single Arm Banded Hammer Curl Muscles Worked:
Activates the the brachialis, biceps brachii, and brachioradialis. More long-head bicep brachii activation and forearm activation. Your core will also be engaged for stability.
Step onto the inside of the band with both feet (about hip width apart). Grab the band with your palms up and about hip width apart (you can vary the width of your grip as this is a training variable that will alter how the biceps are worked).
Curl the band up while keeping your elbows pinned to your side. Squeeze at the top and lower down slowly.
Banded Bicep Curl Muscles Worked:
Activates the the brachialis, biceps brachii, and brachioradialis (forearm muscle also involved in elbow flexion). Your biceps brachii short head is more activated than the long head.
Step onto the inside of the band with both feet (about hip width apart). Grab the band with your palms in and about hip width apart (you can vary the width of your grip as this is a training variable that will alter how the biceps are worked).
Curl the band up while keeping your elbows pinned to your side. Squeeze at the top and lower down slowly.
Banded Reverse Bicep Curl Muscles Worked:
Activates brachialis and biceps brachii (more so the long head), but it actually turns your forearms from secondary movers into the primary mover.
Anchor the band to a low anchor point. Step a good distance away from the band so it is taut from the starting position.
Get into a half-kneeling position, with the knee furthest from the anchor point forward and the other knee back. Your body should be perpendicular with the band.
Place your tricep/elbow on your inner thigh and hold the band with your palm facing up. Your forearm will be aligned with the band.
Curl the band up slowly, really honing in on your biceps. Your elbow and lower tricep will be pinned to your inner thigh for the duration of the exercise.
Use a slow tempo for this one on concentric phase (and eccentric phase too, as always).
Banded Concentration Curl Muscles Worked:
Concentration curls work the same muscles as a regular curl, but the real benefit of them is how they do a fantastic job of isolating the biceps. According to an American Council on Exercise study, concentration curls yield 97% biceps activity, compared to 76% with regular curls.
As you can see, each exercise hits the muscles differently. So if you really want to maximize your bicep muscle growth, implement all of these resistance band exercises into your routine.
TIP #1 - REPS & VOLUME FOR BICEP GROWTH:
The amount of reps you should do with resistance bands is similar to dumbbell curls. You want to keep the rep range from 8-20 reps for hypertrophy (muscle growth).
The heavier the weight, the less the reps can be, but aim for a minimum of 8.
Do around 3-5 sets.
Don’t always use the same amount of weight. Do lighter resistance for more reps and heavier resistance for less reps. Switch things up!
TIP #2 - TEMPO:
The best tempo for resistance band bicep exercises is to be very slow on the eccentric (downward - lengthening of the biceps) and explosive on the concentric (contraction, shortening of the biceps).
You can really explode up (keeping your elbow pinned) and when you reach the peak, squeeze the heck out of your biceps, then lower slowly, as to keep control of the band (you don’t want it snapping down). Plus, slow eccentric is proven to be best for muscle growth and strength. In fact, the eccentric phase is considerably more effective for muscle growth and strength.
Do you have to be explosive?
The answer to that is no. You can be explosive on the eccentric or slow and controlled. Both ways are effective.
Both ways allows for maximum time under tension. Because you will be contracting your muscle and squeezing at the top, and then lowering down very slowly, you muscle will always be under tension. Moreover, the slow eccentric tempo will make a set of 10 reps last a very long time, which means more time under tension - so, you get both max tension and time under tension.
TIP #3 - INCREASING RESISTANCE:
There are a few ways that you can increase resistance with resistance bands.
The obvious one is that you can use a heavier band (a wider band in the case of a 41 inch loop resistance band as they are all the same length and thickness, no matter what resistance level).
For bicep curls, you will be limited to how heavy of a band you can use, and actually, a single band can provide a wide range of resistance, as we’ve already mentioned.
For example, our yellow band can provide ~5-30lbs and our black band can provide ~10-50lbs. It all depends on how far it is stretched (bands increase in resistance as they stretch more).
So, with a single band, you can change the resistance level by starting with more or less tautness in the band.
If you wrap the band around your foot 3 times for a single arm bicep curl, it will have more resistance than if you wrapped it around 1 or 2 times.
You can also wrap it around your hand more for increased resistance.
If you are using an anchor, simply stepping further away from the anchor point will increase the resistance.
It’s very simple. Play around with this when doing bicep curls with resistance bands and you will see what we mean.
TIP #4 - BICEP CURL TIP FOR MORE BICEP BRACHII ENGAGEMENT:
Now that we’ve went over the anatomy of bicep curls, you can see that the brachialis does most of the work for curls as it is the muscle responsible for bending your elbow.
Yes, your biceps brachii helps with elbow flexion too, but it is not working to its full extent.
If you want more biceps brachii engagement, which I think we all do, here are two effective ways to achieve that.
Let us explain each.
Forward Shoulder Flexion at Peak Contraction
Perform a bicep curl as you would with your elbow pinned to your sides. When you reach the top range of motion, meaning you can’t curl it up any further, bring your elbow up and forward a few inches and squeeze your biceps hard.
So, just to reiterate, your elbow will be pinned to your side, we are not suggesting any elbow movement until you reach the top of the curl. Only at the top, when you can’t curl any further, should you bring your elbow forward and upward a bit. Remember, the bicep brachiis act on this movement. W
With this little tip, you can really hit your biceps brachii to their full extent.
Rather than starting the exercise with your palms up during bicep curls, like we demonstrated in the video, try this variation…
Start with your palm-in (neutral position), then, as you curl up, rotate your wrist out (supination). By the time you reach peak contraction, your hands will be pointing slightly outward.
This twist allows you to take your biceps through their full range of motion. A great range of motion is great for building muscle.
It also activates your biceps brachii to a greater degree as this muscle acts on forearm supination.
Should I do this for every set of curls?
This is not going to work for reverse curls or concentration curls, so don’t do it with those two exercises.
Moreover, you don’t have to do this all the time, just implement it into your bicep exercises where it makes sense (i.e. do one or the other tricks for a couple sets of curls).
RESISTANCE BAND BICEP WORKOUT #1 (sets & reps)
RESISTANCE BAND BICEP WORKOUT #2 (supersets)
You could also do them as supersets. So do the first two back to back, for 3 sets, then do the next two as supersets for 3 sets. This will make your workout more efficient.
RESISTANCE BAND BICEP WORKOUT #3 (circuit)
This is a circuit. You do 30 seconds work then 30 seconds rest, then you move on to the next exercise.
Do this circuit 3-4 times
RESISTANCE BAND BICEP WORKOUT #4 (EMOM)
Do each exercise Every Minute On The Minute (EMOM). You will only be doing one set for each exercise. So, as soon as the minute hits, you move on to the next exercise.
Be sure to set up for the next exercise before the new minute begins.
Repeat for 2-4 rounds.
RESISTANCE BAND BICEP WORKOUT #5 (AMRAP)
Do As Many Reps As Possible (AMRAP) in 5 minutes. Rest only as needed.
Choose just one resistance band bicep exercise, and do that one for as many reps as you can within the 5 minutes.
This is a simple and great finisher after a pull or back day if you want to beef up your arms.
RESISTANCE BAND BICEP WORKOUT #6 (intra)
Rather than doing bicep exercises after a workout or as a sole workout, you can add banded bicep exercises within your regular workout (doesn't matter what kind of split you are doing or if its full body).
Simply put a set of one of the resistance band bicep exercise in-between every set (or every exercise). This works best with workouts that involve compound exercises.
Bench press - 3 sets x 10 reps
Resistance Band Bicep Curls x 20 reps
Incline Bench Press - 3 sets x 10 reps
Resistance Band Reverse Bicep Curl x 20 reps
Decline Fly x 12 reps
Resistance Band Single Arm Hammer Curl x 15 reps each side
Chest Dips x 15 reps
Resistance Band Concentration Curls x 15 reps each side
If you want to mix things up, do resistance band supersets with dumbbells! You can do a heavy set of curls with dumbbells (6-8 reps), then a high repetition set right after with bands (10-20 reps). Best of both worlds!
Related: 3 Resistance Band Arm Workouts
More Targeted Resistance Band Exercises:
April 13, 2021
One of our favorite ways to use resistance bands is for plyometrics, explosive training, and speed training. If you look to professional athletic training, you will see they implement resistance bands into many of their speed and plyometric workouts. This is because resistance bands are a highly effective way to increase explosive power, jumping height and distance, and speed.
In this article, we have 4 awesome resistance band exercises that focus on increasing speed, increasing explosive power & acceleration, and jumping higher.
And while these resistance band exercises are made for athletes (especially basketball and football players as well as sprinters and people who do track & field), anyone who wants to increase explosiveness and acceleration while improving anaerobic endurance will benefit from them. Athletic type training will not only improve sports performance, but it will help you crush other workouts (like cardio or weight training) and it will make you look better (who doesn't want an athletic type body!?).
These exercises will help fill in the gaps of most people's training. This is because a lot of people don't do any kind of explosive training, speed training or jumping training, they simply lift heavy and slow. Moderate to heavy slow lifts are great for building absolute strength (your ability to lift heavy weights), but it is not effective for relative strength, which is strength in relation to your own bodyweight. For example, if someone can do a 315lb squat but they are slow and gasping for breath after a 100m sprint, they are clearly missing an important pillar of fitness (speed strength and endurance). So, if you want to be truly fit, you need to have a well rounded workout plan that focuses on absolute strength and relative strength (which includes bodyweight exercises, sprinting, jumping, and so on).
Once you have a good foundation of relative strength (all you really need is your body to get started), adding bands will enable you to continue enhancing and improving upon this important area of fitness. Resistance bands are safe and effective way to add resistance to bodyweight exercises. Bands are made to be used in an explosive manner. Just be sure to check your bands to make sure they are in good condition before exercising with them. While they are made to last a very long time, if they've been used on abrasive surfaces for too long, they can break.
Do the following resistance band exercises once a week. You can either make a day for relative strength training (and thus explosive power) or you can incorporate it into your current workout routine at the end of the workout or when/where it makes sense. Just make sure your body is fully recovered before doing explosive exercises as they are taxing!
Also, be sure to buy high quality resistance bands.
The following resistance band speed exercises mimic real-life athletic movements, engaging the power centers of your body to produce more output in short bursts. Professional athletes are seen using resistance bands more and more due to the effectiveness in improving their game.
Complete the following exercises twice a week going through three circuits with each set lasting 20-40 seconds.
HOW TO DO BANDED BEAR CRAWLS
Without a partner:
With a partner:
HOW TO DO BANDED SPRINTS
Without a partner:
There are two ways to go about banded sprints without a partner (just using an anchor). You can either sprint in position or work on your ability to explode out of the blocks.
Sprinting in Position:
This will be training to explode out of the blocks. So you won't be doing all out sprints.
You can also tie two bands together to be able to do three strides.
With a partner:
HOW TO DO BANDED BOX JUMPS
This exercises is great for improving muscular endurance. It will also burn a ton of calories so you can lose fat, which will help you become more athletic!
HOW TO DO BANDED THRUSTERS
Get yourself a set of resistance bands aka POWER BANDS and start training explosively. Explosive exercises using resistance bands are also a great way to build muscle and burn off pesky fat, and of course, when it comes game time you will be faster, jumping higher, more explosive, and ready for anything.
#ALWAYSREADY - Full Body Band Workout You Can Do Anywhere.
April 11, 2021 1 Comment
The PHAT workout program; all the cool kids are doing it (because it’s fat but spelled with PH…never mind). PHAT training stands for Power Hypertrophy Adaptive Training and was designed by professional bodybuilder and powerlifter Dr. Layne Norton. The PHAT training is actually just a specific program that falls under a style of training known as Powerbuilding. A common cliche in the fitness community says bodybuilders are weak and powerlifters look like crap. Dr. Layne Norton decided to fix that problem by developing his PHAT program as a relatively new breed of training that combines the worlds of powerlifting and bodybuilding into one badass workout program.
Bodybuilding training has one goal; to build muscles as large as possible in an aesthetic manner. There are variants of this training style, but the main focus is always aesthetics first, with very little concern for anything else. This means that bodybuilding is mainly concerned with training for muscle hypertrophy or the enlargement of the muscle.
These three factors which contribute to the enlargement of the muscle:
Out of these three, the total volume is the primary driver that increases hypertrophy (study). While this can be attained through the entire rep scheme, it is commonly accepted that the best load to use is 75-80% 1RM with 8-12 reps. This will allow a lifter to get the most volume while still heavy enough to activate the type II muscle fibers.
Bodybuilders also use a much wider variety of exercises as well as incorporate much more isolation and single-joint movements. This is in an attempt to hit all of the muscles from every angle possible to get full development. Bodybuilding is also known for its use of “special sets”. These are sets with the attempt to cause as much fatigue as possible to the muscle.
Examples of these are:
Powerlifting is almost the complete opposite as bodybuilding as it’s main focus is to lift as much weight as possible, specifically in the 3 big movements:
Powerlifters have little concern with aesthetics for the actual sport and are really only concerned with their weight as they lift in weight classes. This means they will want to lift in the class that they perform best at. For some, this may be gaining weight and moving up a weight class, but it may mean wanting to lift in a lighter weight class for others. Regardless, their aesthetics have nothing to do with the sport as the lifters are judged by the total of their top lifts.
Powerlifting is much more specific than bodybuilding causing powerlifters to generally use a much smaller selection of exercises. They are either performing their main lifts or lifts that will improve their main lifts. Anything else is discarded as it won’t help them improve in their sport. Now that is powerlifting in its truest sense. There will always be a range in how individuals train, but this shows the dichotomy between bodybuilding.
Being that powerlifters are merely interested in strength (technically, powerlifters don’t perform “power” exercises. They perform strength movements), the loads and rep schemes are also drastically different. A powerlifters main goal is to improve the efficiency of their neuromuscular system. This is because their main focus is to improve their neuromuscular system (study), which basically results in the muscle you have working better together. To do this, they will generally work with loads of 85-95% 1RM using 1-5 reps and multiple sets of 3-6, if not more.
So why should you be interested in PHAT training? Well, PHAT training literally combines the best of both worlds. Bodybuilding is the best style for aesthetics, while powerlifting is the best for strength. PHAT training gives you both!
Although training for hypertrophy can look quite different from strength training, there is definitely some overlap. For example, oftentimes, bodybuilders will blow off training for strength because, in their mind, hypertrophy comes from using moderate weights with moderate reps. Training with heavy weights is pointless. This is not true. Hypertrophy is driven by total volume, and it doesn’t matter what load you are using; a rep with 75% 1RM or 95% 1RM both add to your volume. This was illustrated beautifully in a study in which a bodybuilding routine as compared to a powerlifting routine in terms of muscle hypertrophy. The catch is that the total volume was equated for. The study found the two routines produced similar muscle growth even though the bodybuilding routine used routine based off their 10RM and the powerlifters used a scheme based on their 3RM.
Now, bodybuilders should still use moderate weight with moderate reps for hypertrophy as they are able to produce more volume faster. However, if bodybuilders became stronger, their 1RM would go up, which means 80% of their 1RM would be heavier as well. This means they can use more weight when doing hypertrophy training which further adds to volume.
On the flip side, powerlifters would benefit from hypertrophy training as there is a positive relationship between the cross-sectional area of a muscle and strength. Basically, this means that a bigger muscle has more potential to be stronger.
One of the great training variables of PHAT training is that it allows you to train every body part twice a week (study on this training volume). This frequency is often thought of to be the optimum number of times to train a muscle as it allows an amount of quality volume.
Most guys are drawn to the gym after seeing huge bodybuilders and want to have “big, strong” muscles just like them”. The problem is that most new trainees follow typical bodybuilding programs and solely focus on the getting big part while neglecting the strength part. In reality, the vast majority of guys WANT to be doing a PHAT-style program as it is actually designed to give them the results they’re looking for.
The only caveat is that the lifter needs to have a good base of training underneath them. A brand new beginner should not jump straight into PHAT training as the volume is very demanding and some of the bigger compound movements take some time to learn the movements properly. Jumping into this type of workout program too soon is a recipe for injury. Further, a beginner should increase strength and hypertrophy fine using the same rep scheme rather than worrying about training different variables separately.
The PHAT workout routine was programmed specifically 5 days a week. Unlike similar power building templates, which may have you work strength and hypertrophy on the same day, PHAT has two days dedicated to powerlifting and 3 days dedicated to hypertrophy training. The basic routine will look like this
This is the program! DO NOT ALTER IT!
The PHAT workout delivers a specific layout and was built with a purpose. What this means is you should run it as is. Do not try to alter anything or try to swap days around. If you can’t dedicate 5 days a week to training, this may not be for you. On the other hand, don’t go in the gym the 6th day for “accessory work”. The only allowance you have is you could do some core work on your rest days if you would like. If 5 days does not work for you, there are plenty of other great training programs out there to fit your need.
The only thing that you can personalize is the exercises. Perhaps you don’t have the skill or mobility for a certain exercise, or maybe you know that you respond better to one over the other. You can then swap them out, but they need to use the same movement pattern such as a bent-over row and Pendlay row or leg press and hack squat.
When choosing exercises, do not try to conflate the different training days. The easiest way is to think of the power days and hypertrophy days distinct from one another.
On your power days, your main lifts are going to be your core movements. This is going to include your big compound lifts (and their variations) including:
The accessory lifts for your power day are still going to consist mainly of compound movements. The idea of these is that they will be able to increase the load you can use for your main lifts.
Rest Intervals To Use
For these days, you want to rest as long as you need to hit your reps. Ideally, this will be in the 2-3 minute range, but if it takes longer, than that’s ok.
You will start your workouts performing 6-8 sets of 3 reps performing speed work with the main exercises from your power day on your hypertrophy days. To do this, you will use 65-70% of your normal 3-5RM. The purpose of these movements is to increase your explosiveness and rate of force production. The weight needs to be light to do this, so don’t try to be macho and add weight; lighter is better than heavier. This is also a great time to attach resistance bands to the barbell to increase your power production.
The rest of your session will look very much like a typical bodybuilder program. This will include performing a lot of volume and more isolation exercises
Rest Intervals To Use
For your hypertrophy training, your rest intervals between sets are much shorter. These should be about 2 minutes for the exercises at the beginning of the session, and you can go down to 1 minute towards the end of the session.
There are a lot of training programs that follow the general idea of PHAT but aren’t actually PHAT training. Here is the original PHAT training program developed by Dr. Layne Norton exactly as he wrote it. We will then go over way to alter it if you would like.
Day 1- Upper Body Power Training
Bentover Row: 3 X 3-5
Weighted Pull-ups: 2 X 6-10
Rack Chins: 2 X 6-10
Flat Dumbbell Press: 3 X 3-5
Weighted Dips: 2 X 6-10
Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press: 3 X 6-10
Cambered Bar Curls: 3 X 6-10
Skull Crushers: 3 X 6-10
Day 2- Lower Body Power Training
Squats: 3 X 3-5
Hack Squats: 2 X 6-10
Leg Extensions: 2 X 6-10
Stiff-Legged Deadlifts: 3 X 5-8
Glute Ham Raises: 2 X 6-10
Standing Calf Raise: 3 X 6-10
Seated Calf Raise: 2 X 6-10
Day 3- Rest
Day 4- Back And Shoulders Hypertrophy
Bentover Row: 6 X 3 65-70% of 3-5 RM
Rack Chins: 3 X 8-12
Seated Cable Row: 3 X 8-12
Dumbbell Rows: 2 X 12-15
Close Grip Pull Downs: 2 X 15-20
Seated Dumbbell Press 3 X 8-12
Upright Rows: 2 X 12-15
Side Lateral Raises: 3 X 12-20
Day 5- Leg Hypertrophy Day
Squats: 6 X 3 65-70% of 3-5 RM
Hack Squats: 3 X 8-12
Leg Presses: 2 X 12-15
Leg Extensions: 3 X 15-20
Romanian Deadlifts: 3 X 8-12
Lying Leg Curls: 2 X 12-15
Seated Leg Curls: 2 X 15-20
Donkey Calf Raises: 4 X 10-15
Seated Calf Raises: 3 X 15-20
Day 6- Chest And Arms Hypertrophy
Flat Dumbbell Press: 6 X 3 with 65-70% of 3-5RM
Incline Dumbbell Press: 3 X 8-12
Hammer Strength Chest Press: 3 X 12-15
Incline Cable Flyes: 2 X 15-20
Cambered Bar Preacher Curls: 3 X 8-12
Dumbbell Concentration Curls: 2 X 12-15
Spider Curls: 2 X 15-20
Seated Tricep Extension With Cambered Bar: 3 X 8-12
Cable Press Downs With Rope: 2 X 12-15
Cable Kickbacks: 2 X 15-20
Day 7- Rest
You can definitely just run the program above as it was written. However, perhaps you have limited access to equipment, or maybe you like the general concept but prefer other exercises. In this case, PHAT is relatively easy to personalize AS LONG as you remember to keep the same general outline.
For example, you can start your Power Upper Body Day with barbell bench press instead of doing the dumbbell presses later on in the session. Or, if your chin-ups are lacking, you can start with those instead.
Still, you should only begin to alter movements if you are more advanced and have a good idea of what you need in your training and what your body responds well to. If not, run the program as-is for at least a month, and you can identify your strengths and weaknesses.
What About Deadlifts?
The original program only has Romanian deadlift. However, many people really enjoy performing the traditional deadlift; and they should because it’s a great exercise. In this case, you have a few options:
Week 1: Power Lower Body Day- Squats, Hypertrophy Lower Body Day- Deadlift
Week 2: Power Lower Body Day- Deadlifts, Hypertrophy Lower Body Day- Squats
If you would like to, feel free to use some special sets during the hypertrophy sets. If you want to train to failure, save that for only 1 or 2 exercises at the end of the session. If you train to failure correctly, it should cause enough fatigue so that you won’t be able to train with as much intensity for the rest of the session. You can use forced reps or drop sets for this. You can also combine some exercises for either compound (work the same muscle) or supersets (work an agonist/antagonist pair of muscles)
Your first week of PHAT training will be more of a test week unless you know what all of your lifts will be. Simply run the program and work up to a weight that will be suitable for you to use. This is more important for your main lifts but you should still get an idea of what to use on all of your lifts
After your first week, you will simply use progressive overload to progress with your lifts. The general rule for progressive overload is to add 5lbs to your upper body movements and 10lbs to your lower body movements. This is very broad and will vary depending on your level with each lift. Regardless, the main point is to add a little bit of weight every week IF you hit all of your assigned reps.
There really is no limit to how long you run PHAT training. You could theoretically run it for the rest of your life if you wanted. One thing to consider is going to be throwing in some deload weeks if you are consistent and hit all your sessions.
A deload week is quite simple, and just as you do the same exact schedule but using anywhere from 50-60% of the weight you usually use. For PHAT training, you could also cut down to 3 days a weeks and do the main exercises for upper pulling, upper pushing, and legs. This can give your muscles a break AND give you some extra time of from the gym. This will recharge you so that you can come back hard and fresh the next week.
There is no guide for the perfect amount of weeks to train before a deload, but it will usually run somewhere every 3-4 weeks. That would look like 3-4 weeks of hard training followed by a nice deload week. Newer trainees will be able to get away training for longer period of times with out needing to do a deload as the weights they use will not be as taxing on the body. You will just need to monitor your body but remember, don’t wait until you feel too sluggish; this is already too late.
As mentioned, if you enjoy this training style, you can continue it for as long as you like. You’ll just need to make some adjustments. The best way to continue your growth is to alter your movements, especially your main power movements, with similar movements that use the same biomechanics.
For example, we can look at how this would for your Upper Body Power Day.
Day 1- Upper Body Power Training (exercises)
The best way to do this is to change your exercises after every deload week. This would mean you do 1 group of exercises for 4 week —> 1 week of deload —> New group of exercises for 4 weeks, and so on.
The other way to do it is to slightly alter the rep scheme following the same duration. The original plan has a range of reps for the majority of these lifts. You can train the bottom range for 4 weeks, have a deload, then train the higher range. Again, we can see how this works with Upper Body Power Training.
Day 1- Upper Body Power Training (rep scheme)
Or….any combination of the above but the idea should be pretty clear
Time To Train For Strength AND Muscle Mass!
Now you have the blueprint to train for what you really want and no longer have to miss out. This is an awesome program that will definitely give growth on both fronts if you are new to it. Further, you will get to learn the flip-side of your usual style training and form some respect to what the “other guys do” and there’s never anything wrong with that!
Want more workout programs?
You can also check splits by how many days a week you can workout:
April 06, 2021
Ask any experienced fitness enthusiast what their favorite exercises are and we guarantee squats will be top of the list. It’s arguably the best lower body compound exercise there is. The squat is a powerful movement that activates so many joints and muscles at once. They are fantastic for building strength, muscle, bone density, and they burn a lot of calories. They can even boost hormone production! The only downfall is that beginners have trouble learning the proper mechanics of a squat and certain individuals with back and joint (knee or hip) issues are afraid of hurting themselves with barbell squats. But who said squats have to be dangerous or that you need to use a heavily loaded barbell? With resistance bands, you can reap the benefits of squats in a safe manner. Plus, you can do them literally anywhere.
Now, we are not here to say that you shouldn’t do barbell squats, as we are all for heavy lifting and barbell exercises. We are also not saying that barbell squats and resistance band squats are mutually exclusive. Both have their advantages and are effective in their own way. So, whether you train at home, you are on the road often, you are a beginner, you have back issues, or you just want to switch things up, we highly recommend incorporating squats with bands into your workouts. And we are not just talking about standard back squats, we have all different resistance band squat variations for you to try, such as front squats, sumo squats, cossack squats and more.
Before we get into the exercises, let’s cover the benefits and muscles worked when squatting.
Since you are reading this, you’ve either got yourself a set of bands or you are thinking about getting some resistance bands and you are wondering if resistance band squats are effective. Resistance band squats most certainly are effective. You get all the same benefits that you would with bodyweight squats, just with additional resistance. There are also a few benefits that you can only get with resistance band squats, all of which we are going to get into just below.
But first, let us make a clear distinction of what this article is about - resistance band-ONLY squats, NOT banded barbell squats.
Note: Barbell squats with bands are certainly a different beast. Banded barbell squats are common among athletes and powerlifters as they can enhance the lift by eliminating the strength curve that comes with free weights. Bands increase in resistance as you stretch them. So, in terms of squats, you have more resistance during the lift when your muscles are working in an optimum range (easiest part of the lift), which is the top of the movement.
Adding resistance to your squats using bands is the most obvious benefit, but the other benefits of squatting with bands are not to be overlooked. They are as followed...
1. Variable Resistance:
Resistance bands are a form of variable resistance training, which sounds complicated but it simply means the resistance increases as you reach the end of the movement and decreases as you come back to the starting point. They do not provide the same resistance the entire lift like a dumbbell or barbell would be.
With free weights and bodyweight exercises, since the resistance is gravity, the resistance remains the same. However, you have a strength curve with free weights and bodyweight exercises, so when you are doing squats, the top of the movement is far easier than the bottom of the movement since your muscles are at an advantage due to the position of your joints.
When it comes to barbell squats, our muscles can only handle X-amount of weight at the bottom of the squat, but they handle even more at the top. So, you can only load up the bar with what your muscles can manage at the bottom. If you did the lift with the amount of weight that you could do at the top, you wouldn’t be able to come out of the lower position. So, with banded barbell squats, the lifter can eliminate the strength curve (the bands add an effective amount of resistance towards the top of the movement but they don't add much at the bottom), which is great power development.
Now, while we are doing squats with only bands, it is not exactly the same as there is no added free weight load to consider, but the same concept applies. The band allows you to have optimum resistance, and thus muscular tension, throughout the exercise. The weight of your body is effective for the lower portion of the squat, then the band’s resistance continues to increase as you reach the top half where your bodyweight alone would normally not be so effective. Overall, this is great for muscular strength, endurance and hypertrophy.
With resistance band squats, you will notice at the top of the squat, you muscles are fully contracted and super engaged, where they normally would not be with just bodyweight alone. Your gluteus and quads are going to be squeeze so tight, making sure that band can’t retract. It’s a nice feeling.
For those who do bodyweight workouts at home, bands are a great way to increase the difficulty of your leg workouts. Even if you have free weights at home, bands give you the nice variable resistance effect that you can throw into the mix (and you can combine them with the free weights).
2. Emphasizes the Eccentric Phase:
With barbell and bodyweight squats, a lot of times people pretty much ignore the eccentric phase of the lift (going down is the eccentric phase and up is the concentric phase for squats). By “ignore”, we mean they use a quick-tempoed drop.
Interestingly, research shows that the eccentric phase of a lift is more superior for building muscle and strength than the concentric phase.
With resistance bands, not only can you use a much slower tempo for the descent, but the bands almost require you to do so. You really have to move slower on the descent because the band is trying to force itself back to its normal length. Without a slow and controlled descent, your joints will wobble and it just won’t feel right. The bands make you move slower through the descent to ensure your form stays intact. With free weights, you won’t have this same effective as you can sit into the squat faster without losing much stability.
So, it’s pretty much twofold, the bands allow you to focus on the eccentric phase because they are easier and SAFER (with heavyweights, it’s difficult and even risky to go very slow) but also the bands basically demand that you do your squats this way as if you just move fast through the eccentric phase, the movement will feel wobbly and uncontrolled.
When you try a resistance band squat, you will see exactly what we mean.
All in all, you’ll get the greatest bang for your eccentric buck with bands.
3. Explosive on the Concentric:
With bands, you can be explosive on the concentric phase (upward motion). Once the band has an adequate amount of tension, you can explode up. You don’t have to worry about the bar popping up and your spine being at risk like you would with a barbell squat. Bands are made for explosive concentric movements.
Note: You don't have to be explosive, it's just an option. You can also use a slow tempo on the concentric phase. In fact, doing both is great.
4. Easy To Change The Load Placement:
A very important variable of working out is changing the placement of the load. Where the load is placed in relation to your body makes a big difference to how stress is placed on your body. For example, placing the load on your back vs placing the load on your front side significantly changes the stress on certain muscles. While there are various ways to change the placement of the load with barbells, it is a lot harder to implement. A beginner (and even a lot of intermediate lifters) have trouble changing the placement of the load. But, with resistance bands, it is actually quite simple to do and its a great way to get comfortable with various load placements when squatting. Moreover, with barbells you have around 4 placements, but with bands you actually have a couple more. You will see what we mean with the different variations of resistance band squats below.
5. Great for Beginners:
Barbell squats are a pretty technical lift compared to other lifts. There is certainly a learning curve to performing a proper barbell squat. It takes time to learn the correct movement pattern and then strengthen the muscles to start doing a heavier load. It’s pretty normal that beginners spend up to 4 weeks just learning how to do barbell squat correctly, using just the bar alone.
By using a resistance band, you can speed up your squatting progress because the movement pattern is easier. You don’t have to worry about holding onto a bar, the band just sits on your back. Moreover, the bands tension will help you sit back to drive force from your heels (where you should), rather than lean forward onto your toes.
Moreover, bands are easiest at the bottom of the squat because they have less resistance, and the bottom of the squat is the most difficult part.
You can easily increase resistance of your squats over time by using a bigger band. You can even combine bands. For example, if you are squatting with the heaviest resistance band you have, by adding a lighter band with it, the resistance will equal the two bands combined (i.e. heavy one is max ~100lbs and the lighter one is max ~25lbs, then the squat will be ~125lbs).
6. Great For Rehab:
If you are recovery from an injury, resistance band squats are a safe way to build strength back. They are easy on your joints and they actually build strength in the small stabilizer muscles around your joints, which is great for stability.
One of the most common issues for people in the gym is that they tweak their back with barbell squats. Once they do that, they take a break from squats for a while. But, you don’t have to take a break from squatting, you can do squats with bands to not only maintain strength in your squats and keep your legs and glutes active, but also to help with the pain in your back. Often times, the best fix for low back pain is to strengthen the muscles (movement is medicine). This is where bands come in, they are light yet very effective.
*Note: We are not licensed medical practitioners. If you are concerned about your back or it is more severe than just being sore i.e., you have trouble walking, see a licensed practitioner.
The great thing about squat is, they work just about every muscle in your body, and with resistance bands, this fact is no different. Be that as it may, there are a few primary muscles that are targeted during squats.
Primary Muscles Worked During Squats:
Note: Your core will also be working to stabilize your spine!
Let’s take a closer look at the muscles to see how they act in relation to movement.
The gluteus muscles are comprised of three muscles:
The gluteal muscles act as the primary muscle for hip extension. They do this in coordination with your hamstrings and erector spinae. Together, these various muscles are known as your posterior chain.
Your quadriceps are comprised of 4 muscles that sit on the front of the upper leg:
Your quadricep muscles are responsible for extending the knee. They are vital for movements such as running, jumping and SQUATTING. The rectus femoris also acts as a strong hip flexor to pull the leg up while the vestus medialis helps stabilize the knee when running.
The hamstrings are comprised of three muscles located on the back of the upper leg:
The hamstrings are responsible for hip extension. They are also in charge of flexing the knee and pulling our leg back (such as when you walk or sprint). The hamstrings are one of the most important muscles for activities like sprinting as they are the key component for speed. If you want to have high sports performance and injury resilience, you must have strong hamstrings.
The erector spinae muscles straddle the spine. They run all the way down your spine into the glutes.
The erector spinae is made three muscles (going from the middle to the outside of your back):
These muscles work together to extend the spine and maintain spinal stability. When people talk about core strength, they usually think of the abs, but the erector spinae, which is technically part of your core (as well as your posterior chain) is super important for core strength as they provide the greatest support and stability for your spine.
Your calves are the muscles of your lower extremity. They are made up of two muscles:
The gastrocnemius is the larger calf muscle that forms the bulk of the lower leg, while the soles is small and flat, lying underneath the gastrocnemius muscle.
Your calves are responsible for plantarflexion of the ankle, allowing you to do movements like jumping, turning, bending, and they are stabilizers for your ankles. Moreover, your calves work to support your entire body. When it comes to squats they must obviously work even harder to support your body (and ankles) as the load is much greater than just your bodyweight.
While your upper back is not a primary muscle worked during squats, it does play a key role in helping keep your scapular retracted, allowing you to maintain rigidness in your back. The muscles that achieve this are your lats, traps, rear delts, and rhomboids.
Overall, the squat is one of the greatest compound lower body exercises there is as it involves simultaneous action of your primary joints, which includes your hips, knees and ankles (this is also why good joint mobility is important for squatting).
As you lower into your squat, your hamstrings will assist your gluteal muscles to control flexion at the hips. Your spinal erectors and abs will also be working in order to prevent your from falling forward.
At the bottom of the squat, as you start to press up, your quads will be working the hardest as your knees will be at their end range. Again, your core (and most specifically your erector spinae muscles) will be engaged to help you maintain an upright position.
As you drive to standing up, your hips must travel up and forward. This is hip extension. With that, your glutes, adductor (inner thigh) and hamstrings must work to extend the hips.
Throughout it all, your core and calves are stabilizing the movement.
Depending on the type of squat you are doing, certain muscles that we just listed are being targeted more or less. Nevertheless, all of these muscles will be firing off to help move your body no matter what squat you are doing.
Doing different variations of squats allows you to hit specific muscles more or less because of two main variables, feet placement and load placement. By changing either of the two, the stress on your muscles changes. The same goes with range of motion. If you go deeper in your range of motion, certain muscles will work more.
A good example is with back squats, your glutes, quads and hamstrings will be doing most of the work, but when you change the load to the front (front squats), your quads take on a greater role.
As we go through the 9 different squat variations with bands, we will make note of which muscles are being emphasized.
After you watch the video, read below for tips on each of the squat variations...
The first squat to do with a resistance band is the convention squat. It is the king of squats and one of the best lower body exercises you can do.
Resistance Band Squat Muscles Worked:
When doing squats, we recommend beginner to just go to parallel. This will emphasize the quads. If you are more experienced, going deeper in your squat is ok. It is safe if performed correctly and it will better engage your muscles as it brings you through a larger range of motion. Moreover, it can help to increase flexibility/mobility.
HOW TO DO THE RESISTANCE BAND SQUAT
The sumo squat is a great variation that uses foot placement (aka body position) to change the dynamics of the muscles worked. You will take a much wider stance than a standard back squat, which places more emphasis on the inner thighs and adductors.
Sumo Squat Muscles Worked:
HOW TO DO THE SUMO SQUAT
Front squats are like the brother of the back squat. They both offer much of the same benefits and are great exercises that every advance lifter employs into their training.
With front squats, you will be keeping your back upright more so it requires even more core stability and it also places more emphasis on the quads, while taking some stress away from the hamstrings. This makes perfect sense considering by holding the band in front of your body, you are zoning in on your anterior chain.
Front Squat Muscles Worked:
And, of course, your hamstrings will be engaged.
HOW TO DO RESISTANCE BAND FRONT SQUATS
The zercher squat is a great variation of the squat that uses the training variable of changing the placement of the load (placing it lower and close to the front of your body. Because of that, it will allow you to go deeper (even deeper than a front squat). With that, and how the load is placed, it emphasizes quad and glute development. Moreover, it will help you build strength in the lowest position of the squat, making you stronger for back squats.
One thing that is great with resistance band zercher squats is that it is very easy to get into the starting position. It is not a complicated movement.
Zercher Squat Muscles Worked:
Zercher squats are great for quadricep development, especially for people with longer legs.
HOW TO DO THE ZERCHER SQUAT
Related: The Complete Guide to Zercher Squats
The overhead squat is a total body squatting variation. It is most definitely the most advanced so it’s best to go light when starting out. Overhead squats are a great way improve resilience throughout your entire kinetic chain (feet to shoulders). It requires incredible core, upper back and shoulder strength as well as good midline control and mobility of the ankles, knees, hips, shoulders. A lot of trainers use it as a way to reinforce proper squatting technique and screen for mobility issues. Overall, overhead squats are going to train your body to work as a single unit.
Overhead Squat Muscles Worked:
With overhead squats, once you get the band into an overhead position, your shoulders and upper back will be working through isometric contraction (the muscle won’t change length and the joint will not move, it’s holding position for strength and stability. Your lower body will be squatting as usual, which means the muscles are working via isotonic contraction (the muscles contract against resistance in which they change in length and the joints move).
HOW TO DO THE OVERHEAD SQUAT
An isometric squat hold will have the same set up and mechanics as a regular back squat. The only difference is, you will be holding the bottom position (parallel position) rather than squatting up and down. Isometric holds are great for building strength. The bottom of the squat is the hardest position for a squat so it will help you to build strength at the weakest point in the squat.
There are two ways to do this. You can hold the position for around 20 seconds and that is one set, or you can do fewer reps than you would normally and hold each rep at the bottom for 5+ seconds. Both ways work well for improving strength.
Resistance Band Squat Muscles Worked:
It is going to place emphasis on core and quad strength for squats.
HOW TO DO THE ISOMETRIC SQUAT HOLD
This is a great squat variation that moves you through the frontal plane rather than the sagittal plane of motion. In other words, it is a lateral movement. While the cossack squat does build strength, especially when done with a resistance band, it is particularly beneficial for mobility and stability of the hips, knees and ankles. It will also give you a really nice stretch in the posterior chain of your legs.
Cossack Squat Muscles Worked:
As this is a lateral movement, your side glutes (gluteus medius and gluteus minimus) will be firing off more than regular squats.
HOW TO DO THE COSSACK SQUAT
The split squat is a great unilateral exercise that offers strength, hypertrophy, stability, and improved coordination. In fact, in the split squat vs. lunge debate, the split squat is better for injury resilience compared to the lunge, thanks to the improved joint and core stability.
As this is a unilateral exercise, it is great for fixing asymmetries and muscular imbalances.
Split Squat Muscles Worked:
Split squats place emphasis on your glutes and quads, as well as your core (particularly your obliges) as you must resist lateral movement (leaning to the side). Your gluteus minimus and medius will be working hard as well for hip stability and to resist leaning to the side.
HOW TO DO THE SPLIT SQUAT
The Bulgarian split squat is very similar to the split squat above but it is harder as you have a deeper range of motion and less stability due to your back foot being placed up.
You can use anything to keep your back foot up, such as a chair.
Bulgarian Split Squat Muscles Worked:
As this is a unilateral exercise, your core is going to work in overdrive to maintain balance. Moreover, as your back leg is risen, you will have a large range of motion, which is great for your quad and glute development. It’s really a powerhouse leg movement that doesn’t require very heavy resistance.
HOW TO DO THE BULGARIAN SPLIT SQUAT
1. Explosive on the way up, slow on the descent
One of our favorite ways to use bands for squats, as well as other exercises like deadlifts, is to have a slow tempo-descent and a powerfully explosive ascent.
As you sit into your squat, fight the resistance of the band so you can move slowly. Really keep sturdy. This is going to work your eccentric contractions, which is great for strength and hypertrophy. Once you reach parallel (or your bottom most position), drive up from your heels and when the band has an adequate amount of tension, explode up to the top. Explosive concentric contractions helps you build power in your movements and it burns more calories.
All in all, this is great movement tempo combination for maximizing strength, hypertrophy and energy expenditure in one go.
2. Take Time To Concentrate On The Muscles Used
Since resistance bands are lighter and easier to use than a loaded barbell, really hone in on the muscles being used when squatting, as well as your form. Bands are the perfect way to build a strong mind-muscle connection. And, if you do your squats mindfully, maintaining maximal full body tension with each and every rep, they will certainly be effective for your fitness goals.
3. Keep the chest out without hyperextending the back.
While squats are a lower body compound exercise, your upper body is vital. Make sure you keep your chest up and shoulder blades pulled back. Your upper back, lats, and chest should be packed tight, standing tall and “proud”. This will help you to prevent rounding your back, which is a common mistake that overstressed the spine.
Also, make sure to keep your head and neck in a neutral position. There’s no need to look up or let your head drop. If you want to check your stance, do so when standing before you start your reps.
Note: Do so without hyperextending your back! To do this, just don’t over-exaggerate the whole “keep your chest up and keep your chest chest proud” point.
4. Drive through your heels when you stand, but don’t let your toes come off the ground
Sometimes when you are trying to drive through your heels, you may lift your toes up off the ground. Try not to do this. Keep your foot planted to the ground firmly. Your big toe is actually quite important for flute activation.
As for driving through your heels, you want to do this so that you have good form and so that your posterior chain is activated.
Definitely don’t hold your breath. Inhale on the way down, exhale on the way up. Make a point to learn how to breathe properly when squatting.
6. Finish Strong
At the top of your squat, tuck your pelvis into a neutral position. This will allow you to get the best contraction for your glutes and hamstrings. Just be careful not to hyperextend. Sometimes people push their hips too far forward and their upper back leans backwards. This can put unwanted stress on your lower back.
There are no rules for when or how to add resistance band squats to your workout routine. However, the most common ways to implement squats with bands into your work are as follows:
1. Home workouts
If you workout at home (always or even sometimes) and you don’t want to buy a bunch of free weight equipment, bands are great as they are so versatile. You can use them for warm up (mobility and blood flow), workout and cool down (static stretching). In terms of working out, they are great for resistance and assistance (they can help assist you with all types of bodyweight exercises). As for resistance exercises, you can use bands in so many ways. The 9 squat variations we showed you is just a very, very small sample. Pretty much any free weight exercise can be replicated with bands to good effect.
Even if you workout with barbells and dumbbells or other free weight equipment, incorporating resistance band squats into your lower body workouts is great for maximizing hypertrophy. A great way to do this is with supersets. For example, after you finish a set of barbell squats, you can immediately do a set of resistance band squats to really exhaust and overload your legs and glutes. It’s a very effective way to build muscle and strength (as well as muscular endurance) without needing to go too heavy. It’s also great for burning fat. Overall, you get a lot more volume in, which is great for muscle fiber recruitment, without taxing your joints.
3. Explosive work
Bands are great for explosive work. They are great for building explosive strength in your squats. But, we don’t just mean with squats. Bands can be used during plyometric exercises, sprints, and many athletic based movements to build explosiveness.
4. Deload weeks
If you do strength training, you should take a week off from lifting every few months. It helps your body catch up with recovery. However, if you are like us, you can’t even take a week off. That’s where a deload week comes in. For that week, you do lower intensity, lighter weight workouts. What better option for a deload week than bands. You can keep active, keep squatting, and allow yourself the recovery it needs. During deload week, use a lighter resistance band (thinner .5-1.5 inch 41” loop bands) rather than one of the the heavier ones.
5. Learning squats and variations
If you want to learn how to squat (which includes all the different variations), start with bodyweight, then use bands. This will help you build a very solid foundation for when you are ready to use barbells.
6. Perfect Way to Maintain Muscle On The Road
If you travel a lot, you can keep up with your squat game by using resistance bands. They are light and take up very little space so you can pack them in pretty much any luggage or throw them in your care. This will allow you to get an effective lower body workout in anywhere.
Because these squat variations hit the muscles in different ways, you can really do a squat only workout and get everything you need for a lower body workout. That said, we recommend adding some of our deadlifts with resistance band exercises into your lower body workout to hit the posterior chain to a greater degree.
Resistance Band Only Lower Body Workout
Squat x 3 sets of 10
Front Squat x 3 sets of 10
Deadlift x 3 sets of 10
Sumo Deadlift x 3 sets of 10
Split Squat x 30 sets of 10 each side
Stiff-legged Deadlift x 3 sets of 10
Cossack Squat x 3 sets of 8-10
Check out our deadlift with band article to see the deadlift movements
If you do full body workouts, you can simply throw 2 or 3 out of the 9 squat variations into your full body workout.
If you do a PPL split (push pull legs) then you are likely doing 2 leg workouts each week (or every 8-9 days), which means you can do one leg day with a focus not the anterior side (front side) and one leg day with the focus on the posterior side (back side). With that, the anterior leg day could contain 5-7 of the squat variations we showed you. If you decide to hit both the anterior and posterior, then you can refer back to the lower body workout above.
There are many ways to go about creating workouts and programming resistance band squats into your workout (even if you use free weights at the gym).
if you are an experienced lifter, we highly recommend combining bands with barbell squats and other big lifts (bands on the barbell at the same time). You can check out how to do that here: Strength Training with Barbells and Bands
Regardless of how you go about, the important thing is that you do squats!
By doing squats and the many variations, you can benefit in the following ways:
Now you have everything you need to perform squats wherever you are. There’s no reason to neglect these incredibly effective movements. The good thing is that these movements differ enough that these are all you need for a quick and powerful lower-body workout on the go.