With the rising popularity of non-gym workouts, it's important to know all the ways you can incorporate at-home tools into your training to get a great workout anytime, anywhere, and at any fitness level. James Grage, a fitness expert and the creator of Undersun Fitness, understands exactly how effective exercise bands can be. He's been building muscle and maintaining his chiseled physique for years using little more than bands, and he's here to show you exactly how to incorporate them into your next workout.
"There are two reasons why you might want to use bands in your workout," explains Grage. "The first is to add more resistance, but the other is to assist with an exercise and actually take some resistance off."
Using Bands to Assist
One of the most common ways exercise bands are used is to assist with a difficult bodyweight exercise, such as triceps dips. As Grage demonstrates, you can use a band to assist with a dip by anchoring the band to the parallel bars and placing your knees or feet on the center of the band to do the exercise. If you don't need assistance but want to use bands to build more strength, you can do as many repetitions as possible using body weight, and then once you max out, use the band to get a few more reps, just as you would on an assist machine.
What makes bands uniquely effective for assistance exercises is variable resistance. As Grage explains it, the farther you stretch a band, the more it resists.
"The bottom is when you're stretching the band the most, which also happens to be the weakest point in the range of motion," he says. So the band is giving you the most assistance right when you need it. In this way, bands can help you train through those difficult sticking points in your bodyweight exercises to help you improve your overall strength.
Using Bands to Resist
Now we apply that same concept in the opposite way. Take push-ups, for example. For seasoned lifters, it's tough to make a bread-and-butter exercise like the push-up feel more strenuous without adding a ton of reps or adding gym implements like a weight vest or a plate. Using the same principle of variable resistance, you can not only make the push-up harder, but also apply the most resistance exactly where you need it.
Loop a band behind your shoulder blades and anchor each end with your hands before beginning your push-up. Remember, the more you stretch a band, the harder it resists, so as you push through the push-up, you're creating more resistance. This is the basic principle of strength training: to work against increased resistance.
"You're strongest at the top range of motion," Grage explains. "So now the strength curve more closely matches the resistance created by the band."
Use a band to add resistance to your strongest lifts, such as squats and presses, to build even more size and strength.
Watch this short video to see exactly how Grage uses these bands to get a better workout, and for more at-home workout ideas, check out our complete program list here or on the BodyFit app.