A resistance bands workout can be the first step on your strength training journey, leading you toward more challenging workouts that utilize free weights.
“Resistance bands are especially good for people who are newer to fitness,” says Theresa Swigert, a Gold’s Gym fitness expert. “They allow you to add load in small increments.”
Swigert says there are two main benefits to resistance band workouts:
1. Resistance bands are not gravity dependent. “Instead of the load being constant throughout, it increases as you move through the full range of motion of the exercises,” she says.
For example, a shoulder press using 20-pound free weights requires you to carry that same amount of load throughout the move. However, with a resistance band, you won’t carry the maximum load until you’ve reached the full extension of the move. “For beginners, this helps avoid too much wear and tear on the joints,” Swigert says.
2. Resistance bands provide variety. “You can do more in terms of functional moves with resistance bands than you can with free weights,” she says.
For example, a trainer may have you perform standing balance positions in a resistance bands workout to help develop your core muscles. “You’re not going to find anybody doing standing balance work in a free weights workout.”
Resistance bands range from 10 to 50 pounds of resistance, usually in increments of five. To learn which amount is right for you, test with one or two workouts and see how you feel. You can always ask a Gold’s Gym Personal Trainer if you have questions.
“You want to feel a moderate amount of soreness after the workout,” Swigert says. “If you are so sore that it inhibits you from doing daily activity, you’ve been working out with too much load.
“On the flip side, if you’re not sore at all after your workout, you didn’t have enough load.”
The workout: resistance bands exercises for beginners
This workout focuses on the posterior chain — the rear shoulders, middle back, glutes and hamstrings — with a combination of upper- and lower-body moves. The resistance bands at your gym may be narrow straps with handles attached to the ends, or wide straps with looped ends; either style can be used to do these moves.
If you wish to do a warmup, Swigert recommends 10 to 15 Frankenstein walks (a waist-high straight leg extension before each step, with arms extended forward) or inchworms.
Anchor the band at a point that’s level with your torso. Grasp the ends or the handles. Bring your hands together in front of your chest, and step back so that the band is extended fully and you can feel the tension. Then, turn your body so that it’s perpendicular to the anchor point. Continue holding the ends or handles at your chest; the band will be extended to your left or right, depending on which way you turned.
With your hips and shoulders square, extend your arms forward to push the band away from your body, and then pull it back toward you. This move requires stabilization throughout your core, as the tension of the band will tempt you to twist toward the anchor point.
The goal: Do 10 presses on each side to work your obliques and transverse abdominals.
Band pull apart
Standing tall, hold the ends or handles of the band in each hand with your arms extended in front of you at shoulder height. Open your arms wide, stretching the band across your chest and actively squeezing between your shoulder blades. Release and repeat.
The goal: Do 15 to 20 repetitions to work the muscles in your rear shoulders and upper back.
Place the band underneath your feet, hold the ends or handles in each hand and stand straight with your feet slightly wider apart than your hips. Pull the band as you bring your hands to your chest. You are now in the ready position.
Drop your hips straight down, pushing your knees toward your toes. Depending on your range of motion, you may be able to go farther, but a good goal is to drop to where your hips are level with your knees. Then, push through your heels to stand back up.
The goal: Do 15 to 20 reps to target your glutes and quads.
Start in the same foot position as the squat, with the band under your feet and the ends or handles in each hand in front of your thighs. (If you wish to add tension, grab the band farther down.) Standing tall, pull your hands up the front of your body, keeping your elbows pointed out. When your hands reach chest level, release them back down to your sides, keeping them as close to your body as possible while you return to the starting position.
The goal: Do 15 to 20 reps to target your rear shoulders and upper back. This move will also work your biceps.
Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Lay the band across your hips, holding the handles or ends at your sides. (If you wish to add tension, hold the band farther in.)
Push through your heels to lift your hips straight up. Contract your glutes at the top of the lift, and then lower your hips back down.
The goal: Do 15 to 20 reps to work your glutes, hamstrings and abdominals.
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