Most people think that you need to be throwing around barbells and dumbbells in order to build muscle.
Building muscle depends on two things:
1. Overloading the muscle to place stress on it, causing micro-tears in the fiber.
2. Refeeding that muscle so that is grows back stronger.
The first of these things involves exercise. Now, the point is that your muscle doesn’t know whether you are holding a dumbbell or a resistance band. All that it knows is that you are placing tension on the working muscle. Both free weights (barbells and dumbbells) and resistance bands will do that. However, resistance bands have the potential to build muscle more effectively, so long as you know how to get the most out of them.
That’s what you will discover in this article.
The Resistance Band Advantage
Resistance bands have some unique and important advantages to building muscle over using dumbbells and barbells. Consider the following:
- Resistance bands make use of dynamic tension, meaning that you are working against the elastic tension of the band throughout your entire range of movement (when using barbells and dumbbells there is no resistance at the top of the movement).
- Resistance bands utilize what is called continual variance. This means that the resistance level changes at different points through the exercise. As the resistance gets further away from the anchor point, the harder it is (with traditional weights the resistance is constant).
- Resistance bands exclude the potential for using momentum to cheat the weight up that you get when using dumbbells and barbells.
- Resistance bands provide you with the freedom to mimic every-day and sporting movements. You cannot do this with barbells, dumbbells or machines.
- Resistance bands are accessible by everybody and are easy to setup and use.
- Resistance bands can be used in conjunction with other pieces of equipment to make both moves more effective (such as the ab wheel).
- Resistance bands are safer than weights!
- Resistance Bands to build muscle
When it comes to the big exercises and the big muscles, free weights are, and always will be, your best choice. However, bands are the perfect tool to train the small muscles that support the big muscles to help you make those muscles bigger. Here are the eight key resistance band exercises that you need to start doing in order to increase the weight that you lift on the bigger exercises like squats and deadlifts.
This exercise targets the shoulder girdle. It will strengthen the rhomboids, which will improve your scapula stability markedly. This will have a dramatic impact upon your ability to bench press heavy weight. To do this exercise hold a resistance band out in front of you at arm’s length between your two hands with your palms facing down. You want the distance between your hands to be about the width of your torso, so you will only be holding the middle part of the band.
Now, initiating from the scapulae stretch the band out by bringing your locked arms back to be in line with your torso. Hold the fully stretched position to really feel the muscles of your upper back (especially the rhomboids) working. Now slowly return to the start position and repeat.
Do 3 sets of 12-15 reps.
This is a great exercise that strengthens and sculpts the serratus muscles. This will provide for the much needed stability of the serratus against the ribcage when you are doing heavy compound exercises. It provides the stable base from which to execute heavy pushing movements.
Affix one end of the resistance band to a fixed object at about the height of your waist. Hold the other end of the band in one hand and take one step away from the anchor point. Straighten out your arm at a 45-degree angle from the shoulder. Keeping a straight arm bring the shoulder back slightly and then punch forward as far as you can without unlocking the elbow. The forward movement will be just a few inches, but it will all be serratus action.
Do 3 sets of 12 reps on each arm.
Over and Backs
This exercises works on both rhomboid and serratus strength at the same time. It also involves dynamic and eccentric movement.
Start by holding a stretched band in front of your body with straight arms stretched out wide and your palms facing each other. Now initiate movement from the shoulder to slowly move the band up and over your head to come down behind you. Do not break your locked elbow position. Keep the band a few inches away from your body at all times. Try to go all the way down behind you back. Never allow the band to just snap back. Rather maintain a slow control through the entire motion.
Do 3 sets of 12 reps of this exercise.
This is great move to strengthen your lower traps, which will keep your shoulder blades tucked down and back when you are doing heavy bench presses. This will makes your presses safer and more effective.
Stand on a resistance band with your feet shoulder width apart so that the handles come up to your knees. Reach down and grab the handles with a palms down grip, maintaining a neutral spine (lower back slightly pulled, shoulder blades flared), bend down slightly then, as you come back up bring your arms up as high as you can. Do not allow your elbows to bend during his movement, so that the entire strength of the band pull comes from your back muscle.
Do 3 sets of 12 reps on this exercise.
Band Face Pull
This is a great exercise that will externally rotate your shoulder to strengthen your rotator cuff. This will make you far less likely to suffer a shoulder injury while pressing with heavy weight.
Loop a resistance band around a fixed object around at shoulder level, grabbing the ends of the band in a hammer grip. Step away from the anchor point so that your arms are straight. Now pull the elbows back to bring your hands to the sides of your head. Point out your thumbs and bring them back behind you as you pull back. This provides the crucial element of external rotation that you need on this exercise.
Do 3 sets of 12 reps on this exercise.
Resisted Hip Hinge
The smaller muscles of the legs are often neglected in favor of training the quads and hamstrings. Learning how to properly execute a hip hinge before getting into heavy squatting will save you a lot of knee problems down the road.
Anchor the resistance band around a fixed object at the level of your knees. Now place the other end of the band around your waist. Step away from the anchor point so that the band is taut. Now initiate from the hips to descend down into a three quarter squat. From the bottom position, push through the heels to return to the start position. Resisting with the band allows you to strengthen your glutes.
Overhead Side Step
Most of us are very weak in the ability of our hips to laterally adduct. This none will dramatically increase your strength and all of your lower body exercises.
Step into the resistance band and cross your hands over to make an ‘X’. Now place your hands above you in a crucifix manner. Now take steps to the side, trying to move against the resistance of the band. Take five steps to the left and then five back to the right. The goal is to maintain thoracic extension by staying up nice and tall while you do a side step.
Do five step left and right, for 3 sets.
The core is the connector between the upper and lower body. While we all want to focus on the six pack abs, the obliques are actually more important to the function of your core. If you want to get stronger on all the correlated movements, you have to start working on your obliques through rotation.
Affix the end of the resistance band to a fixed object that is set about a foot higher than your head. Now step out from the anchor point and place the band around the upper arm that is furthest away from it, bringing it right up to your armpit. Bend the arm up so that you are also grabbing the band just above the shoulder. Now rotate inward from the obliques to perform a crunching movement. Contract the obliques as you come down. Slowly return to the start position.
Do 3 sets of 12 reps on this exercise.
You now have a program that features the 8 best exercises you can do with a resistance band to help you to get stronger and bigger. If you start adding these exercises to your routines, you will find that your big lifts (squats, bench press, deadlift) will jump up. That is because you are finally working on the key muscles that you have previously been neglecting. You will be amazed at the strength you will be able to generate when you start giving them the attention they deserve!