There are plenty of options when it comes to working out – you can use weights, machines, resistance bands or bodyweight. Often the options come down to one or the other – weights or machines, bodyweight or resistance bands. The reality is that these different exercise options do not have to be mutually exclusive. In fact, if you want to get the best bang for your buck, combining traditional weight training equipment with resistance bands is the best way to go.
Bands After Weights
One of the great benefits of resistance bands over barbells and dumbbells is that the resistance increases the further the band gets away from the starting point. With traditional weights, the hardest part is through the first third of the movement and then the exercise generally gets easier (think of the barbell curl). When you combine the two, you are able to get a synergistic effect that gives you greater results.
When you go heavy with barbells and dumbbells, there is a tendency to lose form, which brings in non-target muscles. With resistance bands, however, you are able to use much better form. So, the first way to combine free weights with resistance bands is to do a heavy set of a free weight exercise and then follow it up with the same exercise performed with a resistance band.
As an example, you can do a bench press with either a barbell or a dumbbell for 8-10 reps to failure. Focus on exercising through a full range of movement, using a two second up and four seconds downtempo.
Immediately that you have competed for your last rep, move to a standing chest press with resistance bands. You can loop the band around an upright anchor and hold the handles at shoulder level. Push your arms out and together, keeping your elbows out as wide as you can throughout in order to keep the tension on your pectoral muscles. This is a higher rep set to take the muscle to momentary muscular failure. Go for 15 to 20 reps.
Perform three free weight – resistance supersets to get a great chest workout in. You can follow this up with band flys and dips for 2 sets of10-12 reps each. Finish your chest workout with two sets of push-ups to failure (go until you cannot do another full rep).
You can make push-ups more challenging by doing them with a resistance band. Hold the handles of a band and allow the band to run across your upper back. Either double loop the band or hold the bands further along their length in order to create the appropriate tension level on the band. This will create the extra tension you need to make your push-ups more challenging.
Bands with Weights for Power
There are not too many people who would argue with the fact that free weights are the most effective way to build absolute strength. If you want to get strong fast, there is nothing better than you can do than barbell squats, deadlifts, and barbell or dumbbell bench presses.
But when it comes to building power, resistance bands do have certain advantages. They give you greater freedom to change up the speed of movement during the exercise. They also are able to accelerate the movement. Given that power is a combination of strength and speed, it stands to reason that combining free weights with resistance bands makes sense when it comes to developing more power.
A great example of combining free weights and resistance bands for the development of power is to superset the barbell push press with the band jerk press. Here’s how to do it:
Barbell Push Press – clean a loaded barbell from the floor to your shoulders. While maintaining an erect torso, keep your hips and knees slightly flexed, push the weight overhead while also extending your knees. Push out to full extension. Now bring the bar back to your shoulders.
After performing 8-10 reps, move directly to the . . .
Band Jerk Press – using a fully looped band, stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart on the band, and your hands at shoulder level holding the other corners of the band. Now drop down slightly at the hips and then extend overhead to push the bands up and out slightly to full extension. This movement should replicate with the band what you have just done with the bar.
Perform 15-20 reps on the band jerk press.
Bands & Weights for Full Muscle Stimulation
Sometimes when you are exercising with free weights, it can be difficult to move through a complete range of motion on a particular movement. Yet the full lengthening of the muscle through the eccentric, or negative (lowering) part of the movement is vital for full stimulation and development.
However, when you are using resistance bands, you are able to get that complete eccentric stretching on each and every exercise. An additional benefit is that you will not lose flexibility when you are complementing free weights with resistance bands.
A great example of complementing free weights with resistance bands is to perform a barbell bent over row immediately followed by a band squat row. Here’s how to perform these two movements . . .
Barbell bent over row – Stand in front of a loaded barbell. Bend your knees to grab the bar with a pronated (palms towards you) grip slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. While maintaining a straight back, bend over until your torso is a little higher than parallel to the floor (it should be at about a 30-degree angle to the floor). Allow the bar to hang own directly in front of you.
Now pull the barbell up toward your torso. Make sure that you keep your elbows in at your sides. Hold the top position and squeeze your upper back muscles. Lower slowly and repeat.
Band squat row – place a band around an upright support at shoulder level. Stand 3-4 feet away from the anchor point, holding the band handles. Your feet should be shoulder width apart and your back in a neutral position. Now squat down to a low squat position. In the bottom position, your body weight should be centered on your heel.
Now stand up, pushing from the heels, while you simultaneously row the bands into your chest.
Perform 15-20 repetitions of this exercise.
Bands & Weights to Enhance Rage of Motion
Free weights do not provide you with a fluctuating level of resistance. As a result, the exercise is either harder or easier depending on what part of the movement curve you are in. In 99% of the cases, you have to work harder during the first half of the movement.
However, with resistance band training, the opposite is true – the exercise gets harder as you do it. It stands to reason then that if you combine the two, you will be maximizing your training effect – you will be working harder through both the first and the second half of the movement.
You can benefit from this type of training by doing one workout with heavy barbells or dumbbells and the next workout with bands through a greater variety of movements. For example, you could do heavy squat training with a barbell on Monday, and then, on Thursday do a range of band resistance squat variations, such as front squats, split squats and reverse lunges.
Band Front Squats – Take a looped resistance band and loop it under your feet. Now, with the other end of the band in your hands, bring it up to your shoulder, with your elbows flared out. Your feet should be a little wider than shoulder width and your toes pointed out slightly. Now squat down to slightly below parallel, keeping your back flat. Rise back up in a fluid motion.
Perform 15-20 reps on this exercise.
Band Split Squat – Take a band with handles and put the band under your front foot, bringing the bands up behind your body and over your shoulders, while holding the handles. Step back with your back leg, keeping up on the toe. You should now be in a wide split stance.
Now drive the front knee forward, keeping an upright body position. Go as low as possible so that the back knee slightly touches the ground but does not rest there.
Perform 12 reps on each leg of this exercise.
Band Reverse Lunges – stand with a handled band looped over your front foot and the handles in your hands. Your feet should be shoulder with apart. Hold the bands at shoulder level with your elbows by your sides.
Now drive the bands overhead as you take a large step backward with your non-band foot. Go as low as possible so that the back knee slightly touches the ground but does not rest there.
Perform 12 reps on each leg of this exercise.
Maxing Out Intensity with Bands and Free Weights
When you combine free weight and resistance bands in the same set, you are able to greatly increase the intensity of that set. You can also extend the set beyond its normal capacity with what is known as the Jettison technique. To illustrate how the Jettison technique works let’s take the example of the barbell curl.
Select a barbell weight that you can normally do 12 reps with. At the same time place a handled band under your feet and grab the handles. The band resistance should allow you to normally perform 12-15 reps. Now bend down to also grab the bar. You will now have both the band handles and the barbell in your hands.
Perform as many strict repetitions of combination barbell and band curls as you can. If you are using the resistances suggested in the last paragraph, you should fail after eight or nine reps. Now simply let go of the bands and continue repping out with the bar to failure. You should be able to get another 3-4 reps. However, you are still not finished.
Put the bar down in front of you and grab the band handles again. Try to push out a final 6-8 reps with the bands.
In this article, we have seen that bands and free weights are not mutually exclusive. While you can train very effectively with either one or the other, you can get an even greater training effect by carefully combining the two. We encourage you to try out the suggestion given here – and let us know in the comments if they gave you an effective workout. Check out our tube bands that will work well for your fitness needs!