Can You Build Muscle With Resistance Bands? (Yes, Here’s How)

 


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As a strong promoter of using weights for all around physical health, I wanted to find out if resistance bands could be used to build muscles. After collecting the research I found the answer:

Resistance bands can be used to build muscle as they recruit stabilizing muscle groups, and provide extra intensity to already challenging body-weight exercises. The key is to use a “progressive overload approach”, doing slightly more sets and reps over time, and pairing training with proper nutrition. 

Grab your band and let’s burn some rubber as we discover how resistance bands can help you build muscle. 


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Is It Actually Possible To Build Muscle With Resistance Bands?

 


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When it comes to building muscle, it may seem like a rubbery resistance band has no game compared with a solid plate of iron or steel. But it is absolutely possible to build muscle with resistance bands.

Not only are these bands portable and easy to operate, they’re also remarkably efficient when it comes to strengthening and gaining muscle. 

Resistance bands build muscle in the same way as free weights do. They offer resistance that your muscles fight against and resist instead of having a rest between reps. 

The trick is to focus on a specific method called progressive overload and ensure that you’re training close to or at muscular failure. 

Related Article: 17 Resistance Band Ab Exercise For A Strong Core

How To Build Muscle Using Resistance Bands 

 


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Here, we’ll discuss just how tools such as resistance bands help build muscle. In order for muscle building to be effective, you need tension, adequate recovery and nutrition, muscle adaptation, and progressive overload

Strength training helps promote muscle hypertrophy.  Hypertrophy is when muscles get damaged or injured (part of the normal process) and the muscle fibers are broken down. With adequate rest and nutrition, the body repairs the damaged fibers by merging them back together. When this happens, they get bigger than they were before. 

PRACTICE PROGRESSIVE OVERLOAD USING RESISTANCE BANDS

Progressive overload means that you continually force your physical body to adapt to more stress or tension than it was previously exposed to. This makes it so you’ll get more muscle mass and strength. You can do this by:

  • Lifting heavier weights or using higher tension bands: as for barbells or hand weights, this means using increased weight. As for resistance bands, this means using an increased size or tension. More on this to come!

  • Increase number of reps: Using higher reps in order to promote muscle exhaustion.  When using resistance bands, you want to feel the muscle contracting hard and at the end of the set the muscle should be burning. 

  • Up volume: this means adding extra sets to your training session. For instance, if you’re used to doing 3 sets of 10 reps of bicep curls, aim for 4-5 sets the next time. 

USE A PERIODIZED APPROACH TO BUILD MUSCLE WITH RESISTANCE BANDS

Periodization is training is a structured program that takes into account variations in type, intensity, and volume of work. It focuses on progressively increasing training followed by periods of rest. 

For instance there could be a three-week period of progressive loading, followed by a week of lighter recovery. The goal is to max gains while reducing the risk for injury. It can be a helpful method for optimizing performance for competition such as powerlifting

ACE Fitness explains that in order for exercise to have the greatest effect and create changes you want the exercise type and intensity level should vary on a regular basis. This is also referred to as periodization – alternating between low-, moderate-, and high-intensity workouts

Exercise creates metabolic stress as a result from depleting energy stores and mechanical stress from damaging the structure of muscle proteins. Rest allows your body to repair the muscle proteins and replace the stored fuel (glycogen). 

Space out your more difficult workouts and combine them with lower-intensity ones. For instance, doing two to three high-intensity workouts, two to three moderate-intensity workouts, and one to three low-intensity workouts per week. If you’re going through a stressful time, it’s best to take a break from the high-intensity stuff because it can be hard on the body. 

Benefits Of Building Muscle With Resistance Bands

 


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Training with a resistance band is very different than using something like a dumbbell. When using a resistance band, your muscle is under constant tension. So the quality and effectiveness of each rep will be improved. 

Resistance bands also recruit stabilizing muscles, making for a more well-rounded workout. They can also be added to exercise, such as body weight exercise, to increase the intensity. Resistance bands are extremely versatile and can offer benefits from muscle building to injury recovery. 

PORTABLE AND INEXPENSIVE  

One of the best things about resistance bands is that they are extremely portable. They are small, lightweight, and bendable, which makes them the perfect travel companion. You can take them to work, on travels, or store them easily for an at-home workout.

Resistance bands are less expensive than hand-weights or plate-weights. Since they’re a one-time purchase, you’ll save on ongoing costs such as gym memberships. 

MIND-BODY CONNECTION

Weight machines or stabilizing benches focus on one muscle group. This can make it easy to tune out of a workout. Using resistance bands can feel unstable and shaky, helping to improve core balance. The concentration of continually controlling the tension of the band, rather than allowing it to snap back into place, can help you focus on the movement and moment. 

STABILIZING MUSCLES 

Resistance bands can be used on their own or as an addition to an existing workout. They also promote instability in the movements. This provides an opportunity to recruit stabilizing muscles. For instance if you’re doing a simple bicep curl with a hand weight, you have gravity to help you extend your arm back to the starting position. With bands, the instability makes it so your arms, shoulders, chest, and core lend some help. 

DECREASED RISK OF INJURY  

Free weights are a great way to improve muscle and strength. But they do come with some warnings and risks. Just think about it — when you are holding something heavy, and begin to fatigue, you set yourself up for a dangerous situation. 

Also due to the weight, it can injure vulnerable spots such as your wrists. If you bend your wrist to curl the weight, you’re at risk of straining it. 

Want to make sure you’re using the right form with resistance bands? Download a trusted fitness app to guide you. 

CAN BE COMBINED WITH OTHER WORKOUTS  

Resistance bands can be added to your existing workouts to up the game. Say for instance you’re doing a squat with weights. You can add a band around your ankles to increase the tension on your legs. Or if you want to do bodyweight exercise such as a push-up, you can hold the band in each hand and wrap it around your back. This will give more resistance when you push-up. 

CAN BE USED FOR STRETCHING  

Resistance bands make suburb stretching buddies. They can be used to attach to a door, pole, or your own body. You can loop the band around a leg as you lay down and bring it to the side. You can use it to open up your shoulders by bringing it over your head.

 

SAFE FOR DIFFERENT CONDITIONS  

Resistance bands are great for healing an injury because it’s a way to add resistance to motions without extra stress on the joints. The bands also promote blood flow and stimulation both to the muscle being worked and supporting muscles. This helps aid in a faster recovery. 

If you’re new to exercise or have endured an injury, make sure to contact your doctor or physical therapist before starting a new fitness routine.

Types Of Resistance Bands For Building Muscle 

 


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Resistance bands come in different widths. Typically the thicker the width, the more resistance it provides. They vary in level. Number one is easier to stretch because it’s less thick and therefore has less resistance. Then the higher the number, the more intense they get. If you’re new to bands, it’s best to test out the easier ones then work your way up. The type you choose can depend on your personal preference and desired use.

  • Looped resistance bands: these look like extra large rubber bands. They are a continuous flat loop. These make great additions to body weight exercises such as push-ups and box jumps. 

  • Tube bands with handles: these have handles that are attached to both ends. They are typically used in a manner similar to how you would lift weights. 

  • Figure 8 bands: these are shaped like a figure “8” with handles at the top and bottom of the shape. They are used like tube resistance bands and best for pushing and pulling motions. 

  • Two-sided therapy bands: these are longer and thinner. They don’t loop but can be used to tie into a knot. These are good for regaining strength, recovering from an injury, and stretching. 


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3-Day Resistance Band Exercise You Can Do Anywhere 

 


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Check out this three day resistance band exercise that helps you build muscle. With these easy to adapt workouts, you’ll be able to target your glutes, arms, and chest along with supporting muscles. 

According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), a good starting point is about 10 to 20 minutes, twice per week in order to maintain muscular strength. If you’re looking to build serious muscle, use that progressive overload method we talked about – increasing volume, weight, and/or reps overtime.

SAFETY FIRST

Always remember that form is extremely important for both safety and effectiveness. When you do these exercises, make sure to keep wrists and joints in alignment and focus on slow and controlled movement rather than quick snap backs. 

WARM-UP

Before each of your workouts, make sure to warm-up. March or lightly jump in place while you move your arms by either drawing circles or swinging them side to side. Slowly increase the movement by going faster or doing more powerful movements. Do this for about 3 minutes. 

DAY 1 – LEGS 

Start with 20 reps of each exercise each with 30 seconds to a minute rest in between. Aim for at least three rounds.

Kick-Back 

  • Grab a mat or find a floor with cushion (such as carpet) or a blanket for your knees. Start on your hands and knees with the band around your right foot. 

  • Lift and extend your right leg straight behind you, pushing against the resistance of the band. 

  • Slowly bring it back to the starting position and continue to alternate until you feel your glutes getting tired. 

 SQUAT

  • Step on the band with both feet about shoulder width apart. Make sure its secure and won’t snap up. 

  • Lower down into a squat, focusing on reaching your bum in back of you as you lower.

  • Return up, focusing on tightening glutes and repeat. 

  • For an extra shoulder workout, you can lift the band straight above to the sky as you come up.

LUNGE

  • Place the band under your front foot as you have one leg in front and one in back, lunge ready.

  • Bring your arms in a right angle with hands at your shoulders.

  • Slowly lower into a lunge and return up.

  • Do all reps with one leg in front then switch to the other leg in front. 

DAY 2 – CHEST, SHOULDERS, BACK

Start with 20 reps of each exercise each with 30 seconds to a minute rest in between. Aim for at least three rounds.

Chest Fly

  • Start by placing the band on something safe and secure that’s behind you. For instance, if you’re outside you can use a pole. 

  • Stand with legs slightly staggered for balance and move far enough away so you feel tension. 

  • Grab each handle (or wrap around your hands if using a band without handles) and hold your arms straight out to either side with your palms facing forward. 

  • Keeping arms straight, take your time pulling the band to bring the handles to meet in front of your body. 

  • Then slowly return arms back to starting. 

Row Back

  • Start in a seated position on the floor with legs extended straight ahead. 

  • Place the resistance band under the middle of your feet and add a bit of tension to make sure the bands don’t snap back. 

  • Pull your arms back towards your hips as you keep your elbows close to your body. Slowly return to extended arms and repeat. 

Upper Back 

  • Stand up with feet shoulder width apart, keeping a good posture with core engaged.

  • Hold bands in hands with palms facing down.

  • With a slight bend in the elbows, pull arms from straight ahead to your sides, while keeping arms raised at shoulders. 

  • The movement should be opening your chest. 

  • Return to start and repeat. 

DAY 3 – ARMS  

Start with 20 reps of each exercise each with 30 seconds to a minute rest in between. Aim for at least three rounds.

Bicep Curl 

  • Stand with legs shoulder width apart, with both feet on the resistance band. 

  • Hold each end of the band in each hand, starting with hands towards the floor and palms facing forward. 

  • Keeping your elbows stable, slowly lift your hands towards your shoulders while focusing on squeezing your biceps. 

  • Slowly lower back to where you started. 

Tricep Extension 

  • Stand with feet shoulder width apart with core engaged.

  • With arms in back, grab the band on both ends with both hands.

  • Keep one hand at your hip level, steady. 

  • With the other hand at about neck level, pull the band, reaching your hand to the sky. 

  • Slowly return back and do all reps on each side. 

Final Thoughts 

Safety first! Just like any equipment, resistance bands can break down over time due to normal wear and tear from use. It’s important to check the bands frequently to ensure they are safe for use. Make sure the rubber doesn’t have tears in it. 

When using a resistance band, never release a resistance band while under tension. A release can cause the band to snap back. Do not place the resistance band handles over feet as they can slip off. 

If you have any questions about proper use, check with a fitness professional. And always ask your doctor for an ok before starting a new exercise routine.


About The Author

 


Lisa Booth

Lisa Booth

 

Lisa is a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) with over 15 years of experience in nutrition, fitness, and mental health coaching and education. She studied Foods and Nutrition at San Diego State University and earned a Master of Science in Holistic Nutrition at Hawthorn University.

Having certifications and experience in group exercise, intuitive eating, coaching and psychotherapy, and digestive wellness, she’s enthusiastic about the relationship between the body and mind.

She’s dedicated to helping people understand how to implement healthy habit change, while gaining a deeper understanding of what makes them feel their personal best.