How To Use A Resistance Band For A Quick Workout

A resistance band might not look like much, but studies show it can be as effective at building long, lean muscle as a pair of dumbbells. Even if you only have ten minutes, here’s how the experts recommend you use them for an effective workout.

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Use Them Instead Of Dumbbells

Weights have long been the gold standard when it comes to strength training, but when used properly, a resistance band can be just as effective as a pair of dumbbells, if not more so. Research shows that strength gains from using resistance bands are similar to training with dumbbells. As PT Louisa Drake explains, whether used on your arms or legs, a resistance band has a real advantage over free weights. 

“Resistance bands work your muscles like weights do, but unlike free weights, resistance bands don’t rely on gravity to provide the resistance. With a band, the tension is constant, which makes it feel harder. By using a band for any exercise, you can increase the ‘time under tension’, so your muscles have to stay engaged throughout the movement compared to free weights,” she says. Think about it – a bicep curl done with a dumbbell is a fixed motion, whereas when you add in the instability of a band, the muscle fibres all over your arms and shoulders kick in to keep the band stable, effectively supercharging the movement.   

Try A Long Band For A Full-Body Workout

There are various types of resistance bands, but it’s the long, flat variety that are particularly effective for getting that full-body burn. “Often referred to as ‘thera’ or therapy bands, these flat, longer resistance bands are super versatile – you can wrap them around your hand and adjust the length easily,” says Louisa. “They can be tied around the legs or other equipment such as a park bench or door to perform tricep pushdowns. You can also wrap the band around a pole or door handle for chest exercises or use them on the floor to strengthen and stretch out the body.” 

Louisa is also a fan of using a long band to do a standing bicep curl, which can be done by standing with your feet on the band, then holding an end in each hand and performing a bicep curl. “If time is of the essence, your biceps are a good muscle to target. The biceps are major, highly visible muscles, so the training you do for them will impact significantly on the appearance of your arms. Working the biceps will make the arms look tighter and more defined.”

If time is of the essence, your biceps are a good muscle to target. Training them will make the arms look tighter and more defined.

Tackle Lower Body With A Loop Band

A looped resistance band which can slot across your ankles or knees is great for toning the legs and glutes. “Mini-loop bands are a fantastic way to target the legs,” says Louisa. “You can even get creative and slip it on your hands to target the triceps and biceps.” For a quick leg session, try using a loop band around your knees and then performing a squat, simple but so effective, says Catie Miller, founder of Oona Series

“Taking this move back to its functional base and incorporating a resistance band really packs a punch. Start with the band above your knees and stand with your feet parallel, slightly wider than your hips. Gently press your knees into the band, ensuring they stay in line with your toes all the time. Next, hinge forward from the hips and sit back into your heels into a squat position. Hold at the bottom for three to four pulses, wrapping your knees out into the band. Finally, return to a standing position as you drive forward through your heels and press your pelvis forward at the top. Repeat for 16 to 32 reps – and for an extra challenge add a heel lift at the top.” 

Try A Shoulder Bridge

Only have ten minutes? Catie says a shoulder bridge is a foolproof way to strengthen the lower body and tone the glutes. All you’ll need is a looped band, she says. “Place the band above your knees, around the lower thighs and lie on your back with your knees bent and feet placed hip-width distance apart. Ensure your shoulders, hips, knees and toes are all in line and then slowly lift your bottom off the floor. The band ensures your abductors and glutes fire throughout this movement with little room to cheat.” 

For an added challenge, Catie recommends holding the position at the top and gently pulsing the knees out into the band, maintaining connection between the rib cage and abs and an even weight distribution through all four corners of the feet.

Slow and steady wins the race with this kind of training. It’s much harder to work with slow control.

Take It Slow

Even when time is of the essence, don’t be tempted to rush a band workout, Catie advises. “If you only have 15 or 20 minutes for a workout, the best thing you can do is to hone in on your form and, ironically, take your time. Slow and steady wins the race with this kind of training. It’s much harder to work with slow control, and the band ensures you’re challenged at every point of the movement, sculpting muscles in all the right places.”

Consider A Fabric Band

If your workout is going to be short but sweet, keeping the body challenged is imperative, adds Pilates instructor Zoe-Maia Jarchevska, who says it’s worth having a fabric band to hand. “A thin, plastic resistance band has the tendency to roll up your legs, which can be frustrating when you only have 20 minutes to get a session in. Fabric resistance bands get my vote for this reason – they’re naturally thicker, will stay put and provide more of a challenge as the fabric is tougher to move.”

But Don’t Go Too Heavy

One of the most common mistakes women make when using a band is going too heavy, which can result in overusing certain muscles and negating any positive effects, adds Louisa. “It’s far better to reduce the resistance or use a lighter band to work at a full range of motion. Never strain yourself – if a move feels too difficult with your resistance band, use a lighter one until you can perform the exercise with ease. Changing your grip on the band to control the resistance can also help.” Remember a significant part of getting a decent workout from a band comes down to technique – control the band and don’t be afraid to adapt the resistance as you go.

Want In? Try One Of These Workouts…

MadFit 10-Minute Resistance Band Booty Workout
A small loop band is all you’ll need for this YT favourite. Tag it onto an upper-body session or repeat a couple of times.

Watch here.

Heather Robertson Full Body Mini Band Workout
Proof that even a small band can tone from top to toe, this 25-minute workout takes a full-body approach.

Watch here.

Caroline Girvan Full Body Resistance Band Workout
If you have a long band to hand, get involved with this challenging 15-minute workout, which gets creative with the kit at hand.

Watch here.

Sydney Cummings Mini Band Workout
The perfect 30-minute workout, this high-energy session will kickstart energy levels and tone from top to toe.

Watch here.

Growing Annanas Intense Mini Band Workout
This full-body pump uses a small loop band – do as many reps as you can in 50 seconds of each move.

Watch here.

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