The resistance band is an inexpensive, efficient, effective, and handy piece of exercise equipment that allows you to perform myriads of exercises anytime and anywhere.
Many people use it at home to enhance their fitness and build a muscular physique.
But do resistance bands build muscle and strength? If yes, what exercises can you do? Let’s find the answers based on studies, research, and real-life experiences.
Can You Build Strength With Resistance Bands?
Yes, resistance bands can be as effective as weight training (machines, barbells, and dumbbells) for increasing strength.
A study has shown that training with a resistance band provides similar strength gains in the upper and lower body compared to weights. 1Effects of training with elastic resistance versus conventional resistance on muscular strength: A systematic review and meta-analysis – National Institute of Health Database And suggested that bands can be a possible alternative to weight training.
Note: The above meta-analysis included a total of 8 studies, comprising 224 individuals aged between 15 and 88 years who had a systematic habit of performing strength training.
However, practically speaking working out with resistance bands has limitations when it comes to strength development. For example, you can deadlift 200-300 pounds with barbells and plates but can’t do it with bands.
And this has also been revealed in a study that showed band workouts could be helpful for building muscular strength but are not superior to other forms of resistance training for improving functional performance and muscle strength.2Effects of Elastic Resistance Training on Muscle Strength and Functional Performance in Healthy Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis – Journal of Physical Activity and Health
Conclusion: Bands can a possible alternative to weights for gaining strength, however they are not superior. They can help you build strength to some extent but if you want to stronger, you need to lift weights.
Do Resistance Bands Build Muscle Mass?
They provide a better range of motion, so you can target each muscle specifically.
Resistance band exercises have shown beneficial effects on muscle mass, muscle quality, and physical function in older women with sarcopenic obesity, as demonstrated in a Scientific Sports trial. 3Effects of elastic band exercise on lean mass and physical capacity in older women with sarcopenic obesity: A randomized controlled trial – Scientific Sports
Note: The experiment was done only on females, so the results may not be the same for males.
You can also maximize the results by increasing the intensity and load, letting your trained muscles recover efficiently, and feeding your body optimum nutrition.
Conclusion: Resistance bands help increase lean mass and improve body composition to some extent. However, if you want to beef up your muscles and get bulk, you need to lift weights in the gym and consume sufficient nutrition.
Resistance Bands vs. Weight Training
Weights are superior to bands for developing strength and mass. But resistance bands are also greater than weights in some areas.
For example, the banded exercises elicited higher muscle activation in the upper body (deltoideus anterior, biceps brachii, and latissimus dorsi) than dumbbells– demonstrated in a study published by the Journal of Human Kinetics. 4Muscle Activity in Upper-Body Single-Joint Resistance Exercises with Elastic Resistance Bands vs. Free Weights – Journal of Human Kinetics
Another research has revealed that the elastic bands can be a feasible training modality for lateral pulldown, unilateral rows, and Romanian deadlifts in terms of muscle activation.5 Multiple-joint exercises using elastic resistance bands vs. conventional resistance-training equipment – European Journal of Sport Science
Verdict: Bands can be more effective for eliciting activation in some muscle groups but for majority, traditional weight training is great.
The Best Resistance Band Exercises to Build Muscle
1. Bench Press
- Place the middle of the band under the bench, grab the handles, and lie on that bench.
- Bend your elbows and hold your hands at your sides at your chest level.
- Position your feet on the ground or the bench by bending your knees. That’s the start.
- Brace your core, inhale, and contract your pecs, and press the band upward until your arms are straight.
- Exhale, pause for a moment at the top, and then slowly return your arms to the start. That’s one rep.
- Do three to four sets of 8 to 12 repetitions, each with as little rest as possible.
2. Chest Fly
- Loop the resistance band around the stationary post to an appropriate height.
- Grab the handles of the band with a neutral grip, stand against the stationary post, and take one step forward.
- Keep your arms straight to the sides (parallel to the floor) with a slight bend in your elbows and palms facing forward. That’s the starting position.
- Squeezing your pecs, bring your arms in front of you until they are together in front of your chest.
- Pause for a moment, you’ll feel the contraction in your chest and then return your arms to the start. This is your one repetition.
- Do three sets of 8 to 12 reps each with as little rest as possible.
3. Overhead Triceps extension
- Stand in the split stance, place the middle of the band under your one foot, and grab the handles with a neutral grip.
- Bend your elbows and keep your hands behind your head with your elbows pointing forward and palms facing each other. That’s the start.
- Keeping your back straight and core tight, extend your arms overhead until your triceps are fully engaged.
- Hold and squeeze your triceps for a couple of seconds and then slowly lower your upper arms to the start and repeat for the desired number of times.
- Keep your elbows as fixed as possible during the entire movement.
- Do as many reps and sets as you like.
4. Front Raises
- Stand straight in the shoulder-width stance.
- Place one end of a resistance band under your feet and hold the other firmly with an overhand grip, hands shoulder-width apart.
- Keep your arms straight downward with your palms facing inward. Maintain a flat back and tight core. That’s the start.
- Raise the band before you until your arms are parallel to the ground.
- Hold for a moment; you’ll feel the contraction in your front deltoids and then return your arms to the start. That’s your one repetition.
- Complete as many sets and reps as required.
You can also do single-arm front raise.
5. Lateral Raises
- Stand straight on the middle of the resistance band with your feet hip-width apart and hold the handles of the band firmly with an overhand grip.
- Keep your arms straight at your sides with your palms facing inward.
- Contracting your deltoids, raise the band to the sides until your arms align with your shoulder or parallel to the ground.
- Pause for a couple of moments and slowly lower your arms. That’s one rep.
- Do a couple of sets of 8 to 12 repetitions, each with as little rest as possible between sets.
If you don’t have handles attached to the band, you can perform one-arm lateral raise.
6. Upright Row
- Stand upright with your feet shoulder-width apart and place one end of a resistance band under your feet and hold the other end firmly with an overhand grip, hands hip-width apart.
- Keep your arms straight in front of your thighs with your palms facing inward.
- Pull the band upward until it reaches close to the neck, your elbows are facing outward, and you feel the contraction in your upper trap and shoulder muscles.
- Hold for a couple of seconds at the top, squeeze the muscle, and lower the band until your arms are straight downward. That’s one rep.
- Complete 2-4 sets of 8-12 repetitions with 1-2 minutes rest between sets.
6. Seated Band Row
- Sit on your buttock on the floor with your legs straight in front of you, heels on the ground, and fingers facing upward.
- Loop the middle of the band around the soles of your feet and grab the handles with a neutral grip.
- Squeezing your shoulder blades pull the band toward your waistline until your back muscles are engaged.
- Pause for a couple of seconds; you’ll feel the contraction in your back muscle, and then return your arms to the start to complete one repetition.
- Do three sets of 10 to 12 repetitions each.
7. Standing Reverse Fly
- Stand straight in the shoulder-width stance, loop the band around the soles of your feet, and grab the handles firmly with a neutral grip.
- Slightly bend forward by pushing your hips back and keep your arms straight underneath your chest. Maintain a flat back. That is your starting position.
- Raise your arms to the sides until your hands reach chest level.
- Pause for a moment (you’ll feel the contraction in your back), and then return slowly, bringing your arms to the starting position.
- Repeat for the required number of sets and reps.
8. Single-arm Biceps Curl
- Stand upright, place one end of a resistance band under your right foot, and hold the other firmly with your right hand.
- Keep your working arm straight and tucked at your side. That’s the starting position.
- Contracting your biceps curl your arm toward your shoulder until your bicep is engaged.
- Pause for a moment, feel the contraction, and then extend your arm to the start. That’s one repetition.
- Do three 3 sets of 8-12 reps each with as little rest as possible.
- Keep your elbow (of working arm) tucked and fixed at your side and avoid driving it back while curling your arm, as it will make your exercise less effective.
9. Resistance Band Squat
- Standing in the shoulder-width stance, place one end of the band under your feet and wrap the other around your shoulder and upper back.
- Keep your chest up, back upright, and core tight in the standing position. That’s the start.
- Bend your knees and push your hips back to squat down until your buttock is parallel to the ground.
- Press into the floor through your feet to return to the standing position. This is your one repetition.
- Do three to four sets of 10 to 15 reps each with as little rest as possible between sets.
10. Resistance Band Calf Raise
- Anchor the band to the lower point of something, grab the handles firmly and stand straight in the hip-width stance.
- Stand upright, bend your elbows, and keep your arms at your sides to your shoulder level, palms facing upward. That is your starting position.
- Raise your heels as high as possible, pause for a moment, squeeze your calves, and slowly lower your heels back on the floor. That’s one repetition
- Do a couple of sets of 15 to 20 repetitions, each with as little rest as possible between sets.
Bands are not as effective as weights for overall fitness development. However, they can be a perfect pick if you’re looking for a less expensive but effective way to build muscle.
They are compact and portable so that you can use them anywhere, at home, club, or gym.
You can do many exercises to build strength and muscles and improve balance, grip strength, and flexibility.
But you need a workout plan to train in an organized way and achieve maximum results.
Moreover, you should also increase the intensity and load, let your trained muscles recover efficiently, and feed your body optimum nutrition to maximize the results.
You can also combine elasticity band exercises with weight training to gain strength and build muscle.
- 1Effects of training with elastic resistance versus conventional resistance on muscular strength: A systematic review and meta-analysis – National Institute of Health Database
- 2Effects of Elastic Resistance Training on Muscle Strength and Functional Performance in Healthy Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis – Journal of Physical Activity and Health
- 4Muscle Activity in Upper-Body Single-Joint Resistance Exercises with Elastic Resistance Bands vs. Free Weights – Journal of Human Kinetics
- 5Multiple-joint exercises using elastic resistance bands vs. conventional resistance-training equipment – European Journal of Sport Science