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55 Resistance Band Exercises and Workouts You Can Do at Home

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Resistance bands have gone from being overlooked in the gym to becoming one of the most widely used devices in home and outdoor workouts that dominated fitness trends during the Covid-19 pandemic. Eventually, over the past year and a half, bands got by and became valuable for both their utility and wide availability as supply chains made it harder to find weights. Now is the time to consider how to keep them permanently in your routines while you go back to more typical training protocols.

a woman smiling at the camera: Can't find any dumbbells or kettlebells?  Build muscle, size, strength, and athleticism (and increase flexibility as well) with these resistance band exercises.

© Nicola Katie – Getty Images
Can’t find dumbbells or kettlebells? Build muscle, size, strength, and athleticism (and increase flexibility as well) with these resistance band exercises.

The stretchy, rubberized tools are ultimately more useful than just replacing other, heavier equipment like dumbbells, barbells, and kettlebells. Sure, bands take up less space in your home and are not a problem for training on the go, and even the toughest band is much cheaper than the cheapest set of adjustable weights. But the benefits of a resistance band go beyond mere convenience and cost effectiveness.

For one thing, bands are incredibly versatile. With just your body weight and a band, you can train important movements like pushups and squats. Do you need resistance? Stand on your band to curl, squeeze, or row it, or attach it to an anchor point (just make sure it’s secure and stable to avoid mishaps) and you can do all kinds of pulls Doing stretches, and more. Resistance bands give you the opportunity to hit almost every muscle group in your body – if you’re willing to work hard and be a little creative with your surroundings.

The possibilities are endless. Here is your resistance band primer.

Why resistance bands work

a man who holds up his hands: macho man who trains with resistance bands against corrugated iron

© J. Ivan Rodrguez Pacheco / EyeEm – Getty Images
Macho man training with resistance bands against corrugated iron

Even if you have dumbbells and kettlebells at home or can do simple body weight movements, having a resistance band close to your workout can have significant value.

Why? Two words: adaptation to resistance. The further you pull a resistance band, the more it “resists” you in the truest sense of the word. This is a different type of resistance than a dumbbell, for example.

Do a bicep curl. Curl the bar up and there comes a point where the curl actually becomes “easy” for your biceps, near the top of the motion. The length of the lever that challenges your biceps decreases as you finish the exercise, which means that gravity can no longer be a challenge with the dumbbell (and your muscle no longer needs to exert as much force to do that challenge to manage something).

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Do the same curl with a resistance band and as you get closer to the top it doesn’t get any easier; Instead, you have to work to earn the pressure at the top of the curl. The stretched ligament will fight you more, forcing you to accelerate through the entire range of motion, and challenging your muscle fibers in a different way. You need to tense your muscles extra hard to combat banded resistance, a habit that will also improve your weight training.

Does that make bands better than dumbbells? No. But both tools can have a place in your workout, and both tools can complement each other in the large workout scheme. However, one tool (tip: not the dumbbell) is so small that you can easily fit it into your backpack on every road trip.

The best ways to use ribbons

All of this makes resistance bands a high quality option for any workout. But just like you might mix up barbells, dumbbells, and cables at the gym, ideally you want to mix your workout with resistance bands too. Try these approaches with bands (and know there are many more).

Full training: Yes, you can use resistance bands for a full body workout; they will challenge and push your body. Depending on the size of your resistance band, you might not be able to do some of the moves that you want more challenging, like deadlifts and squats, to be incredibly difficult. In each full-body session, aim for a pull movement (a row or a pulldown or curl), a push movement (a push-up, overhead, or triceps pressdown movement), and a leg movement (a squat, deadlift, or lunge).

Finisher: If you have access to dumbbells and barbells, or if your body weight is advanced enough to handle one-sided challenges (think of pistol squats and pushups), consider using bands towards the end of your workout. They are a great way to encourage active and aggressive chest squeezing while doing a push-up.

Drop sets: A great way to use ribbons at home is to use them in dropsets. In a dropset, you start with a heavier weight (or a more difficult version of a movement) and then “fall” into a lighter weight or an easier version of an exercise. Since you are exhausted from the initial work you put into the harder movement, the easier movement feels heavier. Try squats. Do 10 squats with resistance band, holding the band under your feet and with your hands on your shoulders. Immediately release the band and do 10 standard squats. Do 3 sets. Enjoy the burn.

The resistance band moves

Combine these movements to create resistance band workouts that you can do anytime, anywhere. And when in doubt, remember to think the whole body (a pulling movement, a pushing movement, a leg movement).

19 starter moves

Start with these 19 movements from David Jack, creator of MH’s Muscle After 40 program. They hit your whole body in all directions. The list is highlighted by a multitude of critical back movements: split stance rowing, reverse fly, single arm reverse fly, and the classic bent over.

Pallof press

You’ll rock your abs on this classic ab exercise that uses banded resistance to challenge your core against all rotations.

12 belt movements anytime, anywhere

Trainer Sean Garner, creator of the 6-week sweat-off, takes many of Jack’s ideas and adds 12 new moves for you, including a banded monster walk that lights up your glutes and a banded jump squat that becomes’ Teach you to create a lower body explosion.

Triceps Press Down Countdown Series

This step from Fitness Director Ebenezer Samuel, CSCS, is about isolating your triceps and reinforcing the idea that your triceps need to work with your arms extended too.

Video: The Benefits of Resistance Bands will make you rethink whether you need weights (shape) at all

The benefits of resistance bands will make you rethink whether you need weights at all

Click to expand



Shoulder warming with a rotator cuff

Attack the small, supportive muscles in your shoulders and make your upper body equally bulletproof with this series of movements for bench press and pull-ups.

Mobility wall squat

Not every movement with ligaments is about pure muscle mass. The Mobility Wall Squat opens your hips and improves your squat shape and technique.

Banded core series with hollow support

This is all about abs fighting both rotation and stretch (can you contract your core no matter how the band pulls you?). It looks easy. However, it is not.

Triceps series with a hollow handle

Here you train your triceps and get valuable abdominal muscle work.

Half-iso knee knee with straight arm, pulldown

This one will brighten your back and there are a lot more abs challenges than you might initially expect.

Hollow Hold Fly to Banded Pushup Finisher

We refer to this as the finisher, but it can easily be a key element in any chest workout as well. You will roll around on the floor and build muscle too!

Chaos Band L-Seat Chinup

This is not for the faint of heart, and it certainly isn’t easy. Build on it. If you dare

Alternating Mass Pound Press

This will build your chest and challenge your core at the same time. And yes, it’s fun to hit the floor.

Crucifix Arm Finisher

A resistance band, a structure, lots of biceps and triceps pumping fun.

Half-kneeling row of archers

Bulletproof your shoulders and use that to build some middle back strength (and also more abdominal strength than you think).

Partner hollow body Pallof game

Grab a partner and bring some fun (and serious anti-rotation challenge too!) Into your workout with this graduation game.

Plank triceps kickback

Yes, with ribbons you can grow your arms and tone your abs at the same time! You do that here.

Breast fly finisher

Find two posts and get ready to burst your chest with this movement that involves squeezing the center of your chest.

Pull face

The face pull, if done correctly, will brighten your back and bulletproof your shoulders. Fun fact: preferably with bands.

Lateral increase in the resistance band

Add depth to your shoulders with this simple resistance band movement.

Resistance band athletic moves

Build speed and athleticism with these moves from trainer Gerren Lilles.

Triceps Pressdown Series with Ribbons

Another movement that will push your triceps to the limit, forcing you to take the position with your arms extended.

Banded hamstrings

This movement increases the size and strength of the hamstring. And you don’t need a lot of space for it.

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Men’s Health

The Most American Flex Is a Fitness Fad

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As exercise equipment maker Peloton Interactive Inc. struggles to reinvent itself, investors must decide whether it’s worth giving the fallen Wall Street star a second chance. Let history be their guide.

Not just the company’s history. Modern humans’ relationship with physical fitness provides a cautionary tale for future investors in the next big exercise craze — and rest assured, there will be another.

Why do Americans go to such extravagant lengths to stay in shape? The rise of the so-called physical culture movement in the late 1800s, along with its close cousin, “Muscular Christianity,” marked a newfound obsession with fitness in Western nations, particularly the United States.

These movements grew out of a strange amalgam of pseudoscience, theology and anxiety about the future of native-born Whites in late 1800s. Enormous numbers of immigrants were flooding into the US and many of these Whites expressed unease that “Anglo-Saxons,” as they referred to themselves, had become “overcivilized” and soft.

Thus native-born Whites increasingly embraced team sports, outdoor activities and mandatory physical education in public schools. Private groups like the Young Men’s Christian Association, or YMCA, also promoted exercise, opening a network of gyms that mixed religion and fitness.

Still, most Americans had little interest in gyms and regimented exercise. After all, they had limited leisure time in those days and got plenty of exercise in their everyday life by walking or doing manual labor.

Moreover, some figures in the physical culture movement seemed, well, weird. Consider Bernard McFadden, a sickly child who renamed himself Bernarr because it evoked the roar of a lion. He made a fortune promoting a regimen of weight-lifting, calisthenics, restrictive diets and brisk walks. He also published a magazine called Physical Culture that became the unofficial voice of the movement. “Weakness Is a Crime,” it declared to would-be readers. “Are you a criminal?”

The eccentric bodybuilder, who courted controversy by promoting exercise for both men and women, was eventually overshadowed by another fanatic with an exclusively male clientele: the Italian immigrant Angelo Siciliano, better known as Charles Atlas. Both men gained fame and fortune hawking their programs, but they would soon be eclipsed by developments in the post-World War II era, when fitness became an abiding obsession of the White middle class.

The new ethos owed much to the suburban ideal of the 1950s. Initially, everything about the suburbs worked against fitness, from the growing dependence on the automobile, the use of buses to shuttle children to centralized schools and the advent of television. Even the single-story ranch houses that defined the era put an end to the exercise provided by going up and down stairs.

In her insightful account of this shift, historian Shelly McKenzie argues that much of the ensuing debate over fitness was framed by a new problem confronting the White middle class: “How could they enjoy the fruits of post-war affluence while also managing their bodies for optimal health?” The solution, McKenzie observed, was “the invention of exercise.”

The movement arguably began with a report by the US National Institutes of Health in 1952 that called attention to obesity as a serious health problem. A year later, a widely read study found an alarming gap between the levels of fitness in American and European children, with 56% of American children failing a standard set of tests versus only 8% of European kids.

The reason, the author concluded, was simple: European children walked a lot, climbed stairs instead of taking the elevator and spent much of their free time playing outside; Americans did not.

This article eventually came to the attention of Dwight Eisenhower, who responded by forming the President’s Council on Youth Fitness. Its leaders, working with advertising executives and other corporate allies, orchestrated an effective public relations campaign that yoked physical fitness to the imperatives of the Cold War, arguing that American boys and men had to get into fighting shape if they were to defeat the Soviets.

But the campaign targeted girls and mothers as well. One spokesman for the program declared that it not only aimed to produce “healthful, vital, masculine men,” but also “active, healthful, vital, feminine women who can mother a vigorous generation.”

All of this marked a sea change in how many Americans viewed exercise and fitness. What had formerly been a subculture associated with eccentric impresarios like Bernarr MacFadden and Charles Atlas was quickly becoming a mainstream preoccupation.

It was also becoming a big business. One of the first to see the potential was the fitness fanatic Jack LaLanne, who opened his first gym in the 1930s. In the 1950s, LaLanne launched several televised programs in which he would perform exercises — he dubbed them “trimnastics” — with the audience following along.

LaLanne, who wore a form-fitting jumpsuit to show off his sculpted body, worked on a set that resembled a suburban living room, much like those occupied by his overwhelmingly suburban, female audience. He preached the virtues of exercise for maintaining “zest” in the “marital bed.” Long before the “Peloton wife” ad stirred controversy, LaLanne’s exhortations openly connected a woman’s physical condition to her sex appeal.

The 1950s also marked the moment when commercial gyms entered the mainstream. A new generation of entrepreneurs like Vic Tanny opened gleaming temples filled with the latest exercise equipment. Tanny, who believed that “good health can be merchandized just like automobiles,” counted half a million men and women as members by decade’s end.

Other fitness chains sought to overturn the age-old adage, “no pain, no gain.” High-end salons like Slenderella, which counted three million clients in 1956, promised women that their machines, which used vibrations or rollers, held out the promise of what McKenzie, the author and historian, has called “effortless exercise.”

A paradox defined these developments. The ease of suburban life left Americans out of shape. But if modern consumer society caused the problem, it could also solve it. For a price, Americans could buy fitness via gyms, exercise programs and other pursuits.

Some of these began modestly. The jogging craze, which required a relatively minimal investment, quickly grew into an entire industry worth half a billion dollars by the end of the 1970s. Other fitness fads, like the workout program founded by Jane Fonda, wedded celebrity culture to new videotape technology to build a mass following.

The fitness business, which encompassed everything from books, tapes, equipment, apparel and gym memberships, kept growing through the 1970s and beyond. Everything from Jazzercise to Nautilus weight-training machines to Pilates gained a following in subsequent years.

In 2022, the fitness business is bigger than it has ever been. In the US, gyms and fitness clubs generate annual revenue of nearly $40 billion; home fitness equipment makers generate nearly $5 billion more.

Set against this backdrop, Peloton is nothing more than the latest entry in a decades-long quest of affluent Americans to stay fit, no matter the price.

More From Other Writers at Bloomberg Opinion:

Peloton’s New Strategy Spins All Over the Place: Andrea Felsted

Peloton’s Real Rival Is Doing Laps of Central Park: Tim Culpan

Will New York’s Fitness Scene Stay Home?: Tara Lachapelle

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Stephen Mihm, a professor of history at the University of Georgia, is coauthor of “Crisis Economics: A Crash Course in the Future of Finance.”

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Men’s Health

The MGTOW Movement Explained

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The MGTOW Movement Explained

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Men’s Health

3 Heavy Barbell Back Squat Alternative Exercises for Workouts

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We’ll never say barbell back squats are a terrible exercise—especially since some will argue, convincingly, that the movement is the king of all exercises. But for the average gymgoer wants, this heavyweight staple might not be the best move for their training and needs.

It may sound like leg-day lunacy to even question whether we should be squatting, especially considering the multitude of benefits—from building strength and power, burning fat, improving both core strength and posture to name a few. But unless you’re a pro athlete or a powerlifter whose sole pursuit in the weight room is to lift as heavy as possible (specifically in the back squat!), there may not be as much need for you to rely on the back squat as the backbone of your leg day.

You might even be putting yourself at a disadvantage, especially if your physiology isn’t ideal for the movement, or your goals don’t align with exactly what the back squat will do. According to Men’s Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, CSCS, and Mathew Forzaglia, NFPT, CPT, founder of Forzag Fitness, there are plenty of effective lower-body exercise options that can provide the same benefits and possibly even do more for you to increase your leg day gains.

“There’s a very, very good chance that for all your leg goals, whether you’re trying to get more athletic, whether you’re trying to get stronger, whether you just want to burn some calories and just want to move a little bit that there are a bunch of exercises aside from the back squats that will be safer than the back squat and still get you all your goals,” Samuel says.

Why Back Squats Might Not Work for You

You Don’t Need to Back Squat if Athletics Isn’t Your Goal

Sorry to break the news to you, but unless it’s your goal to squat religiously like a powerlifter or you’re a top-level professional or amateur athlete who’s training for a particular sport or activity, the back squat don’t necessarily have to be your go to leg exercise. They do it because it’s part of their job or goals. You on the other hand, can benefit from any other variation without having to get too tied down to squat mechanics.

“Very specific athletes learn the back squat because the back squat itself is a combination of two ideas,” Samuel says. “We have the idea of ​​a squat where we’re driving down, but we also have the idea of ​​a hinge where we’re pushing our butt back slightly and you have to understand completely both of those mechanics before you even think about jumping into the back squat that takes time that is not something you do on your first personal training session.”

Back Squats Might Drag Down the Rest of Your Workout

Back squats are hard. Beginning from the setup and holding the bar on your back can be challenging, especially if you have shoulder mobility issues. Stacking a pile of 45s on your back will not only accelerate the discomfort of your shoulders; the stress will target your lower back as well.

“It opens a window for us to shift as we go down into the squat. And when that happens, we start to overload that lower back and it’s not really needed,” Forzaglia says.

Back Squats Are Limited for Athleticism

You may see NFL athletes loading crazy weight to the squat bar for a few reps, but besides these feats meant to test their max strength, their workouts aren’t strictly dictated by back squats. What you won’t see on social media are the specific leg and core movements that promote athleticism—they’re not as visually appealing as a 500-pound squat, but equally as necessary. That’s why when it comes to athleticism, you need more than just back squats for your training.

Try these 3 back squat alternatives

● Goblet Squat

3 to 4 sets of 8 to 10 reps

Holding a dumbbell or kettlebell in front of you forces you to work from a more upright position while also focusing on keeping your core nice and tight. That makes this variation more spine-friendly than loading a bar with heavy weights on your back. At the same time, you’re also able to blast your legs like a heavy back squat day.

Safety bar squat

3 to 4 sets of 5 to 8 reps

This specialty bar, which provides handles to help manage the load, eliminates the potential discomfort you may get from the back squat. The safety bar squat gives you more freedom to move your shoulders while still forcing you to create tons of core tension. And like the back squat, you can pile on the weight without the shoulder stress.

Rear foot elevated split squat

3 to 4 sets of 8 to 10 reps

You might know this move as the Bulgarian split squat. This single-leg exercise is extremely useful for helping to eliminate muscle imbalances. And although a pro career might not be in your future, rear foot elevated split squats can certainly help to improve your everyday athleticism and functional fitness. You can even go heavy with this move as well.

Jeff Tomko is a freelance fitness writer who has written for Muscle and Fitness, Men’s Fitness, and Men’s Health.

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