How to Turn Up the Gains with Bands
Most band and bodyweight exercises are easy for advanced lifters: chin-ups, push-ups, squats, lunges, and jumps. But you can turn up your gainz-making potential right at home by using bands.
Of course, these exercises are handy when you’re needing to challenge yourself outside of a gym, but there’s no reason you can’t use these even when you DO have access to one.
It’s worth your time to make them staples regardless. Learn these and you’ll want to keep doing them… no matter where you’re working out.
1 – Band Arm Walkout
I love ab rollout variations using the Swiss ball. Why? One reason is because of the research which compared the core muscle activation achieved during Swiss ball exercises versus traditional ab exercises. Researchers found that the Swiss ball rollout and the Swiss ball pike were the most effective in activating the upper and lower abs, along with the external and internal obliques (1).
This is a more advanced version of the stability-ball rollout. You only need to do about 4-8 reps to feel it working.
Note: You can do all these band exercises using a Superband, but I’m using an NT Loop because it’s specifically designed to be more comfortable and stable to put around your body.
How To Do It
- The band should be anchored at or just above shoulder height when you’re on all-fours.
- Place the band around both of your wrists with your hands flat on the floor about shoulder-width apart.
- Your torso should form a nearly straight line from your head to your knees. You may also need to place a pad, pillow, or folded towel under your knees for comfort.
- Walk your arms out in front of you as far as possible without feeling discomfort in your lower back and while keeping your body in a straight line.
- Make sure there’s some tension on the band at the top of each rep where you’ve walked your arms out in front of you as far as your ability allows.
- Keep your hips and head from sagging toward the floor.
- Reverse the motion, walking your hands back so that they end up just in front of your shoulders.
You can do this exercise without a band, but using a band places more tension on the abs over a greater range of motion. So instead of finishing each rep with your hands underneath your shoulders, you can keep walking your hands until they’re under the middle of your torso.
2 – Single-Leg Knee Tap Squat
Instead of doing a pistol squat, you lean forward and hold your non-weight-bearing foot behind you instead of in front. The pistol squat isn’t a bad exercise. But this version of the single-leg squat puts you in a position that’s more common to how we move in life and sport. That’s why it feels more natural and less awkward. Plus, the forward lean increases your glute and hamstring involvement, which also makes it easier on the working knee.
How To Do It
- Stand in front of a pad that’s about two to three inches (about 8-13 cm) thick, like a small stack of weight plates with a mat on top or a workout step.
- If you can’t go as low as shown in the video, simply increase the height of what you’re tapping your back knee onto. The goal is to do each rep with control.
- Keep your hands outstretched in front to serve as a counterbalance. You can also do the exercise while holding a dumbbell against each shoulder.
- Slowly lower yourself toward the floor by bending your weight-bearing knee and sitting back at your hips until you lightly tap your back knee on the object.
- Keep your back (non-weight-bearing) foot from touching the floor.
- Do all reps on the same side before switching sides.
3 – Band Zercher Reverse Lunge
A traditional Zercher squat involves holding a barbell in the crook of your elbows. This version involves holding the band the same way, but with a few tweaks.
Most of the time, band lunges and banded split squats require you to work against a single-layer of the band where you’re stepping on one end of the band and holding the other. But for this it’s more challenging because you’re stepping on the middle and working against a double-layer by holding each end. This means you’ll be getting much more (accommodating) resistance.
How To Do It
- Hold each end of the band and step on the middle of it so it’s anchored securely underneath your right foot.
- Assume a half-kneeling position with your right leg in front of your left. You’ll be kneeling on your left knee.
- Place your arms inside each end of the band so that it’s just above your elbows.
- With the band underneath your right foot, bend your right elbow to 90-degrees with your palm up.
- Bend your left elbow to 90-degrees and bring your left arm across your torso and place your left hand, with your palm down, on top of your right hand.
- With both hands on your right side, and while keeping your hands together palm-to-palm, bend your elbows so the back of your left wrist (your top hand) is against the right side of your chest. Maintain this position throughout each rep until you switch sides.
- Step backward with your left foot as you simultaneously drop your body so that your knee lightly touches the floor.
- Keep your back straight and your torso centered. Don’t lean to one side.
- Reverse the movement to come out of the lunge by straightening your right leg and bringing your left foot forward so that you’re back in the starting position.
- After doing all the reps on one side, repeat on the other side. Anchor the middle of the band underneath your left foot. Hold the band with your hands together and right palm down, and put your right wrist against the right side of your chest.
4 – Bent-Knee Copenhagen Hip Adduction
A 2015 systematic review (a study of studies) found that hip adductor strength was one of the most common risk factors for groin injury in sport (2).
One study on pro hockey players found that they were 17 times more likely to sustain an adductor muscle strain (groin injury) if their adductor strength was less than 80% of his abductor strength (3). The Copenhagen exercise is a very effective movement for training hip adductors (4,5).
It was originally designed to be done with a training partner holding your top leg underneath your top knee and foot. Without a partner, keeping your top leg straight and placing your top foot on the end of a platform or plyo box exposes you to additional lateral forces through your knee joint that can be a problem for many folks.
Back in 2017, I introduced my bent-knee version to the training world. Since then, it’s spread like wildfire because you don’t need a partner and because placing a knee on top of the platform allows you to reap the same benefits while providing more support at your knee joint.
How To Do It
- Keep your weight-bearing elbow directly underneath your right shoulder.
- Straighten your bottom leg and get your top leg bent 90-degrees.
- Rest your top knee and calf on top of a chair (or bench or plyo box) that’s roughly 17 to 20 inches high (43-50 cm) while your bottom leg is underneath the chair/box platform.
- You’ll want to place a rolled-up towel or mat underneath your top leg and bottom elbow for comfort.
- Press your top leg into the top of the chair/box platform as you elevate your bottom hip off the ground and simultaneously lift your bottom leg up to squeeze the inside of your bottom thigh against the inside of your top thigh.
- Pause for one or two seconds at the top before reversing the action and lowering yourself back down to the floor to complete one rep.
5 – Band Push-Back Push-Up
I developed this exercise as a push-up variation that’s more like an incline dumbbell press than a flat dumbbell press. This is because the motion of the band push-back push-up involves driving your body back using a similar push angle to an incline press.
You can also focus a bit more on one side at a time by doing the band push-back push-up with a twist, which is an even more advanced version.
How To Do It
- Anchor the band low, at or below ankle level. Place the other end around your upper back so it’s just underneath your armpits.
- Back up so you have tension on the band. Get in a push-up position with your hands and feet shoulder-width apart.
- Drop into the bottom of the push-up, but instead of pushing up in the traditional manner, soften your knees and push yourself backward toward your feet, keeping your hips as low as possible.
- Reverse this motion and drop into the bottom of the push-up to complete one rep.
- After dropping into the bottom of the push-up, push yourself backward toward your feet, keeping your hips as low as possible and twisting your body to put all of your weight onto one arm.
- Reverse this motion, place your elevated hand back onto the floor, and drop into the bottom of another push-up, this time finishing by twisting your body to the other side and lifting your other arm off the floor.
6 – Single-Leg Band Hip Lift
This is a more hamstring-oriented version of the hip thrust. You’ll feel it mainly in the lower portion of your hamstring just above your knee. But make no mistake, it certainly involves your glutes, too!
It’s not only a great option for those unable to do RDLs, it also trains the hamstrings in a manner that’s different from most other hamstring exercises. I premiered this exercise using a weight plate in my joint-friendly training article. This banded version breaks new ground.
If you want to further increase the difficulty, add a calf training element. Just place the balls of your feet on top of a bed, chair, or bench.
Once again, you can use a Superband, but an NT Loop band is far better because it’s specifically designed to be comfortable and stable.
How To Do It
- This exercise works best with your leg elevated at your mid-thigh to hip height. Make sure you don’t have your leg any lower than knee height. Otherwise the range of motion is very small and people tend to use more of their low back as opposed to using mostly hip extension.
- Keep roughly a 15-degree bend in your working-side knee. Flex your non-working side hip and knee as far as you can toward your chest.
- If you’re doing the version shown in the first video, be sure to rest only the back of your foot – not your Achilles tendon – on top of the bed, chair, or bench.
- Place your arms through each end of the band, just above your elbow joint.
- Place the middle of the band over the bottom of your knee that’s flexed towards your chest.
- Holding your one leg flexed and pressing the backs of your arms into the ground while keeping your elbows at a 90-degree angle, press your other leg down into the bed, chair or bench. Raise your hips straight up as high as you can while keeping a slight bend in your working-side knee.
- Keep your lower back from overextending. Push your hips upwards, not backwards, on each rep.
- Slowly reverse the motion, allowing your hips to lightly touch the floor.
- Complete all reps on one side before switching to the other leg.
- Don’t allow your hips to rotate during the exercise.
- Keep your elbows in contact with the ground through each rep.
7 – One-Arm Push-Up
This is the king of push-up variations.
Once you’ve become proficient at doing one-arm push-ups from the floor, you can progress to using a weighted vest and/or the foot-elevated version. See the link below for a complete guide.
Related: The Athlete’s Guide to One-Arm Push-Ups
Related: More Info on the NT Loop
- Escamilla, R.F, et al. Core muscle activation during Swiss ball and traditional abdominal exercises“ J Orthop Sports Physical Ther, 40: 265-276, 2010.
- Jackie L Whittaker, et al. Risk factors for groin injury in sport: an updated systematic review. Br J Sports Med 2015;49:803-809
- Tyler TF, et al. The association of hip strength and flexibility with the incidence of adductor muscle strains in professional ice hockey players. Am J Sports Med. 2001 Mar-Apr;29(2):124-8.
- Serner A, Jakobsen MD, Andersen LL, et al. EMG evaluation of hip adduction exercises for soccer players: implications for exercise selection in prevention and treatment of groin injuries. Br J Sports Med 2014;48:1108-1114.
- Ishoi L, Sorensen CN, Kaae NM, et al. Large eccentric strength increase using the Copenhagen Adduction exercise in football: A randomized controlled trial. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2016 Nov;26(11):1334-1342.
Source: Top 7 Advanced Home Exercises