Can you really build mass, tone muscles, and define your body shape using resistance bands? That's a question we're asked a lot, so we decided to answer the question definitively!
Can you get big with resistance bands? Yes, you can!
Resistance band exercises seriously help to strengthen muscles, tone muscle shape, and of course, improve your fitness and health.
In this article, we explain why resistance band workouts are effective at muscle building, before showing you our favorite strength-building exercises.
Do resistance bands build muscle mass?
Incorporating resistance band exercises into your personal workout schedule is a proven way to build muscle mass. Bodybuilders and gym-lovers might have you thinking that you can only build mass and get big if you're lifting heavy free weights or working out with weight machines, but this simply isn't true.
Resistance bands might not look like they hold much weight in comparison to a hefty dumbbell, or a stacked bench pressing machine, but they are deceptively efficient when it comes to building muscle, especially if they are used regularly.
In short, resistance bands work under the same principles that free weights and weights machines do.
How does muscle building actually work?
In order to build muscle, a muscle has to work against resistance and tension. When this happens, the existing muscle will tear, slightly (this is where we get the term, getting ripped!). The newly ripped muscle then repairs itself and becomes larger and stronger than it was before.
A resistance band can provide the tension and resistance needed to rip the muscles in order for them to become larger. Prolonged workouts, regularly scheduled into your exercise routine, will allow you to build muscles with resistance bands.
To progress, though, you need to be continually increasing the resistance that your muscles are working out against. If you lift weights, then your aim will be to increase the number of pounds that you can physically lift. This is how you build muscle - because the stronger you become, the more weight you can handle.
With a resistance band, you can change the tension or the strength as you make progress building muscle. Resistance bands are manufactured in a variety of different strengths, ranging from beginner up to experienced. They are often color-coded to help you easily identify which resistance bands are strongest. As you work out more, you can move your way up through the different strength levels, and build more mass as you do so.
The main steps needed to build muscle, are steps that can be efficiently fulfilled using resistance band:
- Work out your muscles against the resistance band.
- Your muscles 'rip, or 'tear'.
- A recovery period allows your muscles to repair themselves and allows for muscle growth to be stimulated.
- Increase the tension and the resistance to build more muscle mass after the recovery period.
To be effective at building mass with resistance bands, you need to progress from one strength to the next. To do this, you need to repeat the same workout routine, or work the same muscles, at least twice a week, leaving ample recovery time in between sessions for your muscles to repair and grow.
Do resistance bands build muscle or tone muscle?
Resistance bands can help you to build and tone!
Sports scientists and physiologists often state that there is, in fact, little difference between muscle and toning muscle. As you work your muscles out, you're building them, which creates a larger and more defined muscle.
The key difference that you might be looking for is the visible definition of that muscle. While you might build a larger, stronger muscle, you won't see that muscle unless you lose the layer of fat that surrounds it. To get that 'toned' look, you need to burn fat, and not just build muscle.
Resistance bands can help you to do this, though. They can offer resistance as you perform aerobic exercises, and they can offer you increased resistance as you aim to increase the number of repetitions you perform during a particular exercise.
How much weight do resistance bands add to an exercise?
Resistance band skeptics might be wondering how much weight resistance bands can actually add to your exercises. The answer is quite a lot!
The important thing to note though is that the weight all depends on the strength of your particular resistance band, as different resistance bands provide different tensions. The amount of weight that you should be adding to your workout depends on your experience and your fitness.
Resistance bands can add as much as 150 pounds worth of weight to an exercise, although when you are starting, you won't want to be working out against this much resistance.
Try not to overdo the strength of the resistance bands you're incorporating into your workouts when you first start the workouts. If you work your muscles against too much tension, they can tear more than you want them to. This leads to longer recovery times or even injury, which will set back your strength and fitness goals in the long term. Aim for progressive increases, and always take things slow.
If you are looking to build serious mass, you will need to combine resistance band workouts with free weights and weight machines. Resistance bands are great for building muscle, but there will be a point when the strongest resistance band might not carry enough weight for you to progress. A bench press machine at its highest setting will always be heavier than the resistance offered by a band!
Remember, though, that you can also use resistance bands in conjunction with weights to add more resistance to different exercises. The two forms of workout are never mutually exclusive.
Best resistance bands for building muscle
There are many different types and styles of resistance bands that you can incorporate into your workout routines. Resistance bands can be looped or open-ended, while some have handles, and others do not have handles.
The great thing about resistance bands is that a strong band is not only durable but versatile too. Having just a few different bands can help you to perform a diverse workout targeting multiple muscle groups.
Resistance bands are small and light too, which means you can perform that workout almost anywhere - you don't need to be at the gym or have fancy and expensive gym equipment to start building muscles.
How long to build muscle mass or tone muscles?
As we already mentioned, don't rush into working out with the strongest resistance bands if you're not used to lifting weight. That's a sure-fire way to get injured by overdoing it.
Building muscle takes time, and it takes regular exercise. We recommend trying to work out using the full-body resistance band routine we've detailed below at least twice a week.
When you feel comfortable, increase the resistance you are using. This can vary from person to person but aim to increase the difficulty every two weeks, or monthly.
Consistency is key, so try to keep up the motivation to keep your doing your workouts each week. Building muscle also requires adequate rest time for your muscles to repair and grow, while a focus on your diet will also help to increase your muscle mass and improve the effectiveness of your workouts.
Resistance band exercises for strength training
The following exercises will constitute a full-body workout aimed at building your strength and building muscle using resistance bands. Choose a resistance band that you feel comfortable with, and aim to perform 10-15 repetitions of each exercise. We suggest aiming for three sets for an effective workout.
Before exercising, always stretch and loosen up with light cardio, to avoid injury.
#1 Lateral walks
Work your glutes, hips, and thigh muscles while improving your cardio and burning fat. Lateral walks are a great way to warm up and to loosen up leg muscles.
- Place a resistance band loosely around both thighs, just above the knees.
- Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, in the semi-squat position.
- Take your left leg and bring it to your right, in line with your other leg.
- Take your right leg and move it to your right-hand side to bring your feet apart again.
- Repeat in both directions, as your workout space allows.
Add resistance to the classic push-up exercise, to give your chest, shoulders, back, and arms a thorough workout. Push-ups with a resistance band are a fantastic way to build upper body muscles.
- Take a long resistance band and loop it over the back of your shoulders.
- Holding the ends of the band firmly in each palm of your hand, assume the push-up position on the floor.
- Unlock your elbows and lower your chest to the ground.
- Push-up with your arms to raise your body.
- Repeat the exercise while keeping your back straight and your shoulders over your hands.
#3 Bicep curls
Build muscle mass in your arms by focusing on working out your biceps with a resistance band. You can perform this exercise with one arm or both arms.
- Stand with your feet loosely apart and place a resistance band beneath them.
- Keep your feet firmly pressed down and take one end of the resistance band in either hand.
- Face your palms and forearms outwards.
- Bend your elbows and curl your biceps to raise the resistance band towards your shoulders.
- Repeat for 10-15 repetitions.
#4 Bent over row
Give your arms, shoulders, and back muscles a thorough working out with bent over row exercises.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and adopt the semi-squat position.
- Take a long resistance band and place it firmly beneath your feet.
- Hold the ends in both hands, keep your back inclined, and pull the resistance bands upwards.
- Release, then repeat for 10-15 repetitions.
#5 Chest press
Focus on building or defining your chest muscles by using a resistance band to perform chest press exercises.
- Secure a resistance band to the wall or door behind you, or loop the band firmly around your back.
- Take both ends of the band in either hand and bring your arms up to chest height.
- Fully extend your arms ahead of you, keeping them level with your chest.
- Bend your elbows to release your arms, so they are level again with your chest.
- Repeat for 10-15 repetitions.
#6 Glute bridge
Build your core muscles and hip muscles with resistance band glute bridges.
- Lie with your back on the floor, and your knees bent at right angles.
- Loop a resistance band around your thighs, just above your knees.
- Clench your core muscles and thrust your hips upwards.
- Slowly lower your hips and repeat for 10-15 repetitions.
Add weight to the classic squat movement using a resistance band to work your glutes and leg muscles.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Place a long resistance band beneath both feet and hold the ends at either side of your body.
- Stand with your back straight and hold the resistance band up to your shoulders.
- Keep your arms raised, back straight, and bend your knees to lower your body towards the ground.
- Raise your body and stand tall while keeping the band at your shoulders.
- Repeat the exercise for 10-15 repetitions.
Do resistance band workouts really work?
So, in conclusion, do resistance band workouts actually work, and can you get big with resistance bands? Yes, we've long been convinced by the benefits of adding regular resistance band workouts into your exercise routines.
Resistance bands provide you with increasing levels of tension that help to not only build muscle but to define your existing muscles and burn fat at the same time. They are well-rounded workouts that can help to improve the health, mobility, and definition of your entire body.
Of course, to be effective you need to incorporate resistance band workouts into your schedule regularly, and you need to be increasing the tension and the intensity of those workouts, to see the results that you are looking for!